amongst books

amongst books

Friday, February 03, 2012

My VERSeFest Picks : Feb 28-March 4, 2012

If you are a poetry enthusiast in Ottawa or simply an explorer with an urge for the exquisite & the new, I highly recommend you go to VERSeFest. the 2nd annual poetry festival takes place from February 28 to March 4, 2012 & features a variety of poetic styles. Here are the poets I'm particularly looking forward to, either because I've read their work & have never or rarely heard them read in person, or because I have heard them read before & am a huge fan, or because they are unknown to me & I want to know more. Check the full schedule at & buy your passes & tickets. From edgy language play to classic narrative confessional to lyric beauty to humour to cathartic battle cries, you will find it all at VERSeFest…


Suzanne Buffam: rarely has read here in my time. My copy of Past Imperfect (Anansi, 2005) has numerous dog-eared pages.

Paul Tyler: haven't heard Paul read since a reading at Plan 99 a number of years ago, if my recollections are correct.

Dennis Lee : a wordsmith extraordinaire whose neologisms & linguistic acrobatics blend with ecosensitivity in a most gratifying way. & after all the man did create Alligator Pie. You can take away my rainbow take way my sky, but don't take away my…


sadly I will likely miss Christian McPherson whose humourous slices of life are wonderful. i will also miss Gregory Scofield & Helen Humphreys due to another engagement, but I have heard them both read before & enjoyed their work immensely. I know Helen more for her fiction, but once long ago heard her read poetry at a Tree event. what I remember was that she mesmerized. I have heard Gregory read at the Indigenous Erotica event at the Writers Festival many years ago & have enjoyed his book Singing Home the Bones.

Roo Borson-i have never heard her read before. I have a copy of Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida (McLelland&Stewart, 2004), which i am opening now for the first time.

Fred Wah-a rare pleasure to meet & hear Fred Wah. although now that he is the Parliamentary Poet Laureat perhaps he will be reading here more often.


Pearl Pirie: I still haven't heard Pearl read from her new Snare Books collection, Thirsts. I am intrigued by Pearl's writing because it is unique, but also has a way of getting to the heart of universal concerns, such as the connection between humans we are all searching for. Pearl isn't a smarmy sentimentalist, but a skilled technician with heart.


Tim Bowling: I have never heard him read & am just now cracking open The Thin Smoke of the Heart (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000) but i am enchanted already by the title & by the blurb which talks about beauty in the rough.

Shane Rhodes: always a pleasure to hear Shane read. his last book Err (Nightwood Editions, 2011) was great fun, & if it wasn't on my best of 2011 list, it should have been.

Tim Lilburn: I have never heard Tim read in person. I have read & been provoked deliciously by some of his essays, & somewhere in my apartment is his collection Kill-Site.
Rae Armantrout: It's not often that American poets come to Ottawa. I haven't read barely a scrap of writing from her, so I'm interested to listen & perhaps buy her books. I am hoping the festival has an excellent & full bookstore on hand with titles from all the readers. I keep seeing her poetry described as "chilling," which is one of the oddest epithets I've heard used for poetry. I shall bring a sweater.

Paige Ackerson-Kiely: I loved her above/ground press chapbook, "Book About a Candle Burning in a Shed," intriguing chunks of spell-binding prose: "Her name starts our real low and rises to an ee…" I wouldn't have heard of Paige if it hadn't been for rob mclennan who thru his workshops & reviews has introduced me to exemplary poets throughout the years.

Barry McKinnon: another poet whose work I first read thanks to rob mclennan. I enjoyed The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 (TalonBooks, 2004): "I long to talk with you. walk across town/wih a bottle of whisky, and not to stop." There's something straight-forward about his writing, humble, matter-of-fact, but/and beautiful. I love the Sex at 38 series in The Centre & have read snippets of Sex at 31. I also have a wee book entitled Stamp Collection from blewointmentpress, 1970, which I am hoping to have signed.

Note that the Ackerson-Kiely/McKinnon event is free. yes, FREE! what better way to spend an afternoon. go to the Mercury Lounge, have a few beers & listen.

Phil Hall, Philip Levine, Pura López-Colomé as part of the evening's Summit Reading. I always love hearing Phil Hall read. am so glad he'll be part of this. I admit to having never heard of either of the other two. so many poets, so little time. this is a great opportunity to extend my horizons.

Of course there are lots of other readings to take in & I will pack as much of the festival in as I can, & I suggest you do the same.

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