Friday, March 09, 2007

City of Vancouver Announces Inaugural Poet Laureate

George McWhirter, Professor Emeritus of UBC’s Creative Writing Program, is named the City of Vancouver’s Inaugural Poet Laureate. Mayor Sam Sullivan will introduce McWhirter to Vancouver City Council on Tuesday March 13th.

During his honourary two-year term, McWhirter will act as a champion for poetry, language and the arts, and create a unique artistic legacy through public readings and civic interactions. With plans to establish a civic web page for poetry and an anthology of local poets, his mandate is to raise the status of poetry in the everyday consciousness of Vancouverites.

A Vancouver resident since 1968, George McWhirter was born in Belfast where he received his B.A. from Queen's University. His extensive teaching experience has taken him from Kilkeel, Bangor, County Down to the University of Barcelona's Escuela de Idiomas to Port Alberni and finally UBC where he was Head of the UBC Creative Writing Department from 1983 until 1993 and where he earned a Killam Prize for teaching. An author of six books of poetry, two poetic works in translation, five short stories and three novels, McWhirter has been the Advisory Editor for PRISM international magazine and has edited several anthologies.

McWhirter will receive an annual stipend of $5,000 which is funded by a $100,000 donation by Dr. Yosef Wosk. Dr. Wosk’s donation, matched by the BC Arts Renaissance Fund and held in trust by the Vancouver Foundation, ensures a sustainable poet laureate position in the City of Vancouver.

The Poet Laureate was chosen by an independent assessment committee from the literary/poetry community that included ABPBC Executive Director Margaret Reynolds; City of Victoria’s Poet Laureate Carla Funk, poet and non-fiction author Gary Geddes and was supported by representatives from the Vancouver International Writers Festival, Vancouver Public Library and the Office of Cultural Affairs, part of the City of Vancouver Cultural Services Division.

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