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Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild names U of S student as first ever Youth Poet Laureate

By in Culture
The first Youth Poet Laureate of the SWG, Alasdair Rees, poses for a photograph in his living room on March 10, 2019.

The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild has appointed its first ever Youth Poet Laureate, Saskatoon Fransaskois artist Alasdair Rees, whose devotion and passion has shown through in the brilliance of both his spoken-word art and written poetry.

Poetry continues to be one of the many forms of art that transcends time. Words possess the capacity to touch what seems to be an infinite audience, Rees explains in an email to the Sheaf regarding the importance of writing.

“The written word allows us to speak through time. It’s a technology on which our culture depends, and I suspect it will also play a significant part in getting us out of the ecological and political disasters our global community is currently faced with,” Rees said. “So much fear stifles so much creative expression every day, and the world gets cheated of all that beauty.”

While students are well versed in academic writing thanks to their studies, the University of Saskatchewan is lucky to also have an impressive number of young writers and poets amidst its creative community, which continues to be vibrant and thriving.

Among them is Rees, an alumnus who graduated with an honours degree in French, who now teaches cultural studies and French courses here at the university.

Aside from his academic life, Rees has an accomplished artistic profile that features works in GUTS, ÖMËGÄ and various other contemporary cultural publications. The publications all have a common theme of offering unique urban perspectives of artists from communities that are often overshadowed by normative narratives. Simultaneously, it challenges the status quo by bringing forth new waves of artists and works that are both curious and compelling.

The first Youth Poet Laureate of the SWG, Alasdair Rees, photographed through a
reflection in his living room mirror, poses for a photograph on March 10, 2019.

Rees is known and credited for his presence in the spoken-word scene as well as having been a former Saskatoon individual poetry slam champion. In 2016, Rees was chosen by the local group Tonight It’s Poetry to represent Saskatoon at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam.

While the university can take pride in its creative undergraduates and alumni, it is the city of Regina that is home to the SWG, a non-profit organization that seeks to showcase and promote Saskatchewan writers while simultaneously acting as their primary advocates and support since 1969.

The SWG has dedicated itself to promoting personal development in writers throughout their literacy careers and enabling broader public access to Saskatchewan writers and their works. 

Support for writers is shown in a number of programs facilitated by the SWG through workshops and services such as the mentorship program, the Indigenous mentorship program, a manuscript evaluation service, an annual reading series and province-wide tour — just to name a few.

Rees’ title, Youth Poet Laureate, is a recent addition onto the broader framework of the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Program, which started in 2000.

By adding the position of the Youth Poet Laureate, the organization continues to honour the tradition of the program while simultaneously creating a title that will offer Saskatchewan youths more opportunities to engage and reach out to the provincial community.

Rees has become an ambassador of the SWG, an advocate for the art of poetry and spoken word and an advocate who celebrates the works of fellow poets and spoken-word artists.

Undoubtedly, Rees also did all this prior to achieving the position by contributing his voice to the poetry scene and participating in spaces that promote and uphold virtues of inclusiveness.

However, upon being designated the Youth Poet Laureate, his work now comes with official recognition as stated by the selection committee on the SWG website regarding their impression of Rees.

“His work embraces multiple communities, including Saskatoon’s Queer, Fransaskois and visual arts communities… His passion, initiative and commitment to the power of poetry and spoken word [ensure] Alasdair will be a vibrant and energetic Youth Poet Laureate for Saskatchewan.”

Rees also offers his own remarks on the incredible opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to sharing my love of language with the people of this place that I love so much,” Rees said. “I’m also hopeful that I’ll be able to use this platform to elevate some of my favourites among the amazing voices currently writing and performing in the province.”

Cleo Nguyen

All photos by: Riley Deacon / Photo

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