Today is the final day of The Edmonton Poetry Festival 2013! And what is going on, you ask?
Writer’s Corner happens at the Milner Library at 1:15pm, and features Edmonton author Omar Mouallem and members of the Breath in Poetry Collective. Learn what makes a spoken word piece really sing.
The Cafe Readings happen at various downtown cafes. You can download the schedule here and listen to your favorite local writers.
For the first time, The Edmonton Poetry Festival features a cafe reading specifically for Edmonton’s youth. Here are the details. The event is hosted by the wonderful and lovely Mary Pinkoski, who does so much for youth and spoken word in this city and elsewhere. All poets are welcome to attend this first-ever event!
See you on the streets today, poets! Have a blast on the final day of the 2013 festival!
OK, yesterday was a whirlwind of events and to break them all down for you blow-blow would be simply too much for a single blog post. Instead, I am going to direct you to connect with us on our Facebook page to get all the latest news and updates. And, more appropriate to this post, you can see Randall Edwards’s amazing photographic documentation of the festival. The pics are truly awesome, and they capture the feel of the events very well. Here’s a taste of what went down yesterday (April 25, 2013), but you should join us on Facebook for the full meal deal.
Aboriginal Stories, CBC @ Noon
This event at CBC was a discussion on being an aboriginal poet in Canada. With Marilyn Dumont, Heather Simeney MacLeod, Janet Rogers, and Edmonton’s preset Poet Laureate, Anna Marie Sewell.
The Play and the Poem
Scotland’s makar, Liz Lochhead, is not only a brilliant and much-loved poet, but also a celebrated playwright. The Play & The Poem had her talking to Kim McCaw, Director of the Canadian Centre for Theatre Creation. A few scenes from her plays were brought to life by Edmonton actors Michael Peng, Elena Porter, and Jamie Cavanagh.
The Great Black North Book Launch
This event was the launch of The Great Black North – Contemporary African Canadian Poetry, published by our friends and colleagues at Frontenac House.
Symbiotica, a presentation of Edmonton’s Words With Friends (yegwords), is a collaborative exhibition of poetry and visual art. The show’s launch was last evening, and it runs until Tuesday April 30th at the Daffodil Gallery. Check it out!
Above photo by Kasia Gawlak.
Above photo by Lamya Asiff.
And if that’s the not enough, we also had French Twist at the Duchess Bakery, AND The Glass Door Coffee House reading down in Millwoods. Awesome! Like I said, don’t be afraid to reach out and touch us on Facebook. That’s where you’ll see all the cool pics and get the latest updates.
See y’all out there today.
The Slam Finals went down last night at the Metro Cinema (formerly known as the Garneau Theatre). This slam, and the elimination slams that led up to last night, were staged by Edmonton’s own Breath in Poetry Collective. The work they have done to increase awareness and awesomeness of spoken word here in Edmonton is enormous. Before BIP, our slam scene was barely there, murmurs only. Today, it is a fully-fledged scene with an international reputation (the Edmonton team took home the top prize in Canada in 2011). The Edmonton Poetry Festival is immensely proud to once again work with the BIP Collective in hosting the Edmonton Slam Finals.
The Slam Finals consist of three rounds: In each round, the finalist poets read one piece each and are scored by five randomly selected audience judges. The high and low scores were discarded, and the winners were those with the highest cumulative scores. The evening was full of amazing words, and the slam competitors did not disappoint. Host Titilope Sonuga kept the night moving and the crazies at bay.
The first round felt like a warmup. The poets seemed a bit nervous, but kicked out some great words nonetheless. And that nervousness was understandable – the Metro Cinema was fairly full. I don’t have official attendance numbers but I’d say the crowd was at least 200 strong. 200 people! That’s awesome!
After the intermission, we were treated to an amazing performance by the one and only CR Avery, who also happens to be headlining at the Metro Cinema this evening, along with Kris Demeanour and Tanya Davis. That will be an amazing show, so check it out.
CR’s performance was marred by poor sound, but he nonetheless blew up the stage with a thrilling micless performance. It was a taste of how amazing and captivating spoken word can be, and it was an inspiration to all the poets in the audience. In CR’s words, “Edmonton brought back the rhyme. It’s like hip hop fell and spoken word caught it.”
The slam then resumed for the ultimate round, and the poets pulled out the big guns. Much to audience delight, risks were taken and hearts were moved. Gizele performed her final piece in French and it was delicious. Arlo pulled out a brave piece on addiction that demanded rumination. Kaz’s meditation on religion was exquisitely voiced – delightful in its wordplay and complex tumble of rhymes. Rhianna held the audience on the verge of tears. Jan won hearts with a loving, honest tribute to his autistic brother.
And with that, the team was decided in beautiful, peaceful, courageous fashion. Here they are, your amazing 2013 Edmonton Slam Team:
See you all tonight. Are you going to The Olive Reading? Or perhaps taking in some Vintage Poetry? Or, are CR Avery, Tanya Davis, and Kris Demeanour more your speed?
All photos © 2013 Randall Edwards Photography.
Sunday’s events started the festival proper, but last night’s “Bling on the Blinks” event, staged by Edmonton’s Stroll of Poets Society, is the traditional festival opening event and what a time it was. The theme was bling, and many were dressed in their ostentatious finery. There were fake diamonds and tiaras, rhinestone jackets and beaded wigs, and a bit of cross dressing, best displayed by host John Leppard and cohort Gary Garrison.
The human voice is delightful, and when reading poetry, its beauty is second only to song. At the Blinks, sixty poems are delivered in a span of 90 minutes, with a 30-second per reader time limit. If the poet approaches the 30 second mark, “The Blink Philharmonic” goes into action and reminds the reader of their time. Few go over 30 seconds. The beauty of the event lies in the variety of its voices – accents dip and dodge out of earshot, an amazing turn of phrase is slapped around by a dirty lyric, and last night, we heard a variety untouched: Three children reading poetry in public for the first time, a thrilling blink by Scotland’s Makar, Liz Lochhead, a joyous piece by former Edmonton councilor Michael Phair, and a dementedly brilliant blues crunch by longtime favorite Philip Jagger.
Poetry can often seem heavy, even burdensome. Writing it can feel like pushing a stone up a hill, and for some, reading it out loud is akin to jumping off a cliff. The Blinks event is about participation and, not to get all summer camp councilor on you, above all else FUN. You know, having a good time, tying one on, lettin’ ‘er rip, layin’ ‘em to waste? That kind of fun? Does anybody remember laughter?
Every year, we celebrate new books at the Edmonton Poetry Festival. I like to think of it as a christening ceremony – all the work of labour and birthing is over, the kid is wrapped in a snuggly blanket, and we all gather round to welcome him/her to the larger community.
This year, we’ve got three events of this nature. I get to be one of the local godmothers at Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here – an anthology that came together after a terrible bombing hit Bagdad’s famous “Street of the Booksellers” in 2007. Writers from Iraq and around the world responded. The resulting collection is not just about lamenting the death and damage. It’s about how al-Mutanabbi street starts in all of us, personally, in our communities and our nations.
This event is more than a little timely in the aftermath of last week’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. I’m choosing a poem by the renowned Iraqui poet, Badr Shakir al-Sayyab to read.
And we’re also celebrating Great Black North, the anthology of poetry by black Canadian writers that’s the first such collection in more than three decades. There will be food for the body as well as the mind, sponsored by local Caribbean caterers.
Then there’s the elegant annual PoetryFest tradition of Literary Cocktails at the Faculty Club, where new books by Calgary’s Paul Wm Zits, Red Deer’s Kimmy Beach and our own Astrid Blodgett will be shown off by their fond midwives at the U of A Press.
Okay, the new babies aren’t fluffed up in white satin and lace – their dress is as varied as our world. But they are real, 3-D books to hold in your arms. Their voices will squall in lively protest. Gather round with us and welcome them.
Alice Major is the president of the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s board.
Before Pete and the boys would launch into a rendition of “Tommy”, Moon would tap the side of his snare like a conductor and Pete would say to the audience, assemble the musicians. Then, The Overture, The Acid Queen, See Me Feel Me, and the rest would be history.
That sound you hear, under the inaudible drift of April’s final flurries, is the sound of a dozen plus Poets Laureate tapping their snares, straightening their collars, ironing their frocks, warming up their reading voices, and making their ways to Edmonton.
Will there be drama? Will you see Laureates marching on city hall? Will there be any fireworks? Any he said/she said Twitter-worthy gossip? A poetic scandal? Maybe even a high-noon standoff? Perhaps, but the drama is more likely to come from considered conversation and provocative words.
A couple of items, for your observance:
- Our Map of Canada Gala Event runs on Saturday April 27, 2013. This is a ticketed event, and tickets are on sale at the Citadel Box Office (info at that link above). It’s a fundraiser for our Poets in the Schools program (info here). Take a gander at the lineup, and get yourself a ducat.
- The schedule for the Cafe readings has been posted. This series of readings happens in cafes located in and around Churchill Square on Sunday April 28. It’s the traditional wind-up to the festival. Also check out the first-ever Youth Cafe Reading happening at Audrey’s Books, 2:30 – 4:00 on the same day.
This Sunday – April 21, 2013 – is the first day of the 2013 edition of Edmonton’s Poetry Festival. The Festival runs for eight days, concluding on Sunday April 28th. In those eight days lay some of the best words you’re likely to hear this year. Poets Laureate from across this great nation will be converging in Edmonton to celebrate the written and spoken word. Next week, Edmonton hosts a Word Nation, and it may be unprecedented.
Why is poetry important? Does poetry matter? Those are questions asked often of poets.
Of all our inventions, all of those beautiful and useless and essential and terrible devices we have brought into the world, language and writing are perhaps the most important. They are how our history is recorded and passed on. They hold parts of us that we cannot. Language and expression define us as a species, and words are among our most cherished gifts. At its ideal, poetry is our best lunge at truth. Trickery and argument aside, poetry is a way for us to know ourselves. And that is worth celebrating.
Next week, don’t ignore your words. In fact, starting now, don’t ignore your words. Keep your word, because you have nothing else. Be mindful of what you let escape your pen or lips. Consider your shortcuts, shorthands, tells. You write and speak for a living, even if you think you don’t.
See you on the streets next week. What are you planning to see?
It has been almost one year. One year since I first read my poetry in public. One year since I took that next step towards finding my voice as a poet. I was terrified. I stood in front of the small crowd of people that came out, trying desperately to hide my shaking hands, to steady my shaking voice and I READ OUT LOUD. And as this incredible poetry community does, the group that day supported me, cheered me on and thanked me for sharing my words with them. In that year, I’ve continued to read at open mics, have been asked to be a feature reader at a few local events, have created the concept for a panel on finding your voice and have become a published writer and poet. I asked you to hear me. To listen to what I had created. And, incredibly, you did.
In February of 2012 I became the executive director for The Edmonton Poetry Festival. I jumped wholeheartedly into a world of words and fell head over heels for it. On April 21st of this year The Edmonton Poetry Festival begins again. For 2013 we have invited the poets laureate from across Canada to join us in our city. And they are coming! I still can’t believe I’m a part of it all. It was a year of planning, organizing, and planning some more. It will be eight days of no sleep and 33 events of mouth-watering language.
To end the festival we once again invite every poet in Edmonton to join us at our open mic venues throughout the downtown core. There are all-ready 60+ folks signed up to read and I, again, am one of them.
On April 28th, I come back to where it started. After a year of writing and “reading out loud”, I’m getting ready to do it again. I’ve penned a new poem in honor of the occasion. Something I hope will do justice to the immense privilege I feel to be able to do this. It may not seem like much. Five minutes of my life standing in front of a group of maybe thirty people. It is so much more than just five minutes. You share a part of yourself with friends and strangers. You hope they’ll really hear you. That what you have pulled out of your gut, slams into theirs, and leaves them and you breathless.
I’m writing this almost 1 year to the day of when I wrote a blog post talking about that first reading. I’m still nervous. I still hope what I’ve written reaches people. And still…… I want to be fearless. I’ve asked you to come out and read; to share your words. I’m ready to share mine. I say we keep jumping in.
See you on the 28th,
The Edmonton Poetry Festival.
- Vol Un Teer – Apr 9, 2013
- Cafe Series this Saturday – Mar 27, 2013
- Canada Comes to Edmonton This April – Mar 20, 2013
- Important Update For Our Saturday Reading Series Event – Feb 22, 2013
- Get Set To Rock The Nation – Feb 13, 2013
- Two PoFest Sponsored Readings Coming Up – Feb 13, 2013
- Burns Baby Burns! – Jan 13, 2013
- It's Membership Season! – Nov 28, 2012
- Christmas Party / Poetry Reading This Saturday – Nov 23, 2012
- Friday Links V3 – Nov 9, 2012
- Complete News Archive