Poetry is Public is Poetry
Project Vision
Poetry as a form of communication has been used to strengthen communal ties, to liberate people from sufferings, and to combat oppression and suppression: poetry has been binding together the human race and contributing to intellectual growth for centuries. But is poetry lost in today's world? Toronto's Poet Laureate says no. And with this belief has risen Poetry is Public is Poetry.

Dionne Brand, Toronto's current Poet Laureate, has launched Poetry is Public is Poetry, an ambitious new city-wide initiative that will help transform Toronto’s public realm into an illuminating forum for the written word. The program merges poetry with public art and seeks to claim permanent public space for Canadian poetry on the streets of Toronto. Ms Brand proposed, and is developing this idea in the belief that poets have contributed enormously to the city’s sense of itself but that their contribution is not always apparent in the public sphere.

Poetry is Public is Poetry envisions a reflective dialogue with space that can serve as a catalyst for providing a sense of well being, identity, and even happiness. The project is an effort to bring Canadian poets, designers and artists into the eye of the general public and to create permanent works of art that will provoke, delight and excite.

To ensure the program is accessible to everyone, Poetry is Public is Poetry will work in close co-operation with the Toronto Public Library, embedding two to four installations per year in walkways and surrounding library spaces. As the program expands, it will look to partner with other public institutions.

Poetry is Public is Poetry unveiled its first installation in December 2010. If you're interested in turning the page on how the public reads its streets or curious to find out how you can help champion this initiative, Poetry is Public is Poetry welcomes your support. Questions and all other inquiries may be addressed to: [email protected]
Advisory Council
Internationally acclaimed poet and novelist Dionne Brand was selected as Toronto's third Poet Laureate by City Council in fall 2009. Ms. Brand will for three years serve as Toronto's literary ambassador championing local literary arts and wordsmiths. She will also create a literary legacy project for the people of Toronto.

Ms Brand has published nine volumes of poetry including No Language is Neutral, short listed for the Governor General's Award; Land To Light On winner of the Governor General's Award and the Trillium Book Award, thirsty, winner of the Pat Lowther Award and a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize and Inventory, a finalist for the Governor General's Award. In June 2011, Ms. Brand's Ossuaries won the Griffin Poetry Prize — Canada's richest poetry prize and the world's largest prize for a single poetry collection in English. Her poetry has been translated in Italian and French and is published in Canada, the U.S., U.K., Italy and Germany. Ms Brand is also a novelist winning the Toronto Book Award for her novel What We All Long For in 2006. Also in 2006 she was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize, an award honouring individuals who have made a substantial contribution to the world of books and writing.

Leslie Sanders is University Professor in the Department of Humanities, York University. Her teaching and research focus on African Canadian and African American literature and culture.She is a general editor of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, and volume editor of two volumes of his plays and other performance works. Her current research is on African Canadian autobiography, and on the development of web-based curriculum for Ontario schools based on the research.

Lillian Necakov-Avalos has been writing for over 30 years. Her books include: Listen (1988, Pink Dog Press), Sickbed of Dogs (1989, Wolsak and Wynn), Polaroids (1997, Coach House Books), Hat Trick (1998, Exile Editions) and The Bone Broker (2007, Mansfield Press) among others. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies in Canada, the United States, China and Europe.

In addition to her writing, she has been working for Toronto Public Library for the past 28 years. She is currently the Community Branch Head at the St. Clair/Silverthorn branch.

Writer and editor Paul Vermeersch, is the author of The Reinvention of the Human Hand, a collection of poems recently published by McClelland _ Stewart. He is also the author of the poetry collections Burn (ECW Press, 2000), a finalist for the 2001 Gerald Lampert Award, The Fat Kid (ECW Press, 2002), and Between the Walls (McClelland _ Stewart, 2005). His poems have been translated into Polish, German and French. He is the also the editor of The Al Purdy A-frame Anthology, published in fall 2009 by Harbour Publishing. He lives in Toronto where he currently teaches at Sheridan College, studies at the University of Guelph, and works as poetry editor for Insomniac Press.

Janice Suarez-Mason is a Library Service Manager with the Toronto Public Library, currently working on branch capital building projects. She has more than 30 years experience managing collections, recruiting staff, coordinating building operations and developing community partnerships.


Lilie Zendel is Senior Cultural Affairs Officer for Toronto Cultural Services working to promote the City’s creative city agenda. Previous to joining the City, Lilie worked in promoting Canadian arts and industries as a festival producer, arts administrator and cultural attaché in New York City.