History and objectives:
The Poet Laureate Program was established in Prince Edward Island in 2002.
Past Poets Laureate are John Smith (2002-2004); Frank Ledwell (2004-2007); David Helwig (2008-2009); Hugh MacDonald (2009-2013); and Dianne Hicks Morrow (2013-2016). Deirdre Kessler is the current poet laureate.
Objectives of the P.E.I. 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.
Poetry of excellence has been one of the great achievements of Prince Edward Islanders. Individuals such as John LePage, Larry Gorman and Lawrence Doyle were well-known in the 19th century. In the 20th century, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Milton Acorn are among the Islanders recognized for poetic ability. The creation of the post of provincial poet laureate helps to honour individuals who have made a major contribution to the literary life of the province.
The tradition of crowning poets with a wreath of laurel dates from classical Greece and became an institution in 1688 with the designation of the first British poet laureate. Since then, several countries, states, and cities have established the post. The custom honours the very best of poets and generally takes into consideration the whole writing career of an individual rather than one specific work.
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.