Windsor's newest youth poet laureate puts words to city's sights, sounds, people

What once began as a "refuge," has now earned Alexei Ungurenasu a prestigious title that celebrates and acknowledges their poetry. 

Alexei Ungurenasu's work explores the idea of an outsider turned insider

Alexei Ungurenasu, 22-year-old Windsor youth poet laureate. (Snapd Windsor)

What began as a "refuge," has now earned Alexei Ungurenasu a prestigious title that celebrates and acknowledges their poetry. 

Ungurenasu, 22, submitted an application and was selected by the City of Windsor to be the youth poet laureate for the next two years. They replace the city's inaugural youth poet laureate Samantha Badaoa who began in 2019.

In an interview with CBC News, Ungurenasu said at first poetry was their "outlet" or safe space. 

"But over time I think that poetry started to change the way I see and experience the world. It changes the way we frame things. It makes us see new connections between things," they said. "I think it tickles a part of the brain that gets us excited." 

Ungurenasu said they were born in  Iaşi, Romania and moved to Toronto with their parents at the age of 12. Four years ago, Ungurenasu moved to Windsor. 

They said they came to the city mostly to accommodate a long distance relationship but even when that didn't work out, Ungurenasu decided to stay.

"What I've learned after I've moved here though and one of the reasons I'm so glad I stayed, I found the arts and writing community is very open and welcoming and that it was easy to get to know people and to have an impact in the community," they said.

Now, Ungurenasu is in their fourth year of English and philosophy at the University of Windsor. They also work with the Art Gallery of Windsor and Vanguard Youth Arts Collective. 

One of the themes in Ungurenasu's life, that is also explored in their poetry, is the idea of an outsider becoming an insider, they said. 

A line in their poem South of Detroit reflects this as it reads, "I'll show you what it's like to be a sunflower in the city of roses." 

"It's something I definitely wish to explore in my writing, this period where one transitions from an outsider to an insider without realizing it or even wanting to," they said, adding that they are curious about this idea as they think of themselves as a Romanian in Canada and a Torontonian in Windsor. 

Ungurenasu makes reference to the bright Ambassador Bridge sign in their poem South of Detroit. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

In the coming weeks, Ungurenasu said they hope to have some readings, work on pieces for local organizations and businesses and continue to work with other artistic community partners. 

Currently, Ungurenasu is working on a short volume of poetry called Sandwiched, which they expect to publish in the next two years. 

According to the City of Windsor's website, the expectation is for the youth poet laureate to be an "ambassador" for youth, poetry and the literary arts while also creating work reflective of Windsor's young people and places. 

They must also write at least two original works for specific events or occasions that are identified by the city, while also just engaging with locals and raising the voices of the region's youth.