March 5th, 2011 by Brendan McNally
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 (2 Daly Avenue) from Tuesday, March 8th until Sunday, March 11th (with 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.”
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.
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.”
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.