Previous Youth Poet Laureates
The City of Victoria was the first municipality in Canada to have a Youth Poet Laureate.
Agartu Ali - Victoria's Sixth Youth Poet Laureate
Agartu Ali was 16 years old and in Grade 11 at Victoria High School when she was appointed as Victoria's 2018 Youth Poet Laureate at the January 25, 2018 Council meeting. For as long as she could remember, poetry had moved her emotionally and motivated her to be an advocate for change in her community, where she uses poetry as a vehicle to connect with other people.
When she started her term, Ali was not yet a well-known face in the larger poetry scene, but she believed that her anonymity gave her an approachability that she was able to utilize as Youth Poet Laureate. During her term she performed at the Integrate Arts Festival, Earth Day, various poetry month events, helped lead a virtual reality workshop for teens, and organized a sold-out poetry event called "Poems of Colour," highlighting local poets and artists of colour in partnership with the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Maita Cienska - Victoria's Fifth Youth Poet Laureate
In January 2017, Maita Cienska was appointed Victoria's fifth Youth Poet Laureate. A 19-year -old Vancouver Island poet, Cienska had composed poems as a form of expression since middle school. During the years prior to her appointment, Cienska had been on a self-journey to explore her independence and immerse herself in creativity. During that time, she released the album Fumble, won two Slams, tied for Slam Champion of 2015, served as a judge at Victorious Voices in 2016, and performed at a range of local events including (Poetry) Slam by the Sea and the Victoria Writer Society’s literary series Water Feature Night.
As Victoria's 2017 Youth Poet Laureate, Cienska's vision was to break poetry into new spaces with youth who may not have been exposed to this boisterous art form. During her residency, she had the opportunity to teach at St. Michael's University School, facilitated a workshop at the Greater Victoria Public Library, read poetry at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and organized a public panel discussion to look into what it means to express oneself as a women in the arts.
Ann-Bernice Thomas - Victoria's Fourth Youth Poet Laureate
A spoken word artist and screenplay writer, Ann-Bernice Thomas was in her second year of study at the University of Victoria, double majoring in Creative Writing and Theatre Production when she was appointed as Victoria's Youth Poet Laureate in 2016. A competitor in the first Ontario High School Slam Competition in 2013, she fell in love with the art form and hasn't stopped since.
Thomas aimed to use her voice to rally change, social awareness, and share stories (personal or otherwise) that were waiting to be told. She has performed at the Ferguson Rally in 2014, the Scotiabank Aids Walk for Life in 2015, and stage-managed and performed in the applied theatre show Waste Management in 2015, which toured to different high schools discussing dumpster diving, capitalism and the world of waste we have created for ourselves. Thomas is currently working on her photo-poetry project An Exploration of the Human Body.
Zoé Duhaime - Victoria's Third Youth Poet Laureate
In 2015, Zoé Duhaime was announced as Victoria's third Youth Poet Laureate. Duhaime is a spoken word artist and page poet. A former member of three local slam teams, she competed in Victorious Voices from 2010 - 2012 and in Hullabaloo in 2011 and 2012, as well as the Victoria High School Slam Championship in 2010 and 2011.
One of the highlights as Youth Poet Laureate was being an invited guest to the Governor General’s Literary Awards in Ottawa. During her one-year term, Duhaime was in second year at the University of Victoria studying Religious and Women’s Studies, topics that were reflected in her work and art. She loves to discuss youth in poetry, gender in art (and art in gender), and forgiveness versus mercy.
The Rabbit Writes is Zoé Duhaime's personal blog. Duhaime used her blog to showcase the poetry of local youth, and accepted questions and submissions from youth in the community here.
Morgan Purvis - Victoria's Second Youth Poet Laureate
In January 2014, the City of Victoria Youth Council selected Morgan Purvis as Victoria's second Youth Poet Laureate. She served as an ambassador for youth in Victoria, performing at City Council and City of Victoria Youth Council meetings, and completing a project of her choice to engage her peers through poetry. Purvis participated with then Poet Laureate Janet Rogers in the LitARTcity event in in April 2014 to celebrate National Poetry Month. Proceeds supported the Victoria READ Society.
An active volunteer with the Victoria Poetry Project, Morgan represented Victoria at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Montreal. Jeremy Loveday, a prominent Victoria-based performance poet, served as Morgan Purvis' mentor for the one-year term. Loveday first worked with Morgan through workshops and performances at Esquimalt High School when she was a student there. “It's been amazing to watch her grow over the last few years. I'm excited to help her bring her project ideas to fruition.”
Aysia Law - Victoria's Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate
Aysia Law served as Victoria's Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate in 2013. At the time, she was a student at the University of Victoria studying creative writing. Jeremy Loveday was Victoria’s 2012 Poetry Slam champion and mentored Law during her one-year term in the position. During her term, Law read her original poetry at Victoria City Council and Youth Council meetings.
Established in 2013, the Youth Poet Laureate program was originally funded by the private sector. In 2014, Reliance Properties, developers of the Janion Building micro lofts, stepped forward to sponsor the program. In 2015, the City of Victoria funded the program, and in 2016 the program is funded by the City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria Public Library.
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