amongst books

amongst books

Friday, November 26, 2010

Promoting contemporary poetry to young people

The Ottawa literary community makes significant effort to promote contemporary poetry to young people and encourage them to write poetry, but we can do more. Students who win poetry contests or get published in local magazines and journals can go on and in some cases have gone on to become published poets, teachers, and publishers. These efforts are happening in cities and provinces across Canada. Here are a few I know about in Ottawa, provincially and nationally and perhaps you can add others too. Please pass these along to your children, your friends who are parents and anyone else you can think of.

The Ottawa Public Library’s Awesome Authors Youth Writing Contest for writers aged 9-17. This contest has been going on for a number of years. This year there are workshops leading up to the contest. Contest deadline is January 31, 2011.

The Ottawa Public Library has various programs for teens and children at their branches; although i don't see much poetry happening so far. they had a teen authors' week this year and i don't think there was poetry. something to suggest.

Ottawa Independent Writers is funding a scholarship for creative writers at the University of Ottawa.


The Canadian Authors Association, National Capital Region doesn't have a specific poetry contest for youth this year, but they do have a poetry contest. i suggest young people or parents check with them to find out about eligibility.

MASC provides funding and support to bring artists, actors, dancers, musicians and writers to schools in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Local spoken word performer Greg Frankson is one of the artists who participates in this program.

Bywords.ca in conjunction with the Ottawa International Writers Festival held its first Think Ink Poetry Contest in 2010 for young writers. In addition since Bywords.ca has no age limitations, secondary school students and recent graduates often submit their poetry and on occasion their work has been published on the site and also in the Bywords Quarterly Journal. They get the chance to read their work in public and are paid for their work. This is often a writer’s first publication credit and first time reading in public. We also post links to contests and calls for submission specifically aimed at young people.

Ottawa publisher Buschek Books published "In the branches of a mango tree : poems for Haiti" : an anthology / written by grade 4 and grade 5 students at Rockcliffe Park Public School ; edited by Susan Atkinson.

Local poets have visited university poetry workshops and mini-enrichment workshops for high school students.

Bywords' selector JC Sulzenko also writes poetry for children.

Former Ottawa resident, Melanie Little has a wonderful book for young adults in poetry form: the Apprentice's Masterpiece, a Story of Medieval Spain (Annick Press, 2008)

Ottawa's spoken word community has held youth poetry slams.

Reading series such as Tree and Sasquatch have held readings for students of the creative writing poetry workshops offered at the University of Ottawa.

While the local universities do not have creative writing programs, there are workshops and courses offered at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton. At the University of Ottawa there is ENG3264 and an advanced class for those who have taken 3264. At Carleton there are ENG2901 and 3901. Usually you have to submit portfolios in the summer to be considered for these courses.

The University of Ottawa has a journal called the Ottawa Arts Review, a writers’ weekly workshop group on Wednesdays and the blUe mOnday reading series on the third Monday of every month that takes place at Café Nostalgica.

Carleton University has a journal called In/Words, a writers’ weekly workshop that takes place on Mondays and a readings series that takes place the last Wednesday of each month at the Clocktower Pub.There are spin off journals too, including the Moose and Pussy, which publishes erotica, including poetry; and Mot Dit, which publishes French poetry and prose.

Carleton University also has a poetry competition for students, staff and alumni.

Algonquin College has a creative writing certificate program with a poetry writing course offered to students of the program.

On the national and provincial level, I know of the following initiatives:

The League of Canadian Poets Poets in the Schools Program; although i’m not sure how this actually works since i couldn’t find any info on the site…but they do have a contest:
Poetic Licence Contest for Youth 2011-deadline January 15, 2011. The Youngpoets.ca site has an e-zine which features poetry by young people and a list of resources and links for youth and teachers.

The Ontario Writers In the Schools Program funded by the Ontario Arts Council and the Writers’ Union of Canada. This program funds author visits. I think you have to be a member of TWUC to take part.

The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP)apparently offers school visits, but I didn't see any local poets on their list of members.

If you know of any other initiatives that help to teach young people about contemporary poetry in Canada and encourage them to write poetry, please let me know.

I know that if I had any clue as a high school student that the fun and playful poetry of writers like Robert Priest or Christian Bök or Gary Barwin existed, it would have made a huge difference in my horrid high school existence and hopefully pointed me in a creative direction earlier.

I wish we had a young people’s liaison thru the Ottawa Carleton District Board or the City of Ottawa or elsewhere to help those of us outside the system make the necessary connections to support and promote young people in their efforts to write and learn about contemporary poetry. If there is such a person, please let me know…
here's a directory from the OCDSB.

In the meantime, I offer a challenge to all local reading series, small presses, radio shows and magazines to incorporate young people into their programs.

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