Poets spread across the city for the Edmonton Poetry Festival



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Rayanne Haines used poetry to overcome difficult emotions in her latest album, Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun. Poetry has helped her deal with difficult topics while being honest about her grief and depression. Family trauma and healing were front and center, pouring private emotions onto the page.

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“For me, it was the only way to move on, using poetry to find a way to get the words out of my body,” Haines explains. “With poetry, I can question things in a different way. It calls me to write in a much more truthful way.

Rayanne Haines is one of Metro Edmonton Libraries' Writers-in-Residence and will be sharing her work at this year's Edmonton Poetry Festival.
Rayanne Haines is one of Metro Edmonton Libraries’ Writers-in-Residence and will be sharing her work at this year’s Edmonton Poetry Festival. Photo by Steven Stefaniuk /Provided

Haines is writer-in-residence for Metro Edmonton Libraries, professor of writing at MacEwan University, and has published three books of poetry. She is also one of the myriad of writers who will share their work and thoughts on their craft during the two-week Edmonton Poetry Festival, April 22-May 1.

Haines will be joined by Emily Riddle and Uchechukwu Umezurike for an event April 30 at the Strathcona County Library at 2 p.m. Although their work was originally written for the page, Haines says the poetry has a strong connection to the stage.

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“When I was writing my collection, I was like, ‘Oh, I have to share this,'” Haines says. “It takes vulnerability to be so honest in front of people. Many of us go up there with shaky palms and shaky voices.

For the duration of the festival, shaking hands and the voices of veteran poets and newcomers alike will grace stages across the city, with at least one performance per day.

“We have an overabundance of writers to include in the festival,” says festival artistic director Shima Robinson, this is her first year at the helm of the festival, which she took over at a time when COVID was putting a lot of pressure on her. ‘uncertainty. in in-person festivities.

What she and the organizing committee have assembled is a massive cross section of the city’s poetic community. New poets, longtime poets, Indigenous poets, poets from the LGBTQ2S+ community; there is great diversity among the participating artists.

Two Lost Launches events will celebrate artists whose work has not been as well received as it might have been during the pandemic.

Current Edmonton Poet Laureate Titilope Sonuga will make several appearances, including a masterclass on April 29 at Latitude 53 where she will share her thoughts on writing. Norma Dunning, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, will lead a session of the Near Dead Poets Society, a group of writers over 45 who share their poetry.

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Gavin Bradley, Jason Purcell, Jenna Butler; the list goes on, with poets bringing their work to the masses, witnessing part of the literary world performed live.

“Being accountable to ourselves is fundamentally part of the process of writing poetry. Presenting or reading keeps us accountable to ourselves and our community,” says Robinson.

Alice Major is one of the most experienced voices in Edmonton’s poetry community, with published work dating back over 30 years. She was also Edmonton’s first Poet Laureate in 2005, where she launched the Edmonton Poetry Festival.

Her work evolved throughout her writing career, beginning with poems about love and loss. It has changed more recently to talk about science and the world at large. His latest book, Welcome to the Anthropocene, is an examination of human-induced climate change and stems from his reaction to exposure to changing animals over time.

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“One of the interesting things I think about poetry is that you shape the problem, the trauma that you’re dealing with,” Major says. “It’s cathartic not only to express what you feel, but also because you turn it into something that will resonate with others. You hunt for metaphors, you seek a narrative.

It’s as much about being concise as it is about being playful. Major will be joined by Marilyn Dumont, a poet and educator who teaches at the University of Alberta, at their event April 25 at noon at the Stanley Milner Library.

The festival will also host a charity effort to help Ukraine. The Edmonton Stroll of Poets Society will host a fundraiser at Yannis Taverna on April 24 where they will unveil a Poets for Ukraine anthology.

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Members of The Stroll of Poets and The Parkland Poets provided works as well as submissions through a Facebook group and compiled into a book of chapters, with proceeds going to Ukraine’s Second Front Foundation.

Some of the boardwalk poets will also perform during the festival, with ticket sales supporting the Alberta Ukrainian Arts Council.

For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, visit edmontonpoetryfestival.com.

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The Edmonton Poetry Festival

Or Various places

When April 21 to May 1

Tickets Free and paid events, details and purchases at edmontonpoetryfestival.com.

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