TORONTO – An Indigenous author and assistant professor at the University of Toronto featured in an edition of “Dial-a-Poem,” a project that encourages individuals to call each week and listen to writers perform some of their work .
Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Anishinaabe writer and founder of Kegedonce Press, said she has known Dial-a-Poem since the 1980s, when it was first launched in Montreal by poet Fortner Anderson. But she said she hadn’t heard much of it since.
“I received an email from the organizer of this one in Montreal, asking if I would be interested in participating,” she said. “As soon as I heard about it. I was like wow, it’s amazing and really cool. I want to be part of it.
This week, callers at 514 558-8649 will be able to hear one of Akiwenzie-Damm’s two poems in English: “Funny Business (How Nanabush romanced the stone)” or “Reconciling the Books”.
Speaking to CTV News Toronto, Akiwenzie-Damm said her two poems were from a more recent collection and that she wanted to give them a try with Dial-A-Poem. At the same time, she also reflected on how they would translate into audio, adding that listening to a poem on the phone was “very intense” and “personal.”
“We’re used to having private conversations (on the phone) so it feels intimate in a way that it wouldn’t be in a cafe or a college auditorium or anywhere you might hear poetry or music. word. “
“Funny Business” is a slightly humorous tale chosen because Akiwenzie-Damm finds it a fun read, and “Reconciling the Books” is a passionate read meant to instill empathy and understanding for truth and reconciliation.
While Dial-A-Poem was launched in Montreal in the late 1980s, the program has been around since the 1960s. Since then, similar projects have sprung up in waves in North America and Europe.
The most recent Montreal edition was relaunched in December 2020 in the midst of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic by ARCMLT, a non-profit organization called ARCMLT dedicated to preserving Montreal’s local culture.
The organization had also spent the past two years digitizing and archiving poems from the 1980s Dial-a-Poem Project. These poems are also available on this year’s hotline.
Akiwenzie-Damm said she is honored to participate in this year’s project and hopes it will make poetry more accessible.
“People have been finding all kinds of different ways of expressing themselves through poetry, and have been for many years. I am really in favor of it. I think making poetry accessible to a wider audience is so important. I think we need it in our lives. I don’t think there’s a time when we don’t, ”she said.
“We need all of these different ways of communicating with each other and bringing beauty and new ways of seeing things to each other. I think poetry can do this and I think things like Dial-a-Poem provide a great place for a much wider range of people to appreciate poetry.
Akiwenzie-Damm’s latest book— (Re) Generation: The Poetry of Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm — was released in August 2021. She’s also working on a new collection that she says captures what she’s been thinking about for a year. and half. throughout the pandemic.
“They are not necessarily directly linked to the pandemic at all. It just gave me food for thought and I think in many ways we’ve all had such intense feelings and experiences, ”she said. “I also started working at the University of Toronto as an English teacher teaching creative writing, Indigenous (literature) and oral traditions. any indigenous people.
“I needed an outlet to really think and for me, poetry is often used for this purpose for me. It gives me a way to work on things and try to see things in different ways.