Rob Winger knocked it out of the park with a piece called "The Next Poem" spoofing the type of material poets provide in their introductions to poems. Such talk is otherwise known as banter. I believe this poem should be tattooed to the backs of all poets & sewn into their information packages at readings & festivals.
Emilie Zoe Baker read hilarious & imaginative poems about vampire zombies, coffee, cutlery,& pasta sauce & a satisfying rant called "Fuck You Glee. "
the handsome & friendly Nathanael Larochette aka Sir Realist pinch hit for the absent Kerry Reid-Gilbert & took on the intimidating opening spot. He did a great job engaging the crowd in his socks with feel good poems & a choose your own adventure piece that all the other poets of the evening referred to.
Mark Tredinnick had lovely round glasses, read well crafted poems about birds & flowers that captivated many in the audience & had them buying his books. He put my bird count to 8. Alas I had only water to drink, but that is likely a good thing. Perhaps a drinking game based on the number of times birds are mentioned at the fest may not be a good idea.
Brent Raycroft, a poet who has been given the benefit of Arc's poet-in-residence program, a 5-year old initiative that matches emergers with well-published poets, gained the audience's attention with gently rhyming sonnets & personal admissions about his poetry submissions.
Anita Lahey, came back to Ottawa, her former home, to read some tight, muscular poems with compelling imagery from "Spinning Side Kick." She had the job of being the last poet of the night, not an easy position. For some reason the readers from Arc all seemed to be overly long at the mic, with Lahey being on-stage for forty minutes. My poor ass was numb & I had to visit the loo, since I drink a lot of water. But I appreciated hearing Lahey's poems & was glad to see her return. Many of her former colleagues from Arc, where she had been the managing editor for a number of years, were in attendance.
If I had choreographed last evening I would have put the Arc folk first, opened with Winger, for a powerful rousing beginning & closed with the Australians, giving Baker the final spot to end the night on strong, comedic, rather than thoughtful imagistic work.
Opening night went very well with a sizable audience, only a few wee glitches with sound & getting perk packages, passes etc doled out to arrivals, all perfectly understandable. The book store run by David Dollin with the capable assistance of Carmel Purkis was full of poetry for the festival & the indie table operated by a group of young volunteers who I suspect were from Carleton University was fully stocked with V-fest merch, chapbooks & CDs.
On to day 2 which features shows by Voices of Venus & In/words. Tonight I am attending the later In/Words event featuring Matt Jones, Jordan Chevalier, Chris Jennings, & A.F. Moritz, but if you have the chance to pick up the earlier VoV show with the ever captivating Luna Allison & the hip hop artist Lady Katalyst, you should.
Pearl Pirie is likely documenting the festival with notes & photos. I suggest you read her excellent blog, which will be much more detailed & specific than mine could be. I used to take copious notes; now I just listen & see what sticks.
Final note: thanks to the organizers & volunteers who did a fine job & were friendly about it. You're a lovely, fine bunch.
Disclaimer: for those with a fetish for accuracy, I'm not yr gal. The opinions herein represent the early morning ravings of a woman on the cusp of 50 whose memory was never all that great to begin with.