Poet Laureate

John Barton - Victoria's 2019 - 2022 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 In-Person Readings

Wilde About Sappho 2022

A Pride Reading by Local Queer Writers

Join City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton, local poets and Special Guest Mayor Lisa Helps to celebrate Pride Month in Victoria.

Featuring: Ali Blythe, Wendy Donawa, Hiromi Goto, matthew [bettina] heinz, Eli Mushumanski, Shō Yamagushiku

Click here to learn more and register.

Virtual Readings

New Works: A Cornucopia of Local Writers

To celebrate Victoria’s rich community of local writers, City of Victoria Poet Laureate John Barton invited four authors to read from their new works.

Read and listen to John Gould, Kathryn Mockler, Kyeren Regehr and Daniel G Scott here.

Victoria Poems

John Barton has gathered together and recorded a celebratory sampling of his poems about Victoria that he’s drawn from across his four-decade-long writing career. These poems showcase his personal relationship with the city from the time when he was Robin Skelton’s student at the University of Victoria in the late 1970s until the present.

Listen to John read his poems here.

Previous Events

Originally planned as a reading to celebrate National Poetry Month at the Greater Victoria Public Library, The Worldliness of Poetry was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Until it is possible to reschedule, John Barton has invited the three readers to share their work virtually through poems connected to Germany Portugal, France, and Japan in order to momentarily transcend social distancing and self-isolation. 

Read and listen to the poems by Terry Ann, Christine and Derk here.


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


 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