Prince Edward Island welcomes first Mi’kmaq Poet Laureate
Islanders gathered today at Fanningbank to welcome and celebrate Prince Edward Island’s new Poet Laureate Julie Pellissier-Lush.
In her new role, Ms. Pellissier-Lush will act as a spokesperson for literature in Prince Edward Island and raise awareness of poetry and the spoken word.
“It is my great pleasure to welcome Julie Pellissier-Lush as our province’s newest Poet Laureate and ambassador for culture and the literary arts,” said the Honourable Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island. “Islanders will be inspired by her amazing capacity to use the beautiful and powerful art of poetry to express her love of our rich Island history and the Mi’kmaq culture.”
Julie Pellissier-Lush is an actress and best-selling author of ‘My Mi’kmaq Mother’. Born in Summerside, she is a graduate of University of Winnipeg and works with young families at the Mi’kmaq Family Resource Centre. She wrote and performs in Mi’kmaq legends and was vice president of the Aboriginal Women’s Association for four terms.
“We have great confidence in Julie’s ability to perform in this special and very important role,” said Premier Wade MacLauchlan. “She will engage Islanders in the literary arts and particularly poetry which Islanders enjoy so much. We look forward to the important perspective that Julie will bring as a fine writer, storyteller and one of the Island’s most loved Indigenous people.”
Ms. Pellissier-Lush replaces Deidre Kessler who has just completed her three-year term. Previous PEI Poets Laureate include: John Smith (2003-2005), Frank Ledwell (2005-2008), David Helwig (2008-2010), Hugh MacDonald (2010-2013), Diane Hicks Morrow (2013-2016), and Deirdre Kessler (2016-2019).
Poets Laureate often choose to engage in composing poetry related to legislative or state occasions and events of significance, visiting schools, presenting or arranging poetry readings and assisting with writing workshops and other activities.
The PEI Public Library Service has responsibility for the program. Poets Laureate are chosen through a peer assessment process and appointed by the Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture. To be selected, the Poet Laureate must be active and recognized as a poet of stature who has published at least one volume of poetry within the last ten years with a reputable publishing house, or whose body of work over the years has brought honour to themselves and the province.
The tradition of crowning poets with a wreath of laurel dated from classical Greece and became an institution in 1688 with the designation of the first British Poet Laureate. The custom honours the very best of poets and generally takes in to consideration the whole writing career of an individual rather than one specific work.
Education, Early Learning and Culture
Provincial Poet Laureate Program
Poetry of excellence has been one of the great achievements of Prince Edward Islanders.
The post of provincial Poet Laureate honours Islanders who have made a major contribution to the literary life of the province.
Individuals such as John LePage, Larry Gorman and Lawrence Doyle were well-known 19th century poets, and in the 20th century, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Milton Acorn were among the Islanders most recognized for their poetic ability.
The P.E.I. Poet Laureate Program aims to:
- celebrate Prince Edward Island people and culture
- raise the profile of d Island poets
- promote a higher standard of literacy
- raise public awareness of poetry and of the spoken word
- create a spokesperson for literature in general and poetry in particular
- create a focal point for the expression of Prince Edward Island culture and heritage through the literacy arts.
The Poet Laureate must be a full-time resident of Prince Edward Island and have been a resident of the province for at least the five years preceding the appointment.
Poetry produced in either English, French, and/or Mi’kmaq languages is considered in making the selection of Poet Laureate.
The selection committee is named by the Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture and consists of the Poet Laureate whose term is ending, a nominee of UPEI and two nominees from the cultural community who have knowledge of literary activities in the province.
The Poet Laureate is appointed for a three-year term which is not renewed or extended.