A Year of Poetry in Review

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A Year of Poetry in Review

It has been a busy year for Jason Heroux who was appointed our new Poet Laureate in December 2018.  Jason is the third person to hold this position, having been preceded by Eric Folsom and Helen Humphreys, and it is a role he will continue to fill for four years as a spokesperson for the literary arts in the community. 

Of course, Kingston is already well-known as a literary city thanks to the number of writers who call this city their home and thanks to the existence of literary festivals such as Kingston WritersFest, and an endless number of community-led poetry and literary events and readings.  Celebrating Kingston’s rich literary identity was part of the inspiration for Jason’s first new poem as Poet Laureate, titled “I Woke Up in My City” that he read at the Mayor’s Levee on January 1, 2019. We’re thrilled to also share his newest poem that was shared yesterday at the 2020 Mayor’s Levee event titled “New Year”.

In addition to writing new poems, an important component of the Poet Laureate position is to attend both community and City-led events to promote literature and to enhance the profile of the literary arts within the City and beyond.  Jason has taken up the charge with enthusiasm and the following list of activities provides a snapshot of what he has accomplished this past year.

February

  • Selected and mentored an emerging local poet named Olivia Ows in partnership with Skeleton Park Arts that saw her work reproduced on the rink boards in McBurney Park.

March

  • Helped launch the feature film “Who Is Bruce Kauffman?” that premiered at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival that highlights the legendary Kingston poet Bruce Kauffmann as well as the Kingston poetry scene more broadly.  He also played a key role in the re-opening of the Central Branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library, composing an original poem that he read at the opening event.
  • Acted as the MC for the event that launched the “Your Stories, Our Histories” project designed to gather community input on themes, stories and histories that need to be shared by the City of Kingston as part of the development of a Cultural Heritage Strategy. Kingston Canadian Film Festival premiere of “Who Is Bruce Kauffman?”

Kingston Canadian Film Festival photo with Jason Heroux. Kingston Canadian Film Festival premiere of “Who Is Bruce Kauffman?” Photo provided by Jason. 

April

  • Collaborated with the Kingston Frontenac Public Library to continue the mentorship program first established by the City’s previous Poet Laureate, Helen Humphreys, which provides local writers with feedback and guidance in support of their poetry.
  • Hosted two 90-minute poetry workshops at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library designed to inspire participants to compose a “response poem” to a poem they cherished.
  • Participated in an event to celebrate National Poetry Month by recognizing the achievements of outgoing Poet Laureate, Helen Humphreys, and former Poet Laureate, Eric Folsom, and that also featured readings by local emerging poets, Ashley-Elizabeth Best, Ky Pearce and Zoe Coulter.

June

  • Joined writers Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang and Olivia Ows at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival to present public readings accompanied by live music from members of the Kingston Symphony and to facilitate a Poetry Workshop that looked at “Prose Poetry”.

July

  • Marked the beginning of summer by participating in a poetry reading as part of the Poets at ArtFest held in Kingston City Park.

August

  • Participated in a new City-led project titled “Ontario Street: A Vibrant Spaces Project” that transformed Ontario Street in front of City Hall into a pedestrian-only public space that was animated through arts, heritage and cultural programming.  For this project, Jason selected four poems from emerging writers which were then installed in various sites along Ontario Street.   

Poetry installation at Confederation Park as part of Ontario Street: A Vibrant Spaces Project. Photo provided by Jason.

September

  • Worked with the Kingston Writersfest to host an event titled “Identity through Poetry” and introduced a screening of the film “Who Is Bruce Kauffman?” at the Screening Room and facilitated an audience Q&A after the film.

October

  • Promoted Kingston’s literary community regionally when he was invited by the Cobourg Poetry Workshop to read work as part of their Third Thursday Reading Series.

November

  • Put Kingston on the literary map when he traveled to Ottawa by invitation from Versefest to participate in “Poet Laureate City 2”, an event that gathered 12 Poets Laureate from communities across Canada for readings and discussions.

December

  • Capped an incredible year off by writing an original poem titled “Tribute” that he read as part of the Mayor’s Arts Awards that celebrates Kingston’s vibrant arts scene.

Throughout the year, Jason has also been selecting poems by local poets to feature as part of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s Poetry Blackboard.  The Poetry Blackboard was started by Helen Humphreys in 2015 as a way to feature work written by local poets living and dead, historical and contemporary, published and unpublished, adults and children, giving full range to the cultural voice of Kingston.

We are grateful to Jason for his commitment to the role of Poet Laureate and look forward to continuing to support the literary arts in Kingston with his help.  Keep reading!

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Colin Wiginton
Colin Wiginton
Cultural director

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