Calgary Poet Laureate

April 27, 2020
Natalie Meisner was announced Calgary Poet Laureate by Mayor Nenshi

Calgary Poet Laureate announcement by Mayor Nenshi

MEDIA RELEASE from Calgary Arts Development
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2020

(Calgary AB) – Calgary Arts Development and the Calgary Poet Laureate selection committee are pleased to announce the appointment of Natalie Meisner as the 2020 – 2022 Calgary Poet Laureate. The position was formally announced in Council Chambers at Calgary City Hall today, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge.

“The Poet Laureate program is a wonderful way to reflect our city and its citizens through the power of words and language,” says Patti Pon, President & CEO of Calgary Arts Development, “and during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic we understand how the arts and artists matter more than ever. We thank Sheri-D Wilson for her gusto, wit, skill, creative spirit, and the depth of caring she brought to the position over the last two years as Calgary’s Poet Laureate. It is a pleasure to welcome Natalie Meisner to the position for the next two years. Natalie is an award-winning poet who has also had experience in the theatre and education worlds. We know she will be a passionate advocate for the power of the written word.”

“I am honoured to be an ambassador for Calgary Mohkinstsis, this dynamic and beautiful city that is home and opens its arms to so many,” says Natalie Meisner. “I grew up in a small village where the whoosh of the door on the bookmobile, the feeling of a book in my hands and the words lifting themselves off the page before my eyes… literally and figuratively opened doors to the future. The particular weight, heft, and texture of one word and how it sat next to the one beside it offered real hope when I needed it most. Heal your story, I have always believed, and you have the chance to heal yourself. Even more, I believe in the power of words to change hearts and minds and to create a better and more equitable world.

“Now this is no mean feat. Especially in our current circumstances. By no means can poetry take the place of food or safety or shelter or medicine… but sometimes it might just help hold body and soul together for that key moment until we find what we need. I am so looking forward to celebrating, making, and reinventing what poetry means in this place, in this time with you all. POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE!”

Natalie Meisner is a multi-genre award winning writer who grew up on the South Shore of Nova Scotia and has been based in Calgary since 2000. She began her career as a writer in the spoken word and indie theatre scene in Halifax and has had plays produced across the country. She currently writes and teaches literature and creative writing at Mount Royal University (MRU) where she also serves as Director of Changemaking facilitating community and university arts-based projects in social justice and social innovation.

Her new book of poetry, Baddie One Shoe, is a sequence of performance poems that pay homage to women renegades of the past who fight the power with laughter. Meisner’s ongoing career as a playwright and early experience as an actor inform her work and she is most interested in the performative aspects of poetry as well as the power of comedy to build resilience. Her play BOOM BABY (about the lives of workers in the oil patch) won both the Canadian National Playwriting Award and the Alberta Playwriting Award in 2019. Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story (U of C press) was a finalist in the in the Betty Mitchell Awards for best new play, was selected for The Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (2021) and is a part of the Alberta Queer Calendar Project. Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family topped nonfiction lists and was a finalist in the Atlantic Book Awards and her children’s book My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother & Me is available from Nimbus Publishing. Meisner is a wife and mom to two great boys, a social justice advocate and believer in the power of the written word to change lives.

Meisner holds a Doctorate in English (University of Calgary), a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (University of British Columbia) and Bachelor’s degree in English from Dalhousie University. She taught at the University of Regina and the University of Calgary before MRU.

Further information on Meisner can be found at nataliemeisner.com.

As Calgary Poet Laureate, Meisner will serve as an artistic ambassador for the citizens of Calgary from 2020 to 2022. A $10,000 honorarium is paid per year for the position, funded by Calgary Poet Laureate ambassadors including Calgary Foundation, Calgary Chamber, and Brookfield Residential.

About the Calgary Poet Laureate
On July 26, 2011, City Council approved a motion to establish a Calgary Poet Laureate position, funded by a group of Calgary Poet Laureate ambassadors. Calgary Arts Development administers the program in conjunction with a volunteer selection committee, which appoints each Calgary Poet Laureate for a two-year term. The Calgary Poet Laureate is intended to be an artistic ambassador for Calgary, presenting at civic events and producing literary work that reflects our city and its citizens.

About the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge
To celebrate National Poetry Month and UNESCO World Poetry Day, each year municipalities across Canada are challenged to bring poetry into politics. One mayor leads this annual challenge by inviting a poet to read at a council meeting in March or April, and challenges mayors and councils across Canada to follow suit and join the celebration. Initiated by Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco in 2012, the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge celebrates poetry, writing, small presses, and the contribution of poets and all writers to the rich cultural life in our country.

About Calgary Arts Development
As the city’s designated arts development authority, Calgary Arts Development supports and strengthens the arts to benefit all Calgarians. We invest and allocate municipal funding for the arts provided by The City of Calgary and leverage these funds to provide additional resources to the arts sector. Our programs support hundreds of arts organizations, individual artists, artist collectives, and ad hoc groups in Calgary.

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