Guest Post - The Book Christening Party

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.