Word Vancouver offers poetry readings, discussions, and workshops
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Word Vancouver is back with another five days full of passion for prose. This year, there are many events for young poets to explore, including poetry readings, a book launch, a chapbook workshop, and an open mic night.
Kicking off the week’s events on September 23 is the launch party for The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them at the SFU Harbour Centre starting at 5:45 p.m. The event will feature readings by six poets—Joanne Arnott, George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, George Stanley, Fred Wah, and Betsy Warland—as well as book signings and a reception.
Next is Twisted Poets Literary Salon’s featured readings and open mic session at The Cottage Bistro starting at 7 p.m. on September 24. Poets Kate Braid and Elizabeth Bachinsky, a Douglas College creative writing instructor, will be reading their individual works, followed by the open mic session.
“Expect to be a little bit jiggled, a little bit shaken, a little bit entertained. But mostly expect to have your world a tad displaced,” Braid said. “Poetry asks you to see freshly. Trick is that, to see that way, you have to leave your cynical, everyday, jaded, and skeptical self at the door.”
Word Vancouver’s main festival day will take place at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch on September 27. In the transit bus parked outside the library, there will be a collection of readings and presentations as part of Poetry on the Bus, featuring a variety of poets each taking their turn to present listeners with a taste of their work.
Four of the poets from the Revolving City will be on the bus to read their poems and discuss their works starting at 11:30 a.m. Readings will be performed by Daniela Elza, Mercedes Eng, Mariner Janes, and Cecily Nicholson of New Westminster.
Also appearing on the bus will be poet Amber Dawn, a Douglas College creative writing instructor, who will be reading her poetry at 1:45 p.m.
“I’ll be reading from my newest book, a collection of glosa form poetry called Where the Words End and my Body Begins. The glosa is a 15th century Spanish form, and I’ll be briefly introducing how the form works, then speaking a bit to my own feminist interpretation of the form,” she said. “In my book, there are quite a few poems about Vancouver that I believe will work well at Word Vancouver.”
Another set of readings taking place on the bus—one unlike any other at Word Vancouver—is from the Dead Poets Reading Series, a bi-monthly event that takes place at the VPL’s Alice MacKay Room. Starting at 4:30 p.m., Evelyn Lau, Sandy Shreve, and Fiona Tinwei Lam will each read four to five poems from their favourite deceased poets: John Updike, P.K. Page, and Maya Angelou, respectively.
“Our readers are tasked with honouring and bringing to life the work of someone else, which means they can’t rest on the quality of the writing itself: they didn’t write it, so the only added value they bring is in the quality of their reading,” said Rob Taylor, the organizer for the Dead Poets Reading Series who will be hosting the Word Vancouver set of readings.
He discovered the DPRS in his early 20s when he attended the series’ first event in 2007. Founded by David Zieroth, a now-retired English instructor at Douglas College, under the original title The Night of the Dead Poets, the readings took place in a bookstore on the North Shore.
“I was four years from my first book, and had no formal training in poetry. Eight years later, I’m co-running the series and have a book and a couple more on the way,” Taylor said, recalling how the series has influenced his career. “I point to the Dead Poets Reading Series as one of the great sources of my education as a poet. A number of things made the DPRS vital for me as a young poet, and I believe they still hold true today.”
Taylor suggested young poets attend readings such as the DPRS because it provides an education in the history of poetry, and teaches novice poets how to deliver a reading.
“No self-promotion, no money changing hands, just a group of people getting together to celebrate that someone out there at some point in time wrote something beautiful, or challenging, or both, and decided to share it with the world. And here we are sharing and sharing it again, hopefully feeling our lives enriched a little more with each reading. What more could you dream of as a poet?” he said.
Dawn agrees that attending literary events and readings are a great opportunity for young poets and students to discover the real world of writing.
“Poetry is like a language. To truly be fluent in poetry, poets must immerse themselves in it. Attending live poetry readings is a critical part of becoming a poet,” she said. “Word Vancouver is an opportunity to see what the larger literary community looks like outside of the classroom.”
On September 27 at 4 p.m., poet Kevin Spenst will be hosting a one-hour workshop on chapbook making in the VPL’s Alice MacKay Room. Participants will be given writing prompts to create new poetry, offered some editing strategies to refine their work, and then each provided a single piece of paper to make their own poetry chapbook.
Outside of the VPL on Homer Street at 4 p.m., five of the Revolving City poets will be present to discuss their ideas on the poetic process. Jordan Abel, Rahat Kurd, and Jacqueline Turner will be speaking while Wayde Compton and Renée Sarojini Saklikar will moderate the presentation.
Word Vancouver will run from September 23 to 27, with a variety of readings, discussions, and workshops for writers of all ages and genres.