Poets flocking to Ottawa for second ever Laureate City

Ottawa's English Language Poet Laureate Deanna Young will be reading. Photo: Alice Young

The second Laureate City will feature a bilingual weekend of poetry readings, music, and food.

The project is the brain child of VERSeOttawa, along with Arc Poetry Magazine and Library and Archives Canada and ably abetted by the Ottawa Public Library and the Ottawa Writers Festival. It is a unique gathering of 12 poet laureates from across Canada.

Through page and spoken word performances and talks the weekend will explore the question: What is the civic role of the poet in society? 

Coming to town are: Dub poet Afua Cooper (Halifax), whose richly layered, multidimensional works have earned her a nomination for a Governor General’s Award; former Ottawa resident John Barton (Victoria); Jason Heroux (Kingston) and Julie Pellissier-Lush (PEI). Ottawa’s poets laureate Deanna Young and Margaret Michèle Cook will also read.

The first Laureate City was in 2017, the same year that Ottawa City Council approved funding for the renewal of a poet laureate program. The pre-amalgamation city did have a unilingual program from 1982 and 1990. Poets who served then include George Elliot Clarke and Cyril Dabydeen. The new poet laureate program is bilingual. There are two laureates, one English and one French.

VERSeOttawa will host the event on Nov. 15 to 17 at the Library and Archives Canada (395 Wellington St.). A literary brunch and satellite readings will take place at Working Title: Kitchen + Café located within the allsaints event space (330 Laurier Ave. E.) on Nov. 17. All events, except for the brunch, are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule, and brunch tickets, visit versefest.ca

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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.