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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 James Summer 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.

During their terms, John and James will lead programs at the library. Watch the library’s program and events calendar for opportunities to learn with John and James. We look forward to welcoming them to the library.

“John and James 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.”

Congratulations to James Summer, Victoria’s new Youth Poet Laureate! James is Victoria’s ninth Youth Poet Laureate.

James Summer began writing poetry in high school, joining Vic High School’s slam poetry club. Over the years, James participated and competed in Vic Voices, Hullabaloo, and various open mics, becoming president of the club.

As the next Youth Poet Laureate, James hopes to connect with other youth in Victoria. James finds that poetry is a medium that can express growth, pain, and love through self-expression in a safe space, and wants to help create that safe space for others.

“Poetry has helped me cope with feelings of loneliness and memories of a bittersweet childhood,” said James Summer. “As a transgender individual and as Youth Poet Laureate, I hope that I can bring awareness about the topic of being transgender and to have important conversations about stigma and labels.”

We look forward to all that this talented poet has to share with the community.


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