Poet Laureate Program

Ambassador for writing in general, poetry in particular and for the SWG.

Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan 

The current Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan is dee Hobsbawn-Smith (Aug 1, 2023 - July 31, 2024). The current Youth Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan is Lauren Klassen (Aug 1, 2022 - July 31, 2024). 

 

Commencing in 2000, the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Program was the first provincial program of its kind in Canada. Originally a partnership between the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild, Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Saskatchewan Book Awards, the SWG assumed sole responsibilty for the Poet Laureate program in 2019 and is under the patronage of the Lieutenant Governor, His Honour the Honourable Russ Mirasty.

The SWG redesigned the program in 2019 to continue the tradition of honouring Saskatchewan poets and poetry community while adding the new position of Youth Poet Laureate and exciting new community engagement opportunities.

Note as of June 1, 2024 - Please note that we are not currently taking event requests for either Poet Laureate or Youth Poet Laureate. We will be announcing our new Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate on this webpage and the Guild's social media channels in July, and event requests for either Poet will open again August 1, 2024. 

 

Objectives 

  1. To celebrate the spirit of the people and place of Saskatchewan through the literary arts.
  2. To raise the profile of poets in Saskatchewan.
  3. To elevate writing as a vocation.
  4. To raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word.
  5. To act as an Ambassador for writing in general, poetry in particular and for the SWG.

Criteria 

The Poet Laureate will:

  • have a significant body of work, including a minimum of two books of professionally published poetry;
  • have achieved recognition for the literary merit of his/her work;
  • have a record of public involvement in the literary life of the province; and
  • be a current resident of Saskatchewan.

The Youth Poet Laureate will:

  • demonstrate a commitment to writing, with a passion for poetry and/or spoken word;
  • have some record of public involvement in the writing culture of the province;
  • have some form of formal or informal professional development;
  • be between the ages of 18-30 years old; and
  • be a current resident of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Poet Laureate - dee Hobsbawn-Smith

 

dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s award-winning poetry, essays, fiction, and journalism is at times influenced by her career in the food industry as a Red Seal chef, educator, Slow Food member and locavore advocate. Her work has appeared in literary journals, newspapers, magazines, websites, on the airwaves, and in numerous anthologies in Canada, the USA, and Scotland. Her literary books include two poetry collections: Wildness Rushing In (finalist, SK Book Awards Poetry Award and finalist, Book of the Year); and Among the Untamed;  a short story collection, What Can’t Be Undone; a novel, Danceland Diary (finalist, SK Book Awards Fiction Award); a chapbook, Jeanne Dark comes of age on the prairie; Bread & Water: essays, winner of the SK Book Awards Nonfiction Award, and Taste Canada’s Gold Medal for Culinary Narrative.

She recently completed her second essay collection. Her third poetry collection is looking for a home with several Canadian publishers. She’s at work on a novel and a work of nonfiction.

dee’s also written five bestselling Canadian food books, three of which are cookbooks, plus a culinary resource book, and Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet, winner of the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards in Canada; Best Culinary Book at the High Plains Book Awards; and 3rd prize from Les Dames D’Escoffier M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing. Slow Food Canada has named her a Slow Food Hero. She has served on literary and culinary juries in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

For more information about dee, or to hear her read her poetry, please watch this video: https://youtu.be/6WtOTDVxRjM 

The Poet Laureate selection jury noted dee has a notable history of involvement in the literary life of Saskatchewan as a mentor, a teacher, an editor, and a writer-in-resident. She’s been a public speaker, a performer and a long-time chef and local foods advocate. Her impressive publishing record includes not only poetry, but short stories, a novel, nonfiction, and food books. She is an experienced and generous writer with boundless energy and her experience as a chef and food writer will offer a unique perspective as Saskatchewan’s newest Poet Laureate. With her belief in the “common language of poetry” and her infectious enthusiasm at the prospect of propagating the possibilities of poetry so that it can “work magic” on as many people in this province as possible, dee will be an outstanding poetry ambassador. 

 

Youth Poet Laureate  - Lauren (Lo) Klassen

Lauren is a community-based educator and poet living on Treaty Six territory. Her artistic work often reflects themes “twenty-somethings” like herself encounter through vulnerability and humor. She is one of the organizers of the youth poetry collective Write Out Loud and she works as a teacher in Saskatoon. In her six years of performing, Lo has had the privilege of performing at the national festival Voices of Today in Toronto for 2017, 2018, 2019. Her poetry has been published in the Sheaf University of Saskatchewan paper and in a national chapbook. She has had the pleasure of opening for Shane Koyczan.

Lauren believes “we all have a poem inside of us that is waiting to be shared". Through participating in the poetry community in Saskatoon and across Canada, she has grown as a spoken word poet, and has connected with students and people who share her passion for poetry. The jury believes Lauren’s ability to reach young people in diverse communities will inspire them to share their poetry and explore how it can change their lives. 

To listen to Lauren speak about her new role and read a poem, please watch this announcement video

 

The Youth Poet Laureate program is proudly sponsored by the RBC Emerging Artists program.

If you are interested in working with a Poet

To request a reading, talk or workshop with our Poet Laureate or Youth Poet Laureate, please contact programs@skwriter.com with the following information:

  • What you are interested in our Poet Laureate or Youth Poet Laureate doing (i.e. a reading of their work, talk about poetry)
  • Potential date and time (including length of requested activity)
  • If this event is in-person or virtual
  • Main contact person (name, email address and phone number)
  • If your organization has funds to pay or subsidize the request. Please note that the Poet Laureate program has funds to cover fees and some travel expenses when appropriate but these funds are limited and are first-come, first-served. 

Due to the popularity of the Poet Laureate program, we may not be able to approve all requests. We encourage you to communicate with us at least 4-6 weeks before your event. The following criteria are important to our decision making:

  • Whether this request fits within the objectives of the program (see above). For the Poet Laureate, preference will be given to public events that fit the program objectives, over private or closed events. Schools interested in poetry-related workshops may access the Author Readings Program or may request our Youth Poet Laureate.
  • Availability of our Poet Laureate or Youth Poet Laureate
  • Availability of funds
  • If our Poets have already been to your organization in the past fiscal year (Aug-July). Please note that we can only approve one request per year (Aug-July) per organization, ie. one visit per school, library, organization, etc.

Current and previous Poets Laureate

  • dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Aug 1, 2023 - July 31, 2024
  • Carol Rose GoldenEagle, August 1, 2021 - July 1, 2023
  • Bruce Rice, April 1, 2019 - July 31, 2021
  • Brenda Schmidt, April 1, 2017 - December 31, 2018
  • Gerry Hill, January 1, 2016 - January 17, 2017
  • Judith Krause, January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2015
  • Don Kerr, January 1, 2011 - December 31, 2013
  • Robert Currie, January 1, 2007 - December 31, 2010
  • Louise B. Halfe (Sky Dancer), January 1, 2005 - December 31, 2006
  • Glen Sorestad, December 1, 2000 - November 30, 2004 

Current and previous Youth Poets Laureate

  • Lauren (Lo) Klassen, August 1, 2022 - July 31, 2024
  • Warsha Mushtaq, August 1, 2021 - July 31, 2022
  • Peace Akintade, August 1, 2020 - July 31, 2021
  • Alasdair Rees, April 1, 2019 - July 31, 2020

If your organization or writers’ group would like to work with the Poet Laureate or Youth Poet Laureate, we encourage you to read the information in the "If you are interested in working with a Poet" section above, and contact the Program Director to discuss your idea:

Program Director
T: 306.791.7743
E: programs@skwriter.com

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