Literary snapshot: What’s happening in January

Photo credit: Ben Oh (via Flickr)

Kathryn Hunt is a displaced Maritimer who first arrived in Ottawa 15 years ago. A published poet and freelance writer, Kate blogs,performs and talks the city’s budding literary scene at every opportunity! She also enjoys cycling and rock-climbing in her spare time.

It’s a new year for Ottawa’s literary scene, and man, is January busy!

If you resolved to explore your creative side this New Year and you’re looking for people to help you do it, you can check out some of the writing groups that meet regularly around town. Carleton University’s In/Words magazine and small press meets every Monday and Thursday at 6:00 PM on the 18th floor of Dunton Tower (the tall tower in the middle of campus) for group criticism and workshopping: bring 6-8 copies of your latest work to share.

If you need a kickstart out of writers’ block, you can meet up with the Creative Writing Play Date, which meets at Mother Tongue Books at Bank and Sunnyside at 8:00 every Tuesday. Hosted by local writer Sean Zio, the Play Date is a drop-in workshop: participants are given a writing exercise at the beginning of the evening and write in the first half, then return and read their new work to each other in the second. It’s intended as an encouraging space to try new things and dedicate time to writing.

And then, of course, there are always a ton of literary happenings to get out to this month:

Jan. 7 sees the first Capital Slam of the season, at the Mercury Lounge. The competition has been getting really interesting, with a lot of new poets coming up through the ranks, including a hefty crop of women slammers (a welcome sight.) Their feature for this event is also well worth getting out to see: Brendan McLeod has been performing as a poet, musician, slam champion, novelist – and now storyteller – for years, touring across England and North America. I’ve never yet seen a Brendan McLeod show that didn’t make my whole week better. Doors and slam signup are at 6:30 at the Mercury Lounge.

A scene from a previous Capital Slam (Photo credit: Pesbo via Flickr)

The women’s performance series, Voices of Venus, will be featuring Kay’la (Kiki) Fraser on Jan. 11. Kiki has been a member of the Toronto Poetry Slam Team and the Burlington Slam Project Team and has featured at a number of shows across Canada – sharing the stage with artists like Shauntay Grant, Tasha Jones, Dwayne Morgan,

Brendan McLeod and C.R. Avery. The show is at Venus Envy, 230 Lisgar. It’s $5 or pay-what-you-can; the doors open at 7:30, open mike is at 8:00, followed by the feature.

Jan. 12 sees a reading by Henry Beissel at the A B Series called “From Icarus to Idi Amin.” The reading’s at 7:30 (doors at 7:00) at Laurier House, and the admission’s free, although if you want tea and scones, bring some cash and show up while supplies last.

On Jan. 13, the School of the Photographic Arts is hosting the fourth installment of a collaborative project curated by rob mclennan called “Call and Response,” in which a photographer’s work is responded to by a poet. The poet for this installment is the marvelous Sandra Ridley, responding to the exhibition Study of Structure and Form by Pedro Isztin. There’s always something to be learned when one artist uses their art form to interpret another’s. The opening, reading, and vernissage is on the 13th at 6:00; the photographs will remain on display until Feb. 6.

The Dusty Owl’s Jan. 15 feature is Brandon Wint: a two-time member of the Canadian National Champion Slam Team, member of the popular spoken word group The Recipe, and an unabashed love poet, Brandon recently released a gorgeous short video, ‘Poetry in Motion,’ which was one of the top videos in the Ottawa International Film Festival’s music video challenge. Dusty Owl is at 3:00 at the Elmdale House Tavern: the show’s free but they pass a hat.

Brandon Wint performs at a previous VERSefest (Photo credit: Pesbo via Flickr)

For a little live storytelling, and if you like true-life stories or war history, check out the Ottawa Storytellers’ ‘A House Divided: Stories of the American Civil War’ on Jan. 19 at featuring storytellers Gail Anglin, Tom Lips and Daniel Kletke, who will tell stories of people on both sides of the war, framed by the songs that would have moved and encouraged the soldiers and their families at home. It’s part of the Ottawa Storytellers’ “Speaking Out, Speaking In” series at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage.

The A B Series is bringing the Montreal spoken word artist Cat Kidd back to Ottawa, along with fellow Montrealer and “word-sound systemizer” Kaie Kellough, on Jan. 20 at Gallery 101. Cat Kidd is a hard-to-define performer, combining performance poetry with a stage-covering, dancelike theatricality in which she can sometimes embody multiple personas at the same time. Kaie Kellough blurs the lines between words and rhythms with his brand of bop-inflected poetry. The show is at 8:00 PM, and tickets are $9.

On the next day, the 21st, you can celebrate the end of the world (because that’s supposed to happen in 2012, right?) with VERSe Ottawa. They’re having a party at Arts Court, with live music from Call me Katie and Puggy Hammer, open mikes, poetry readings, and the announcement of the winner of their Poetry For The End of the World contest. The winning poem will then be attached to an actual weather balloon – at the party – and sent to “The End Of the World.” How cool is that? (The contest details are on their website, at The show is a fundraiser for VERSeFest: it kicks off at 7:00 and goes all night with alternating readings, music, and open mikes, and space to socialize in the studio.

And just before the month runs out, you can also get out on the 27th, for the launch party of the eighth issue of the poetry PDF journal ottawater. A bunch of contributors to the journal will be there to read their work; the party kicks off at 7:00 at the Carleton Tavern, upstairs, with readings at 7:30.

Last but certainly not least, the next day you can witness the city’s first Women’s Slam Championship on Jan. 28 at 7:00. An invitational slam, this event will put twelve women from the history of Ottawa’s slam scene on stage at Arts Court to compete for the title, from the latest group of new poets (one of them only 14 years old and already a national youth champion) to one of the co-founders of Capital Slam, and everything in between. Ottawa’s women slammers have been taking their place at the forefront lately: this is a chance to see the best of the best. The event is also a VERSeFest fundraiser: the top four poets will be invited to perform at the festival, running Feb 28-March 4. 

Sounds like a fun month — if you can brave the cold! Thanks, Kathryn!