In almost every Canadian province, maybe with the exception of Quebec and in many major cities across the country, you’ll find a poet laureate, a person tasked with the responsibility of using poetry and literature to give expression to the cultural life of their jurisdiction.
On its website, the League of Canadian Poets states: “Poets laureate encourage and promote the importance of literature, culture, and language in Canadian society and work to strengthen the public’s relationship to literature.”
This quite illustrious and lofty designation was recently given to Randell Adjei, a writer, poet, educator spoken-word artist, who on April 29 was appointed Ontario’s first Poet Laureate.
Adjei, who was born in Ghana and grew up in the Scarborough area earned acclaimed in and around Toronto as the founder and driving force behind R.I.S.E. (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) an organization that offers a platform to emerging and aspiring artists from racialized communities to perform and promote their work.
His appointment comes after Ontario’s provincial legislators unanimously passed a Bill to establish the position in honor of Gord Downie the iconic leader of the Canadian band Tragically Hip, who died in 2017.
He was selected after an extensive search for the candidate best capable of writing poems, promoting literacy in Ontario, and boosting the province’s poets.
Percy Hatfield, the Windsor-Tecumseh NDP MPP who introduced the Bill, spoke highly of Adjei in announcing his appointment.
Hatfield was quoted as saying that the young artist “is a great communicator and will excite and motivate audiences, in all corners of the province, with his enthusiasm for the written and spoken word.”
The Poet Laureate is a paid position and Adjei will occupy an office at the provincial Parliament as he serves a two-year term as an officer of the legislature.
At 19-years-old, Adjei established RISE Edutainment and started a weekly community arts event that evolved into an incubator program and a massive showcase for young poets, writers and musicians.
He published his first book I Am Not My Struggles in 2018.
Along the way Adjei earned a long list of awards and accolades including the JAYU Canada Arts for Human Rights, Established Artists Award in 2019 as well as the Toronto Arts Foundation, Mayor’s Youth Arts Award in 2018.
In 2015, he was named Torontonian of The Year by CBC Metro Morning and in 2020 he was part of a collective that opened for President Barack Obama at the Economic Club of Canada.