Rebecca Thomas will become the Halifax Regional Municipality’s sixth Poet Laureate. The municipality’s Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador and advocate for literacy, literature and the arts, and reflects the vitality of our community through appearances and readings of poetry at a number of civic events and other activities.
“We’re very pleased to appoint Ms. Thomas as our next Poet Laureate, a position which will empower her to enhance our understanding of our region’s unique cultural tapestry through her work,” said Mayor Savage.
Rebecca will serve a two-year term as the municipal Poet Laureate, which will notably coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and Canada’s 150th birthday.
A spoken word artist and the current Halifax Slam Master, Rebecca Thomas also holds the position of Coordinator of Aboriginal Student Services at the Nova Scotia Community College. Coming from an Indigenous background whose family has been greatly impacted by residential schools, Ms. Thomas has come to recognize the lack of prominence given to First Nations perspectives within the history of Halifax. As a Mi’kmaw woman, she embraces the opportunity to bring her cultural voice to the broader public discussion through the Poet Laureate position, and believes that the arts and poetry can help people heal in ways beyond traditional therapies.
“Poetry can give a voice to the voiceless. Poetry can make a powerless person feel powerful. This is why I speak,” said Ms. Thomas.
Rebecca is also an active supporter of youth engagement through poetry and the arts and has volunteered the past two years with the Halifax Youth Slam Team. Over the last several years she has organized a variety of workshops and poetry series’ with a focus on youth empowerment and diversity education.
Rebecca officially assumed the position of Poet Laureate on April 1, 2016.
To coincide with her official introduction as Poet Laureate, and in celebration of National Poetry Month, a welcome reception will be held as follows:
Poet Laureate Celebration
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
12:15 p.m. - 1 p.m.
Halifax Hall, City Hall, 1841 Argyle Street, Halifax
Following the Poet Laureate Celebration, Rebecca will deliver a poem to Regional Council in City Hall Council Chambers at 1 p.m.
(Photo Credit: Matthew Madden)
The Halifax Regional Municipality defines the Poet Laureate as a resident poet or spoken word artist who has achieved excellence amongst their peers and whose work is of relevance to the citizens of the region. The Poet Laureate is an advocate for literary arts and reflects the life of the municipality through their work. As an advocate for poetry, language and the arts, the Poet Laureate attends events across the region to promote and attract people to the literary world.
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2013 - 2015
El Jones is a spoken word activist and teacher. She was the two-time captain of the back-to-back national championship Halifax slam team in 2007 and 2008. El has performed all over Canada, including at the 10th Anniversary All-Star edition of When Sisters Speak in Toronto. In 2012, she was sponsored by Citizenship and Heritage Canada on a reading tour of Nova Scotia with George Elliott Clarke. Her poetry is particularly committed to political causes and social justice and has worked extensively with organizations around Halifax performing and presenting on issues of social change. She is dedicated to using poetry in prison outreach and youth engagement, and volunteers twice a week at Centerline Studio on the corner of Uniacke and Gottingen. El is current artistic director of Word Iz Bond Spoken Word Artist Collective and can be seen performing on the third Thursday of every month at the Company House at 2202 Gottingen Street in Word Iz Bond’s SPEAK! series, one of the oldest continually running spoken word series in Canada. She currently teaches in the African Canadian Transition Program at NSCC and in the Women's Studies program at Acadia. El believes that poetry can empower the powerless and give voice to the voiceless.
El Jones addresses the crowd at the dedication of the new Halifax ferry - Christopher Stannix
El Jones addresses Halifax Regional Council on April 29, 2014 in acknowledgement of National Poetry Month.
The voice is I and I. I and I meaning the voice is in us all to equalize. To harmonize. To totalize. The voice is alive. Word is Bond says the voice so speak with righteousness.
The voice is dub, soul, reggae, hip-hop, drum and synthesizer. The voice is Word Sound Power swag and style. The voice is too wide to occupy a single poet; the poet is just disciple.
The voice is the little girl at the workshop who starts off hostile. In her first poem she makes fun of me trying to get a rise. When I say I like her rhyme, her second poem she writes my mom just sits around on welfare and I'm scared of having her life. In her third poem she writes, today I realized I have a talent for poetry inside.
The voice is reading Malcolm X over the prison phone at Burnside. It is the poetry circle before lockdown and the collect call at 5:30 to the radio show with poems providing a lifeline. I was held in solitary they say and poetry was my only sign. Can poetry liberate us? they challenge. Can it free the mind?
The voice is in the dedication of the garden at the Refugee Clinic to Habtom who committed suicide when his claim was denied. Can poetry memorialize? they ask me. Can poetry shine a light?
The voice is the former foster child who shows me her files and asks how poetry can help her find some way to make the past materialize. Can poetry heal? she asks me. Is poetry a guide?
The voice is the teens who shyly stand by in classrooms just to say hi. Do you write? I ask them. Yes they say, I would like to speak but I'm scared people will laugh if I try. Can poetry give us courage? they wonder. Will it make me signify?
The voice is the organizer trying to save the school from being gentrified.
The survivor calling out against sexual violence, the sex workers rallying for rights. They urge me, will poetry help us outcry?
The voice is Arabic, Farsi, Kreyole, Hausa and Twi. Poetry is how we identify.
The voice is at Centerline Studios, in the young people who believe that they can find a way out of stereotype. It is in beats and rap and spoken word and music. They say poetry helps us survive.
The voice is Mi'kmaq warriors protecting the waters and the sacred fire. Poetry will uprise they tell us. It will justify.
The voice is the young immigrant who raps in flawless English at the Y. The voice is the vigil for those who died homeless. Can poetry dignify? they question.
The voice is the women in the transition house who hide poetry under their beds and inside dressers and when I coax it out of them they arrive with armloads of papers scrawled with poems on both sides. Can poetry help us rise? they show me. Does it get us through trials?
The voice is the community talent show fundraiser, the high school concert, Africa Night. Can poetry bring us together? they ask me. Will poetry unify?
The voice is the angry stories, the sad stories, the stories of resilience, the confessions and the cries. The voice is gathered at the library, in community centres, in the pews and aisles. The voice is book awards and historical preservation societies. I and I have been present when the voice inspires, in private or at the mic.
The voice is vital. It cannot be stifled. It most urgently possesses those without title, those with no venue for recital. This poem is just a sample, just a trifle of the tidal wave of voices I have heard testify. How can I describe how many voices I have witnessed prophesying their truths?
The poet is not the voice of the city, just the disciple. The voice is I and I.
El Jones performs her poem at City Hall on June 27, 2013
Photo credit: Julé Malet-Veale
If you ever stumble rest your head on Halifax's shoulder you will feel bolder from this city's power its community a rain shower and we are flowers, growing, growing strong
- Tanya Davis
Tanya Davis is a poet. She is a storyteller. She is a musician and a singer-songwriter and she fuses these elements together in a refreshing matrimony of language and sound, side-stepping genre and captivating audiences in the process. With the release of her third album, Clocks and Hearts Keep Going, in November 2010, she affirms her well-earned place in the ranks of thoughtful and hard-working Canadian Artists.
Since bursting onto the Halifax music scene in 2006 with her debut, Make a List, Tanya has garnered praise from industry, audience, and peers, as well as multiple award nominations, including one for her sophomore release, Gorgeous Morning, for the 2009 ECMA Female Recording of the Year. She is a 2 time winner in the CBC National Poetry Face-off as well as the Canadian Winner of the 2008 Mountain Stage NewSong contest. In 2009, with support from Bravo, she collaborated with independent filmmaker Andrea Dorfman to produce a short videopoem entitled How to Be Alone; the short has since been featured at numerous film festivals, including The Vancouver Film Fest, The Worldwide Short Film Festival, and the VideoPoetry Festival (Berlin). It also has 1.8 million views on Youtube.
Tanya also completed a feature-length show based in music and performance poetry, as funded by The Canada Council for the Arts; it debuted in 2011. She was commissioned by the Canada Games to write and perform a poem at the 2011 opening ceremonies. In June 2011 Acorn Press published her first book of poetry, entitled ‘At first, lonely’.
Tanya Davis performs her poem "Call in the Poets" at Regional Council on May 7, 2013,
As Halifax's third Poet Laureate Shauntay Grant was active in engaging citizens through workshops, performances, open mics, and community initiatives.
Apart from appearances at numerous festivals, fundraisers, and community events, Grant organized several programs during her term, among them: Canada's first national gathering of Canadian Poets Laureate (July 2010); the Halifax Jazz Festival's Words + Music series (July 2010 and 2011); Free Verse on the Ferry, a poetry reading on the Halifax-Dartmouth Ferry (July 2010); a panel discussion called The How To's of Publishing for Writers, Spoken Word Artists, and Storytellers (February 2011); the youth-led arts for social change initiative Poets 4 Change (workshops and performances held 2010–2011). Grant was also honoured during her term as Poet Of Honour at the 2010 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Ottawa.
Shauntay Grant is a Nova Scotian writer, spoken word performer, musician, and broadcast journalist. She has shared her vibrant blend of poetry and music internationally at festivals and events.
Shauntay regularly conducts writing, performance, and choral music workshops for schools and community groups. Her original works of poetry and music have been featured nationally on CBC Radio, CBC Television and Vision Television.
Her first children's book, Up Home (2008, Nimbus Publishing) received two Atlantic Book Awards for Best Atlantic Published Book and the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. Up Home is also shortlisted for the 2010 Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Awards.
Shauntay is involved with several arts organizations. She's served as a board member for the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, the Lieutenant Governor's Arts Awards Foundation, and the Nova Scotia Choral Federation. She is also a founder of Word Iz Bond Spoken Word Artists' Collective.
Shauntay directed the 4th annual Canadian Festival of Spoken Word (CFSW), which took place October 2007 in Halifax. She was a member of the 2008 Halifax Slam Team that won first place honours at the CFSW National Poetry Slam in Calgary (November 2008).
Shauntay hosted the 2008 and 2009 CBC National Poetry Face-Off. She is the host of All the Best, a music program that airs weekly on CBC Radio One in the Maritimes.
Lorri officially took the reins from inaugural Poet Laureate Sue MacLeod on April 29, 2005 at the Atlantic Book Awards event in Dartmouth.
Learn more about Lorri
Lorri read her poem "To Begin" at Regional Council on April 23, 2013
Lorri Neilsen Glenn is the author and editor of thirteen books, the most recent of which are the acclaimed Untying the Apron: Daughters Remember Mothers of the 1950s (Guernica Editons, 2013), Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry (Hagios Press, 2011), and Lost Gospels (Brick Books, 2010). A poet, essayist, anthologist, and ethnographer, Lorri’s literary work and scholarship have earned several national and international awards.
Lorri has taught writing in the public schools, in a penitentiary, in Northern Canadian communities, in the oil patch, and in several women’s organizations; her teaching has taken her to most provinces of Canada, as well as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and Greece. She has served as writer in residence, scholar in residence, and mentor in several Canadian and Australian universities. Lorri’s award-winning work on loss and grief has been published as poetry and creative nonfiction. She has taught memoir writing for a decade and currently serves as a mentor in the University of King’s College MFA program in creative nonfiction. Lorri served two terms on the board of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and is a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and the Creative Nonfiction Collective.
In 2005, Lorri was the recipient of the Award for Research Excellence at Mount Saint Vincent University where she is Professor in the field of literacy and literary studies in the Faculty of Education. In 2009, Lorri was the recipient of the Halifax Progress Club’s Women of Excellence Award (Arts and Culture category).
As an arts and literacy advocate for over twenty-five years, Lorri believes that the life of the imagination is critical to a healthy and productive society. “Truth, beauty, and the imagination aren’t old-fashioned ideals. Today we need them more than ever. Words change lives.”
Lorri’s legacy project was two-fold: she organized and led a youth writing collective, Wordfishing, from 2005-2009. The group of a dozen young poets, songwriters, and prose writers performed their work at Word on the Street, among other events, and produced a CD of their work. As well, Lorri organized several readings and author nights, including the MSVU Authors’ Night and Book Crawl in 2009, bringing together local writers and performers in a mult-site event.
Speaking about Lorri’s appointment in 2005, Mayor Peter Kelly said, “HRM is endowed with many outstanding artists, and Lorri Neilsen Glenn epitomises that talent. We are excited to have Lorri as a skillful, knowledgeable and engaging poet representing us in this official position.”
In 2001, the amalgamated Halifax Regional Municipality became the third municipality in Canada to establish a Poet Laureate. Sue MacLeod was honoured as our first laureate.
Learn more about Sue MacLeod
Learn about the Legacy Project of the first municipal Poet Laureate
The Mayor's Poet Laureate is a resident poet or spoken word artist who has achieved excellence and whose work is of relevance to its citizens. The Poet Laureate is an advocate for literary arts and reflects the life of the region through program development and community outreach.
For more information on this program contact: