David Helwig New PEI Poet Laureate

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The PEI Council of the Arts welcomes David Helwig as PEI’s new poet laureate.

Carolyn Bertram, PEI’s Minister of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour, announced Wednesday that the author of more than 20 books of fiction and poetry would replace Frank Ledwell, who held the title for three years.

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Frank was known across the Island for his encouragement of fellow writers and his love for presenting his poetry to young people while he served as poet laureate.

Helwig will serve a two-year term. He has worked in journalism, TV drama, radio drama and as a university lecturer. Helwig has also been a full-time writer since 1980.

The founder and longtime editor of the annual Best Canadian Stories, and his most recent poetry book, The Year One, won the Atlantic Poetry Award for 2004.

Helwig’s new poetry book, The Sway of Otherwise, will be out in the fall.

The poet laureate doesn’t have any fixed duties, but he or she is expected to advocate for literacy and arts awareness.

Mr. Helwig said he was looking forward to his term as poet laureate. “It’s a great honour to be offered this position, and I hope I can use it to bring attention to Island poets.”

The post of Poet Laureate does not have fixed duties and previous holders of the post have used a variety of approaches to making poetry a more central part of the lives of Islanders. Mr. Helwig indicated that he would be exploring ways of using an internet web page to make the excellent work being done by Island poets better known.

When making the announcement about the new poet laureate, Carolyn Bertram paid tribute to Frank Ledwell who has completed his term. “I want to thank Frank Ledwell for his service throughout the past three years as the Prince Edward Island Poet Laureate. He has been an inspiration to writers in the province for more than a generation and I know he will continue to contribute to the literary heritage of our province.”

The Provincial Poet Laureate Program:

The Poet Laureate Program was established in Prince Edward Island in 2002. Past Poet Laureates are John Smith (2002 – 2004) and Frank Ledwell (2004 – 2007)

Objectives of the PEI Poet Laureate Program include the following: to celebrate Prince Edward Island and its people, to raise the profile of Prince Edward Island poets and poetry in general, to promote a higher standard of literacy, and to provide for the expression of culture and heritage through the literary arts.

Selection of the Poet Laureate is based on criteria including the following: active and recognized as a poet of stature who has published at least one volume of poetry within the last ten years with a reputable publishing house, or whose body of work over the years has brought honour to themselves and the province, a full-time resident of Prince Edward Island and have been a resident of the province for at least the five years preceding the appointment. Poetry produced in either the English or French language is considered in making the selection of poet laureate but age, gender and ethnic background are not considered.

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