The municipality’s eighth Poet Laureate is Sue Goyette. Sue will serve a three-year term in this role, acting as an ambassador for poetry, literacy, literature and the arts. As part of her mandate, she will represent the municipality as an artist and an advocate for culture and community, through public appearances and readings at local events and through other public presentation platforms.
Sue Goyette lives in K'jipuktuk (Halifax), the unceded and unsurrendered land of the Mi’kmaq peoples. She has published six books of poems and a novel. Her forthcoming collection is Anthesis (Gaspereau Press, 2020).
Sue has been nominated for several awards including the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Award and has won the CBC Literary Prize for Poetry, the Earle Birney, the Bliss Carman, the Pat Lowther, the J.M. Abraham Poetry Award, the Relit Award, and the 2015 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for her collection, Ocean. She edited the 2014 Best of Canadian Poetry Anthology and the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology. Sue teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Dalhousie University.
Past municipal poet laureates
Dr. Afua Cooper
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2018-2020
Dr. Cooper has been a poet and spoken word artist for over 30 years and has performed all over the world. She has five books of poetry published and is also a writer of young adult fiction, works of history, and essays, including the co-creation of Black Halifax, an interdisciplinary presentation that uses poetry and spoken word to tell Halifax’s 300 year-old African Nova Scotian history.
Dr. Cooper also founded the Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA), which she currently chairs and is a co-founder of the Dub Poetry movement in Canada.
Her book The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal was a national best-seller, and was selected by CBC in 2017 as one of the most important books published in Canada. Angelique was shortlisted for the Governor General Award.
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2016-2018
Rebecca Thomas is a spoken word artist and the current Halifax Slam Master. Thomas holds the position of Coordinator of Aboriginal Student Services at the Nova Scotia Community College. Coming from an indigenous background and with a family that has been greatly impacted by residential schools, she 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.
She 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.
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.
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2011–2013
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. Tanya is a two-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.
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2009–2011
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 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.
Lorri Neilsen Glenn
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2005–2009
Lorri Neilsen Glenn is the Métis author and editor of thirteen books, the most recent of which is the award-winning Following the River: Traces of Red River Women (Wolsak and Wynn, 2017. She is the first Métis Poet Laureate for Halifax. Her titles also include 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 the poetry collections, Combustion (Brick Books, 2007) 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. As an arts and literacy advocate for over thirty-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.”
Municipal Poet Laureate, 2001–2005
Sue MacLeod has published two books of poetry, That Singing You Hear at the Edges and The Language of Rain.
Her poems have also appeared in journals and anthologies across the country and been broadcast on regional and national CBC.
She has been invited to read from her work in nine of Canada’s provinces, at venues ranging from the Ship Inn in St. John’s, to the Festival of Words in Moose Jaw, to Vancouver’s inner-city library at the corner of Hastings and Main.
Sue grew up in Toronto, but has lived in Nova Scotia since her teens and currently makes her home in downtown Halifax. As part of the writing community, she has served on the Board of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, taught poetry at The Tatamagouche Centre, and to students of all ages through the Writers in the Schools program.
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. The poetry anthology To Find Us was published as a legacy project of her inaugural role as Laureate. It was shortlisted for the Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor’s Masterworks Award in 2006.