A Poet Laureate is appointed by a jurisdiction or organization to:
Write poetry which celebrates, commemorates and comments on significant events and issues in the community, and to present that work to the community.
Act as an ambassador of literacy in general, and poetry in particular. A Poet Laureate program has the potential to enrich the lives of the residents, promote literacy and raise the profile of the community they represent through poetry and activities such as workshops, readings and special projects.
At least 24 other municipalities in Canada have recognized the value of a Poet Laureate program to their community. Tofino may take its proud place as the one of the smallest of these jurisdictions who have said we understand the value of the arts to our community and we want to whole-heartedly support them!
In September 2017, the Clayoquot Writers Group, Pacific Rim Arts Society, and Tofino Arts Council formed an ad hoc Tofino Poet Laureate Working Group with technical support provided by the District of Tofino to create the Tofino Poet Laureate program.
At the April 20, 2018 Committee of the Whole meeting, Joanna Streetly was announced as the inaugural Tofino Poet Laureate.
After the success of the inaugural Poet Laureate’s term, the Tofino Poet Laureate Working Group returned to Tofino Council at their December 10, 2019 regular meeting to request that Tofino Council consider a commitment of longer term funding for the program. The goal of this request was to provide greater certainty for the program, which would enable increased access to literary grants available for projects the Poet Laureate may wish to pursue during their tenure.Matched funding for the program was considered by Council through the 2020 budget process and was included in the draft 2020-2024 Financial Plan presented to Council on April 31st, 2020. The program is administered by the District of Tofino with core program fundraising undertaken by the Working Group within the community.
On May 12, 2020, Christine Lowther was appointed as the 2020-2022 Tofino Poet Laureate. Christine Lowther is an accomplished writer who has lived in the Tofino area for about 28 years. In her application she shared that “[she] came here specifically to join the logging blockades, … [and] was swiftly introduced to some of this place’s most controversial issues and values.” She “saw right away that Tofino was not only one community. It was and is made up of locals/ old timers, settlers’ descendants, loggers, fish farmers, oyster farmers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, visitors, surfers, and three or four Indigenous Nations.”
The role of the poet laureate is to give voice to community events, issues and values through a minimum of 3 poems annually; present poetry at a minimum of 2 civic events and promote the literary arts through a minimum of 3 public events.
The program is administered by the District of Tofino with core program fundraising undertaken by the Working Group within the community. Businesses, individuals and organizations have the opportunity to participate and contribute toward the program and help fund the annual artist’s fee, events and activities of the Poet Laureate, and promotional costs.
The Tofino Poet Laureate working group is responsible for assisting in developing the structure required to realize program, including fund-raising, defining the scope of the Poet Laureate’s role, and developing a selection process to choose the best candidate.