George McWhirter is the City of Vancouver's inaugural Poet Laureate
Ah, George McWhirter. George, George, George of the literary jungle, watch out for that tree! What's not to love about George?
George, who the City of Vancouver has announced will be the city's inaugural Poet Laureate, was one of my UBC Creative Writing instructors, and was much beloved by students and staff alike. So beloved was he, that the students put together The Book of George, a compilation of student and alumni tributes to him, as his retirement present.
It was easy to see why he was so well-liked.
As eccentric as he was, he was incredibly good natured, warm-hearted, nurturing, and endlessly enthusiastic about student work. No matter how bad someone's work was, he would always find something positive to say about it. And it was genuine, not faked.
It was hard to undestand what he was talking about at times. Not because he spoke in esoteric terms, but because he had a tendency to mumble and go off on tangents, tell himself jokes and laugh about them, and other endearing things like that.
But anyhow, if you don't know him, or even if you do, here's a bio about him:
A Vancouver resident since 1968, George McWhirter was born in Belfast where he received his B.A. from Queen's University. His extensive teaching experience has taken him from Kilkeel, Bangor, County Down to the University of Barcelona's Escuela de Idiomas, to Port Alberni and finally to UBC, where he was Head of the UBC Creative Writing Department from 1983 until 1993 and where he earned a Killam Prize for teaching. An author of six books of poetry, two poetic works in translation, five short stories and three novels, McWhirter has been the Advisory Editor for PRISM international magazine and has edited several anthologies.
And here's more info about his new life as Poet Laureate:
During his honourary two-year term, McWhirter will act as a champion for poetry, language and the arts, and create a unique artistic legacy through public readings and civic interactions. With plans to establish a civic web page for poetry and an anthology of local poets, his mandate is to raise the status of poetry in the everyday consciousness of Vancouverites.
McWhirter will receive an annual stipend of $5,000, which is funded through a $100,000 donation by Dr. Yosef Wosk. Dr. Wosk’s donation, matched by the BC Arts Renaissance Fund and held in trust by the Vancouver Foundation, ensures that the poet laureate position will continue in the City of Vancouver.
The Poet Laureate was chosen by an independent assessment committee from the literary and poetry communities that included Association of Book Publishers of BC Executive Director Margaret Reynolds; City of Victoria’s Poet Laureate Carla Funk, poet and non-fiction author Gary Geddes and was supported by representatives from the Vancouver International Writers Festival, Vancouver Public Library and the Office of Cultural Affairs, part of the City of Vancouver Cultural Services Division.