Calgary Celebrates New Poet Laureate

Calgary Celebrates New Poet Laureate

A promo photo of Natalie Meisner
Natalie Meisner | Photo: D. Mounsef

A poet, educator, playwright, and social justice advocate, Natalie Meisner began her career as a writer in the spoken word and indie theatre scene in Halifax.

With plays produced across the country, she now writes and teaches literature and creative writing at Mount Royal University (MRU) where she also serves as Director of Changemaking.

Meisner was formally announced as the 2020 – 2022 Calgary Poet Laureate during today’s City Council meeting in conjunction with the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge.

Taking over from outgoing Laureate, Sheri-D Wilson, Meisner was on hand virtually to read an excerpt from her work and accept the position.

“I am honoured to be an ambassador for Calgary Mohkinstsis, this dynamic and beautiful city that is home and opens its arms to so many,” says Natalie Meisner in a statement. “I grew up in a small village where the whoosh of the door on the bookmobile, the feeling of a book in my hands and the words lifting themselves off the page before my eyes… literally and figuratively opened doors to the future.”

Meisner’s new book of poetry, Baddie One Shoe, is a sequence of performance poems that pay homage to women renegades of the past who fight the power with laughter. Her ongoing career as a playwright and early experience as an actor inform her work and she is most interested in the performative aspects of poetry as well as the power of comedy to build resilience.

“The particular weight, heft, and texture of one word and how it sat next to the one beside it offered real hope when I needed it most. Heal your story, I have always believed, and you have the chance to heal yourself,” she continues. “Even more, I believe in the power of words to change hearts and minds and to create a better and more equitable world.”

“The Poet Laureate program is a wonderful way to reflect our city and its citizens through the power of words and language, and during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic we understand how the arts and artists matter more than ever,” adds Patti Pon, President & CEO of Calgary Arts Development, in a statement. “We thank Sheri-D Wilson for her gusto, wit, skill, creative spirit, and the depth of caring she brought to the position over the last two years as Calgary’s Poet Laureate. It is a pleasure to welcome Natalie Meisner to the position for the next two years. Natalie is an award-winning poet who has also had experience in the theatre and education worlds. We know she will be a passionate advocate for the power of the written word.”

As Calgary Poet Laureate, Meisner will serve as an artistic ambassador for the citizens of Calgary from 2020 to 2022. A $10,000 honorarium is paid per year for the position, funded by Calgary Poet Laureate ambassadors including Calgary Foundation, Calgary Chamber, and Brookfield Residential.

A screencap of Mayor Naheed Nenshi in an empty Council Chamber
Mayor Naheed Nenshi introduces Calgary’s new Poet Laureate, Natalie Meisner, in an empty Council Chamber | Still: Courtesy of The City of Calgary
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