Search begins for Comox Valley’s next poet laureate

“A poet laureate provides a community with the opportunity to grow its aesthetic intelligence.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Outgoing Comox Valley poet laureate Natalie Nickerson has certainly done that, as did her predecessor, Kevin Flesher.

But Nickerson’s tenure is ending; the time has come again to choose the next Comox Valley poet laureate. Entries and nominations to be the Valley’s third laureate are now open at ComoxValleyArts.com.

Flesher, the Valley’s first poet laureate, made poetry a mission. He was tireless in making the Valley a more literate place, with scores of appearances, organizing dozens of events, publishing books and generally making the world of wordcraft cool again. Nickerson has been an equally busy word nerd, doing over 50 events in her two years, including workshops, SD71 poetry curation, CBC and Shaw interviews and a featured reader at Victoria Poets Laureate Night.

Now, Comox Valley Arts (aka Comox Valley Community Arts Council) has begun the search for the third laureate, a successor who can engage and inspire the community for the next two years.

“All forms of poetic expression, from song-writing and rap/hip-hop to classic page poetry and spoken-word are equally valued in this search,” said CV Arts board member Wendy Nixon-Stothert. “We strongly encourage anyone with a penchant for prose to come forward.”

The winner will not only be draped in fame and respect, but will be awarded a $2,000 honorarium to carry out poet laureate duties over the term.

“Anyone who thinks of themselves as a lover and advocate of poetry should apply,” said Nickerson. “I feel that’s more important than considering yourself an accomplished poet.”

North Island College, Sure Copy, The Eagle, The City of Courtenay and Vancouver Island Regional Library have stepped up as sponsors so far.

“Businesses or groups can still attach their brand to this highly visible project,” said Jamie Bowman, the past Comox Valley Arts president who got the poet laureate project going four years ago. “This is a great way to be seen supporting our community.”

The winner will be expected to create works during the year, appear at significant community events (i.e. Empire Day, Miners Memorial, Canada Day, etc.), work to stimulate and encourage poetic and cultural writing (such as a youth poetry challenge), and serve as a lightning rod for the mood of the community.

The diverse judging panel includes Nickerson, NIC English instructor Anne Cumming, rapper Eric Ettinger of Butterfinger Bombsquad, and COZY, aka Josie Patterson, a 21-year-old whose song-writing and performance career has recently taken off.

Writing is a social catalyst, and a poet laureate can be seen as “a community alchemist, divining the moments to lament and celebrate, using his or her words to glue people together in times of joy and sorrow,” said Linda Rogers, past Victoria poet laureate and a past judge of the Valley edition.

Writers can either apply themselves or be nominated by someone who knows the value of their work and potential for the community. Full entry and nomination details are at www.comoxvalleyarts.com. Deadline for entries is April 1/19.

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