as I write this it is early May. it’s raining, the Ottawa International Writers Festival spring edition has just ended. But when you are reading this, in the future, it is mid-July. so try to imagine or remember those early cold spring days & nights after the long hard & what felt endless winter. how fortunate we were at that time to have two literary festivals almost back to back: the aforementioned Writers Festival in April & VERSeFest, Ottawa’s annual poetry festival, third year, in March.
I had the pleasure of being one of the featured readers at VERSeFest & also one of the inductees, along with the talented Danielle Grégoire, into the Hall of Honour. it was a moving experience. everyone was attentive, welcoming & supportive, as this community always is, but it’s not something to take for granted.
the strength & fascination of this festival for me is its versatility. I’m not really talking about the fact that the program includes both spoken word & poetry, I’m talking about its inclusion of poetry choreographed with dance, as demonstrated by Ian Ferrier’s reading of his sea-fully wonderful poem, accompanied by the guitar with dance by Body & Light, their movements on the floor like that of Sirens rattling on the sea bottom & creating grotesquely contorted shadows on the walls.
Sandra Alland’s combination of poetry with video also had me wrapt. Then there was the delightful & unassuming Mary Ruefle with her silent poem demonstrating how to fold a fitted sheet. 2 Dope Boys with their psychedelic talk opera The Anthropocalypse. An absolute joy to witness & mull over afterward. Sarah Clancy was fascinating & funny, also insightful. I really don’t know much about Ireland or its current battles with economic disaster. Stephen James Smith was charming & his poems made me laugh.
The BC poet, Sarah de Leew’s book “Geographies of A Lover” with its erotic content mixed rather brilliantly with the wilds of BC. I sought her out after, told her we were kindreds. Lenelle Moïse gave a powerful reading & performance from her book, Haitian Glass. her poem about Noah’s Ark is still in my mind, a few months later. David McFadden was resilient & humourous with deadpan delivery of his haiku & autobiographical poems.
Tim Bowling’s poem about poets like worker bees was entertaining & humourous. I love the way Tim plays with form. His diction is pleasing & soundy. Vincent Colistro was quite amusing & witty too. Michael Burkhard was a discovery for me. I enjoyed the sensuality of his work & his compassion was lovely.
the Ottawa International Writers Festival Spring Edition had three poetry events. The poetry cabaret with Rob Winger, Adam Sol & Sina Queyras held my attention. I loved the variety of the work, the insightful & visionary answers to questions about the future of poetry. I purchased all three books & will likely be writing about them more a future post. Adam Sol got off the stage & dipped a bit into the audience to read. I liked that. It went with his poetry.
The off-site poetry event held at the Manx pub & hosted by David O’Meara of the Plan 99 reading series featured Brecken Hancock & Aisha Sasha John. Both poets gave powerful & moving readings from their books.