Edmonton's Poet Laureate
Edmonton's Fifth Poet Laureate: Mary Pinkoski
Mary 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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/