Edmonton’s newest poet laureate hopes to make the position an international hub. Announced Tuesday as the city’s seventh poet laureate, Ahmed ‘Knowmadic’ Ali has already met with organizers around the world in hope of setting up international poet exchanges — and says he’ll put in a bid to bring a national spoken-word festival to the city.
“Becoming Edmonton’s Poet Laureate is beyond an honour and accomplishment,” said Ali. “It is a testament that art is boundless and that it does not recognize borders. It also affirms my belief that our experiences are a collection of poems that are written into history.”
The two-year literary-arts-ambassador position is pitched and defined to some degree by its recipient, supported collectively by the City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Public Library. Typically, it involves performance, outreach and the privilege of proliferating poetry throughout the city.
Pierrette Requier’s term ends June 30, and other former poets laureate include Alice Major, Anna Marie Sewell and Rollie Pemberton — aka Cadence Weapon.
Said EAC director Sanjay Shahani of the outgoing and incoming poets, “Requier is deeply embedded in Edmonton’s francophone community, and with her experience as a teacher, is excellent at engaging with children at youth. Ali brings to the role his extensive experience as a leader in Edmonton’s vibrant spoken word scene, his passion for bridging diverse cultures, and above all, his contagious positivity that we believe will inspire citizens of all walks of life.”
Ali, 33, also announced Tuesday morning he’s running for school board trustee in Ward A.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, his family fled civil war in 1989, and lived in Italy before coming to Canada. In Edmonton, Ali was co-founder of the city’s only spoken word collective, Breath in Poetry.
The Journal spoke with Knowmadic in advance of the announcement.
Q: What did you propose to the EAC you’d be doing for the next two years?
A: I proposed to do a literary and spoken word poet exchange. Edmonton is already recognized across the world — I want to add poetry to that list. I have met some people across the globe who work for organizations interested in sending poets to Edmonton. I want to capitalize on the opportunity and send poets in exchange for theirs. Additionally, I want to create a series of events for visiting poets. In the meantime, I will be working on publishing my long overdue collection of poetry. I have to put a bid forward, but I intend to bring the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word to Edmonton in 2019.
Q: Were you inspired by any of the work of the previous poets laureate?
A: I am always grateful for Alice Major and her legacy project, The Edmonton Poetry Festival. I remember I went on stage for the Killer Blinks event and fumbled my words throughout the performance. Thanks to my spouse, I was given an opportunity back up on stage where I read the poem instead of performing it. It was the first time I read and performed poetry publicly. It was the night that led to where I am today. I would consider Anna Marie Sewell an elder who has provided me guidance on multiple occasions. Her Poem Catcher (at City Hall) was a brilliant idea. People visiting from across the world would be drawn to this book and would write poems that would be around long after they had gone.
Q: Can you talk about how Edmonton inspired you as a poet — that can include the good and the bad.
A: Edmonton inspires me to remain original. It reminds me that I am different, and that different is good. The more I am myself, the more people are willing to provide me opportunities. People genuinely want to hear stories. Through their kindness I grow. Most of the people in Edmonton know what it means to reciprocate, which in turn encourages me to remain kind. However, there are always people who will be racists and inconsiderate — but fortunately, you don’t witness them in the poetry or arts scene. They just end up being the reason why I strive to better myself and my art.
Source: Edmonton Journal