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January 23, 2008
For immediate release

New Poet Laureate Appointed

Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour

Hon. Carolyn Bertram, Minister of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour has announced the appointment of poet, novelist and essayist David Helwig of Eldon as the new poet laureate for Prince Edward Island.

Author of more than 20 books, mostly fiction and poetry, David Helwig has served on juries for the Canada Council, Governor-General’s Awards, Ontario Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, PEI Arts Council, New Brunswick Arts Council. He earned a B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1960 and an M.A. from the University of Liverpool in 1962. He has worked in journalism, TV drama, radio drama, as a university lecturer and, since 1980, a full-time writer. He is the founder and long-time editor of the Best Canadian Stories annual. His most recent book of poetry, “The Year One,” won the Atlantic Poetry Award for 2004. Mr. Helwig has a new book of poems coming out in the fall, called The Sway of Otherwise, to be published by Oberon Press.

Minister Bertram said she was pleased that Mr. Helwig agreed to serve as the province’s poet laureate for a two-year term. “Mr. Helwig is an excellent choice for the position,” she said. “He has a renowned national reputation and has made a major contribution to the literary culture of Prince Edward Island.”

Mr. Helwig said he was looking forward to his term as poet laureate. “It’s a great honour to be offered this position, and I hope I can use it to bring attention to Island poets.” The post of Poet Laureate does not have fixed duties and previous holders of the post have used a variety of approaches to making poetry a more central part of the lives of Islanders. Mr. Helwig indicated that he would be exploring ways of using an internet web page to make the excellent work being done by Island poets better known.

Minister Bertram also paid tribute to Frank Ledwell who has completed his term. “I want to thank Frank Ledwell for his service throughout the past three years as the Prince Edward Island Poet Laureate. He has been an inspiration to writers in the province for more than a generation and I know he will continue to contribute to the literary heritage of our province.”

BACKGROUND

David Helwig:

For a listing of his works, or more information about the new Prince Edward Island Poet Laureate, visit Mr. Helwig’s website at www.davidhelwig.com

The Provincial Poet Laureate Program:

The Poet Laureate Program was established in Prince Edward Island in 2002. Past Poet Laureates are John Smith (2002 - 2004) and Frank Ledwell (2004 - 2007).

Objectives of the PEI Poet Laureate Program include the following: to celebrate Prince Edward Island and its people, to raise the profile of Prince Edward Island poets and poetry in general, to promote a higher standard of literacy, and to provide for the expression of culture and heritage through the literary arts.

Selection of the Poet Laureate is based on criteria including the following: 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, 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 the English or French language is considered in making the selection of poet laureate but age, gender and ethnic background are not considered.

Media Contact: Connie McNeill
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