Internationally acclaimed poet and novelist Anne Michaels has been selected as Toronto’s fifth Poet Laureate, pending approval by City Council at its November session.
“Anne Michaels has inspired readers around the world with her works and now she can inspire them again as Toronto’s new Poet Laureate,” said Mayor John Tory. “I would like to congratulate and thank George Elliott Clarke for his tremendous commitment and passion as our Poet Laureate for the past three years.”
“I am very honoured by this appointment and eager to serve our wonderful city in all its diversity,” said Michaels. “Toronto is fortunate to embrace dozens of languages and has an invaluable literary history. I am looking forward to celebrating our many voices, old and new.”
Anne Michaels, who was born in Toronto, is the author of five acclaimed poetry collections: The Weight of Oranges (1986), which won the Commonwealth Prize for the Americas; Miner’s Pond (1991), which received the Canadian Authors Association Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Award; Skin Divers (1999) and Poems (2000). Michaels was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2014 for her most recent poetry collection, Correspondences.
Fugitive Pieces (1996), Michaels’ internationally best-selling first novel, was the winner of the Toronto Book Award, the Guardian Fiction Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction, among many other Canadian and international awards. Fugitive Pieces was also adapted into an internationally released feature film. Her second novel, The Winter Vault (2009), was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Michaels will receive an annual honorarium of $10,000 for three years, from December
2015 until November 2018, to serve as Toronto’s literary ambassador championing local
literary arts and wordsmiths. She will also create a literacy legacy project.
“The Poet Laureate position is one of the many ways that the City of Toronto supports the city’s literary community,” said Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic Development Committee. “Through the Poet Laureate, the Toronto Book Awards, the Toronto Public Library and the Toronto Arts Council, we recognize and celebrate the importance of our writers.”
The position of Toronto’s Poet Laureate was initiated in 2001, with Dennis Lee serving as Canada’s first municipal Poet Laureate. Lee embarked on an ambitious program that saw the unveiling of a monument of poet Al Purdy at Queen’s Park.
Pier Giorgio di Cicco, who became the second Poet Laureate in 2004, used the role to
influence municipal policy in issues that address the urban aesthetic and its relationship to livable, sustainable cities.
Dionne Brand was named third Poet Laureate in 2009. Brand dedicated herself to promoting poetry in the public realm, with poetry displays in branches of the Toronto Public Library.
As the fourth Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke participated in many literary and community events throughout the city and created the interactive Toronto Poetry Map (at torontopoetry.ca) with the Toronto Public Library.
Michaels was nominated by a selection committee in consultation with the literary community. More information about the Toronto Poet Laureate and its programs is available at toronto.ca/poetlaureate.