VerseFest 2012: A World of Poetry in Ottawa
Following up on the success of its inaugural launch last year, VerseFest is back with another festival that celebrates all things poetry. Organizers Kevin Matthews and Dave O’Meara got things rolling with a welcome message, with Dave receiving great applause with, “We said last year we were going to be an annual event and we weren’t lying.”
Running from February 28th until March 4, VerseFest 2012 has more than 15 events at 4 locations, 30+ readers showcasing multiple styles of poetry, from slam, dub and spoken word performances to the print launch of In/Words 11.1 as well as “Oral: the audio album,” workshops and more.
Dennis Lee at the opening night of VerseFest 2012, reading the titular poem “Melvis and Elvis” which will be published in 2013. http://www.charlesearl.com/
Hosted by CBC Radio’s Alan Neal, VerseFest kicked off last night (Tuesday, February 28, 2012) at the Arts Court Theatre (2 Daly Avenue) with Suzanne Buffam, Paul Tyler and Dennis Lee at 7pm, followed by Shauntay Grant and Afua Cooper at 9 pm.
Buffam, who came up from Chicago to read, thought VerseFest is fantastic, adding, “It’s nice to see a festival that’s not about networking, it’s just about poetry.”
Capital Slam presents Taqralik Partridge and Ursula Rucker on Saturday night (March 3).
The festival has its roots in Ottawa’s diverse poetry communities, some of which gather around various reading series, each presenting their own literary fare. VERSe Ottawa came together in 2010, as a collective of some of these groups, both traditional, written, and spoken word. The idea was to pool resources and create new opportunities to showcase local poetry, culminating in VerseFest 2011, with different groups hosting events under the festival umbrella.
One of the many different groups making up VERSe Ottawa is Voices of Venus, hosting an event on Wednesday (February 29) at 7pm that features top poets from January’s Women Slam Championships. Following that is the In/Words event, launching the latest edition of their journal along with four readers at 9pm (Helen Humphreys, Rachael Simpson, Christian McPherson, Gregory Scofield).
Dave Currie (In/Words) welcomes the opportunity that VerseFest present, allowing, “…us to escape the insular experience of running one reading series and to integrate it into the wider poetry community of Ottawa.” On a scheduling note, In/Words is co-hosting the event with Moose and Pussy magazine, who will be launching “Oral: the audio album.”
In attendance once again is Amanda Earl, poet and managing editor of Bywords.ca. Earl enjoyed the variety of local poetry on offer with VerseFest 2011 and is, “…grateful for the opportunity to hear great poetry and to meet some of my poetic heroes in person.”
The Dusty Owl Series has teamed up with the AB Series to present on Friday night (Pearl Pirie, Susan McMaster, Bruce Taylor), while Tree and Plan 99 will host Saturday afternoon (Tim Bowling, Shane Rhodes).
at the National Arts Centre (Sunday, March 04).
One feature of pooling resources has allowed VerseFest to work with the Ottawa International Writers Festival and the embassies of both the United States and Mexico to present The Summit Reading. The reading features three of North America’s top notch poets: Pura López-Colomé, Phil Hal and Philip Levine, Sunday March 04 at the National Arts Centre. David O’Meara says of the event: “It’s historic enough to have Philip Levine read here, a great American poet, who has only recently been appointed the Poet Laureate for the States. And I don’t think this kind of thing has ever been done before, having prominent poets from all three North American countries read together at one event. It’s going to be really exciting.”
VerseFest 2012 runs from Tuesday February 28th until Sunday March 04. For full event details, event locations and ticket prices, visit http://www.versefest.ca/
Brendan McNally is an Ottawa based writer who runs the House Band Reading Series, which features performance word alongside a DJ score, adding special guests to round out the evening. And beer.