The 2020 edition, scheduled for last March, had to be postponed for obvious reasons. Now the organizers of VERSeFEST, Ottawa’s international poetry festival, are ready with an entirely free, virtual format that will feature readings, interviews, and artist talks in both English and French.
We’d say VERSeFEST is going way above and beyond the minimum requirement for a virtual event (say, a Facebook live stream and a couple of Zoom panels). In the 2020 program, there’s a very cool piece called “Dial-a-Poet,” which allows audience members to connect one-on-one with poets over the phone.
Another segment, called “Writing Spaces,” will have poets use the camera to invite audiences to take a look into their personal writing spaces and processes.
A “Bilingual Ottawa” grant from the Association des communautés francophones d’Ottawa also means poets will get the opportunity to have poems translated for their readings.
“We’ll be online throughout November and we’ll make sure you can find us. Poetry never goes away.”
Reflecting on this year’s virtual medium, Festival Director Monty Reid confirms: “It’s been a strange year, but VERSeFEST is back… It’s not quite as big as we had planned back in March, but a whole lot safer. We’ll be online throughout November and we’ll make sure you can find us. Poetry never goes away.”
Headliners of the 2020 festival include Canisia Lubrin, a prominent political poet; Karen Solie, a lyrical poet who subverts the expected; Brandon Wint, a formerly Ottawa-based national champion slam poet; Angye Goana, a Columbian poet and activist; Albert Dumont aka South Wind, a poet, storyteller, and Algonquin traditional teacher; Anne-Marie Desmeules, winner of the 2019 Governor General’s Award for French-language poetry; and Éric Charlebois, a prolific poet inimitable in technique and bold imagery.
We’re eagerly looking forward to the events featuring Ottawa hip hop artist and poet Kamal Hakim; local lyrical poet Pearl Pirie, who has published four chapbooks in the last two years; the award-winning author, editor, and publisher rob mclennan; and Ottawa’s Conyer Clayton, whose debut full-length collection of poetry We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite was released earlier this year.
Performance and poetry blur in several events, including the sound experimentations of Oana Avasilichioaei and Kaie Kellough. Meanwhile, the Transatlantic Sessions and American Sessions will allow poets from Iceland, Ireland, and the United States to participate.
VERSeFEST is running from November 6–20, 2020. All events are free for all audiences. Visit versefest.ca for the complete program and schedule.