Gabriola Island poet, Naomi Beth Wakan, has received a special award from the Federation of British Columbia Writers. As Nanaimo's first, and current, Poet Laureate, Naomi received the Honourary Ambassador Award in recognition of the dedicated and spirited way she has made live poetry a rich and everyday component of civic life in her community. She brings poetry to all kinds of venues, from festival openings to city council meetings to local literary cafes.
"Naomi's work exemplifies our federation's central value, which is 'writers helping writers'," said FBCW president, Coco Aders-Weremczuk, in presenting the award. "By bringing poetry out into the open and making it a live art that is accessible, she has raised people's awareness of the invisible writer behind a piece of writing."
The Honourary Ambassador Award is a new award, created by the FBCW because the board felt that raising the profile of writers and writing is important work that benefits everyone. Naomi Beth Wakan was chosen as the first recipient.
Born in London and emigrated to Canada with her family, Naomi has a degree in Social Work from Birmingham University and worked as a psychotherapist for many years before finding her way into writing. She has written more than forty books, including "The Way of Haiku", "A Roller-coaster Ride -(Thoughts on Aging)", "Sex After Seventy", "And After 80.", and "A Gabriola Year". Her essays and poetry have appeared in Resurgence, Geist magazine, Room of One's Own, Kansai Time Out and Far East Journal. She has read her work on CBC radio.
As Poet Laureate, Naomi has worked to encourage young writers. Last year she judged a national youth poetry competition. This year she is going to run a similar competition with a Nanaimo theme for grades 10-12. She is contributing to an anthology of Nanaimo poetry.
"I am very honoured to have been given this award acknowledging my deep interest in encouraging fresh writing talent," Naomi said. "When I read, or listen to new poets or writers who have really gotten in touch with their own voice, I am always so touched and want to do whatever I can to further their efforts."
As expressed in one of her poems: One does not write/because the goldfish play/at the bottom of the waterfall,/but because not everyone/can see them.
"Some poets told me that they would resent giving up their writing in order to focus on themes expected of a poet laureate, but I have not found this a problem," she said. "I find I have really only one thing to say and it doesn't seem to matter much whether it is expressed in philosophical terms or in doggerel about Nanaimo Bars, and that is that life is bittersweet, the two flavours inevitably going together."