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Tofino urged to renew poet laureate program

Pacific Rim Arts Society administers the program and Joanna Streetly was the first poet laureate.
Joanna Streetly was named Tofino’s poet laureate in 2018 and the Pacific Rim Arts Society wants her to continue in that role in 2019. (Photo - Erin Linn McMullan)

Members of Tofino’s arts community are asking their local government to continue its funding support for the community’s poet laureate program into a second year.

“An adequate honorarium, such as that provided by council for the first year of the poet laureate program, allows the poet laureate to devote the necessary time to make this initiative effective and successful, from both their and the district’s point of view,” said Janice Lore during a presentation to Tofino’s municipal council on March 26.

“It is also a reflection of the importance our community places on arts and culture. Both concretely and symbolically, adequate funding is an investment in the development of Tofino’s arts, culture and heritage sector with positive impacts on both the community and the economy.”

Lore is a member of the Clayoquot Writer’s Group, which first presented the idea for a poet laureate program to Tofino’s council in June, 2017. The group’s pitch led to council agreeing to provide $2,500 through its Arts, Culture and Heritage Grants program and to the formation of a Tofino Poet Laureate Working Group, comprised of representatives from Tofino’s district office, the Clayoquot Writers Group, the Tofino Arts Council and the Pacific Rim Arts Society.

That working group raised $2,500 through community fundraising, bringing the program’s budget—which is presented to the poet laureate as an honorarium—to $5,000.

The Pacific Rim Arts Society agreed to administer the program and, in May 2018, Joanna Streetly was appointed as Tofino’s first poet laureate.

“When we were presented with the opportunity to get involved with the Tofino Poet Laureate program, for us, it was really self evident that poetry, that literature, is a really good fit for the brand of Tofino,” PRAS president Mark Penney told council during the March 26 presentation. “The poet laureate’s role is to give voice to the experience of being in Tofino and it’s such an incredibly diverse, eclectic, group of people that’s really hard to give voice to as an artist.”

He said Streetly “did an astounding job” as the town’s inaugural poet laureate last year.

“It was really just amazing. When we picked her, we knew she wasn’t going to shy away from difficult issues and she wrote just absolutely unflinching raw poetry,” he said.

He added that Streetly earned PRAS’ Rainy Award for outstanding accomplishment in the arts and that the working group was so impressed with her body of work that they have selected her to continue on as the poet laureate, provided council agrees to renew the program.

“I want to thank you and I want to congratulate you for your involvement in this program,” Penney told council.

“It’s incredibly rare that a place this size has a poet laureate, so it really helps to establish us at the end of the road here and it’s a great way to continue to form a narrative around our identity and project that to the outside world.”

Lore explained that the working group is asking for the same $2,500 commitment from council this year and has already raised $1,000 of it’s matching share from the community so far. She also asked council to consider funding its portion from a source other than the Arts, Culture and Heritage Grants , so that those grants can be put towards other initiatives and projects.

Coun. Tom Stere was the only councillor to speak to the request, explaining that Streetly is the godmother of his child.

“I’m just smiling mostly because I appreciate the work that she has done,” Stere said. “I would like to see it continue in perpetuity.”

Council agreed to refer the request to their April 16 budget meeting.

More information about the poet laureate program can be found at

READ MORE: Joanna Streetly named Tofino’s first Poet Laureate

READ MORE: Organized rhyme: How Halifax’s poet laureate became ‘a change-maker’

READ MORE: Streetly’s book launch captures Tofino magic with evening of storytelling

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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