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New West seeking diversity in future poet laureate

Call is going out for the City of New Westminster's fifth poet laureate
Alan Hill - City of New Westminster website
Alan Hill, the City of New Westminster's 2017 to 2020 poet laureate, is finishing up his official duties, while the city gets to work in finding its next poet laureate.

New Westminster is aiming for diversity with its next poet laureate.

The city will be putting out a call for someone to serve as the City of New Westminster’s poet laureate from 2021 to 2023. A staff report states the poet laureate serves as a literary ambassador for the city and the community, advocating for literacy and the literary arts and helping to raise the status of poetry, language and the arts in the everyday consciousness of New West residents.

“It is recommended that the call should expressly seek out diverse voices and perspectives, including BIPOC and equity-seeking writers and poets, and be open to those working in non-traditional literary art forms (spoken word artists, storytellers),” said a report to council. “The term ‘equity-seeking’ refers to those in our community that face entrenched marginalization due to attitudinal, historic, social and environmental barriers. Preference should continue to be given to artists that reside in New Westminster or have a strong connection to the local community.”

The poet laureate will receive compensation of $2,500 annually over the three-year term.

Edna Anderson was named as the city’s first poet laureate in 1998, followed by Don Benson (1999 to 2006), Candice James (2010 to 2016) and Alan Hill (2017 to 2020). Benson, Anderson and James have all since been named as poet laureate emeritus.

Hill, the city’s most recent poet laureate, is expected to complete a legacy project that began during his tenure in early 2021. A staff report notes the program was paused in 2020 because of COVID-19, with the intention of it resuming in 2021.