Nova Scotia

Halifax's newest poet laureate will be Mi'kmaw woman Rebecca Thomas

Halifax has chosen its newest poet laureate. Rebecca Thomas is the sixth person — and the first aboriginal person — to assume the role.

Thomas officially takes over role from outgoing laureate El Jones on April 1

Halifax has chosen its newest poet laureate: Rebecca Thomas. She is the sixth person to assume the role, which advocates for literature and the arts in the community. (Rebecca Thomas/Facebook)

Just in time for National Poetry Month in April, Halifax has picked its new poet laureate. 

Rebecca Thomas will become the sixth person to step into the role, which advocate's for literature and the arts. She'll officially take over from outgoing laureate El Jones on April 1. 

The 30-year-old is the first aboriginal person to join the ranks of her predecessors. 

"To follow them is a huge honour. I'm kind of fanning a little bit over how wonderful these women are and to be a part of that is pretty cool," she said. 

Her resume reflects extensive involvement in the community's poetry scene over the last decade. As a spoken word artist, she's organized workshops, volunteered with the Halifax Youth Slam Team while serving as the current captain — or Slam Master — of the city's adult team.

"I'm excited. I'm nervous. I hope I do a good job!" 

'She does so much for the community'

Thomas, a Mi'kmaw woman, grew up in Moncton, N.B., and completed her masters of social anthropology at Dalhousie University. She decided to stay in Halifax and works as co-ordinator for aboriginal student services at NSCC. 

Halifax's outgoing poet laureate El Jones. (CBC)

"I think Halifax and Nova Scotia really kind of, when I came here, held on to a piece of my heart that I never really got back," she said. "It feels like home." 

Andre Fenton is the organizer of the Halifax Youth Slam and has known Thomas for about two years. They served together on national poetry teams. He says he's thrilled Thomas has been entrusted with the position. 

"She teaches me how to be an adult and to be good at adulting," Fenton laughed. "She'll definitely bring a lot to the table. I would definitely call her an activist. She does so much for the community." 

History and influences

Thomas believes poetry can elevate the power of culture, public discourse and help people heal. Her writing is greatly influenced by her family. Her dad is a survivor of the residential school system, she says.

She says her writing and performances as poet laureate will continue to be steered by that history.

"We as indigenous people have had our voices quashed for so long, you don't hear our voices. You hear interpretations of our experiences, but you never hear from us. And so it's very important to have that," Thomas said. 

Thomas has plans to engage Halifax communities about their history and the aboriginal experience. 

"I can't speak on behalf of everybody, but my words can certainly resonate," she said. "Right now, we're not having a conversation. And so if I can get people talking, asking questions, going, 'Hmm, I never really thought about it that way,' then I think I'm doing a good job." 

In late April, Thomas will perform in front of Halifax council. A reception will follow. 

"We're very pleased to appoint Ms. Thomas as our next poet laureate, a position which will empower her to enhance our understanding of our region's unique cultural tapestry through her work," Mayor Mike Savage said in a statement released Tuesday.