Ahmed Ali has been named Edmonton's new poet laureate to represent the city's literary community until 2019.

Ali, 33, came to Edmonton in 1992 as a refugee from Somalia and has been involved in the spoken-word poetry scene ever since.

"Edmonton is the first place where I touched ground, so it has a place in my heart," he said Tuesday.

Tasked with representing the literary arts community, the poet laureate has a busy two-year mandate. Those in the role are expected to produce at least three original works a year, perform at city events and advocate for the city's literary arts.

Ali was nominated by a former poet laureate and members of the Somali community for his work with the Breathe In Poetry Collective, a group of artists and community organizers working to expand Edmonton's spoken-word poetry scene. Ali founded the group in 2009 after returning from a stint in Toronto.

The Edmonton Arts Council's selection committee ultimately chooses the poet laureate.

"He recited a poem that made a lot of us laugh and cheer on the selection committee," said council spokesperson Jenna Turner.

"With his unique poetry style, I think he'll be able to tell the stories of this city."

According to city spokesperson Melissa Lovatt, each poet laureate is encouraged to "make the position their own."

For Ali, this could mean creating a poetry exchange between British and Canadian artists, he said. He also hopes to connect literary festivals with poets looking to get published.

School board run

Ali also announced his candidacy for Edmonton Public Schools trustee on Tuesday, generating some backlash on social media due to the timing of the announcement.

When asked about the decision, Ali said he did a soft launch of his campaign Monday night based on the advice he was given by his public relations team.

Ali is the city's seventh poet laureate. He takes over the position from bilingual poet, performer and playwright Pierrette Requier. 

anna.desmarais@cbc.ca

@anna_desmarais