Ontario’s Legislature has created the first-ever post of Poet Laureate for the province of Ontario. The Poet Laureate of Ontario Act (In Memory of Gord Downie), also referred to as the “Gord Downie bill,” honours the late poet and lead singer of popular Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, who passed away in October 2017.
The appointment of Ontario’s first Poet Laureate is expected by late fall 2020.
Requirements of Ontario’s Poet Laureate
Who can become Ontario’s Poet Laureate?
The Poet Laureate’s main residence must be in Ontario. They must have lived in Ontario for at least six months of the past year.
They must have published at least one volume of poetry within the last 10 years or be able to show that their work over the years has brought honour to their self and to Ontario.
How does someone become Ontario’s Poet Laureate?
The Poet Laureate is selected by a panel that includes:
- the Speaker
- the Ontario Legislative Librarian
- two members of the Province of Ontario Council for the Arts who have knowledge of literary activity in Ontario
- the current Poet Laureate, if any
The Poet Laureate can also be appointed by the House if there is a unanimous vote by all MPPs present during the vote.
How long can someone be Ontario’s Poet Laureate?
The term of office is two years, or until a successor is appointed.
What does the Poet Laureate do?
The Poet Laureate's responsibilities are to:
- promote art and literacy in Ontario
- celebrate Ontario and its people
- raise the profile of Ontario poets
- raise public awareness of poetry and of the spoken word
- act as a spokesperson for literature in general and poetry in particular
- provide a focal point for the expression of Ontario culture and heritage through the literary arts
Some of the activities the Poet Laureate may be involved with include:
- writing poetry, occasionally for use in the Legislature if called upon by the Speaker or the Lieutenant Governor
- visiting schools, presenting or arranging poetry readings and assisting with writing workshops or other activities
- advising the Legislative Library regarding the collection of the Library and acquisitions that may enrich its cultural holdings