Kingston's Poet Laureate is an honourary position that celebrates the contribution of poetry and literary arts to life in Kingston. The Poet Laureate recognizes individual achievement in poetry and creates a spokesperson for literary arts within the community. The position of the Poet Laureate increases awareness of Kingston as a centre of writing excellence and fosters creative writing in and about the city. Kingston's Poet Laureate attends both community and City-led events across the city to promote and attract people to the literary world and enhance the profile of the literary arts within the City and beyond. The position of Poet Laureate is a four-year term.
The Poet Laureate selection process is done through the City of Kingston's Arts Advisory Committee (AAC), who appoints a Poet Laureate Working Group comprised of 3 to 5 people, which may include the outgoing Poet Laureate, writers, publishers, book sellers, teachers, librarians, journalists, and/or any member of the public with suitable knowledge of poetry, and that must include at least one member of the Arts Advisory Committee. This year's Working Group was comprised of Karma Tomm, Councillor Jim Neill, Helen Humphreys, Merilyn Simonds and Sarah Tsiang
Jason Heroux appointed Kingston's third Poet Laureate
Jason Heroux is the author of four books of poetry: Memoirs of an Alias (2004); Emergency Hallelujah (2008); Natural Capital (2012) and Hard Work Cheering Up Sad Machines (2016). He is also the author of three novels: Good Evening, Central Laundromat (2010); We Wish You a Happy Killday (2014) and Amusement Park of Constant Sorrow (2018).
Born in Montreal, Jason came to Kingston in 1990 to attend Queen's University and has lived here ever since. Jason holds a BA degree from Queen's and was a finalist for the 2016 ReLit Poetry Award. Translated into French, Italian, and Arabic, his poetry has been featured in several anthologies, including Breathing Fire 2: Canada's New Poets, and Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, 2011 and 2016, and has appeared in magazines and journals in Canada, the U.S, Belgium, France, and Italy.
Jason works at ServiceOntario, and lives with his wife Soheir, and their three cats, Akira, Pablo, and Neruda.
Jason Heroux's first event as Poet Laureate will be at the Mayor's Levee on Jan. 1, 2019, where he will read a new poem to mark the celebration. Throughout the first year of his tenure, Jason will be offering one-on-one mentorship meetings with local writers, introduce new projects and host events, and form a community-based volunteer group that can work in collaboration with the Poet Laureate, consulting and providing insight into the types of programs, support and services needed in the literary arts in Kingston. More information on upcoming events and programs will be announced in early 2019.
I Woke Up In My City
I woke up in my city and heard a winter sparrow singing
in a tree's courtroom like a passionate lawyer proclaiming
today's innocence, today's alibi. We live, your Honour,
in forgetful times. The old horrors continue to horrify.
Our usual injuries will injure us again, the pin repeats
itself to a popped balloon, the ashes cherish their fire.
Yet evidence suggests a bouquet of flowers can't tell
if the occasion is for sorrow or congratulations,
and the world's hidden radiance slips through us
like a hand searching for its sleeve. Happiness,
can you account for your whereabouts?
Joy, explain the event in your own words.
The morning light is sworn in as a witness.
The sparrow sings on and on without end.
The defense never rests.
Jason Heroux, Poet Laureate, City of Kingston
Jan. 1, 2019
Past Poet Laureates
Helen Humphreys, 2015-2018
Helen Humphreys is the author of four books of poetry: Gods and other Mortals (1986); Nuns Looking Anxious, Listening to Radios (1990); Perils of Geography (1995) and Anthem (1999). She is also the author of seven novels: Leaving Earth (1997); Afterimage (2000); The Lost Garden (2002); Wild Dogs (2004); Coventry (2008); The Reinvention of Love (2011); and The Evening Chorus: A Novel (2015) as well as two works of non-fiction: the creative non-fiction masterpiece The Frozen Thames (2007) and the heartbreaking and personal memoir about the death of her brother, Nocturne (2013).
Born in Kingston-on-Thames, England, Humphreys grew up in Scarborough, Ontario and calls Kingston home. The winner of many accolades, including the City of Toronto Book Award, the Lambda Prize for Fiction, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and a Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry, and the Harbourfront Festival Prize. Humphreys regularly teaches writing workshops across the country and has served as writer-in-residence at Queen's University, the University of Illinois, and the North York Public Library. In a city of exceptional writers, Humphreys is widely respected as one of our most skilled literary talents.
Eric Folsom, 2011-2014
Eric Folsom is the author of diverse collections of poetry including Le Loutre: A Poetry Narrative, Northeastern Anti-ghazals, Icon Driven, What Kind of Love Did You Have in Mind?, and Poems For Little Cataraqui. For decades, Eric has been at the centre of Kingston literary life.
He was an editor for Quarry Magazine, taught writing, hosted the Cargo Kulture poetry reading series, and has long been a local librarian, among many other activities. He's read on Stuart McLean's The Vinyl Café and his work has been published widely in Canadian literary journals and anthologies. He was born in the seaside city of Lynn, Massachusetts in 1951, graduated from both Dalhousie and St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and has lived in Kingston, Ontario, since 1974.