If you’re a poet and you know it, clap your hands … or simply put your name forward. The nominations are now open for St. Albert's next poet laureate. It could be anybody, frankly, suggested poet laureate committee representative Geoff Manderscheid.
"You have an idea who will apply and who you hope to come back, and there's also being pleasantly surprised. We don't know who the next poet laureate is, but we don't know everyone who's out there. There might be someone off the radar, and they make an excellent candidate," he said.
The position began in 2018 with Zach Polis taking the first two-year term. He was followed by Julia Sorensen. Both have made larger names for themselves on larger stages outside of St. Albert. Polis has since gone on to become the Alberta artist in residence as well as a screenwriter, playwright, photographer, and filmmaker who studied screenwriting at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Sorensen, now at the end of her term as the second poet laureate, is a published writer, musician, and visual artist currently completing her masters in arts, festival and cultural management at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
"Chances are they've inspired someone, and there might be someone new applying just because of being connected to poetry for the first time for the poet laureate position," Manderscheid said.
The poet laureate is known as "the people’s poet." It's an honorary position that serves as a cultural and literary ambassador. The poet acts as a champion for poetry, language, and the arts, and also represents the city during readings at civic functions and public poetry events. The position comes with an annual honorarium of $1,000. Any poet aged 16 and over can apply as long as they live, work, or play in St. Albert.
“The poet laureate role is about creating and performing original new works that reflect and represent ideas, issues, and moments in our community, and celebrating the many ways the arts intersect with St. Albertan’s daily lives,” said Mayor Cathy Heron.
"Poetry … it's not often what we think it is, and especially when a lot of what the poet laureate does, it's off the book: it's performance-based. You can read it, and it reads in a totally different way, but the person that becomes poet laureate, there's a trend here of them being good public performers," Manderscheid added.
"I think of the poet laureates’ performances to date, both of them — they really just unearth feelings that break audience expectations. I mean that in a positive way, because from art unveilings and public openings, the library included, navigating just how we feel as a community during the pandemic, they brought out things you don't quite expect from a poetry performance, like laughter and joy, and just the sweetness of community connection," said Manderscheid.
The position exists as a continuing partnership between St. Albert Public Library and the City of St. Albert. Nominations will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 14, and applicants will also have until Monday, March 28 to submit their required documents and forms. Visit sapl.ca to learn more and to find the online application.
Heron will announce the name of the new poet laureate in April as part of the celebration of National Poetry Month.