Wanted: Surrey’s first poet laureate

SURREY – The search for Surrey’s first poet laureate this spring will not be limited to those who live in the city. Instead, the scope of the call for applicants is widened to include those with merely a strong connection to Surrey and its cultural community.


"They don’t have to live in Surrey," said Meghan Savage, co-ordinator of the project, "but we are giving preference to Surrey residents or people who can show a strong connection to Surrey through their work and their projects."


The poet laureate, to be selected by a committee sometime after the application deadline of June 30, will act as an ambassador for the City of Surrey and its people, "advocating for literacy and the literary arts and helping to raise the status of poetry, language and the arts in the everyday consciousness of Surrey residents."


The search for the inaugural Surrey Poet Laureate was launched March 21 to coincide with both World Poetry Day and also National Poetry Month, which


is marked in April.


The position comes with an annual honorarium of $5,000, plus $1,000 for travel costs, said Savage, information services librarian with Surrey Libraries.


Preference will be given to "enthusiastic, creative" individuals who wish to implement a poetry legacy in Surrey through readings, civic interactions, community projects and other initiatives, she said. The poet laureate’s term will be either two or three years, depending on the applicant’s proposals. For application details, visit Surreylibraries.ca/poetlaureate.


Barbara Cooper, literary programs chair with Semiahmoo Arts, the arts council serving South Surrey and White Rock, is one of several people involved in the search for Surrey’s first poet laureate.


"I think it’s time for it," Cooper said.


"A poet laureate can be an ambassador, a representative of a city, and with Surrey being the second largest city in the province, and soon to be the largest, we certainly should have a (poet laureate).


Semiahmoo Arts plays host to the monthly Zero – 360 poetry open-mic events at Pelican Rouge coffee house in White Rock, and also the semi-regular


Readings by the Salish Sea literary gatherings there, at the corner of 152nd Street and 16th Avenue. This month, the open mic will be held on Thursday, April 9, followed on April 16 by a special food-themed "Feast" reading by published writers Jennica Harper and Kevin Spenst.


In celebration of National Poetry Month, local writer Craig Thomas will read his prize-winning poem, "Landing Place," as part of White Rock city council’s meeting on April 27.


At Pelican Rouge, longtime owner/operator Shelly O’Brien will continue to host the Zero – 360 events until the beginning of summer, even though she has sold the business, as of April 1. "The open-mic events have been very important," O’Brien said, "because it’s people sharing their creativity and people helping each other. There are lots of published authors out there who come here (for the events). It’s grown, having started off with maybe 12 people (in the audience) and now we’re at around 35 sometimes, and there’s always 10 or more readers. It’s good, a real outlet for people on a Thursday night."