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Meet Victoria’s New Poets Laureate

The City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria Public Library are pleased to announce John Barton as Victoria’s new Poet Laureate and Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow (pronounced Ah-zee-zah Moe-kia See-lee Kay-low) as Youth Poet Laureate.

Both are honorary positions that celebrate literature and poetry in our community. The Poet Laureate serves as Victoria’s literary and cultural ambassador for a four-year term; the Youth Poet Laureate seeks to inspire and engage local youth to share their stories through both the written and spoken word, and serves a one-year term.

Over the course of their terms, John and Aziza will lead programs at the library. First up for Aziza is serving as a judge for the Teen Writing Contest. John will be involved in Poetry Month in April.

Watch the library’s program and events calendar for opportunities to learn with John and Aziza. We look forward to welcoming them to the library.

“John and Aziza will inspire people in our community to tell their stories through poetry,” said Maureen Sawa, CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library. “We look forward to partnering with them to offer learning opportunities that showcase the power of words and self-expression.”

About John Barton

John Barton is an established poet and editor. Some of his 26 books, chapbooks, and anthologies include The Malahat at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Journal (2017), Polari (2014), For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin: Selected Poems (2012), and Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay-Male Poets (2007).  A three-time recipient of the Archibald Lampman Award, Barton has also won an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award, and a National Magazine Award. He will publish We Are Not Avatars: Essays, Memoirs, Manifestos, his first book of prose, with Palimpsest Press and The Essential Douglas LePan with Porcupine’s Quill in the spring of 2019. Signal Editions will publish his 12th collection of poems, Lost Family, a book of sonnets, in 2020. Since stepping down as the editor of The Malahat Review in January 2018, a position he held for 14 years, Barton now works as a freelance editor, writer, and mentor.

“As the City of Victoria Poet Laureate, I aim to broaden the local audience for poetry, to make readers more aware of the diverse community of poets in the greater Victoria region, and to provide support to LGBTQ2S poets working among us,” said John Barton. “Together, my fellow local poets and I shall hold up a mirror to the city where we live and invite the people who live here to see themselves anew.”

About Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow

Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow is a slam and spoken-word poet, as well as an honours graduate from Reynolds Secondary School. As the daughter of a Somali refugee and a seventh-generation Canadian, Aziza is a deeply connected to her culture and writes about the adventures of being in a mixed family. She’s an active volunteer within various parts of the community, has traveled to many European and African countries, and likes to view the world with an open mind.

“I’m really happy to have this opportunity,” said Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow. “I love to learn from everyone I meet, and collaborate with open-minds.”


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“When in doubt, go to the library.” – Hermione Granger