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poet laureateWhen Lauren Best received the news that she was about to become Owen Sound's next poet laureate, she was holding her toddler in her arms. It was a fitting scene, considering that the focus of her two-year tenure will be on promoting poetry to children. "It was one of those surreal moments when you've accomplished something that thrills you," she said.

Well known in and around Owen Sound as a singer-songwriter and performer, Best has been writing poetry and lyrics since she was in elementary school. In her work as a music instructor and as a multi-arts educator and facilitator, she has introduced poetry and songs to hundreds of children and families. She wants to expand on this work as Owen Sound Poet Laureate 2017 to 2019.

"It's really fun and so incredibly rewarding to have the attention of children and to see their reactions," she said. "I know from experience the joy that comes from helping people create something – people of all ages but especially children – the magical moments when they get to experience their own creativity and be delighted by words, rhythm and story. I'm looking forward to that."

There were many strong candidates who applied, but Best's experience, energy and enthusiasm particularly impressed the selection panel. "We thought it was time to pay attention to the children in our community," said Liz Zetlin, who was Owen Sound's first poet laureate and chair of the selection committee. "Childhood is where poetry starts. Children love playing with the sounds, sense, rhythms and rhymes of language. Poetry is a way to find their own unique voice and have fun at the same time."

Zetlin adds "Lauren brings exceptional passion and a multidisciplinary approach to working with children. Another thing that impressed us was Lauren's idea to work with not only children, but their family members, exploring ways to make poetry a part of daily life."

Best is overflowing with ideas about how to get children involved in poetry. As well as introducing them to poetry in more traditional ways, she wants to find ways to combine poetry with movement, music and visual arts. Some of her goals include publishing an illustrated anthology of children's work, creating an improvisational multi-generational choir that uses sound and spoken word to accompany poems that are read or performed aloud and exploring ways to use digital storytelling to help young people bring their poetry to a wider audience.

The poet laureate will have the support of Youth Services Librarian Nadia Danyluk, who joined the selection committee this year and will be working closely with Best. "I'm excited for the library to have the opportunity to work with Lauren Best," said Danyluk. "Her enthusiasm is absolutely contagious, and her multidisciplinary focus will encourage children to access poetry differently. Lauren will show children how to make poetry live off of the page in ways that they can connect with."

Best, who starts her tenure on October 1, says "I believe that education and advocacy are intertwined and the everyday art of bringing poetry into children's lives is essential. I'm excited to see how the ripples can branch out into the community."

The Poet Laureate 2017 to 2019 is a program of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. The program is generously sponsored by David Madill, CFP of BMO Nesbitt Burns, John A. Tamming Law, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Armitage.

source: media release, Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library

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