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P.E.I.’s first poet laureate remembered as a mentor to many

A visitation for John Smith, former P.E.I. poet laureate, will be held Saturday at the Hillsboro Funeral Home in Stratford. He died March 16 at age 90. SUBMITTED PHOTO BY JOHN SYLVESTER
A visitation for John Smith, former P.E.I. poet laureate, will be held Saturday at the Hillsboro Funeral Home in Stratford. He died March 16 at age 90. SUBMITTED PHOTO BY JOHN SYLVESTER - Submitted

Prince Edward Island’s first poet laureate, John Smith, has died at age 90. The UPEI professor emeritus and former dean of arts died peacefully on Friday evening, March 16.

Smith taught at UPEI for 25 years as professor of English prior to his retirement in 1992. In 2003, he was appointed by the Prince Edward Island legislative assembly to a two-year term as P.E.I..’s first poet laureate.

Seven collections of his poetry have been published, including “Maps of Invariance” in 2005, “Strands the Length of the Wind,” “Midnight Found you Dancing,” and “Fireflies in the Magnolia Grove,” which was shortlisted for the Atlantic Poetry Prize in 2005. In 2006, the University of Prince Edward Island produced a CD/DVD in its “Island Voices” series featuring readings by Smith.

Smith was born in Toronto in 1927 to middle-aged parents, both of whom had immigrated to Canada from England around 1910. He was an only child, a happy child, who carved scale model airplanes and boats out of balsa wood. He was highly intelligent and won awards in all the grades all through school. He was skilled in mathematics and physics, but chose to teach English all his working life. Smith was a poet, a classical music aficionado, and a collector of books. He was athletic his whole life — a runner, a swimmer, a bike rider. He was also a lover of the woods and birds and all woodland creatures.

Smith came to Prince Edward Island to teach English at Prince of Wales College, and then he taught at the University of Prince Edward Island. He was loved as a teacher and respected as a colleague and he was a mentor to many young writers.

Visitation will be held Saturday, March 24, from 2–4 p.m. at the Hillsboro Funeral Home, 2 Hollis Ave., Stratford. No flowers by request of family.

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