Thursday, February 22, 2024

‘The people’s poets’: Two new Poet Laureates chosen for the City of Victoria


A city’s poet laureates are an important part of maintaining a cultural identity and supporting artists whose work deserves the attention of its people.

On the morning of Friday, April 21st, the City of Victoria in collaboration with the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) announced the new Poet Laureate, Marie Metaphor Specht, and Youth Poet Laureate, Irena Datcu-Romano.

The two women were chosen by a nomination and peer evaluation process and will be the city’s poetry representatives for a two-year term, until April 2025. 

Part of their roles will be to prop up and celebrate local contributions to the literature and poetry zeitgeists of Victoria. 

“We are delighted to welcome Marie and Irena to enrich and celebrate poetry in our community,” said Mayor Marianne Alto. 

“Our city has a storied literary history and we are proud to continue this tradition by amplifying their unique voices.”

Specht is a profound poet specializing in the spoken word aspect of her craft and she is a multidisciplinary artist who has had work published in Oratorealis, Untethered Magazine, The Chestnut Review, The Hellebore and Room Magazine, among others. 

Her face may be familiar to those active in the arts community, as she frequently contributes to festivals and events around the Greater Victoria area. 

Specht loves to collaborate with artists of other disciplines and has worked with local musicians, filmmakers and lighting technicians to create unique works that help her expand on her own craft.

She has a full-length poetry book published called Soft Shelters courtesy of Write Bloody North publishing house. It was released in the fall of 2023 and can be found at local bookstores as well as several GVPL locations. 

“Poetry is a way of reaching towards each other; of closing the spaces between us,” said Specht. 

“I believe that creativity is our shared human birthright and any artform with an audience is a means to foster connections between people; an opportunity to see and hold each other in our complex histories of joy and suffering.”

“This work is how we imagine a way forward; how we birth new worlds. Our communities flourish through intrepid acts of beauty, through the incredible power of stories shared.”

Victoria’s new Youth Poet Laureate, Datcu-Romano is an accomplished artist of Romanian ancestry. She is in her second year of a double major in religion as well as cultures and writing, at UVic, concentrating on poetry and non-fiction.

Her work has been published in several noteworthy publications such as Work in Progress Mag and VOICES/VOIX Poetry Journal.

One piece she wrote, litzine Chess Game, was on the shortlist for Broken Pencil’s Canzine Awards in 2021. 

She is actively working in her field of discipline as the editor of poetry for This Side of West magazine, UVic’s undergraduate literary journal.

“I am excited to serve as the Youth Poet Laureate because I care about accessibility, collaboration, language reclamation and healing,” said Datcu-Romano. 

“I have a large emotional and literary debt to the youth poetry ecosystem, namely the various workshops and student-run projects that accepted me and my writing.”

“I want other youth poets to know they are each other’s greatest allies and collaborators.”

These two women’s roles as Poet Laureates in Victoria will be to continue producing new works while organizing a community poetry event every year.

The titles bestowed upon them and many before them was first established by the Victoria city council in 2006 to honour, celebrate and reflect the life of the city through poetry.

Specht and Datcu-Romano will give their first readings in their new roles at the next city council meeting on April 27th at 6:30 p.m.

Curtis Blandy

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