Ottawa's new poet laureate wants to bring poetry to the people

Ottawa's new English-language poet laureate, Deanna Young, believes there's a poem for everyone.

Deanna Young named city's official English-language versifier

Deanna Young vividly recalls the first poem that moved her as a teenager, Alden Nowlan's Britain Street. (Alice Young)

Ottawa's new English-language poet laureate is on a mission to bring poetry to the people.

"My overarching goal is to find ways to bring the benefits of poetry, poetry itself, into the lives of just regular people, people who don't already write or even read much poetry," Deanna Young told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

I know that poetry can have a really transformative power in a life.- Deanna Young, Ottawa's poet laureate

"I know that poetry can have a really transformative power in a life. It can be a balm against things like stress and feelings of loneliness."

Young and her French-language counterpart, Margaret Michèle Cook, were named the city's official versifiers on the weekend. They'll each serve a two-year term, acting as cultural ambassadors for the literary arts and promoting Ottawa to the world.

Young said she was more focused on the visual arts when she was younger, but fell in love with one poem in particular during a high school English class.

Stunning discovery

The poem, Alden Nowlan's Britain Street, describes the generational cycle of violence in a rough neighbourhood of Saint John.

"It really stunned me, actually, and I thought, 'You mean you can write poetry like that?" Young recalled.

Getting people hooked on one poem or poetic style can open their eyes and encourage them to seek out more, she said.

And she said it doesn't have to be an elite pursuit. Poetry can take many forms and expressions.


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