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Victoria’s new youth poet laureate taking aim at climate change

Poetry can create moments of clarity and understanding, Eli Mushumanski says
Eli Mushumanski is the City of Victoria’s 2022 youth poet laureate. (Courtesy of Eli Mushumanski)

Victoria’s new youth poet laureate fell in love with the art form by accident.

Arriving in the city in 2017 to pursue a double major in creative writing and English at the University of Victoria, Eli Mushumanski had intended to specialize in fiction writing. Class times didn’t line up though, and Mushumanski found themself in an unfamiliar space – a poetry workshop.

“It really frustrated me at first, I found it really challenging,” the 22-year-old recalled. But quickly, that challenge turned from frustration into curiosity and excitement.

Four years on, Mushumanski said they’re still exploring what the medium means to them.

“I think my voice is still clarifying. What I write about is still shifting and changing,” they said. “I used to write about myself quite a lot, and while I still do that to kind of touch base with myself, I’m looking more outward now and exploring the world around me.”

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The main issue on Mushumanski’s mind now is climate change.

“It takes up a lot of brain space, just climate anxiety in general,” they said, noting poetry offers an outlet to deal with that anxiety and a means to communicate about it.

“I think poetry has the potential to slow things down a bit and really focus on smaller aspects of much larger issues.”

One of Mushumanski’s hopes for their year as youth poet laureate is to launch a poetry project in community garden spaces, connecting the power of the art form with nature. Another is to get to know the young poets of Victoria and hear what issues are on their minds.

As the former fiction editor of UVic literary journal, This Side of West, and senior editor of Her Campus at UVic, Mushumanski brings an impressive background to their new position.

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