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City of Windsor Expands and Rebrands Poet Laureate Program
January 13, 2022
Seeks Next Poet Laureate, Inaugural Indigenous and Multicultural Community Storytellers
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the innovative and trend-setting Poet Laureate Program, the City of Windsor is rebranding it to become the Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program and expanding to include an Indigenous storyteller and a multicultural community storyteller.
Applications and Nominations
To kick off the rebranding and expansion, the City is calling for applications or nominations for Windsor’s next poet laureate as well as the inaugural Indigenous storyteller and multicultural community storyteller. The application and nomination dates are as follows:
Poet Laureate: Applications accepted from Monday, January 17, 2022, to Friday, February 4, 2022.
Indigenous Community Storyteller: Applications accepted from Monday, January 17, 2022, to Friday, February 25, 2022.
Multicultural Community Storyteller: Applications accepted from Monday, January 17, 2022, to Friday, February 25, 2022.
The City launched the program in 2011, with Council and administration working to ensure that the available term length, roles and responsibilities, and first appointed poet would all combine to establish Windsor’s program as a model for Canadian communities for what is possible with an innovative, responsive and engaging program to celebrate the literary arts through the written and spoken word.
Marty Gervais was appointed Windsor’s inaugural poet laureate in 2011. During his first term, Gervais surpassed all expectations. He regularly represented Windsor on the poets’ stage across the country and helped to put Windsor’s program on the literary arts map in Canada. In 2014, based on his early success in the role, Council extended Gervais’ appointment for a second term. In 2018, Council approved updating the program to include two new positions – poet laureate emeritus and youth poet laureate. Gervais was appointed to the role of poet laureate emeritus, recognizing and honouring his significant contributions to the program. Mary Ann Mulhern was named Windsor’s second poet laureate, while Samantha Badaoa became the City’s inaugural youth poet laureate. In 2021, Alexei Ungurenaşu succeeded Badaoa to become Windsor’s second youth poet laureate.
For the 10th anniversary of the program, Council approved a recommendation from administration to further expand and rebrand the program to become the Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program, to establish funding to support ongoing honorariums and initiatives, and to include two additional positions – Indigenous storyteller and multicultural community storyteller. In taking the opportunity to reflect and build on the successes, and reviewing the program to identify engagement gaps and new opportunities that exist, the City is able to continue meeting the needs of the culturally rich, diverse and evolving community in Windsor.
Existing Position – Poet Laureate
The poet laureate position will serve to honour a poet (aged 25 years and older) who writes excellent poetry and focuses on themes that are relevant to the people who live in the city of Windsor. This poet will serve as an ambassador for the arts, culture and heritage sectors in the city of Windsor and help to celebrate poetry and the arts – particularly the literary arts. As an ambassador for poetry and literature, the poet laureate will be invited to attend municipal events, to share works, and raise the profile of the literary arts in Windsor. The poet laureate will serve in the position for a period of approximately four years, will receive an annual honorarium, and will have access to funding for initiatives in consultation with the Culture & Events Department.
New Positions – Indigenous Storyteller and Multicultural Community Storyteller
Recognized as one of Canada’s most diverse and multicultural communities, Windsor was developed on land that is the traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg people of the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa). Before Europeans arrived, the land along the Detroit River was referred to as Wawiiatanong by the Indigenous populations. Due to Windsor’s unique location along the Detroit River, many different groups have called this area home, including Haudenosaunee, Attawandaron (Neutral), and Huron (Wyandot) peoples. Today, many Indigenous people and Métis across Turtle Island call this area home.
At the heart of a city built on the value of inclusion and the principle of mutual respect are stories of the individuals and families that make up Windsor’s tapestry. They are stories of Indigenous, African, French, Italian, Indian, Muslim, Polish, and Asian individuals and families, to name just a few of the cultures that make up the population of the Windsor.
The Indigenous storyteller position will serve to honour an Indigenous storyteller (aged 25 years and older) who is recognized and respected by their community as a storyteller creating and presenting through the art of storytelling in traditional and contemporary ways, utilizing spoken word, oral-history, music, dance, performing arts, etc. The Indigenous storyteller will work to instill a knowledge of the mind, body, and soul in connection to the earth through stories that are rooted in the land and have the capacity to convey entire histories and worldviews in interactive, educational, and immersive ways.
The multicultural community storyteller position will serve to honour a multicultural community storyteller (aged 25 years and older) who is recognized and respected as a storyteller creating and presenting through the art of storytelling in traditional and contemporary ways, utilizing spoken word, oral-history, music, dance, performing arts, etc. As a member of one of the over 100 cultures present in Windsor, the multicultural community storyteller will work to create a more welcoming and inclusive community by sharing diverse cultures, experiences, traditions, and stories that help to celebrate our differences and similarities.
Both the Indigenous storyteller and the multicultural community storyteller will serve in the respective positions for a period of approximately two years, will each receive an annual honorarium, and will each have access to funding for initiatives in consultation with the Culture & Events Department. Both storytellers will serve as ambassadors for their peoples, communities, Windsor, and the arts, and will be invited to attend municipal events, to share works, and to engage in initiatives that provide opportunities to build cultural awareness, meaningful relationships and connections, and new audiences across ethnic and cultural borders.
Eligibility, Application, and Consultation
Applicants for all three positions must reside in the city of Windsor and have a strong connection to the local arts, culture and heritage community. Through this process, the City is seeking out diverse voices and perspectives, including Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, and equity-seeking writers, poets and storytellers.
Full details on eligibility requirements, application process and required submission form, selection criteria, role responsibilities, honorariums, term lengths and more can be found in the Program Guidelines.
Through January and February, City administration will engage in outreach with Indigenous and multicultural communities to review the guidelines and application process to assist applicants and ensure a process that is as barrier-free as possible.
Program Contact Information: For further information or questions, please contact administration at [email protected] by email, or visit our Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program web page for the submission form and other program information.
“The City of Windsor is one of Canada’s most diverse communities. This program has already taught us the value of unique voices, perspectives, and new stories. It has the power to be a vehicle to increased inclusivity, greater understanding, and a true appreciation for our diverse, multicultural community. Rebranding as the Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program and expanding to include an Indigenous storyteller and a multicultural community storyteller is the next best step in the evolution of the program. We have set the funding and resources needed to sustain a vibrant and engaging program that presents a path to ensure Windsor continues to set a high bar for what is possible through the preservation and presentation of community stories here and all across Canada.”
– Mayor Drew Dilkens
“The City of Windsor’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program remains a vital piece of the local creative community. Since the program’s launch, it has helped develop and cultivate an engaged, all-ages local audience that appreciates and responds to the literary arts. This has a direct and positive impact on our quality of life.”
– Jen Knights, Executive Director, Recreation and Culture
“Windsor is a community that prides itself on capturing, preserving and sharing its stories. This goal has been accomplished, repeatedly, through this program, which has also set an example for other Canadian communities for what is possible through a responsive and interactive poetry and storytelling program that truly engages a community.”
– Michelle Staadegaard, Manager, Culture & Events
“Administration looks forward to continuing to oversee the Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program, including more diverse storytellers and continuing to help build on the strong legacies of our previous and current poets laureate to support the City in its ongoing goal to share our stories with a wide, diverse and growing audience.”
– Christopher Lawrence Menard, Cultural Development Coordinator
“In the span of a decade, the Poet Laureate Program in Windsor has become a fixture that makes a difference. When I became poet laureate for the city, my objective was to tell the story of Windsor, to write poems that would assert our identity, our importance, our uniqueness. My hope was to tell people we have an important story to tell, and it’s time we start finding out more about ourselves, and why we are unique. We need to tell stories. We need to reach back to our roots, and so two new positions – an Indigenous storyteller and multicultural community storyteller – say it all. This completes the package. It is an important step, and it is unique for a city to embrace such a notion. It means we are paying attention to cultural values. It ensures us of conveying to generations that follow us that we have something to offer, that we have respected our history, our identity. We have made a difference.”
– Marty Gervais, Windsor’s Poet Laureate Emeritus
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