The Edmonton Poetry Festival

The Poetry Route Glides Into Winter

New winter-themed poetry can be found on Edmonton Transit buses! The latest round of bus poems features work from Edmonton-area students and will be displayed in ETS buses and LRT cars through mid-March. Details here →

Winter Scene

Festival News

Welcome Back My Friends

April 19, 2014

Word Bridges

It begins with a lunge at permanence. It climbs heights of reverence, often at great cost, then proceeds to jump off. It is characterized by a flutter in the gut, a coldness in the spine, a pinprick just before waking. It’s not exactly pretty, and it’s not immediately likeable. It takes time to form, often years. You can read it again and again and each time find something new – a previously invisible nuance, or a turn of phrase that at first seemed pedestrian, but now, within the gestalt of the entire work, only deepens the mystery. It can confound and never reveal itself. It can ring like Friday bells and not satisfy. It will sit unread despite several run-throughs, solo out-loud renditions, and only-to-your-partner readings. It’ll be on your patio in August, under your boots in November, and in your hair in May. It’ll come to you in traffic, and force you into memory lapse. It’s an admission that you don’t have control over that much stuff. It’s one of your hidden tells. A notice that you should do something with those marks, and that you must drink more wine.


The Edmonton Poetry Festival begins tomorrow. That’s Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014. I don’t have to tell you to check the schedule, because I’m sure you’ve already done it. I don’t have to link up our amazing list of authors because you’re a fine person at heart (at least, when it matters to be one), and you’ve done well with many things this year.

I entreat you to make time for words. They are our best invention. Even if poetry isn’t “your thing”, step outside your wheelhouse and choose an event. I will not accept your laments or shoulda-done’s. The chances you take with the things you love are your only currency.

Book Launch: Shawna Lemay's Asking

April 17, 2014

Photo by Shawna Lemay (c)

Tonight, Thursday April 17, 2014, Longtime friend of the Edmonton Poetry Festival Shawna Lemay launches her latest collection of poems and poem-essays, the exquisitely titled Asking. (Audrey’s Books, 10702 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton. 7:00pm) For the benefit of those who don’t follow Shawna, we’d recommend checking her website, perusing her beautiful blog of poetry and photography, and her excellent magazine-style project, Canadian Poetries, which features reviews, interviews, and essays.

On top of all that, she’s a helluva photographer – here is her Flickr collection. So many beautiful shots! Ah, to have eyes like that.

Cancel your unimportant Thursday plans and join Shawna down at Audrey’s for the launch of her new collection, Asking.

The photograph is © Shawna Lemay.

One Week to Go

April 14, 2014

Word Bridges

Actually, one week less a day. The Edmonton Poetry Festival begins on Sunday April 20, 2014 with a killer event featuring New Mexican poet and musician, Joy Harjo. There are still a few tickets left for that, and it promises to be a great kickoff to the festival. April 20 is Easter Sunday of course, but don’t let the Easter Bunny prevent your enjoyment of the poetic season. In fact, one should never trust or give quarter to the Easter Bunny. A rabbit imbued with mythical, possibly nefarious special powers? Suspect.

Monday to Friday during the festival, you can check out “Poetry Central” in Churchill Square. You can get information about the festival, pick up a program, and do a bunch of other cool things like make a poem with our word blocks (so cool!). Poetry Central is open daily in Churchill Square, Monday April 21 to Friday April 25.

If you haven’t already, you should have a look at our schedule and map out your week. Will you Blink on Monday, Slam on Tuesday, and Laugh on Wednesday? Or will you brush up on your Fran├žais on Thursday, get Red and aroused on Friday, and take in the whole day of festivities on Saturday? And will you still have the jam for the Cafe Readings on Sunday?

Yes. Yes to everything. Yes to saying yes. Yes to breaking out of your little world. Yes to not being so earnest. Yes to wearing red and not diverting your eyes. Yes to bridges of words – thin and strong and temporary. Yes to continuance and grace. Yes to mystery and leaving. Yes to one week a year – a single week! – devoted to the best of language. Yes to moving to the edges of your musts. Yes to throwing away that love note again and again.

Join us on the streets and in the halls. We need your ears and your words.


April 08, 2014

You’ve been more tired than usual lately. You go to bed earlier and wake up with heavier eyes. This, mere days after your birthday. Today you forgo the usual ground beans and reach for some loose tea – chamomile and rooibos – that came highly recommended by the woman at the shop. “Pleasing,” she said, “with relaxing notes.” Relaxing notes. You’ve been one long-held limp note lately. The other day, you read a dozen articles and forgot them by evening. Your memory is roused in conversation. Someone will say something and you remember reading something about that topic at some point. Threads, covered in beads, buried under your t-shirts.

Things are like they used to be, except when they aren’t. New aches. New constraints. “They make clothes smaller these days”, your father used to say. You think of him when your mug is to your mouth in the wee hours, when the frost has yet to leave your windshield. The apple tree needs pruning, and you will seek counsel for that. The grass is piss-spring yellow. That tattered section of walkway needs new concrete. With tea on your lips, you think of the bearded hide-tanner in Nova Scotia who made your wallet. The phantom relief of your credit cards is smooth to the touch, and shiny. That was eight years ago. Dad liked leather stuff, too.

Soon, it will be time for yard bags and gasoline for the lawn mower. You’ll put on those old work gloves and smell last year’s labour. You’ll slide on your boots and trundle to the raised beds. You’ll haul compost next week – yes, it may be a bit early, but lettuce waits for no one – and get everything ready. You ordered your seeds a month ago and they sit patiently on your dresser. Last week you saw a set of shears you liked. Maybe you should buy them. Perhaps it is safe to uncover the barbecue.

April removes her sandals from winter hock and places them on your front step. The sun, for too long your sole winter light, stays longer. Your snow shovel bows politely and says, “Don’t get up. I’ll let myself out.” Deadfall and rubble taunt – you should listen to them, and do something. Time to remove the wool and flannel. Wipe the table. Clear your throat. Don your warm-weather frock. Warm your books and mark your pages. Begin.

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