THE CITY OF PETERBOROUGH
POET LAUREATE PROGRAM 2023
ZIYSAH VON BIEBERSTEIN
SELECTED AS PETERBOROUGH’S SECOND POET LAUREATE
The Electric City Culture Council (EC3) and The City of Peterborough are pleased and honoured to announce that spoken word artist Ziysah von Bieberstein has been selected as Peterborough’s second Poet Laureate. Mayor Jeff Leal will introduce “Ziy” at the City Council meeting on April 24, 2023 at 6 p.m. You can find the livestream at: peterborough.ca/
Ziysah von Bieberstein will serve as Poet Laureate from April 2023 to September 2024, and will create and present four new works for various official civic occasions, as well as undertake a legacy project, and a community-initiated program of special events and activities to promote literacy, poetry, local arts, culture and community identity.
The Peterborough Poet Laureate is an honourary position established to recognize the excellence and outstanding achievements of local professional poets (both print/page and spoken word), and to enhance our civic identity.
“A Poet Laureate is a reflection of our values as a community. Through poetry, we’re inspired and encouraged to reflect on our lives and the life of our community,” Mayor Jeff Leal said. “The arts community is a key part of the cultural, social, and economic vibrancy of Peterborough. Thank you to Ziysah, our new Poet Laureate, for helping to elevate the awareness of the arts in our community and for bringing the arts into our civic life.”
The Selection Committee was deeply impressed by the power and beauty of Ziysah von Bieberstein’s language, their ability to speak about challenging issues and complex ideas in a creative and poetic voice, the mesmerizing quality, authenticity and strength of their performance, and the emotional range of their work.
"I am deeply honoured and grateful to all who have recognized the vitality of poetry in creating this position, and to the foundational voice of our first poet laureate, Sarah Lewis. My vision for the coming year is to hold space for the kind of poetry that can lure us from our caves of isolation back to the warmth of a shared fire,” Ziysah said.
“This artist makes everyone feel like each poem is for them, the Selection Committee said. Clearly an accomplished artist with a wide range of experience, Ziysah has a remarkable ability to connect individuals to larger world issues,” the Committee said.
“Hearing Ziy at readings and community events has deepened my connection to Michi Saagig territory and allowed me to imagine more livable futures for all. Ziysah's work speaks across generations, to human and non-human life, with playfulness, momentum and a sense of celebration,” said Dr. Jenn Cole, who was a nominator of Ziysah for poet laureate. Dr. Cole is mixed-ancestry Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe, an associate professor at Trent University and director of Nozhem First People's Performance Space.
Ziysah von Bieberstein is a parent, poet, community cultivator, and unsettled settler who works to connect us to our imaginations, our responsibilities, and each other. Ziysah co-founded Take-Out Poetry, which offers made-to-order typewritten poems from a bicycle-drawn cart. Ziysah's writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies as well as in their self-published collections, Hineini (2007), Ayd (2015), and consents+/=/- severances (2020). Co-founder of the Peterborough Poetry Slam, multiple-year team member and Peterborough poetry slam champ, Ziysah has competed and represented Peterborough at national poetry slams in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, and Toronto. In addition, Ziysah has performed and facilitated workshops across Turtle Island. Past director of New Canadians Centre Peterborough, Kawartha World Issues Centre, ReFrame Film Festival, and the Trent Queer Collective, Ziysah is currently working as an editor, coach, and consultant while completing their next poetry manuscript. Ziysah is grateful to queer, genderqueer, activist and Jewish communities and ancestries that give their life meaning, and to the Indigenous Elders, teachers, friends, and more-than-human life who have profoundly re-shaped their worldview. Ziysah lives in Nogojiwanong on Michi Saagiig Anishinaabe territory.
The Peterborough Poet Laureate acts as an advocate for poetry and spoken word art, for the arts in general, and for the City of Peterborough and its residents. They will compose works to be presented at selected official City of Peterborough events and occasions. The Poet Laureate will receive an honourarium of $2,000.00, and be featured in EC3’s National Poetry Month programming in April 2023.
The Poet Laureate was selected in a competitive process by a Peer Assessment/Selection Committee including well-recognized academics, poets, and spoken word artists. The selection was reviewed and endorsed by the City’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Advisory Committee (ACHAC). It was a two-step process. The three highest ranking shortlisted candidates in the competition participated in an interview and presented their work to the Selection Committee. Outstanding finalists also included accomplished artists Niambi Tree and Wes Ryan.
The City of Peterborough is responsible for the Poet Laureate Program, which is administered by the Electric City Culture Council (EC3) under the guidance of the City of Peterborough’s Arts, and Culture Advisory Committee (ACAC).
Upcoming National Poetry Month & Poet Laureate Events
Join this group for daily National Poetry Month writing prompts, run by spoken word artists Jon Hedderwick and Kristal Jones.
APR 17: Ziysah shares a poem for Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day
APR 24: Ziysah addresses City Council, 6pm at City Hall
APR 27: Poetry Slam at Sadleir House, featuring Fannon Holland
MAY 11: Ziysah competes at the Slam Invitational at Peterborough Square
Check out EC3's new National Poetry Month video projects from Ziysah von Bieberstein, Sarah Lewis, and Justin Million.
And don't forget to follow Ziysah on social media: