Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program

Collage of photos of Windsor's poets and storytellers out and about at events

The City of Windsor’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program aims to be a model for Canadian communities for what is possible with a truly innovative, responsive and engaging program to celebrate the literary arts through the written and spoken word. Creators appointed to posts in the program will share stories through poetry, literature, spoken word and oral history, and even music and the performing arts to a wide and appreciative audience, thus strengthening the public’s relationship to the literary arts, storytelling, culture and heritage. Through the positions of Poet Laureate Emeritus, Poet Laureate, Youth Poet Laureate, Indigenous Storyteller, and Multicultural Community Storyteller, the program will showcase diverse, important, relevant and creative literary artists through innovative events and initiatives that connect the community to the program.

Windsor’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers Program seeks to celebrate the contributions of literary and spoken word artists to the cultural life of our broader community and to meet the needs of the culturally rich, diverse, and evolving community in Windsor. Through this program, we are able to gather, preserve and share the unique Windsor stories that shape our community, today and into the future.

Poet Laureate

Windsor's Poet Laureate position serves to honour a poet (aged 25 years and older) who writes excellent poetry and focuses on themes that are relevant to the people who live in the city of Windsor. This poet serves as an ambassador for the arts, culture and heritage sectors in the city of Windsor and helps to celebrate poetry and the arts – particularly the literary arts. As an ambassador for poetry and literature, the Poet Laureate attends municipal events to share works and raise the profile of the literary arts in Windsor.

Youth Poet Laureate

Windsor's Youth Poet Laureate position serves to honour a poet (aged 14 to 24 years) who writes excellent poetry and focuses on themes that are relevant to youth who live in the city of Windsor. This poet provides a strong youth voice and reaches out to other youth to inspire interest in poetry and the arts – particularly the literary arts. As an ambassador for youth, poetry, language and the arts, the Youth Poet Laureate attends municipal events to share works and increase engagement of youth with the arts.

Indigenous Storyteller

The Indigenous Storyteller position serves to honour an Indigenous storyteller (aged 25 years and older) who is recognized and respected by their community as a storyteller creating and presenting through the art of storytelling in traditional and contemporary ways, utilizing spoken word, oral-history, music, dance, performing arts, etc. The Indigenous Storyteller works to instill a knowledge of the mind, body, and soul in connection to the earth through stories that are rooted in the land and have the capacity to convey entire histories and worldviews in interactive, educational, and immersive ways. As an ambassador for Indigenous peoples, communities, and the arts, the Indigenous Storyteller attends municipal events to share works and to engage in initiatives that provide opportunities to build cultural awareness, meaningful relationships, and new audiences across ethnic and cultural borders.

Multicultural Community Storyteller

The Multicultural Community Storyteller position serves to honour a multicultural storyteller (aged 25 years and older) who is recognized and respected as a storyteller creating and presenting through the art of storytelling in traditional and contemporary ways, utilizing spoken word, oral-history, music, dance, performing arts, etc. As a member of one of the over 100 cultures present in the city of Windsor, the multicultural storyteller works to create a more welcoming and inclusive community by sharing diverse cultures, experiences, traditions, and stories that help to celebrate our differences and similarities. As an ambassador for Windsor’s rich and diverse community, the Multicultural Community Storyteller attends municipal events to share works and to engage in initiatives that provide opportunities to build cultural awareness, meaningful relationships, and new audiences across ethnic and cultural borders.

South Shore Collections Series

Six poetry books on a desk

The South Shore Collections series is presented through the City of Windsor's poet laureate program. These books help capture, preserve and share Windsor's stories with the community – one of the primary goals of the program. The collections are available for purchase through www.BlackMossPress.com. These collections also include partnerships with community institutions, organizations and artists.

Volume 01 – "Because We Have All Lived Here" – (2017). This collection celebrates Windsor’s 125th anniversary, along with the 150th anniversary for Canada and Ontario. Within its pages, a ‘Group of Seven Poets’ honour the five towns on the south shore of the Detroit River as it flows from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie, or as we read from Sandwich through Riverside. The project looks at what meanings poets might make of a city when the city in question is their home. Windsor’s poets combine their individual voices into a chorus in a true study of belonging. The collection became part of the 2017 Random Acts of Poetry initiative that saw the seven poets going out into the community conducting readings in various spaces, and gifting copies of the book to people all across the city.

Volume 02 – "A Dance of Self-Isolation: Covid Poems From the Biggest Little City in Canada" – (2020). This collection includes poems written by the poets laureate reflecting on and capturing the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, as well as the hopes, dreams, challenges, triumphs and fears of an entire community navigating lockdown and the first glimpses of recovery. A virtual launch was held to mark the one-year anniversary of the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex, with complimentary copies given to all long-term care homes, hospitals and first responder sites, and all branches of the Windsor-Public Library.

Volume 03 – "Walk in the Woods: Portrait of the Objiway Prairie Complex" – (2021). This collection is an adventure about going out on the best and the worst days of the year and taking a walk in the jigsaw puzzle of the wetlands, forest, savannah, and prairie areas that hug the near edges of Windsor, Ontario. From the back cover of the book: "It’s a place that some older residents still call Yawkey Bush. It’s a gem that caught the attention of the legendary environmental activist David Suzuki who said Ojibway was a 'priceless ... tiny pocket of nature that reminds us, perhaps, of what once was and what could be...' With that in mind, Marty Gervais, Windsor’s poet laureate emeritus, explores this 'tiny pocket' and spent most of the COVID-19 pandemic walking and carrying a camera nearly every day into the far reaches of Ojibway, Black Oak, the Tall Grass and Ojibway Shores. His photographs are a diary of that journey ... to celebrate this rich environmental treasure in southwestern Ontario.” The collection includes a preface from 2021 nominee for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, G.A. Grisenthwaite, and an afterword by author and photographer Douglas MacLellan who curated Gervais’ stunning photos that appear throughout the collection. Watch the teaser video.

Volume 04 - "A Manor of Words: Poetry at the Manor 10th Anniversary Anthology" - (2022). Poetry at Willistead Manor is one of the most unique poetry events in Canada. Held in the former mansion that belonged to the son of the legendary whiskey baron Hiram Walker, it has grown into one of the most popular literary events in Canada. The poets are drawn to the stage here from all over the country, and represent what poet Bruce Meyer described as a "creative zeitgeist that has finally found its voice in Canada." This anthology celebrates 10 years of readings in the old manor that sits in the midst of historic Walkerville, with works from 36 poets laureate from across the country. "Communities understand how much they need not only cultural ambassadors but voices who decipher, record, and announce what is important to people's inner and outer lives," Meyer says. This collection, published by Black Moss Press, was launched in October 2022, with a portion of proceeds supporting the United Way Windsor-Essex "On Track To Success" literacy program.

Volume 05 - "In the Middle Space - Windsor's Public Art" - (2023). This unique anthology explores Windsor's rich public art culture through poetry. Thirteen authors from various backgrounds all come together to celebrate public art by way of sharing their stories. The book is composed of fifty poems that celebrate the city's public art through storytelling. This collection was published in partnership with the University of Windsor's Editing Practicum and Publishing Practicum courses. This collection, published by Black Moss Press, was launched in April 2023, with a portion of launch-night proceeds supporting the Windsor Endowment for the Arts (WEA) Changing the Odds Pathway to Literacy for Kids program.

"Through the South Shore Collections series, our poets laureate use poetry, photography and other mediums to record their individual experiences and to provide a snapshot of our community's consciousness, all while creating artifacts to help tell future generations the stories of the City of Windsor." - Christopher Lawrence Menard, Cultural Development Coordinator.

Volume 06 - "Where The Map Begins - Windsor Through Poetry" - (2024). This innovative collection features work by fourteen poets, each hailing from one of Windsor's ten wards. With a focus on history, memory, and identity, the collection explores what it means to be from Windsor, and honours the landmarks, neighbourhoods, and individuals that make up the story of the city. "The lines of these poems urge us to look at ourselves," said Windsor's Poet Laureate Emeritus and publisher Marty Gervais. "This is our story, mapped in the patterns of roads, houses, and storefronts that reach out from the river." 

'Windsor's Voices' 2024 poetry initiative

The City of Windsor’s Poet Laureate & Storytellers team launched "Windsor's Voices - A National Poetry Month Collection Celebrating Windsor and Weather" in April 2024. The collection comes after a 2023 call for Windsor poets, storytellers, writers and photographers of all ages to submit original poems, stories or photos on one of two themes: what Windsor means to you; and 'weather' - the League of Canadian Poets' 2024 theme for National Poetry Month. 

Submissions were accepted from December 18, 2023 to February 16, 2024. Following a review by the team, 38 poems, 7 stories/reflections, 17 photos, and 1 artwork were selected for inclusion. This collection of creative works celebrates neighbourhoods, events, traditions, landmarks, places, spaces, experiences, thoughts and inspirations that all reflect on what makes Windsor special. Through this initiative, the team delivers on the goals of the program, which include promoting poetry and storytelling, in many forms, to a wide and appreciative audience while strengthening the public’s relationship to poetry, storytelling and the creative arts.

Over the course of the spring, printed copies will be made available for Windsor Public Library branches in the community, and selections from some of the pieces will be displayed on televisions at various community centres and City facilities for a period of time. In addition to publication in the Zine/Collection, participating creatives will receive a Certificate of Recognition from the City of Windsor.

In 2021/2022, a similar initiative focused on the theme of “resilience” saw poems printed and displayed in City facilities, mass vaccination sites, and hospital sites across the community to bring messages of hope during the pandemic. 

'Windsor's Resilient Voices' poetry initiative

Marty Gervais in a mask, standing under poem on a bus

In honour of National Poetry Month 2021, Windsor’s Poet Laureate Emeritus Marty Gervais and Poet Laureate Mary Ann Mulhern set out to bring poetry to the Windsor community in an innovative way. 'Windsor’s Resilient Voices' places short inspirational poems on interior advertisement spaces across the Transit Windsor fleet of buses, on social media, and throughout select facilities including the WFCU Centre vaccination clinic, Windsor Hall vaccination clinic, St. Clair College vaccination clinic, and Windsor Regional Hospital sites.

The poems, written and submitted by area poets, including youth, focus on the theme of 'resilience'.

“I’m proud of this initiative and grateful to the poets who reached out to share their words at this time," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. "This gets poetry out into the community at a time when small acts of kindness and inspiration can help us face the challenges of COVID-19.”

Gervais added, “Resilience is what this town knows best. Time after time we have been through life-changing moments, and we have always bounced back. That is our character, and for the past year, we have shown how, in spite of the challenges and setbacks, we are pushing back; we are lifting ourselves up; we are resilient as we always have been. We will make a difference to the generations to come.”

Mulhern believes poetry connects people all across our community throughout the pandemic. "These poems present another way to help us pause and reflect not only on all we’re facing together but on the strength, spirit and resiliency that’s helping lead us through."

Tyson Cragg, Transit Windsor's executive director, welcomed the initiative, saying, "Transit Windsor is delighted to participate in 'Windsor’s Resilient Voices'. It gives us great pleasure to see the mingling of arts and culture with public transit, and I hope that these messages provide hope and uplift people’s spirits in these difficult times.”

Invite Our Poets & Storytellers

To invite Windsor's Poet Laureate, Youth Poet Laureate, Poet Laureate Emeritus, Indigenous Storyteller, or Multicultural Community Storyteller to attend and participate in an event, please contact culturalaffairs@citywindsor.ca by email. Our team members may choose to prepare a new poem or presentation or read from existing works as part of your event. All requests are submitted to the appropriate poet or storyteller, and they decide which events they are able to attend, and any reading or presentation fees that may apply.

Program Forms and Helpful Links