The City of Mississauga’s second Poet Laureate was introduced to City Council earlier today and his first public appearance has been confirmed.
Shah is a 22-year old spoken word poet and TEDx speaker who has performed with international recording artists including Selena Gomez and Kendrick Lamar. He will perform for the first time as Poet Laureate during the City’s Canada Day celebration on July 1 at Mississauga Celebration Square.
Nominations for the City’s top poetry post opened at the end of January. To be considered, candidates had to meet the following criteria:
- be a published poet or spoken word artist;
- be a current Mississauga resident;
- have an established body of work or have been recognized for notable contributions to the literary arts;
- some of their work should be relevant to Mississauga and/or subjects that reflect the life of the city; and
- have the ability to represent the values of the City in a professional manner.
“Wali’s selection as Poet Laureate makes a statement about the arts in Mississauga,” said Paul Damaso, Director, Culture Division, City of Mississauga. “Like Wali, our arts scene is young, cool, and emerging with unlimited potential. Wali is the perfect Poet Laureate for our City and he’ll do a fantastic job with championing and raising the profile of literary arts and spoken word across Mississauga and beyond.”
According to Damaso, Shah will focus on three key objectives as the new Poet Laureate:
- serve as a literary ambassador for the City of Mississauga to audiences both within and outside of the city;
- raise the profile of writers in Mississauga; and
- create an artistic legacy through public readings and civic interactions.
Anna Yin was announced as the City’s first Poet Laureate in June 2015. As Yin did throughout her time as Poet Laureate, Shah will provide mentorship to the City’s Youth Poet Laureate, Rebecca Zseder.
Wali Shah Biography
Wali Shah is a South Asian spoken word poet and public speaker and an alumni of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20. His experiences range from being a TEDx speaker to performing poetry for 15,000 Microsoft Partners at the Air Canada Centre. Wali focuses on youth engagement and has conducted poetry workshops and keynote assemblies at hundreds of schools across Canada. His work has been featured in media outlets such The Toronto Star and MTV.
He is currently studying at the University of Toronto Mississauga and advocates for social change through his work. He has partnered with CrimeStoppers and Bell Let’s Talk and has helped raise over one million dollars for the United Way. He’s even freestyled with Kendrick Lamar.
During Council today, Shah read a piece entitled Poem for Canada Day. The full poem is included below.
Poem for Canada Day
By: Wali Shah
When I came to Canada with my Mom in 97.
Mom told me that North America was the land of freedom. Of opportunity and
multiculturalism. She always told me, that we were home.
And I think back to how long that’s been,
How this child who came from Pakistan has grown since then,
When, I think of home, home is Mississauga, Ontario.
Home is 5 and 10, Dundas and Hurontario.
This the true north, home of the strong and the free.
This where you can be whoever you wanted to be,
Home is where we embrace differences between you and me.
Home where we celebrate our diversity,
Home where your neighbours catch you in adversity,
We’ve been home since 97. Diaspora never made us feel alone. We live in a cultural tapestry,
beautifully sown. Canada, the land we call our own. Let my pride and my joy be known.
When I think of Sauga, I think,
Home sweet home.