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Agnes Walsh named St. John's poet laureate

Agnes Walsh, a Newfoundland poet and author of 'In the Old Country of My Heart,' has taken up the post of poet laureate for St. John's, NL.

Agnes Walsh, a Newfoundland poet and author of In the Old Country of My Heart, has taken up the post of poet laureate for St. John's.

She is the first poet laureate for the Newfoundland and Labrador capital and will hold the post for four years. The municipality created the post this year by passing an order of council. The job pays $5,000 a year.

Walsh, an award-winning poet whose work has been translated into French and Portuguese, is also a playwright, translator and actor.

A native of the Placentia Bay area, she is the founder and artistic director of Tramore Theatre Troupe and has won Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters awards for poetry.

As the city's first poet laureate, Walsh will be developing her role during the term, but the city expects her to help bring awareness to the arts.

"I just happen to be the one that's in for these four years and so I want to hear what other poets are interested in, and some of my own ideas — I'm going to  push them to the fore," she said in an interview with CBC Radio.

Walsh has plans to establish a literary legacy program and rekindle Newfoundland's historic ties with Portugal, whose fishing industry is closely linked to Newfoundland.

Another goal is to reintroduce the city and the province to the writing of Newfoundland novelist and poet Percy Janes, the author of West Mall, who died in 1999.

Canada has a national poet laureate, Pauline Michel, and there are poets laureate for the provinces of Saskatchewan and P.E.I. and the cities of Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax and Sackville, N.B. 

But the post is rare enough that Walsh has gained recognition from far afield.

"I don't know how word is getting around but I've had e-mails from all over the place, from people in the States and ... Canada and Ireland. People have been calling me to congratulate me. I'm pretty blown away by it really," she said.