National Poetry Month

Poetry & Place

To kick off National Poetry Month, I facilitated a writing workshop on writing about place for the Museum of Vancouver. I also participated in an online webinar about Poetry & Place, hosted by The Writers Union of Canada, moderated by Montreal poet, Greg Santos, with Toronto’s outgoing Poet Laureate, Al Moritz, and Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate, Carol Rose GoldenEagle to discuss our activities and projects as laureates. I discussed my main focus of the past few months, my Legacy Project, the City Poems Video Contest.

City Poems Poetry Videos Now Online

I was extremely impressed at the results of the hard work and creativity of student teams from SFU 344 (Surrey campus), UBC FNIS 454, and Emily Carr’s Foundation 160 and 2DN 211 Animation classes for the video poetry stage of the City Poems Contest. Their instructors were key to the success of the project: much gratitude to Kate Hennessy and Jay Tseng of SFU, David Gaertner of UBC’s Critical Indigenous Studies, and Christine Stewart and Martin Rose of Emily Carr University of Art & Design, and their committed students. There were so many excellent and varied interpretations of the poems, ranging from animation, to documentary, to experimental. I wrote a brief article about the journey for The Tyee recently and was interviewed by Margaret Gallagher for North by Northwest, a weekend morning show on CBC Radio focused on the local literary, music and arts scene.

With a lot of logistical support and help from my sister, Shona, a retired librarian and tech wizard, VPL staffer, Greg McLeod, all 33 poetry videos that were submitted to the contest are now available to watch online on the VPL’s YouTube Playlist for Audience Choice Online Voting until May 25th at 5pm. There’s a table with the poems listed in alphabetical order by title, along with links to the text of the poems and the poetry videos based on them here. Although voting will end on May 25, the videos will remain online through the summer. The winners as judged by Contest Judge Heather Haley and the Audience Choice prizes will announced at a public ceremony and screening at the Museum of Vancouver on June 11th.

Already some of the student teams have had connected with audiences outside the province for their poetry videos. One team had their video shortlisted by the Duemila30 festival in Milan, Italy for young filmmakers focused on sustainable development and social inclusion. Another team had their video selected as one of 8 screened by the Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE), a national Indigenous-led youth organization which had a recent gathering in Banff, Alberta. I’ve encouraged all of them to submit their videos to festivals around the world through the FilmFreeway hub and to let me know of acceptances.

Meanwhile, the shortlisted youth finalists from last year’s contest had the opportunity to participate in a workshop to make their own poetry videos. This was run by the mim multidisciplinary artist collective (Dora Prieto, Daniela Rodriguez and Michelle Martin) at the Moberly Field House in the Fraserview neighbourhood where the EPFC is doing an artists’ residency. I enjoyed seeing the rough cuts made by some of participants and look forward to seeing their final versions before the summer.

Verses Festival of Words

I attended some of the events at the wonderful Verses Festival of Words April 20-29. (The festival began in 2011 with spoken word individual performances, panels, and workshops, featuring the first Canadian Individual Poetry Slam championship.) This year’s theme was “Gathering Found Family Back Around The Table.” At the Famous Last Words comedy evening at Wise Hall, the four poets entertained the audience with puppets and balloon-balancing and other improvisational rounds. There were master classes and performances galore by top notch spoken word artists. A few days later at SFU Woodwards, there was much snapping of fingers and murmurs of acknowledgement from the audience as we listened to the hard-won truths expressed during the slam championships, coordinated by Trevana Spilchen. Weary spirits were replenished by the drumming, rich vocals and poetics of multidisciplinary Métis artist, Moe Clark.

Congratulations to Artistic Director Johnny Trinh who curated and coordinated Verses this year (and ensured that there was always delicious local snacks to nourish attendees and performers), and to all the performers, mentors, master class leaders,Vancouver Poetry House team and volunteers who worked hard to make the festival such a success.

More to come….

The weeks ahead promise to be just as hectic with the LiterAsian Festival and the Downtown Eastside Writers’ Festival in May, more school visits, co-hosting the May 14 Dead Poets Reading Series reading, plus attendance at other literary fundraisers, readings and the ExplorAsian Festival, along with more outreach and publicity to encourage folks to vote for the City Poems student poetry videos before the upcoming Awards ceremony and screening in June!