City's poet laureate puts spotlight on arts

Candice James has held poetry post since 2010

Candice James is looking forward to writing more poems and connecting with local poets during her second term as the City of New Westminster's poet laureate.

New Westminster city council has appointed James to a second term as the city's poet laureate, a post she's held since 2010.

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"It's been a good run. I have had a lot of fun," she said. "I have enjoyed meeting and greeting poets around here. I love people - and I really love poets."

James said it's an honour to be New Westminster's poet laureate.

"It is the highlight of my life, and I am thankful to the arts commission and city council for the confidence they have shown in me by my reappointment," she said. "I will continue in my quest to make our Royal City, and our Royal City poets, shine."

The poet laureate is responsible for creating and presenting poetry and spoken word works to mark special civic events and functions.

During her first term as poet laureate, James has written poems for various civic events, including May Day, Remembrance Day and Canada Day celebrations. She also wrote a poem in honour of the city's granting of Freedom of the City designation to HMCS Discovery.

"Whenever they ask me to write something, I do it," she said. "I am very, very lucky - if somebody wants me to write about something, I can generally come up with something within an hour, maybe 20 minutes."

James, who has been writing poetry for years, usually comes up with two lines - either the first two or the last two - and builds the rest of the poem around those lines.

As New Westminster's poet laureate, James has also sought to highlight the poetic literary scene in New Westminster. She's enjoyed helping to bring local poets to the forefront through poetry readings and poetry anthologies.

James has created Poetic Justice (a weekly poetry reading series), Slam Central (a monthly spoken word performance poetry event) and Poetry in the Park (a weekly summer event that runs each year in July and August.)

She also gathered works from local poets and facilitated the publishing of a poetry book, Royal City Poets Anthology.

"We are working on a second anthology of the Royal City Poets," she said. "The first one sold out."

The anthology is available at the New Westminster Public Library.

James also features poems by various New Westminster poets in a monthly column she writes for a local publication.

James said people need encouragement and recognition - and that's something she aims to provide local poets.

James' first book of poetry, A Split in the Water, was published in 1979. Since then, she's published three more poetry collections: Inner Heart - A Journey (2010); Bridges and Clouds (2011); and Midnight Embers - A Book of Sonnets (2012).

James, a longtime New Westminster resident, is also a director of the Federation of British Columbia Writers, a member of the League of Canadian Poets and a director of the board for SpoCan, the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

"I am working on putting out this anthology number two for Royal City Poets," she said about current projects. "I am also working on an international anthology that includes Royal City Poets. ... Our poets will get some exposure worldwide."

The City of New Westminster has had a poet laureate since the appointment of Edna Anderson in 1998. Don Benson served as the city's poet laureate from 1999 to 2006.

Anderson was later named poet laureate emerita and Benson was named poet laureate emeritus. James has been reappointed as the city's poet laureate from 2013 to 2016.

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