Halifax Welcomes New Poet Laureate

On the morning of Tuesday, April 24, 2018, politicians, press, and arts organizers gathered at City Hall to welcome Halifax’s new poet laureate, Dr. Afua Cooper, a widely published author and the current James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University.

It was “a bittersweet day,” noted Elizabeth Taylor, Manager of Culture & Events for the Halifax Regional Municipality, as the crowd was gathered not just to welcome Dr. Cooper, but also to say good-bye to outgoing Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas, who had served in the role from 2016-2018.

After opening remarks from Taylor, Mayor Mike Savage greeted the crowd with a few words of his own. Poetry, he reflected, is intended “not necessarily to please, but to take a stand,” a principle exemplified by previous HRM Poet Laureates such as Rebecca Thomas and El Jones.

The ceremony proceeded with words from Dr. Cooper, who thanked her family, as well as the members of the local Jamaican community, for their support. Dr. Cooper also referenced her grandmother’s influence on her life and career. Her grandmother, she shared, was not so interested in telling her grandchildren folktales, but in public history, “the factual things”, and was the inspiration for her career as a historian.

Before closing her remarks with a recitation of her poem “Negro Cemeteries,” Dr. Cooper also thanked her African ancestors. “They were not meant to survive,” she reflected, referencing the history of the slave trade in the Americas, “but here I am.”

The ceremony closed with a reading from Rebecca Thomas, who shared her poem “Footnotes,” which she said shared the hope “for all the things I care about.”

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is happy to share that later that day, Dr. Cooper stopped by our offices to renew her membership with the WFNS.

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that participants in any given workshop have similar levels of creative writing and / or publication experience. This ensures that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their career stage. The “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions used by WFNS.

  • New writers: those with less than two years’ creative writing experience and/or no short-form publications (e.g., short stories, personal essays, or poems in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with more than two years’ creative writing experience and/or numerous short-form publications.
  • Early-career authors: those with 1 or 2 book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short-form publications.
  • Established authors: those with 3 or 4 book-length publications.
  • Professional authors: those with 5 or more book-length publications.

Please keep in mind that each form of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children and young adults) provides you with a unique set of experiences and skills, so you might consider yourself an ‘established author’ in one form but a ‘new writer’ in another.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed closely.

For all other workshops, the recommended experience level is just that—a recommendation—and we encourage potential participants to follow their own judgment when registering.

If you’re uncertain of your experience level with regard to any particular workshop, please feel free to contact us at communications@writers.ns.ca