my rule for any reading but especially festivals is to get to the venue at least half an hour before. that way I get a good seat, I can look around, buy a drink, peruse the bookstore & chat with arrivals. I don’t like to be flustered or rushed; it's a luxury & a privilege to attend any reading, but especially a festival. I want to support the efforts of the organizers & offer my respect & earnestness. I'm a god damn keener for good word & it shows in my exuberance.
this year's festival takes place at two venues: Knox Presbyterian Church on Elgin & Lisgar & the Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market. to get there early is to get the more comfortable seats with the best vantage point. otherwise you end up on wooden chairs (Knox) or standing in the back (Mercury). plus you get to visit & canoodle with me.
when I started attending festivals, I would try to attend everything. now my stamina & attention span are simply not as great. this means I have to be somewhat choosy. for a poetry festival, what I most want is to hear poets whose style is innovative or imaginative or whimsical enough to keep me awake & inspire my own writing, to hear poets whose work is new to me & to revisit favourites & support pals who are reading.
this year's program has the diversity that VERSeFest is known for. you can hear hip hop, if you're so inclined (I'm not), you can hear poetry from Australian, Irish & Dutch poets. You can hear award winners-the Montreal Poetry Prize, the Griffin. You can hear contemporary surrealist absurdity, dark comedy, 21st century medieval heavy metal trobaritz ballads, Japanese form poetry, urban grit, nature poetry, ghazals, lyric poems…the festival is your oyster.
here is the first of a number of my personal must sees at the festival.
Gil McElroy, The Factory Reading Series talks, Mercury Lounge, Saturday March 16, 1:30pm FREE
McElroy is one of Canada's most interesting poets & yet to my knowledge, at least in my era, he has never read in Ottawa. I am very interested that he has recently written a memoir , Cold Comfort, Growing Up Cold War, published last year with Talonbooks. I own two of his poetry books, Non Zero Definitions, 2004 & Last Scattering Surfaces, 2007, but not his most recent, Ordinary Time, 2011, part of which was previously published in the AngelHousePress online annual PDF magazine, Experiment-O.com , Issue 2. He also has an essay that AngelHousePress republished with his revisions entitled Ground States: the visual contexts of bpNichol in 2009. here's a link to the PDF. McElroy writes about visual art & this connection to art can be seen in his work through the intricate minutiae, the textural nature of his poemscapes. I am grateful for poets like McElroy whose poetry surprises, doesn't seem to have stock images or clichés. I love the threads that run through his poetry collections, the patterns, his sense of time.
Gil McElroy will be featured along with Nicole Markotíc, whose book Bent at the Spine (Book Thug, 2012) I own, but have barely glanced at so far, not out of a lack of interest, just an embarrassment of riches. I am very much looking forward to hearing her read & talk about her work.
with time & inclination, I may write more of my personal must sees, not to be abbreviated to PMS …
I am very grateful to the organizers of VERSeFest for taking on this herculean effort & creating what promises to be another enriching & robust festival of poetry.
if you're at all interested in contemporary poetry, this is your chance to immerse yourself in it for a week. buy your passes & tickets today.