Halifax searching for next poet laureate

Call for submissions opens up to replace outgoing Rebecca Thomas.

Who will be the next Rebecca Thomas? Could it be...you?! - ALEX LANDINE
Alex Landine
Who will be the next Rebecca Thomas? Could it be...you?!

Rebecca Thomas has some advice for whoever replaces her as Halifax's next poet laureate.

“Grow thick skin, but keep your heart soft,” she says.

The poet’s two-year term as the municipality's supreme scribe is ending in April and HRM is already seeking nominations for her successor.

Applicants can be a poet, storyteller or spoken word artist who's been recognized for excellence in their field and whose body of work demonstrates a connection and relevance to citizens of HRM.

“The poet laureate will be an ambassador for the Halifax region and its residents by engaging the community in activities, programs and events that demonstrate the positive impact of literature, poetry and spoken word,” says a call for applications released Thursday by HRM.

The municipal program was created in 2001 to contract an advocate for language arts who would compose original poetic works for civic events. But Thomas hopes her successor also carries on as a voice for social justice.

“I would like to hope that this position continues on as the activist position it seems to be turning into,” she says. “So the person who holds this position has the right and the privilege to speak out on topics and access politicians and policy-makers.”

Like her predecessors El Jones and Tanya Davis, Thomas regularly used her time as poet laureate to speak out about social issues.

Most notably, she took to the stage to address colonial oppression during Canada Day and changed the hearts of HRM councillors during a performance of her Cornwallis-themed “Not Perfect” at City Hall.

Her words directly inspired a motion to re-examine how the city commemorates its controversial founder. Those actions ultimately culminated in Edward Cornwallis' south-end statue being removed and temporarily placed into storage.

Poet laureates receive a $4,000 honorarium from the municipality for their two-year term.

The deadline for nominations is next Friday, February 23. More information is available here.

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