2019 - 2022 Poet Laureate

John Barton - Victoria's 2019 - 2022 Poet Laureate

Congratulations to John Barton, Victoria's new Poet Laureate!

John is an established poet and editor. His 26 books, chapbooks, and anthologies include The Malahat at Fifty: Canada's Iconic Literary Journal (2017), Polari (2014), For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin: Selected Poems (2012), and Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay-Male Poets (2007).  Since 1980, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies on four continents have published his poems, essays, and reviews.

A three-time recipient of the Archibald Lampman Award, he’s also won an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award. Between 1989 and 2018 John edited Arc Poetry Magazine, Vernissage: The Magazine of the National Gallery of Canada, and The Malahat Review. He will publish We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos, his first book of prose, with Palimpsest Press and The Essential Douglas LePan with Porcupine's Quill in the spring of 2019. Signal Editions will publish his twelfth collection of poems, Lost Family, a book of sonnets, in 2020.

Since stepping down as the editor of The Malahat Review in January 2018, a position he held for 14 years, John now works as a freelance editor, writer, and mentor. He has recently been awarded a residency at the Al Purdy A-Frame in Amaliasburg, Prince Edward County, Ontario that will take place in June 2020.

“As the City of Victoria Poet Laureate, I aim to broaden the local audience for poetry, to make readers more aware of the diverse community of poets in the greater Victoria region, and to provide support to LGBTQ2S poets working among us. Together, my fellow local poets and I shall hold up a mirror to the city where we live and invite the people who live here to see themselves anew.”

Learn more about John at: www.john-barton.ca.

Role of the Poet Laureate

Selected by nomination, the Poet Laureate serves as Victoria’s literary and cultural ambassador. During the four-year term, the Poet Laureate is required to produce three new original works each year that reflect or represent ideas and issues of importance to the people of Victoria, and recite poems at City events, Council meetings and the annual Victoria Book Prize Awards Gala. In addition, the Poet Laureate hosts a number of poetry events in the community, collaborates with the Greater Victoria Public Library on readings, workshops and its new Poet-in-Residence days, and serves as a mentor for the Youth Poet Laureate.

John Barton's four-year term is January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2022. The position receives an honorarium of $4,500 per year as well as $1,000 for a poetry event and administration support from the City of Victoria.  The position is funded by the City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria Public Library.

Upcoming Event

Love and Chocolate is happening on Saturday, February 15 from 2 - 3:30 p.m. at the Greater Victoria Public Library, Central Branch (735 Broughton Street). Join City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton and other local writers for a delicious afternoon of readings about love and chocolate. Tea and chocolates will be served.

Advanced registration is required. Call the Greater Victoria Public Library at 250.940.4875 or register online here.

Featured Writers

Leslie Joy Ahenda is a queer black diasporic poet living and working on unceded Lekwungen and WSANEC territory. Educated at the University of Victoria, she has poetry published or forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, Filling Station, and Poetry is Dead.


Marlene Cookshaw studied writing at the University of Victoria and worked for several years as the editor of The Malahat Review. Her poems have won several awards, among them the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize and Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize. She has published six collections with Brick Books, including Shameless (2002), Lunar Drift (2005) and Mowing (2019). In 2008 she was presented with the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement in mid-career. She lives on a small farm on Pender Island, in the southern Gulf Islands.

Patrick Friesen has published more than a dozen books of poetry, a book of essays and, with Per Brask, co-translations of several Danish poets.  Friesen has also written stage and radio plays, text for dance, and has recorded three CDs of spoken word and music with Marilyn Lerner and Peggy Lee, most recently Buson’s Bell with Niko Friesen.  In March 2018, his book of poetry, Songen, was published with Mother Tongue, and his play, a short history of crazy bone, was staged by Theatre Projects Manitoba.

Kathy Page’s eighth novel, Dear Evelyn, about a seventy-year-long marriage, won the 2018 Writer’s Trust Prize for Fiction and the City of Victoria Butler Prize. Other novels include Alphabet (a Governor General’s Award finalist) and The Story of My Face. She also writes short fiction; her  two most recent collections, Paradise & Elsewhere and The Two of Us were both nominated for the Giller Prize. Born in the UK, she has lived for the past twenty years on Salt Spring Island.


Previous Events

 Local Indigenous Perspectives featured the literary work of Indigenous writers from Greater Victoria. John Barton hosted readings from authors Danielle Geller, Kim Senklip Harvey, Philip Kevin Paul, and Troy Sebastian.


Wilde About Sappho was a celebration of poetry, fiction and spoken word by LGBTQI2S writers from Greater Victoria. John Barton will be joined by Mayor Lisa Helps and guest poets Brian Day, Anne Fleming, Darrel J. McLeod, Arleen Paré, Byron Sollazzo, and Victoria’s Youth Poet Laureate Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow. Each will perform a reading of poetry to mark the 50th anniversary of Canada’s decriminalization of same-sex relationships.

"The Green Muse" Celebrated Poetry Month

Barton hosted a reading by local poets Sonnet L’Abbé, Philip Kevin Paul, and former Victoria Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer. The poetry highlighted humanity’s complicated relationship with the environment, nature’s enduring resilience yet precarious future, and its role as a constant source of inspiration.

For More Information

culture@victoria.ca                                                                                                                                                                    250.361.0308