The City of Mississauga accepted submissions for its first ever appointment of a Youth Poet Laureate until last Friday. The Youth Poet Laureate, like the Poet Laureate, is an ambassador of the arts on behalf of the city. Both roles require a strong attachment to the literary arts and to the values and themes of Mississauga. The difference is that the Youth Poet Laureate will work with the young writers in the city and help build their emerging profiles, as opposed to supporting established adult writers.
This is a fast move for the city of Mississauga, considering that it was less than a year ago when Mississauga’s Culture Division announced the city’s first Poet Laureate, Anna Yin. In the last year of Yin’s appointment, she will also work with young poets as a mentor of arts and culture in the community. But the appointment of a Youth Poet Laureate in such a short time after announcing a poet laureate speaks to the city’s recognition of the charisma and talent that young artists in Mississauga possess.
It’s not a surprise. Just a few months ago, John River made big waves with Mississauga’s youth with his music video for Hope City II—the second installment of his mixtape, The Storm. The video, featuring Rivers rapping with the Absolute World buildings in full view, features several shots of neighbourhoods that anyone living in Mississauga would recognize. His lyrics say what a lot of young people in Mississauga feel—that we have an identity and want to be great for who we are.
I think that when we look at famous rappers, singers, artists, writers, or musicians, we often forget that they weren’t always what they are now; there was a place that they came from. There is untapped talent in the young artists, writers, and musicians of Mississauga. That will be the challenge for the first Youth Poet Laureate—to tap into that stream of emotion, creativity, and ambition, and help create the foundation for Mississauga as not just a city, but the place artists can come from.