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

Where We Come From: A Weekend of Poetry and Storytelling

September 14, 2014

Government House

Please join us as we celebrate the heritage and harvest of Alberta for Culture Days, with four special performances at Government House on September 27th and 28th, 2014. Government House is located at 12845 – 102 Avenue, on the grounds of the Royal Alberta Museum. The Edmonton Poetry Festival and the Government House Foundation are pleased to present inspiring afternoons in the beautiful Alberta Room, which is rarely open to the public. Tours of the historic house with its fine art collection are also provided.

All events are free of charge.

Saturday, September 27, 11:00am

Storyteller – Wendy Edey
Wendy reaches into our hearts with stories that turn the most mundane human experiences into a cause for laughter and personal reflection.

Poet – Marilyn Dumont
Marilyn has been the Writer-in-Residence at the Edmonton Public Library, the Universities of Alberta, Brandon, Grant MacEwan, Toronto-Massey College, and Windsor. She has been faculty at the Banff Centre in programs such as Writing with Style and Wired Writing and she has advised and mentored in the Aboriginal Emerging Writers’ Program. Her newest collection, The Pemmican Eaters, will be published in the spring 2015 by ECW Press.

Saturday, September 27, 3:00pm

Marco Melfi – Chapbook Launch
presented in partnership with The Writers Guild of Alberta
Marco Melfi’s chapbook In Between Trains is winner of the Sharon Drummond Chapbook Award. Marco was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario and has lived in Edmonton since 2008. He is a member of the Stroll of Poets and has had poems published in The Stroll of Poets Anthology, The Prairie Journal and the Rat Creek Press. He has read his work at the Edmonton Poetry Festival and other events in the city over the last six years.

In Between Trains is a set of poems collected from transit trips and bus stops. The poems capture small scenes that occur while waiting or riding between places. The activities, interactions and conversations lend themselves to anecdotes, memories, and passing the time playing with words.

Sunday, September 28, 11:00am

Storytellers – Marie Anne McLean and Kathy Jessup
Marie Anne McLean has been honoured as one of Canada’s storytelling elders.
Kathy Jessup tells original stories and folktales at schools, libraries, concerts and festivals across Canada. She also performs internationally.

Poets – Four inspiring poets share an afternoon to showcase poetry from the local harvest. Their winning poems for the September flight of the Poetry Route remind us all to smell the flowers, grow our orchards and share our abundance.

Ann Sutherland

Ann Sutherland is freelance writer who also writes fiction and creative non-fiction. Once in a while she tries her hand at poetry.

Kim Mannix

Kim Mannix is a freelance journalist and aspiring poet, who spends most of her time rearing her two beautiful daughters. She is originally from Saskatoon, and after trying out 6 different Canadian cities, she and her family have now planted roots in Sherwood Park. She blogs sometimes at

Stephen T Berg

Stephen T. Berg’s prose and poetry have seen life in publications such as Orion, Geez, Prairie Messenger and Earthshine, as well as in live theatre. A frequent contributor to the Edmonton Journal’s Religion page, he writes features and articles on issues of faith, social justice and peace. He blogs at

Shirley Serviss

Shirley A. Serviss is an Edmonton poet and non-fiction writer and the staff literary Artist on the Wards for the Friends of University Hospitals.

Sunday, September 28, 3:00pm

Storyteller – Bethany Ellis
Bethany Ellis has been telling stories for three decades in schools, libraries, festival and graveyards. Her stories have taken her to Africa, Asia, and the wilds of Alberta.

Poet – Doug Elves
Douglas Elves grew up in Edmonton and acquired his BA in Classics, English and Romance Languages and a teaching certificate at the University of Alberta. He has travelled extensively, and in the eighties was an activist in labour and politics; but in 1988 resigned from Politics to return to Poetics. He had earlier founded a small drama troupe called Caliban Theatre, and in 1991 founded, and was treasurer of, the Stroll of Poets Society. Find his poems online at

New Bus Poem Winners Announced

August 10, 2014

Poetry Route Winners Announced!

You’ve thumbed though that volume of Neruda but have never committed to more than a few pages. You have that one poem earmarked – the one about a lemon. Other poems have caught your eye, but none received a folded corner. Other books are scattered about the house. A few on the lower shelf of the nightstand; three on the dining room table; one on the shelf in the hall; two on the coffee table, in front of the television. You’ve wandered through those pages slowly, often forgetting your place and refusing to use bookmarks. It’s enough to own them, you sometimes think. It’s enough to let ambition have its way with your wallet and convince you of your greatness. Often, it’s enough to touch the covers. Some smooth and shiny, some ridged and indented. Most are unread and cherished. Most are over-designed, you think. You’ve been known to say, The cover is the first poem in the book. Whenever you set yourself to read – usually, and to your detriment, allowing too long a time – something taps you on the shoulder and shows you things that you must hold at bay. Tomorrow’s sprint to the office. A slip up from years ago, yet to be fully forgiven. Your spouse’s handwriting on the grocery list, intimately mixed with yours. When reading, all of those things go in the pocket at the back of your notebook. Close but away.

The winners of our June submission call for The Poetry Route have been determined! The theme for this round was “Local Harvest”. We received MILLIONS of entries! If you believe that one, I’d like to invite you to view the banana farm that I have in my back yard. The submission call response was stronger than your resolve at the bakery counter, stronger than a thresher’s low gear, stronger than a mint leaf in a pot of tea, stronger than…

Anyway, we had a blast going through the entries and everybody sent their finest work. We’d like to thank all the poets who really “planted” their “finest crops” on us. Only four were chosen, and the winners can be found here. Congratulations to the four: Stephen T Berg, Kim Mannix, Shirley Serviss, and Ann Sutherland.

Bus Poems Submission Call - June 2014

June 28, 2014

With the Edmonton Poetry Festival well behind us and summer starting to stretch its legs, it’s time once again to open submissions for the next round of The Poetry Route, a PoFest/ETS joint that brings E-Town verse from the page to the streets in the form of bus placards. It’s a lovely thing to think of poetry moving about the city on busses. Small spaces saved from the relentless reach of advertising; poems mingling with the workadays, office denizens, steel toes and Carhartts; poems flitting about in the diesel spew. How would your words perform in such demanding environs?

The theme of this submission call is “Local Harvest”. Just what does that mean? It means what you believe it to mean. It may mean that you enjoy spring’s crop of freshly-grilled hot dogs, served with glee from street corners and storefronts throughout the city. It might reflect your carefully-planned trip to the downtown farmer’s market, or your lazy, late-morning stumble to the Strathcona market, where you browse mostly, but always buy a coffee and a bag of popcorn. It may mean the tangible joy you feel on a Saturday morning wherein, after a work week spent in front of a glowing computer screen, you finally get to sink your hands into the earth. Take the joy you plant with your marigolds and put it on the page. Cut your zucchini before it grows beyond the fence boards and make a poem of it. Consider the shamefully large number of food photos you have posted to Instagram. We want poems about lettuce, steak, french fries, corn dogs, organic carrots, your heirloom eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and the tacos you had at Tres Carnales last week. You up for it?

Send us your food poems, fair city, and you may reap the reward of seeing your delicious syllables on our city’s busses. Don’t go half way – this is as serious as a slug infestation in your raised vegetable beds.

Here are the submission rules and guidelines. The theme is “Local Harvest”. Go to it.

Submission Deadline: July 21, 2014

Guest Post - A Farewell Handshake

May 02, 2014

Phil Jagger, photo by Randall Edwards

Oh, that tremble of the fingers! I know it well. You can control your voice, almost, but the tremor of the page of poetry as you lift it to read aloud is a dead give-away. This is something new, something you are offering to the world, and you are afraid the world will turn it down flat.

Doing a first-ever poetry reading can be like having your central nervous system ripped out. So, to the half-dozen brave souls who put their words out for the very first time at L’Espresso Café yesterday – congratulations. It will never be quite that bad again.

They ranged from 18-year-old Matti to 60-year-old Kelly. They brought rhyming couplets or free verse, love poems or political comment. Some will go on to write and perform at the highest level. (I think of seeing Ahmed Knowmadic give his very first reading at the Edmonton Poetry Festival five years ago or so. This year he was a star at our Laugh Lines event and the assured, witty host of the Slam Finals.) Others will simply go on writing a modest poem every few months, and feel they need to share their words every now and then.

The Café Readings are the traditional wind-up afternoon for the Edmonton Poetry Festival. In some ways, it’s my favourite event. Partly because the pressure of thirty other events is off – no more rushing around with posters and books to sell and venue boxes. Partly because I know I can go home, have a glass of wine and sleep.

But mostly, because of the voices. Twenty people read at L’Espresso yesterday afternoon. There were another forty at the other two venues. They included accomplished poets who have published in literary magazines or books and given many readings. And they included the the newbies, the ones still struggling to dig their way through the enormous clichéd overburden of human emotion to the word-ore of poem.

Over and over through this past week, our event hosts reminded audiences of one of the festival’s core values: to affirm poetry’s diversity and bring together different genres, ages, cultures, levels of experience. We had put together the 2014 program to reflect that huge range – from spoken word hijinks to cerebral lectures, from page to stage and back again. The Café Readings are our final gesture to the diversity within our local community.

“Come on out,” we say to younger and older. “Give it a try. Don’t worry if your hands shake the first time.”

See you next year.

Alice Major
April, 2014

Alice Major was Edmonton’s first Poet Laureate, serving from 2005 – 2007. She is currently the president of The Edmonton Poetry Festival Society.

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