VERSeFest: Fire and Ice
By: Ceilidhe Miller (Introduction to Poetry Workshop)
From March 24 to 30, 2015, the annual VERSeFest poetry festival was held right here in Ottawa. According to their website, “VERSe Ottawa is a collective of Ottawa organizations who curate and produce reading and performance series.” Over this week long festival there were several events to go to and various types of poetry to see.
On March 28, I went to the event, “Fire and Ice” that took place at the Pressed café, located on Gladstone. This was an all-female showcase featuring Emma Blue, King Kimbit, Rational Rebel and Artemysia Fragiskatos.
First to perform was Emma Blue, who is from London, Ontario and was part of London’s 2014 team at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She opened her set with a poem about her experiences as a homeschooler and her anger towards it being perceived as an “invalid” form of education. The concept that stood out most for me was the idea of “playing the victim.” She believes that there is a pressure that those who experienced tragedy must label themselves a survivor. However, it makes people uncomfortable if those who have experienced tragedies are functioning human beings. She suggests in her poem that we should not define others or ourselves by one thing.
The second performer of the afternoon was King Kimbit, an internationally recognized singer and spoken word artist from Ottawa, Ontario. She brought a mix of poetry, rap and singing to her set. Throughout her set her themes explored abuse, finding acceptance and not underestimating your presence. She sang “Purple Hearts,” a song about those dying from drug abuse related tragedies. It is clear from her set she is a multi-talented human being, with incredible writing skills, rapping skills and a voice that has a unique jazzy feel to it.
After King Kimbit, was the poet Rational Rebel, who has performed at a variety of different events prior to VERSeFest. Although she had a quiet stage presence she had a lot of powerful poetry during her set. The majority of her poetry was related to the struggles she and those like her face because she is an African American woman, including the struggles women face and the lack of diversity in Disney fairy tales. She also did a poem her about “skinny-shaming” and how everyone believes she is perfect because of her weight. It was unique poem with a topic that rarely shows up in other people’s poetry.
The last to perform was Artemysia Fragiskatos who was on Capital Slam’s 2014 team at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and helps run a monthly poetry series called Words to Live By. Her opening poem was about misogyny in the world and within the poetry community itself. She used what is best described as “violent humour” to express her distaste towards the type of men who use the c-word or act in a misogynistic fashion. Another poem that was a standout from her set was about her Greek roots.
Overall, this was a fun event that showcased a variety of talented poets. If you missed VERSeFest this year, I definitely recommend exploring at least a few events next year.
Patrick Lane Reading; March 30th, Department of English
Reviewed by Cristal B. Mean (Introduction to Poetry Workshop)
The Gordon Wood Lounge was filled with all ages and faces to see the phenomenal Canadian poet, a Mr. Patrick Lane. His historical knowledge and narrative excellence cut to the core of the audience. Wild snaps rippled through the room when his words flooded each synapse of the brain, praising each mellifluous line. Lane spoke informatively, telling the crowd about his adventures to abandoned cabins after WWI to the experience of a few poets carefully clicking tongue to teeth from totalitarian Russia. His performance featured his newest book Witness. Stanza by stanza, Lane poured out a plethora of concrete and pulchritudinous imagery centered in nature. Between poems, he romanticized about wildlife he had the pleasure of spending time with, danced with old memories of meeting Pablo Neruda and portrayed his personality to the audience as they shook with anticipation for answers to the questions in their heads. I would very much recommend going to see Patrick Lane.
My life was enriched by his performance and readiness to engage you in his experience of life. I not only got to hear beautiful words but I learned about wildlife and history. Lane truly seems to live for the moment. His romanticism of life and curiosity about nature was appreciated. One particular thing Lane said that stuck out to me in juxtapose to his wonderful poetry is that “Writer’s happen to you.” That day Patrick Lane happened to me. After the honor of shaking Mr. Lane’s hand and receiving a signed book, I skipped to the Dunton Tower elevator, grinning ear to ear in awe, absolutely inspired by his character and poetry. Don’t miss a chance to see Mr. Lane in the future! You won’t be disappointed!