Poet Laureate 2022-2026
Poet Laureate Vanessa Shields has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and minor in English from the University of Windsor, a diploma in Writing for Children and Teenagers from the Institute of Children’s Literature, and participated in a workshop series with Humber’s School for Writers. She has published six books of poetry, including 2021’s Thimbles, and has forty individual poems published in various anthologies. She has served as editor for twenty-five published books, and taught over one hundred and fifty poetry and writing workshops and classes. In 2021, Shields wrote a poem a day for all three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. She has served on sixteen juries, including the City’s Arts, Culture & Heritage Fund (ACHF) jury, delivered seventeen keynote speeches for the not-for-profit sector, and visited seventeen schools to workshop poetry with local youth. Shields is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Ontario Poetry Society, and the Writer’s Union of Canada, to name a few of her memberships and affiliations. She received the Windsor Endowment for the Arts (WEA) award for Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts, participated twice in Battle of the Bards, and is an avid member of Poetry in Voice, where she has served as a judge for municipal and provincial recitation competitions. Her book Thimbles was included in CBC Books list of Spring Poetry Books to Read in 2021.
As an entrepreneur, Shields owns and operates Gertrude’s Writing Room – A Gathering Place for Writers in the Stable Yard at Willistead Park. This is Windsor’s first and only creative writing space, boasting desks, tables, comfy sofa and chairs, bookish gifts, loads of crafts, and a library with over 300 books of poetry – including many works by local authors. The space is fully accessible, fully inclusive, equality-driven, and safe. From readings and workshops, to one-to-one sessions, to the many new and exciting collaborations and partnerships created since its opening, Shields uses Gertrude’s to foster community through poetry.
As Poet Laureate, Shields says she is committed to reading, writing, and promoting poetry; to strengthening the public’s relationship with poetry and literature with kindness, inclusivity, safety, respectfulness, and enthusiastic engagement; and to being an ambassador to the written word at events near and far while expressing Windsor’s unique voices and stories through poetry. She says her role as ambassador will have its mission in community – community outreach, community collaborative sustainability, and community extension. She sees Windsor as a hub for the literary arts. Shields is committed to being open and engaging with the unique intersections of Windsor’s diverse communities, upholding heartfelt transparency in the gathering of words that reflect our lived experiences. She looks forward to working with the other poets laureate and the new storytellers through the program. In addition to applying herself to serve as Poet Laureate, Shields also received over thirty nominations for the role.
“Poetry is the voice of the people; it breaks down barriers and holds up mirrors to every facet of our diverse experiences," Shields said. "I value the integral role of poetry in our world, and I believe that Windsor’s poetic voices are extraordinary. It is an honour to foster and support these voices. I believe Windsor is a place of shifting identities, that the arts community continues to thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic, and that Windsor’s literary community is as robust as it has ever been. There are thirteen publishers in our city! Three that continue to win national and international literary prizes! We need to take pride in this. I certainly do. Windsor is a goldmine of literary excellence – and we need to be known as such beyond our city limits. I will dedicate my ambassadorship to making Windsor known as a literary legend at home, in our province, and across our country. Like those who have come before me, I believe in the power of Windsor’s creative voices.
The selection committee members remarked, “Vanessa Shields had the greatest evidence of local outreach and event experience … ability to make connections within the community, knowledge of grant opportunities, awareness of the current issues facing the community. She focuses on reflection over response, is already so established in the community, has created an inclusive space at Gertrude’s Writing Room, and has made a huge impact. Her unique presentation is impressive – the whole engine is going and firing on all cylinders. We’ll see remarkable things happening in our community with Vanessa as our next Poet Laureate.”
Works Shared During Term