Edmonton's Poet Laureate

Edmonton's Fifth Poet Laureate: Mary Pinkoski

Mary Pinkoski - Poet LaureateMary Pinkoski is a dynamic spoken word performer who has traveled throughout North America to represent Edmonton’s poetry scene. She has been active in Edmonton’s poetry community for nine years as a poet and a storyteller and is the founder of YOURS: Edmonton Youth Open Mic Series.

Mary is a Member at Large on the Spoken Word Canada board and works closely with the Edmonton Poetry Festival. In 2013, Mary placed third at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, making her the top ranked female in the competition. In 2011, she was voted Most Valuable Poet at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, where she was also Captain of the Edmonton Poetry Slam Team, who won the National Championship that year. She was the winner of the 2008 National CBC Poetry Faceoff.

Mary is also active in the community as a teacher and mentor, leading numerous workshops on spoken word poetry, including classroom presentations and writing workshops with both youth and adults. She draws inspiration from these experiences, as well as Edmonton’s past and present, in many of her works, and has collaborated with other poets and creatives on numerous projects in Edmonton and beyond. Her most current published chapbook is love is a tree you planted.

Mary Pinkoski will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate, from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.


Role of the Poet Laureate

Historically, a Poet Laureate served as the official chronicler of state events and occasions. In ancient times, the Laureate was the central means for recording and communicating history. "Laureate" comes from the Latin word ‘laureatus', meaning adorned with a crown of laurel, an honour also bestowed on the earliest Olympic athletes.

More currently, the role of a Poet Laureate is to reflect the life of a city through readings of poetry. As an ambassador for the literary arts, the Laureate incorporates poetry into a range of official and informal city activities.

Edmonton's Poet Laureate program is supported jointly by The City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Public Library and the Edmonton Arts Council. The creation of this position confirms the city's support for the arts in general, and for the literary arts in particular.

Edmonton's Poet Laureate Terms

Edmonton's Poet Laureate is expected to:

  • Serve as Poet Laureate for two years.
  • Assume the role of literary ambassador for the City of Edmonton both within and outside of the City.
  • Produce at least three original works each year.
  • Appear and present works of significance to the citizens of Edmonton:
    • at least once a year in front of City Council
    • at least once a year at a City-sponsored fundraising or charity event
    • at a minimum of two City of Edmonton official functions each year
  • Undertake to begin and contribute to an historical archive of events and poetry presented at same.

In addition, the Edmonton Poet Laureate will be allowed/encouraged to present or perform works of other poets, if content and/or subject is relevant to the event and the citizens of Edmonton.


Poet Laureate Events & Appearances

As the ambassador of literary arts for the City of Edmonton, the Poet Laureate incorporates poetry into a range of official and informal city activities. 


Do you have a project or event that you would like to invite the Poet Laureate to?

Edmonton's Poet Laureate creates and presents 3 official poems a year, and is engaged in a number of outreach projects.

The Poet Laureate is also available to perform at special events, schools, and other occasions, as well as lead workshops. Please note that for activities outside of the Poet Laureate's official role, an artist fee may apply.

You can contact Mary directly at mary.pinkoski@gmail.com to discuss her rates and availability.

Poet Laureate in the News

Mary Pinkoski Named Edmonton’s Fifth Poet Laureate

Canada’s top female slam poet brings unique voice to role On July 1, 2013, Mary Pinkoski will become Edmonton’s newest Poet Laureate. Pinkoski is a dynamic spoken word performer who has traveled throughout North America to represent Edmonton’s poetry scene, where she has been active as a poet for nearly a decade.

“I am extremely honoured to have been selected as Edmonton's fifth Poet Laureate and to carry on the great tradition of laureates that have served the City of Edmonton,” said Mary Pinkoski. “I am grateful for the possibilities of serving as Edmonton's Poet Laureate for the next two years and look forward to making poetry come alive across the city.”

Pinkoski has won numerous competitions and accolades as a poet. She placed third at the 2013 Canadian Individual Poetry slam, making her the current top ranked female slam poet in the country. In 2011, she was voted Most Valuable Poet at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, where she was also Captain of the Edmonton Poetry Slam Team that won the national championship that year.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mary as Edmonton's fifth Poet Laureate. As an accomplished slam poet, performer, collaborator, teacher and mentor, Mary has many skills to bring to this role, and an obvious passion for the past and present of our city,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel. “I look forward to seeing Mary in the community as our literary arts ambassador and to hearing Edmonton's story told through her unique and dynamic style of poetry.”

Locally, Pinkoski sits on the board of the Edmonton Poetry Festival. She is the founder of YOURS: Edmonton Youth Open Mic Series. Pinkoski is also active in the community as a teacher and mentor, leading numerous workshops on spoken word poetry with both youth and adults.

“We are excited to work with Edmonton’s newest Poet Laureate,” said Pilar Martinez, Deputy CEO of the Edmonton Public Library. “EPL’s goal is to Spread the Words and Mary’s commitment to storytelling and sharing the power of words throughout our community fits perfectly with that goal. We look forward to a great partnership.”

Pinkoski will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate. Anna Marie Sewell’s term as Poet Laureate ends on June 30, 2013.

The role of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate is to reflect the life of the city through readings and poetry. As an ambassador for the literary arts, the Laureate brings poetry into a range of official and informal city events.

Edmonton’s Poet Laureate program is supported by The City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Public Library.



Call for nominations: Edmonton poet laureate

April 30, 2013

The City of Edmonton, Edmonton Public Library and the Edmonton Arts Council are seeking nominations for Edmonton's fifth Poet Laureate. Edmonton's Poet Laureate reflects the life of the city through readings of poetry, and serves as an ambassador for the literary arts by incorporating poetry into a range of official and informal city activities.  The Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.

Edmonton Arts Council Media Release

Call for Nominations

Interview with Anna Marie Sewell - Alberta Prime Time

Alberta's Poet Laureates
Original Air Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Edmonton has been doing it for seven years, and now Calgary has decided to get on the bandwagon. In this Around Alberta, how poetry is now making a major statement in our province.

Anna Marie Sewell - Interview on CBC Radio's Daybreak Alberta

She's been Edmonton's Poet Laureate since June of 2011 and the duties have taken her to some surprising parts of her city. For over 20 years, Anna Marie Sewell has been an author, songwriter and playwright and in her role as Poet Laureate she has been seeking the poetic voice of the capital. She dropped by the Daybreak studio to talk about her recent work and to also offer some advice to the City of Calgary as they get set to announce their first Poet Laureate.

Listen to the interview here!

Anna Marie Sewell named as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate

“A wonderful laureate, eager to share the power of words”

Anna Marie Sewell can add Poet Laureate to her impressive list of artistic accomplishments. The writer of poetry, theatre, stories and songs becomes the City of Edmonton’s fourth Poet Laureate on July 1, 2011.

“I am honored to be chosen as the City of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate,” said Sewell. “Edmonton is a tremendous city. It will be a joy to write and share poetry about Edmonton in this official role.” 

Sewell has been active on Edmonton’s poetry scene for 20 years. She is a founding member of the Stroll of Poets Society which promotes poetry in Edmonton through performances and festivals. She is one of Edmonton’s Raving Poets and has a recurring gig as the “Bike-nik Poet” at Edmonton’sBikeology festival.

Sewell’s 2009 book of poetry Fifth World Drum won critical acclaim. Sewell is the founder of Edmonton’s Big Sky Theatre.

“We are pleased to welcome Anna Marie as our next Poet Laureate," said Mayor Stephen Mandel. "She brings to the role a profound ability to blend wisdom and playfulness into poetry that is both beautiful and accessible. Her work is varied and rich, with strong roots in our community. I know Anna Marie will be a great ambassador from Edmonton to the world."

 “Anna Marie will be a wonderful laureate, eager to share the power of words,” said Pamela Anthony, Director of the Winter Light Festival, in nominating Sewell. “She wields unusual skill in casting the spell of language, sending the reader to explore new places. She will reflect Edmonton’s character in a beautiful and meaningful way.”

Born in Fredericton, NB, Sewell is of Mi’gmaq/Anishnabe/Polish heritage. She has lived in Edmonton since 1985, moving here from Alberta’s Peace Country.

"The Library and Anna Marie have worked closely together in the past,” said Pilar Martinez, Executive Director of Public Services, Edmonton Public Library. “We are excited by the opportunity to continue our collaborative relationship.”

Edmonton’s Poet Laureate program is supported by The City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Public Library.

Sewell will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate. Roland Pemberton’s term as Poet Laureate ends on June 30, 2011.

Mary Pinkoski
Written for the City and Memory Symposium, hosted by the Edmonton Heritage Council. I performed the poem on November 2, 2013.
Mary Pinkoski
Was my first official at City Hall. I wrote and performed the poem on December 11, 2013.
Alice Major and Mary Pinkoski
This poem was co-written by Edmonton's first Poet Laureate, Alice Major, and myself for a Protocol Item presented in City Council to celebrate the mayoral tenure of Mayor Stephen Mandel. I performed the poem in council on September 18, 2013.
Mary Pinkoski
2013 Edmonton Poet Laureate Appointment Ceremony – June 26, 2013
Mary Pinkoski
This poem was written for Make Something Edmonton's Brand Camp (July 6, 2013). The poem was created on-the-spot throughout the day from the discussions in the room and read at the end of the day.

Invocation (for Edmonton)
I think there is something wonderful about a city that is tied to itself with bridges
Some nights, when Edmonton is mostly sleeping 
except for the excitement of its streetlights,
I drive them and picture these bridges as belts
holding us together
their buckles fastened tight over our river heart
It reminds me that two halves do make a whole –
there is security in the math of that
Maybe I am naive, but I like to rest reassured in
the  knowledge that river banks of Walterdale hold 
the same fossils as the banks of Glenora
that Erminskin will never forget Castledowns
that the Yellowhead does not clash with the Whitemud
You are as busy as the black coffee business of Jasper Ave
your briefcase is a bustle promise of new enterprise
Some dawns, I want to rise with sun across your sky,
scrape the towers and shake up your potential
Some afternoons, I long to drift through the used book comfort of Whyte Ave
reading each building like a chapter
Muddle myself into vibrant painting of Alberta Ave
Hum my reflection into the window of streetcar perched in the sky
 I have sunk my fingers into your river bank dirt,
marveled at the way place can grow roots into your veins,
I have let go and pulled out Babiak stories and Cadence Weapon melodies,
poems with thick with symphonies and citadels,
My body a rapid fire theatre,
a cathedral of history and promises
There is so much to hold when moving forward, 
when making something of ourselves
and yet, I have seen how the future can stretch you across a landscape,
spread you out across the concrete prairie
yes, sometimes pavement cracks,
gets worn in places we didn’t intend it to
like an old couch we moved from living room
to rec room to spare room
Sometimes we sit in places that are all too familiar
and feel the springs poking us in the back
It is nothing, just a sign to moving
to continue to grow
to keep the couch in the home
but plant a seedling in the crack of the pavement
To know that despite the cracks,
we are still a home
populated by love and magpies
We were always a home,
called by the Cree Beaver Hills House
Edmonton, you have always been a place of settling
of sitting down, of resting
A grade six student once told me that 
Edmonton smells like a food court,
sounds like parade,
 looks like a warm blanket, 
tastes like stranger’s smile
and feels like home
It is winter right now and I am dreaming of skating down your frozen streets
layering myself against the elements, 
making snow angels on the grounds Hawrelak Park,
imagining each cloud passing by as summer dream,
I tell myself it will be hot again and there will be Fringes and Heritage Days 
and popsicle sticky sidewalks that don’t let you glide down them
but for now, it is winter and I am inside,
watching through the window as you hold people like a warm blanket
finding the hope in your mission, centres that bring people together like a crop
grown from a single mustard seed
Edmonton, I am settling myself into the smiles of your strangers
finding my voice in their conversation
letting it taste like home
There is community everywhere in this city
I know, if you search “Edmonton” in Wikipedia
the article tells you that there are 375 neighbourhoods in this city
I don’t know the accuracy of this number,
but I like to imagine it true
to believe there are 10 more neighbourhoods in this city than days of the year
we could spend all year, and then some, celebrating them
so let’s do this, Edmonton, you festival city
you 375 voices singing out in a choir
let’s call all the magpies to the telephone wires,
sound the clock bell at City Hall
tighten the belts around your river city heart
let’s come together
We are here,
We are home and
we are alive
The Places We Hold In Ourselves
My mom tells me this story
of a time when city limits stretched
into fields
and buses were coded with letters and numbers
she would the ride the J6 downtown
to watch Elvis Presley movies
and to visit the first bookstore she knew 
to have both books and tea – Mel Hurting’s bookstore
It is the CKUA building on Jasper Avenue that reminds her 
She tells me the story most often after she sees the painted radio call letters 
on the building
I grew up in a time when streets pushed fields
further away - the city was growing
We lived in Fort Saskatchewan and every year
I would watch as the city stretched its arms out 
longer and longer
I lived for our trips to Edmonton
traveling down Fort road
winding our way through the loops of the downtown parkades
to meet my nana for tea
in the basement of the Woodwards
There was magic in landing myself in heart of the city
that I used to imagine was as big as New York,
as fancy as London,
I used to think Whyte Ave must be something like Paris
Edmonton was a mystical creature
A city with a fantastical heartbeat
It was gentle giant that brought me
candy cane lane and skating in Hawrelak Park
swimming lessons at the Kinsmen
art class at the gallery
plays at the Citadel
dinners at Bullwinkles and Chi Chis
and the ever glistening Butterdome
It is impossible not to imbue memories
into a location
every place becomes rich with stories
that create collective memories of our city
the landscape is awash with reminders of our past
and directions to our future
we find ourselves in remembering,
we grow community in the sharing
“what did you feel the first time you saw the folk fest hill lit up with candles?”
“where did you eat when you were young?”
“do you remember the first time you saw the pyramids?”
“where were you when we won our first Stanley Cup?”
“where were you when Wayne Gretzky was traded?”
“do you remember your first visit to West Edmonton Mall?”
“have you ever, on a cold winter’s night, found that street in Highlands where they string the lights across the street it runs down the whole street, did the beauty of it take your breath away?”
We are continually locating ourselves within the events of the city,
placing ourselves within the city’s body,
and living within it, finding its heartbeat, listening to it, telling its story
I like to believe that there are drums in the earth,
I like to think we can all find a patch of soil, 
press your ear to the ground and hear
the pounding of hooves surrounding an early Fort Edmonton
the arrhythmic humming of the railway’s first arrival,
the sway of the street car, the buzz of an airplane,
the jump out of your chest crashing of logs jamming down the North Saskatchewan River
the bustle of business and cars down Jasper Ave
the too long between heartbeats of flood, of a tornado
stand at the edge of the city and run your hands through the wind
and know what it is like to touch the tips of the wheat field that once stood there
make your body an awkward barn dance for all those kids who came from the country to the city
a graceless entering into a cosmopolitan world
sing this city’s song with every moment of joy we have had
our Stanley Cups, our Grey Cups
be held in every moment of perseverance we have endured
and speak the stories of our city
fill the places you inhabit with your memories,
make new memories, honor the ones already in existence
This city is poem,
Its memory made fortunate and tough by our geography
made gentle by the symphony of our people
made open and wide-eyed by its stories
This city is a memory
this city is a future
This poem was co-written by Edmonton's first Poet Laureate, Alice Major, and myself for a Protocol Item presented in City Council to celebrate the mayoral tenure of Mayor Stephen Mandel. I performed the poem in council on September 18, 2013.
Change is
Alice Major and Mary Pinkoski
Scientifically, change is marked as moving 
from one state to another – 
a metamorphosis
wherein each phase is reliant upon the other,
they cannot exist alone.
There can be no end without a beginning
no wing beat of the butterfly without the crawl of the caterpillar.
There is a passion and dedication in transformation,
a dogged determination to make a difference,
to watch a city move from being "good enough"
to "always better";
to witness communities awakening in rebirth;
arts spreading like wildfire and local businesses flourishing;
citizens- young and old – coming together in history and wisdom,
in joy and energy, in learning;
Edmontonians welcoming and embracing each other.
It is the drastic difference between a whisper and cheer,
it is the inhalation of passion from all who connect with the city.
To witness a city converge into a new kind of vibrant, a new living
takes a leader who understands the beauty of change.
A man who operates in compassion and concern.
A man who is undaunted by transforming ideas and visions.
A man who has set this city in home of his heart
and then opened the doors.
Scientifically, change is marked a shifting from one state to another.
Scientifically, change is a metamorphosis.
Realistically, change is dream pulled from the ether.
Realistically, change is a possibility made present.
Realistically, change is potential actualized.
Change is
new words. A poet in the council chamber. 
A dream-word-catcher in City Hall. 
It's debate, declaration, decisions recorded 
in the minute book. 
Change is
about the past, looking into the eyes of history,
about acknowledgement and accords
and signing a document of promise: We didn't get it right.
We'll try again.
Change is slow.
It's those damn potholes and being stuck 
with climate and asphalt. You fix them (one step forward)
then new ones open up (two steps back).
Sometimes change is not
as good as a vacation.
Change can be
big, billions, an infrastructure budget
that gobbles up your spreadsheets.
Change is 
acknowledgement of the underdog, 
a celebration of greatness.
Change is
a basketball hoop on the square,
the orange ball bubbling through the net again and again,
street kids scoring good stuff this time.
Change is 
small as a newborn grandchild – 
to hold like hope, to count fingers and toes.
It's the click of a door closing on the crib,
the click of a door closing on an office, 
another future opening ahead.
2013 Edmonton Poet Laureate Appointment Ceremony – June 26, 2013
Edmonton, you are singing
Mary Pinkoski
your gates to the north open wide
like arms stretching into your gaping river chest
Where you can see the current of our hearts
running right through the body of this city
Our hearts beat they ferociously
They beat with the voices of history 
and the call of the future
They carry the memory
of great ones that have moved through us
carving a space so big we’ve got roadways for veins
Wayne Gretzky  Anthony Henday  Emily Murphy  Alex Taylor
Our hearts, 
they carry the memory that from the beginning
we were the Cree’s Beaver Hills House
you have always been a home
setting yourself down beside
the quickly running North Saskatchewan River
you have  been a journey and a destination
And yet, if you have ever paused on top of Walterdale Hill
to watch the setting sun fold itself into 
this city’s rushing river chest
watch light bounce off a riverbed that houses
the orchestral clicking of dinosaur bones and
the settling spines of bison
A waterway that harbors
the rhythmic histories of river boats and railway alongside 
the often dissonant cries Gold rushes and lumber barons
A river that cradles the sunset reflections
of buildings and temples
of steeples and synagogues
a river holding the passions of prayers
and the hopes of progress
melding the past with the present
Edmonton, lay yourself down with the sun
set yourself out along the river,
like an early birchbark canoe,
put your ear to the bank,
dip your hand into the water
let move through you
and tell me,
can you hear the jazz blues folk in lumber
dancing down the river like an old time waltz escaping into the night air,
in the 5pm yellow glint off the water can you see
the historic hope of immigrants written in the golden top of the Chinatown gate
in the dispersing purple sunset do you see
the dedicated threads of a mother’s sari swishing around her family in Millwoods,
do the eddies of this river twist you into a skater twirling in Hawrelak Park,
have you let the wind blowing drift into your ears
like an early settler’s bagpipe aria
have you heard it enclosing its bilingual melody 
around Bonnie Doon singing the songs
of Marie-Anne Gaboury
chanting the prayers of St. Jean
does the river’s bubbling take you to a soccer game in little Italy,
it’s bustling effort bring you to a farmers market
that holds the same vegetables a Ukrainian baba planted
in her first garden in the new world
are you mesmerized in its swaying sides, 
north to south, 
river bank to river bank
like the repetitions of hands beating ancient rhythm into drums
I know we are place that is busy with the hopes of growth
We are still young
and sit with nervous anticipation
of what more we can become,
like a child marking his height with ticks on a wall
asking r ”am I taller yet”
am i taller yet? am   i    taller   yet?
We will get there,
I know it.
in this moment
we are making something of ourselves
and we have already made so much
So for now, Edmonton,
let your stretched out river bed arms
to be the welcome they have always been
let your river bank hands continue cradle
the dreams that have built lives on your shores
let your rushing river heart beat the stories
of this land and its people through you
let them rise out of you
like the mist rises off your river’s mouth
and watch them now,
as they fill your sky with constellations that dip and sway
every time a hillside choir under a canopy of candles
brings the heavens down with four strong winds
You will know then that
This city is a symphony under the stars
Listen Edmonton,
can you hear your stories
our stories
can you hear your voices
our voices
drifting off your river
This city
My city
Our city
you are singing
And it is so beautiful
This poem was written for Make Something Edmonton’s Brand Camp (July 6, 2013). The poem was created on-the-spot throughout the day from the discussions in the room and read at the end of the day. 
One City, Many Voices
Mary Pinkoski (2013)
There is a picture at Fort Edmonton Park.
It hangs on the wall of the Alberta Government Telephones building.
In the picture is an early telephone operator,
she is holding – between her fingers – power lines stretching out
from telephone poles as if they were threads
and her work was the loom.
At the bottom of the picture sits a caption
which reads, “weavers of speech.”
I think that is what we have been doing here today – 
weaving stories – 
but I also like to think that this what Edmonton is about:
a diverse collection of stories stretching out 
telephone wire taut across our landscape,
humming with energy.
We are carrying so many threads within the body of our city - 
within our own bodies – 
threads of history, of hope, of love,
of trials, of community, of giving.
Everything we touch becomes our creation,
 and Edmonton our loom.
We are here to weave our stories into 
the vibrant tapestry that blankets the city,
a shifting patchwork of energy that moves
in kaleidoscope fashion with each new event.
Like an old quilt that gets passed down 
from generation to generation,
worked on from generation to generation,
it tells the story of who are and where we have been.
It started before us, but it carries on with us.
Every square its own entity, but also a necessity
to the fabric of the whole.
And yes, it has its pristine patches, but it also
has its pothole tears – we need those.
This quilt wants to lay itself down 
over Edmonton like a bedcover,
let us know we are home.
Still, I know it is tricky to call an ever-changing patchwork whole,
to define its shifting components into a singular entity.
We are always building here,
growing with every new thing that we are making.
If anything, we know that we are only as distinct
as what we choose to create,
and so we choose to create
in all sorts of ways and
for all sorts of reasons.
We find the blueprints of ourselves in those creations.
It is a beautiful privilege to be able to live and work
in a place that lets us – lets anyone, lets everyone –put
their own fingerprints on this city.
It is a fantastical reassurance to know that we see 
our own reflection in the landscape of Edmonton;
in the people we touch, in the structures we build,
in the community we have created,
in the stories we are telling,
in the stories we want to hear.
Our ideas are everywhere.
They sit perched on our city streets like 
tidings of magpies ready to take flight,
ready to join the momentum of this city,
the current of ideas runs right through us
taking its lessons from the river.
I think it is amazing that this city is populated by so many magpies.
And while I would not argue for Edmonton be considered
the Magpie of Canada, I think the bird is such a fortunate metaphor.
The internet tells me that the magpie is one of the only birds to pass
an intelligence test called the mirror test, 
where it recognizes its own reflection.
I know we are more than just the blue-collared scavengers of the bird world,
attracted to shiny things like Grey Cups and Stanley Cups and World’s Biggest Malls.
I know that we sometimes struggle with the fact that we are no peacock,
no Golden Gate Bridge, no CN Tower, no ocean, no rainforest.
But still,
there is something about us that commands attention;
a big city that has never misplaced its community.
That is something special.
If you have ever seen water fall off the High Level Bridge
into a river that has stretched through us for ages,
that is something special, 
something almost magical.
There is a rush, a current to this city
that settled itself down into the river’s bend
like a magpie housing itself into the V of a tree.
We placed ourselves down here in the Cree’s Beaver Hills House
and began to grow, allowing the rush of the river to chart our path,
erode us into new ways of being, and in that being – the living –
we are building.
We are cradling the past and envisioning the future.
We are a community that knows in its bones
how to bring tools together to build
our own urban barn,
because we are building
and we are making something of ourselves.
We need to continue making beyond this circle
into new areas, new communities,
in the places where we need it the most and 
we do need it.
Magpie’s are often grounded homebodies.
It is a rare thing for a magpie to fly up to a telephone wire,
but it happens, they move around barriers, 
spread their wings, and take flight.
I like to think that Edmonton is a city of ideas taking flight;
a place where the magpies have lifted off,
carrying with them the voices of the landscape,
swooping over this quilt we have sewn together for generations.
And if you look up, you can see a magpie perched
on a telephone line,  feet humming with the stories 
of this city, just waiting
to weave in the next thread 
of this story - 
our story.

Edmonton's Past Poet Laureates


Anna Marie Sewell 2011-2013

 Anna Marie Sewell’s first book of poetry, Fifth World Drum, (2009, Frontenac House) was nominated for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award, City of Edmonton Book Prize,  the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award and the ReLit award. Fifth World Drum won critical acclaim across Canada, from Malahat Review to the Globe and Mail. She adapted and performed select pieces, with live soundscapes, as Suite: Fifth World Drum at the Talking Stick Festival February 21- 28th, part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

Anna Marie is a cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural artist; past work of note includes co-coordinating Honour Songs, a tribute to Aboriginal women, for Edmonton’s 2007 Cultural Capital project; and her award winning Heart of the Flower project. Heart of the Flower was based on writing about the year she spent working in a small city north of Kyoto, Japan.

Anna Marie earned a BA Special in Drama, with a minor in Spanish, from University of Alberta – via the scenic route, indulging curiosities about history, poetry, geography and more along the way.

The scenic route has been her career route thus far, which is great for a writer. She has earned her crust as a teacher, community animator, race horse groom, therapist, pasta maker, candy pusher, theatre worker and more. From 1998 – 2001, she even started and ran a company, Big Sky Theatre, producing original Aboriginal theatre. She served on the board of the Edmonton Arts Council from 2003 – 06, which led to such memorable opportunities as visiting Wonju, Korea in pursuit of cultural connections. All along the way, poetry has been a common thread and constant companion.

Anna Marie considers herself to be “quite Canadian” – she is a Status Indian, a Mi’gmaq from Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec. And though born in Mi’qmaq territory, in Fredericton, NB, her father’s family are mostly Anishnabe, and this is the part of her Aboriginal heritage with which she was most familiar growing up. On the other hand, Anishnabek are traditionally matrilineal, and Anna’s mother is the daughter of Polish immigrants. So, she is also part of the Slavic wave on the prairies, and first generation metis. She’s also a transplanted farm girl, who still loves to play in the dirt. (Go ahead, give her a pony.)

Anna grew up in the Peace country of northwestern Alberta, and only came to Edmonton when university seemed inevitable. Somehow, despite leaving our city three times – a year in Mexico, a year in Japan, two years in BC – she kept coming back. It took a couple of decades to come to grips with the grip this city has. 

Part of that has to do with the bold and challenging climate – the sky, the river, the dynamic weather. A lot more has to do with the cultural life here. In her first year at university, Anna watched Marilyn Dumont read poetry at a Metis women’s gathering and thought – Hey! Can we Do that?! She cobbled together a hand-written portfolio (this was the olden days of the 80s) and applied to Creative Writing class. While the class (thanks Dr. Bert Almon) was interesting, it was even more exciting to get to know other young writers and begin doing things – little readings in obscure venues, gigs on campus radio, and one memorable attempt to do performance poetry at the old Ambassador in the height of its barb-wire/flying bottles heyday.

Anna Marie was a founding member of the Stroll of Poets Society, which has been a remarkable home for poets for 20 years now. She has also taken part in the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s annual month-long shindig, where you might have seen her host the Blinks (80+ poets, 30 seconds each, no hesitation) a time or three.

In early 2009, Anna took a bus out to Abbottsfield Mall, answering a request to facilitate a monthly circle for 3 adult literacy students at the Learning Centre. She did not suspect that, two years later, the group would number 10, meet twice a week, have coordinated a successful city-wide inter-agency conference, and be set to launch a cross-disciplinary project this fall. She is regularly in awe of them, and the Learning Centre staff.

Anna Marie’s most recent project, produced by Edmonton Public Library as part of Aboriginal Month celebrations, is ‘Braidings’  - in which she arranged and directed a readers’ theatre/soundscaped performance, for three voices, of the works of 6 Aboriginal poets representing past, present and future, on the braided themes of Land, Love and Language.

In July, Anna will lead a poetry workshop for Youthwrite, a camp for youth 12- 19, and will also be found pawing the dirt in her backyard and at her daughter’s school garden. As Poet Laureate, Anna Marie  looks forward to collaborating with a broad range of people, and to serving our city with such tools as a poet may offer, to help build and develop our heart, our sense of ourselves as a community of creative possibilities.


Roland Pemberton 2009-2011

Roland Pemberton is an accomplished artist with an established international reputation as an innovative force in hip-hop. His debut album Breaking Kayfabe (2005) earned him nominations for the Canadian Indie Awards and "Best Rap Album of 2006" at the Plug Independent Music Awards, and won CBC Radio 3's Bucky Award. Both Breaking Kayfabe and his sophomore album Afterparty Babies (2008) have earned nominations for the coveted Polaris Music Prize.

Edmonton, and its characters, play a prominent role in Pemberton's work, and his roots to the city run deep. Roland's father, Teddy Pemberton, hosted The Black Experience in Sound on CJSR for 20 years and is often credited with bringing hip-hop to Edmonton. His grandfather, the great Rollie Miles, played for the Edmonton Eskimos from 1951 - 1961 and played in five CFL championship games. His uncle, Edmontonian Brett Miles, is a visual artist, accomplished saxophone player and songwriter who has performed with James Brown and recorded with Mick Jagger.


E.D. (Ted) Blodgett 2008-2009

E. D. (Ted) Blodgett, FRSC, is University Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta. He is currently teaching at MacEwan College and the Campus Saint-Jean where he is professeur auxiliaire in Études canadiennes. His research has varied from mediaeval European romance to Canadian Comparative Literature. His publications include Five-Part Invention: A History of Literary History in Canada (Toronto University Press, 2003) and Elegy (University of Alberta Press, 2005). He has published 17 books of poetry, of which 2 were awarded the Governor General's Award. He is preparing two others. A bilingual edition of his French poems, Le poème invisible, was published in 2008.


Alice Major 2005-2007

Alice has published eight collections of poetry and a novel for young adults, and served as the first poet laureate for the city of Edmonton from 2005- 2007. She came to Edmonton the long way round. She grew up in Dumbarton, Scotland –a small town on the banks of the Clyde, not far from Glasgow. Her family came to Canada when she was eight, and she grew up in Toronto before coming west to work as a reporter on The Williams Lake Tribune in British Columbia. She has been an active supporter of the arts and writing community:

  • Past president of the League of Canadian Poets
  • Past president of the Writers Guild of Alberta
  • Past chair of the Edmonton Arts Council
  • Founder, Edmonton Poetry Festival


Find more information about Mary Pinkoski’s current and upcoming events at the following link to her website: http://marypinkoski.com/new-events/


edmonton arts council