For Timiro Mohamed, poetry should be a loudspeaker. Or, perhaps, a podium.
Mohamed, who was selected this month as Edmonton’s new youth poet laureate, wants to use her title to give voices to other young people in the city.
“There is a value in my voice being heard but there’s also value in amplifying other people’s voices and making space for them to share,” Mohamed said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
In her role, Mohamed will perform at council meetings and city events and be tasked with creating a community poetry project. She wants to develop a mentorship program for youth.
“I want to be a literary ambassador for young poets, but more than that, to create spaces for young poets to share, to feel heard, to have platforms and hopefully have access to mentorship, guidance and support,” she said.
At 22, Mohamed has already earned a reputation in the Canadian literary scene. She co-authored the poetry collection Water, and serves as a poetry editor for literary magazine The Drinking Gourd.
Mohamed has performed on stages across Alberta and beyond, including the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2016, where she made it to the semi-finals.
She is also a full-time engineering student at the University of Alberta.
‘Power in being vulnerable’
Mohamed was 12 when she took the stage for the first time as a spoken word artist at The Mosquers Film Festival. She had been writing “all her life” but it took time to find her voice on stage.
Initially she was terrified, but now she finds strength in her audience.
“The connection I feel that happens when you’re on stage with an audience and you feel like someone is really listening to what you have to say and the room just goes quiet,” Mohamed said. “There is nothing else like that.
“There is so much power in being vulnerable.”
Mohamed’s work, with themes of identity and empowerment, focuses on her experiences as a second generation Somali-Canadian.
She said mentors from the Edmonton literary community helped her find her way. During her year-long tenure, she hopes to pay it forward and inspire other storytellers to find their voices.
“When I was younger, that’s how approached everything. My job is to represent and be a voice for people. But I’ve learned that’s not really my role. I think my role is more so is to do my best to amplify other people’s voices.
“All I can do is truthfully tell my story and my experience … and invite everyone else coming after me to share their stories.”
Mohamad is Edmonton’s fifth youth poet laureate.