Vancouver author and poet Evelyn Lau has been named the city’s third poet laureate, taking over the position next week.
“This is an incredible honour,” said Lau in a statement released by the City of Vancouver. “And I look forward to continuing my predecessor’s work – raising the profile of local poets and bringing poetry into public spaces and public discourse in Vancouver.”
Lau’s first memoir, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, published when she was 18, was a Canadian bestseller and was adapted for television (with Sandra Oh in the starring role). Since then, Lau, 40, has published a second memoir, five volumes of poetry, two short-story collections and a novel.
You Are Not Who You Claim won the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award and Oedipal Dreams was nominated for the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her most recent collection, Living Under Plastic, won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the best book of poetry by a woman in Canada.
Her work has not been without controversy: A Vancouver Magazine piece she wrote about her former lover, Shoeless Joe author W.P. Kinsella, led to a highly publicized lawsuit (which was ultimately settled).
As poet laureate, Lau said she plans to offer poet-in-residence consultations with aspiring poets, and will continue work on her sixth poetry collection.
The position is an honorary one, but Lau’s predecessor, Brad Cran (who will hand the reins to Lau next Saturday at the conclusion of the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference), says it carries with it some weight.
“When I first became poet laureate, I’d been doing stuff around poetry activism for a long time and I had tried to do stuff with the school board before,” he says. “When I called and said I was the poet laureate ... I went to a meeting and it was like, ‘Oh, you’re the poet laureate. We’re glad to work with you. How much money do you want?’ I was in and out of there in 15 minutes with a budget to put poets in schools.”