VERSeFest, Ottawa’s annual poetry festival takes place this year from March 15-20. it’s one of the highlights of the year for me, along with the Ottawa International Writers Festival, which takes place in April and October, the Ottawa Small Press Fair in June and November and the Ottawa Zine Off. My that’s a lot of highlights. And this is one of the reasons why I love this city.
Staff and volunteers for VERSeFest have worked (and will continue to work) their asses off to bring the City this fabulous week of poetry. If you love poetry, are a fickle friend of poetry or just someone who has the occasional hook up with poetry, you need to go.
Passes are reasonably priced for the week or for the night. Most of the events are taking place at the Knox Presbytarian Church at Lisgar and Elgin, close to the Dunn’s for good smoked meat sandwiches and a mere stone’s throw from many a pub.
Here are a few of the poets who I need to hear this time around, either because I have never heard them read live or because I know of their work and love it. For full listings, please visit the VERSeFest site.
Tuesday, March 15
Amal El-Mohtar. I still haven’t read her poetry and prose book, the Honey Month, but have been intrigued about it for some time.
Gerður Kristný from Iceland. I haven’t heard a word about her before, but I am intrigued. Like Jeramy, the Poetic Edda, Dodds, she has a book that is based on Nordic myth. I haven’t read his yet either, but now maybe I’ll read both.
Yusef Komunyakaa. I read a poem by him a while back and I was blown away. Can’t for the life of me remember the title alas. He’s the poet laureate of New York, which feels like a bad ass post.
Wednesday, March 16
Liz Howard- Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent from McClelland and Stewart last year is so damn soundy. I was starting to wonder whether sound play had gone out of style for a while there, but this book tells me that it’s alive and well. And thank effing god for that. I want to hear Ms. Howard read from this and then I’m going to fangirl around here for an inscription. Dare I use the word “electric”?
Friday, March 18
Shannon Maguire, I haven’t heard Shannon read from her latest book, but I’ve heard her read from her above/ground press chapbook, Vowel Wolves and Other Knots, which I loved.
Phil Hall-I’m interested to hear Phil read from his latest book, Conjugation, published by Book Thug. My favourite of his works was the Little Seamstress published by Pedlar Press in 2010. It’s always a pleasure to hear Phil read.
Kevin Matthews is a local poet whose poetry works for the page and the ear. This is a rare chance to hear him perform his words. One of my favourite gingers.
Saturday, March 19
Factory Reading Talks with Anne Boyer and Ben Ladouceur
I always love these talks, a chance for poets to step a little bit away from their poetry to give us a bird’s eye view of what they’re up to, what they’re obsessed about, what drives them. I always walk away from this lecture series feeling invigorated about poetry and having learned something about the craft that will tickle my brain for future inspiration.
Natalie Hanna and I were in one of rob mclennan’s poetry workshop’s last year. I loved her work. It’s experimental, it’s heart-rending, it’s full of really cool imagery.
David McGimpsey is the one of the reasons I would love to live in Montreal. He’s funny, unpretentious and smart. I’m always pleased as punch to get a chance to hear him read and maybe hoist a glass or two afters.
The Irish poets, Leontia Flynn and Maurice Riordan. I know naught about these poets, but the chance to hear poets from away is wonder. I have never heard an Irish poet that I haven’t gotten a school girl crush on for a week or so at least.
Sunday, March 20
George Elliott Clarke – I love his word play, his energy and sense of whimsy.
Caroline Bergvall – I was really excited when I heard she was coming. I have Drift, which I love and have even done an assignment for one of rob’s workshops last year based on another of her works, Éclat (Ubu Editions, 2004).“ I love poetry that explores, pushes boundaries, doesn’t colour within the lines and that describes Ms. Bergvall’s work.
Christian Bök – I always enjoy Mr. Bök’s crazy sense of play and imagination. When he’s on stage he takes on this frenetic energy that fills the room.
Sixty poets in six days, folks. Get thee to the church.
And if I’ve spelled any names wrong or made any boo boos about anything here, please somebody let me know so I can fix.