News: People's Poetry Festival draws crowds

2011-08-23 08:54:AM ago by laurie.anne.fuhr

First edition of the festival already a collector's item

The People's Poetry Festival (PPF) 2011, held August 19-21, was a great success, with weather cooperating to allow the visual art and poetry collaborative projects (known as Poetry Walks) to be shown in the alleyways of Kensington. The poets reading outside of Plaza Theatre needed sunscreen and water rather than tenting and coffee. On Friday night, the festival launch at Pages brought together writers from all over the community, with representatives from many local literary groups including Single Onion Poetry, Calgary SLAM, filling Station magazine, and even the Drop In Centre, which boasts a prolific writers group called Real Life Spoken Words and Poets. That group is facilitated by everyone's favourite hippie podcaster, Dale Harrington of Raw Salvage. Dale was on hand recording the event, look for it to be podcast soon. Ian Kinney, a University of Calgary student and a poet himself, facilitated an interesting panel discussion after the short readings, and many enjoyed the refreshing combination of Ko2 spring rolls with crisp Steamwhistle beer. (Go blog product placement -- thank you to our sponsors!). A pub night at Sam's was in order afterward, as the festival seeks to connect not only audience with poets, but poets with one another; writers tend to be busy people who could use more face time (and pool table hustling time, evidently). Poetry Jars continued to be filled on the counters of Kensington businesses for potential inclusion in a PPF anthology; certainly many more pieces of paper went into the jar at Sam's that night - perhaps in direct proportion to maple beer being consumed? What can we say, we're Canadians. Inside the Plaza on Saturday, theatre goers were treated not only to two great poetry movies (HOWL and Ladies & Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen), but to the relief of air-conditioned comfort. Pedestrians through the Calgary neighbourhood Friday to Sunday probably noticed other evidence of poets and poetry if their eyes were open. Outside the Roasterie, a Typewriter Station and Haiku Tree tempted passersby to put their own thoughts to bear upon the keys or the branches, respectively, and many did. Outside Higher Ground, caffeinated hipsters stopped to write a few lines into a journal at the Journaling Station. Outside Market Collective, anyone who didn't mind getting their hands a dirty for art's sake were invited to Finger Paint Their Favourite Phrase. Both Saturday and Sunday, an outdoor living room by Pages Books on Kensington let anyone sit down, pick up a poetry book, relax and enjoy. Those who couldn't sit still picked up sidewalk chalk and had at the great canvas at their feet. Saturday at noon brought Poetry Lunch to Molly Malone's, presented by filling Station Magazine; while the focus of the festival was on the local, we couldn't resist bringing in a couple of token out-of-town writers, namely RC Weslowski (multiple-time Vancouver and National Slam Champion, who happened to be in Edmonton for Fringe, touring his one-man-show, The Wet Dream Catcher), and Canmore's Dave Eso, founder and host of the Migratory Words writers circle and rebel micropress. Dave, RC, and several other festival poets jumped on the Bass Bus outside of Market Collective for some additional impromptu performances. On Saturday evening at House Coffee Sanctuary, Wordsworth youth writing camp hosted an all-ages open mic, drawing some of the young writers who have honed their amazing talent attending Wordsworth at Kamp Kiwanis each summer. (Shamefully, Young Alberta Book Society (YABS) has recently dropped this valuable means of assisting in the development of emerging writers (and employing established writers), even though if it wasn't for Wordsworth, few would know YABS existed). Mary Sanche was a warm and excellent hostess for the open mic. Sunday was no less raucous as outdoor activities continued to draw crowds, gathering thickly especially for the lively and instantly-captivating performance of Wakefield Brewster, this year's featured Poet of Honour. For artists and volunteers, the festival ended not only with a bang, but with a full battery of drums in the form of Noah Michael, Mercury Audio's drummer, while the roots rock band entertained guests at Lisa's beautiful Kensington home. This festival wouldn't have been possible without those who dedicated volunteer time, and huge thanks are due the organizers who sacrificed so much personal time and so many resources for the worthy cause - Festival Director Neshali Weera, Todd Andre, Shannon McLennan, Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Dale Harrington, and more. filling Station is so pleased to have been part of this wonderful addition to the Calgary literary community. It's a community which is already known nationally as a hotbed for avant garde literature thanks to some U of C professors, star students, and surrounding publishing activities, but which proved last weekend that it is also a welcoming site for social innovation and progress in all genres. As promised, the festival provided much evidence to prove that poetry truly is for everyone, and we hope that tangible truth has staying power between festivals. That said, there could be some interim events planned, again aimed not only at the established lit community but the potential community of creatives waiting to come out of the woodwork, and again bringing together and celebrating local poets that don't often share the stage. Keep eyes peeled all the way by visiting or this website often for updates. 



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