By Susan Atkinson, an Ottawa poet on the organizing committee for VERSeFest.
That’s right, Dennis Lee will be this year’s children’s poet at Ottawa’s International Poetry Festival, VERSeFest, and kids, we guarantee this is one event that you won’t need to beg your parents to take you to. In fact, they are probably going to be just as eager to leave their pyjamas on and have you lead them by the hand for an incredible and memorable time of poetry performed by the amazing and legendary Mr. Lee on Saturday March 30.
VERSeFest, Ottawa’s International Poetry Festival, will return for its ninth annual edition March 26-31, 2019, showcasing a diverse and talented group of more than 80 poets from six countries. The festival features English and French poetry showcasing the best local, Canadian, and international poets performing in both spoken and written word genres. As one of Canada’s largest and most successful poetry festivals, their stages have featured readings by Griffin, Governor General, and Pulitzer Prize winners.
This year’s line-up of events also includes a kick-starter on Saturday March 23rd at City Hall, which amongst other activities will showcase the inauguration of this year’s English and French Poet Laureates, as well as a reading by the Festival’s first Poet-in-Residence, Amal el Motar.
Also new at the Festival is an art installation curated by bill bissett. The installation, concrete is porous, will remain on display for the duration of the Festival. But for many, both young and old, one of the main attractions this year will be the Saturday morning Poetry and Pyjamas event with Dennis Lee.
If you went to a Canadian elementary school, you won’t need to be reminded who Dennis Lee is. Synonymous with Alligator Pie, Nicholas Knock and Other People, The Ice Cream Store and Garbage Delight, Lee has, more than once, been referred to as Canada’s Father Goose. He is the king of children’s poetry and given that this will be his first visit back to our fair city in approximately 10 years, his appearance at VERSeFest is not to be missed.
Lee has, more than once, been referred to as Canada’s Father Goose.
Lee is also an acclaimed poet for adults and is both a Governor General’s Literary Award winner and an Officer of the Order of Canada. His poetry has been anthologized and read around the world.
Perhaps what makes Lee’s visit to this year’s Festival so special is not only will he be wooing the younger festival-goers at the Poetry and Pyjamas event, slated to take place on Saturday March 30 at10am at the Knox Presbyterian Church, but he will also be performing as part of the Writersfest Showcase on Friday, March 29 at 7pm. It is expected that Lee will read work from his collected poems Heart Residence (published in 2017) alongside poets Jean-Marc Desgent, Renée Sarojini and Ursula Andkjær Olsen.
It will have been a busy day for this award-winning poet as he will have spent the earlier part of his morning entertaining the primary children at OCDSB elementary school Charles H. Hulse at a special invitational reading. The youngsters at Charles Hulse, many of whom are new immigrants and refugees, will have enjoyed a private morning of poetry and verse in their own school gym. This will be a rare and very special treat, which these children will surely treasure and remember for many years to come.
The general public will have their own chance to enjoy a little poetry magic as Dennis invites the youngest of poetry fans, and of course their parents and grandparents as well, to leave on their pyjamas and join in for some of the rollicking rhymes he is well-known and best loved for.
Dennis Lee’s VERSeFest Ottawa appearances include Writersfest Showcase on Friday, March 29 at 7pm (at Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar Street) and Poetry & Pyjamas on Saturday, March 30 at 10am (at Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar Street). Stay updated with everything that is happening at this year’s VERSeFest on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.