VerseFest, Ottawa’s poetry festival, is off and running, celebrating its third year with an enthusiastic and packed opening night this past Tuesday. Continuing until Sunday, March 17, VerseFest has something for everyone, whether it’s Kay’la Fraser’s spoken word, Lady Katalyst’s jazzy flow, Ken Babstock’s Griffin Poetry Prize winning poems or Matt Jones’ junk. More than 30 poets, performers and spoken word artists are showcasing their work at over a dozen events across the six days of the festival, which has grown in leaps and bounds since it began.
In 2010, Ottawa’s wide-ranging poetry communities, often gathered around the various reading series that dot the city, came together to form VERSe Ottawa. The goal of this collective was to draw on the strengths of these groups to see if they could put on something bigger. Which they did with their inaugural VerseFest 2011, which included written and spoken word showcases.
Artistic Director David O’Meara’s welcome message for VerseFest 2012 was, “We said we were going to be an annual event and we weren’t lying.” And it has become much more than an annual event, going global this year with three international showcases (Australian, Irish and Dutch) that will supplement the local talent. There’s also cross-country artistry from RC Weslowski and Magpie Ulysses (who represented Van Slam nationally and internationally) and Anita Lahey, Barbara Langhorst as well as Ottawa’s Christine McNair.
Most events are at the Knox Presbyterian Church (120 Lisgar Street), where the festival kicked off on Tuesday, March 12, with the Vox Australia reading at 7pm, followed by Arc Poetry Magazine Presents at 9pm. This year’s roster is filled out with events hosted by Voices of Venus, In/Words, Tree Reading Series, AB Series, Urban Legends, Plan 99, Capital Slam, KaDo Japanese forms and Dusty Owl. The Factory Reading Series is presenting a master class and the Women’s Slam Champions will also host an evening.
A very special event this year will be the Hall of Honour, created to recognize people who have made important contributions to local poetry, and, importantly, to the poetry community in Ottawa. Greg Frankson (aka Ritallin) and William Hawkins are the first two poets to be inducted, on Sunday, March 17, 7pm.
One interesting feature of this year’s VerseFest was the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign they recently ran. Supplementing other sponsorship, the campaign topped its target of $5, 000, offering donors items ranging from tickets, T-shirts and cupcakes to a hand written and signed poem by Booker, Giller and four-time Governor General Award winner Michael Ondaatje.
With that kind of local, national and international support, VerseFest will only keep on growing.
VerseFest 2013: Tuesday, March 12 until Sunday, March 17. For full schedule details and ticket prices go to their website.
You can get more information on their Facebook page, or by following them on Twitter . VerseFest also has a YouTube channel, featuring past performances by the likes of David McGimpsey, SenseSay, Sarah Musa and a whole lot more.
Mother Tongue Books has been part of Ottawa’s literary community since 1984.
But in a month, Mother Tongue Books will close its doors forever.
Ottawa Tonite sent Bob LeDrew to tell the story of a part of Ottawa’s literary life.
The first event in the Celebrate Mother Tongue series will feature Giller Prize-winning author Elizabeth Hay (Late Nights on Air, Alone in the Classroom) and Ottawa favorite singer-songwriter Jill Zmud.
The evening begins at 7:00 on Friday, June 22 at Mother Tongue, Bank at Sunnyside (across from the Mayfair).
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.
Censorship is the practice of governmental control over what can be printed, published or exhibited publicly. Many books have been banned in the past for reasons such as offending religious beliefs, because they are immoral or indecent, or for being seemingly unpatriotic or obscene.
According to the Book and Periodical Council (the Umbrella Organization for Publishing in Canada):
Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
When it comes to freedom of expression and what we are FREE to consume, who do we want to have the final say? Ottawa Tonite is working in collaboration with the Library Association of the National Capital Region, local writers, singer-songwriters, VerseFest Ottawa, The Gladstone Theatre as well as the Ottawa theatre community to hold a benefit night on Wednesday, February 29th to raise funds for PEN Canada – and celebrate free expression.
The late night event (10pm-12am) will consist of readings from censored works, musical performances of banned songs and scenes from plays that have been deemed ‘inappropriate’ or challenged. There is a cover charge of $10 at the door (or PWYC) and proceeds are going to PEN Canada, an association of writers formed in 1926 to defend freedom of expression and raise awareness of that Universal right.
It will be a night of variety and profanity, so bring your open-mind and prepare to exercise you FREEDOM.
The Gladstone Theatre (910 Gladstone Avenue Ottawa)
$10 at the door (or PWYC)
All proceeds from this event going to PEN Canada
Feature by Rachel Eugster
Video By Kevin Burton
SCBWI Canada East invites the public to a celebration of children’s books on Friday, October 14, from 6-9 p.m. at Collected Works Bookstore (1242 Wellington St. W., 613-722-1265; http://collected-works.com/). Adults and kids are invited to come meet the people who are creating the latest books for young adults, tweens, and children; to hear about new releases directly from the authors; and to have them autographed on the spot.
RACHEL EUGSTER chats with author Rachna Gilmore and illustrator Ben Hodson about the art and business of creating books for kids, the party at Collected Works, and the writers’ and illustrators’ conference to follow (“The Courage to Create,” October 15-16, the Sheraton Hotel: www.scbwicanada.org/east/ .)
Authors appearing at the October 14 party include:
R.J. Anderson* (Ultraviolet, Spell Hunter, Wayfarer)
Catherine Austen (My Cat Isis, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6, All Good Children)
Lizann Flatt (Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Here)
Alma Fullerton (Burn, Libertad)
Rachna Gilmore (That Boy Red, The Flute)
Ben Hodson* (Richard Was a Picker, Jeffrey and Sloth, Hear My Roar)
Deborah Jackson (Time Meddlers, Time Meddlers: Undercover)
Kate Jaimet (Dunces Anonymous, Slam Dunk)
Caroline Pignat (Greener Grass, Wild Geese, Timber Wolf)
Marsha Skrypuch (Stolen Child, Daughter of War)
*featured speaker at the October 15-16 conference
Article by Tammy MacKenzie
The Lanark County Live Poets Society, or LiPS, is sending a team of local spoken word performance poets to the five day long Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, where they will compete against nineteen other teams from across Canada. To help raise funds to send the team to Toronto this October, LiPS is hosting an event in Perth on Saturday October 8th.
Several team members will be at the Farmers Market as the day’s charity group, from 8 am to 1:30 pm, with basket draw and silent auction items, and collecting donations. Tickets for the basket draws may be purchased and allocated to any basket(s) you wish, as many times as you wish. Bidding for silent auction items is done by writing down your bid, keeping in mind later bids can top yours so you have to check back in.
Everything will be moved over to the Factory Grind at 1 Sherbrooke St. after the Market, where an open-stage style evening of entertainment will be held, welcoming poets, musicians and storytellers to participate, and everyone to enjoy features by a number of guest performers.
The silent auction will conclude at the end of the evening, and basket items drawn as well, so some people will be going home with treasures and goodies.
Matt Dickson, a local musician with the acoustic duet band Rockin’ Horse, lead singer for The Respectables, and drummer for both Beatlejuice and the Commuters, will be the evening’s MC as well as performing, and two guests from Ottawa will also feature: spoken word artist Rusty Priske, the Capital Poetry Collective’s Slam Master and repeat member of their Capital Slam national team, and storyteller “aka professional liar” Ruthanne Edwards, founder and Slam Master of Once Upon A Slam and member of the Kymeras storyteller troupe.
The members of the Lanark County Slam team, Poettiquette, Inez Dekker, Andy Kerr-Wilson and b!WILDer, will also be performing spoken word poetry. For those who have not yet experienced spoken word and slam poetry, you will be in for a pleasant surprise with this performance art, which has been rapidly gaining in popularity around the world. It is not likely to resemble what you may be thinking of as “poetry reading”.
Doors open at 6:30 and the stage opens at 7.
VERSeFest is bringing O-Town’s wide-ranging poetry communities together with a festival full of readings, performances, slam, spoken word, workshops for kids, discussions and much, much more. If you want it, and it’s connected to poetry, then VERSeFest has it. And they also have some big plans for the future.
Running at the Arts Court (2 Daly Avenue) from Tuesday, March 8th until Sunday, March 11th (with pre-festival shows starting today and tomorrow, March 5th and 6th), VERSeFest has 20 events, each sponsored by one of the 14 groups that make up VERSe Ottawa.
The festival kicks off at 7 pm, Tuesday, March 8th with World Slam Champion Ian Keteku, David McGimpsey, Brad Morden, and recent Ottawa Book Award (English) winner Craig Poile.
“Ottawa is a poetry town,” says organizer Rod Pederson. “We put the numbers together and realized that somewhere between 600 to 1000 people attend poetry events here every month. And we have a line-up for our first year that is a bounty of diversity and talent, including the current winners of the Governor General Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize. (Richard Greeen and Karen Solie, Tree Reading, Saturday, March 12.)
Formed in 2010, VERSe Ottawa came together when, “A number of poets and organizers felt the need for our poetry community to have a common voice,” says VO’s Jessica Ruanno. “And VERSe Ottawa works to better promote Ottawa’s wide-ranging poetry community, to act as an effective voice and to provide support to those involved. And what better way to promote the community than with VERSeFest.”
One of the many different groups that makes up VERSeFest is In/Words (Tuesday, March 8, 9 pm). For Justin Million, “VERSeFest is an opportunity for us to come together, with Moose and Pussy and Apt. 9 Press, to promote local poets. Michael Dennis and Ben Ladouceur were chosen to read because I feel they may be two of the finest poets in the city who do not receive enough attention for their incredible bodies of work. The festival lets us introduce them to new audiences.”
Apt. 9 Press publishes limited edition, hand stitched, poetry and fiction chapbooks and will be unveiling their first broadsides that night. Says Cameron Anstee, press founder, “I’m thrilled to work with Michael and Ben and it means the world to me that they trust me with their work.”
Wednesday night starts with Voices of Venus, a reading series which celebrates women writers who focus on poetry and spoken word. They are organizing an all-erotica performance with Beth Anne Fischer and a line-up of women writers.
Christine McNair and Sandra Ridley will follow at 9 pm (with blUe mOnday, and they are both reading as part of the AB Series pre-festival event). Says Christine, “I’m looking forward to seeing the other events and readings at VERSeFest. There seems to be a wide-range of participants and I’m all for eclectic diversity. And possibly balloons.”
Ditto for Sandra, “By virtue of the fact that two different events are being highlighted each night, at the same venue, there will be an overlap of audiences. And I’m looking forward to reading to different audiences who I might not usually get to see. And to see other readers, of course.”
And on it goes for the whole week, though it’s not just about readings, page, stage or otherwise.
For rob mclennan (Factory Reading Series, Friday, March 11, 7pm, featuring Marcus McCann and Monty Reid), VERSeFest is a chance to do something different. “I’ve been wanting to run a lecture series for a decade now, &, through VERSeFest, finally have the opportunity to begin. With so much of the festival featuring performances, I thought it would be an interesting mix to ask some local and locally-known writers to discuss writing, to allow the audience some deeper and/or different perspectives into how they (Marcus and Monty) might approach the craft itself.”
Monty Reid and Marcus McCann
Likewise for Dave O’Meara (Plan 99 Reading Series, Saturday, March 12, 5pm), who will be hosting a discussion on words and music (with guests Jim Bryson, Mike Dubue and Megan Jerome). “Lyrics are a form of poetry, and I wanted to get some songwriters together to ask them how they write their songs, but from a word angle rather than a music angle.”
Adds Dave, in his role as a festival organizer, “We hope that our festival of poetry, by emphasizing original thought, bold oration, startling imagery, fresh, innovative language and artful phrasing, will represent another articulate part of the extensive culture of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and literature here in our city.”
If that’s not ambitious enough for six months of hard work, the future holds more. “Our intention,” says Rod Pederson, “is to become an international festival, drawing on the strength of page and stage poets from across the world, while still focusing on Canada and showcasing the Ottawa region.”
For a full schedule of events and ticket information, check out the VERSeFest site.
2010 Capital Slam Team,
Capital Slam: Saturday, March 12, 9 pm
The pre-festival fun begins today (March 5, at 7pm) and tomorrow, with the AB Series Reading Series, featuring reading and “playback, a poetry reading” which will see seven different poets reading, reconfiguring and responding to Michelle Provost’s new work: playlist.
And if that’s not ekphrasis to the nth degree, then I no longer have a hat.
Come celebrate the Canadian contributors to international prose & poetry anthology series Van Gogh’s Ear, the most popular of international books in the field of creative writing!
Based in Paris, France and published in conjunction with Allen Ginsberg’s Committee on Poetry in New York City, Van Gogh’s Ear has gained international acclaim since its debut in 1992 for its eclecticism and original creative work by all walks of life – celebrated poets, authors, artists and other discovered talents.
Ottawa’s independent Collected Works Bookshop & Coffeebar, who has been serving the vibrant Canadian community with the best in Canadian, American and British literature, will be hosting a book reading to celebrate the end of the critically-acclaimed anthology series and pay tribute to the Canadian writers who have contributed some of their amazing work (some of whom include writers Margaret Atwood, Molly Peacock, Gordon Downie & David Helwig). Reading from their own published works in the series are Canadian writers:
Gabrielle McIntire – Queen’s University literature professor and recipient of the W. J. Barnes Arts and Science Undergraduate Society Award for Excellence in Teaching; author of Modernism, Memory, and Desire: T.S. Eliot & Virginia Woolf; and poet whose creative and absorbing poetry has been published in The Literary Review of Canada, The Cortland Review and Kingston Poets’ Gallery.
Amanda Earl – poet, publisher, and wordsmith extraordinaire who has been a major contributor to Ottawa’s literary community for several years. Her sexually explicit erotica, poetry, and even sensual restaurant reviews have appeared online and in literary journals including Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, Spire Poetry Poster, and The Dusty Owl Quarterly. She currently pilots local lit projects Bywords Quarterly Journal and AngelHouse Press.
rob mclennan – one of Ottawa’s most recognizable poets, radical authors, and all-round literary action figures who has published over two dozen trade books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction including a compact of words, missing persons, and wild horses. He also runs above/ground press Chaudiere Books and attracts hundreds of readers each week with his literary blog where he regularly posts reviews, essays and interviews.
The reading event will be followed by a Q&A. All seven volumes (including the latest and final installment, The Supernatural Edition) will also be available for sale.
Friday, February 18 @ 7pm
Collected Works Bookshop & Coffeebar
1242 Wellington Street West
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 3A4, Canada
Phone:: (613) 722-1265
Ottawa Tonite likes it when people create things. When creative people make books, poems, art, or music then the rest of us get to enjoy the fruits of their labours. Unless… their work is censored. And that happens a lot.
According to the Book and Periodical Council, which organizes Freedom To Read Week in Canada every year, more than 100 books in Canada have been censored or challenged in the last few years alone. And those books range from what you might expect to be challenged — queer literature, books dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict — there are also some you might not expect to ever be the victim of censorship: Of Mice and Men, Harry Potter, or Wallpaper magazine.
In recent days, a version of Huckleberry Finn that deletes the “n-word” and the censorship of the Dire Straits song “Money For Nothing” have been in the news.
So, since Ottawa Tonite believes that each person should get to choose what he or she consumes, we’re organizing a cabaret of censored and challenged works. Come to Censored Out Loud at the Raw Sugar Café and join a motley crew (no, not Mötley Crüe) of writers, actors, and musicians as they celebrate Freedom To Read week by bringing some scandalous — and not so scandalous — works to life. Everything you’ll hear will have one thing in common, whether it’s Donna Summer or Margaret Atwood: the work has been censored or challenged.
Some of the people reading and playing on stage will be: Lisa Poushinsky, Nichole McGill, Jesse Dangerously, Megan Jerome, Jessica Ruano, Mike Essoudry, and many more. It’s gonna be fast-paced, fun, and a great way to celebrate the power of creative expression and the freedom to offend.
The show takes place Wednesday, February 23, 2011, starting at 8:00 pm at the Raw Sugar Café, 692 Somerset Street West. There’s a cover charge of $10 or what you can afford to pay and proceeds are going to go to PEN Canada, an organization that fights for the right to create and read.
We guarantee at least ONE thing to offend EVERYBODY. Spread the word. Loudly.
The Warrior Queen: Chasing Boudicca
Thursday, January 20, 7:30 p.m.
National Arts Centre – Fourth Stage
I should have come earlier.
The salon-like Fourth Stage at the National Arts Centre was already packed with charming café tables, candle-lit, naturally. And all of the 30 or so tables had been claimed 15 minutes before “curtain rise”. It was sitting room at the back only. Even from there the view of the stage was clear and intimate.
Three women in shawls inscribed with Celtic patterns walked onto the stage. Musician Nathan Bishop played a Celtic drumbeat. The crowd was hushed.