Ottawa’s new poet laureates are Deanna Young and Margaret Michèle Cook

This Saturday the city of Ottawa will formally crown two new poet laureates.

The VERSeFest International Poetry Festival has announced that Deanna Young and Margaret Michèle Cook will each be named to a two-year term. The two women were chosen by a panel of judges because of “their noteworthy community activity and the recognized high quality of their poetry,” VERSeFest said in a media release.

Deanna Young. Photo: Alice Young

Margaret Michèle Cook. Photo: Gerry Smith

Deanna Young is the author of four books of poetry, including Reunion (Brick Books) in 2018. Her previous book,  House Dreams (2014), was nominated for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, the Ottawa Book Award, the Archibald Lampman Award and the ReLit Award. Young is originally from southwestern Ontario. She lives in Ottawa and works as an editor and teacher.

Margaret Michèle Cook has published five collections of poetry with Éditions du Nordir, and three collections at Éditions L’Interligne. She was born in Toronto, lived in New Haven, Aix-en-Provence and Paris before settling in Ottawa in 1987. Cook won the 2009 Ottawa Book Prize for her work, Chronos à sa table de travail.

The two laureates will serve as cultural ambassadors for the city promote the literary arts and “advance Ottawa’s unique voice in the world.”

City council voted to fund a renewed Poet Laureate Program n 2017. Before this decision the city had been without a poet laureate for almost 30 years. Before that there was one unilingual poet laureate from 1982 to 1990. The current program is bilingual with funding for an Anglophone and Francophone poet laureate. Each laureate receives $5,000 a year, as well as another $5,000 to fund various poetry programs and events.

Mayor Jim Watson will present the poet laureates with their awards on Saturday at an official Poet Laureate Event. After the official inauguration, the two poet laureates will perform short readings from their work.

The 2017 poet laureates, the first in this program, were Andrée Lacelle and Jamaal Jackson Rogers.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.