Mississauga's Poet Laureate wants youth to embrace arts
City of Mississauga has appointed its second-ever Poet Laureate, fourth-year University of Toronto student Wali Shah.
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Mississauga has a fresh new voice in 22-year-old Wali Shah.
The spoken word artist and fourth-year University of Toronto student has been named the city’s second-ever poet laureate, and he has big plans to encourage young people to take up arts.
“Mississauga is a very youth-oriented city,” said Shah, who discovered his knack for writing and performing at age 12 and has travelled all over the country for public speaking engagements. “It’s not just for me being on the big stage, but for other kids to know they too can dream big and work hard. Anything is possible.”
As poet laureate, Shah will serve as Mississauga’s literary ambassador, helping to raise the profile of the city’s writers. He has also been involved in efforts to create social change through his work, partnering with different schools, CrimeStoppers, Bell Let’s Talk and the United Way.
It wasn’t an easy choice for him to embrace arts. Having immigrated from Pakistan, he said his parents preferred that he pursue a career with high social status, like becoming a lawyer, doctor or engineer. It wasn't until recently that his parents finally accepted and supported his passion for a different career choice, he said.
“This is almost like a validation for me, just to make my parents proud and show that what I’m doing is important,” he added, noting it’s an example for other parents who may not be enthusiastic about careers in arts.
He’s already working on a poem to perform for the upcoming Canada Day, where thousands are expected to attend celebrations at Square One.
“I want to talk about diversity in Canada,” he said. “I want to talk about Mississauga being home and how proud I am for my community. And make the audience laugh a little bit.”
First Poet Laureate:
Mississauga’s first Poet Laureate was Anna Yin, who was appointed to the position back in 2015.
Wali Shah’s Poem for Canada Day:
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.