Literary snapshot: What’s happening in February

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 blogsperforms and talks the city’s budding literary scene at every opportunity! She also enjoys cycling and rock-climbing in her spare time.

It’s probably a good thing there’s an extra day in February this year, it’s so packed with literary events.

I’ll actually start at the end with the biggest literary event for the month: VERSeFest 2012. This new festival dedicated to bringing ‘page’ and ‘stage’ poetry together starts on Feb. 28 and goes till March 4 Last year’s Festival was a rousing start for this new venture and this year they’re going much bigger, with international stars, workshops and a full six days of events. Headliners include The Summit Reading, with top poets from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (Phil Hall, Philip Levine, and Pura López-Colomé), American spoken word and hip hop star Ursula Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armantrout, and beloved blues poet C.R. Avery.

There are also a lot of workshops going on this month: In/Words, the Carleton-based literary journal and writers’ group, is holding a series of workshops in 1811 Dunton Tower on campus, all starting at 6:00: on Feb. 6 it’s “Humour in Poetry” with Bardia Sinaee; on Feb. 9 it’s “Editing and Publishing Fiction” with Dave Currie; and on Feb. 13 it’s “The Spoken Word” with Brandon Wint.

The Tree Seeds workshops, held before the Tree Reading Series, are also a great free resource for stretching your poetry skills: their next one focuses on reshaping a rough poem. It’s on the 14th, with Glenn Kletke, at the Arts Court at 6:45.

VERSeFest will also feature a couple of free workshops on Saturday, March 3, at Arts Court: At 1:00 local poet and teacher Danielle Gregoire will be hosting an all-ages writing workshop (Danielle is great at working with different age groups), and at 3:00 there’s a slam workshop with former World Slam Champion Ian Keteku.

They’re also presenting a workshop with the legendary spoken word and hip hop star Ursula Rucker, from Philadelphia. She’s in town for VERSeFest and running a workshop at the Mercury Lounge on Sunday, March 4. The workshop is $50 and includes a ticket to her Saturday show. Signup is first-come, first-served: email anytime after 10:00 am on Feb. 1. The first 20 people to email will reserve space, and have seven days to get payment to VERSeFest to confirm. A waiting list will be maintained as well.

Voices of Venus for February will feature Abby Paige on Wednesday the 8th at 8:00 pm: Abby is a writer, actor and editor who’s just moved to Ottawa. Voices of Venus is always a good time: one of Ottawa’s rowdier, and cheerier, literary audiences. The (ladies only) open mike is fun too. The show’s at Venus Envy at 320 Lisgar.

The Undercurrents theatre festival runs from the 7th to the 19th at the Irving Greenberg Centre – a great mix of independent, new, adventurous productions from across the country and local shows. Undercurrents was a huge hit with its inaugural festival last year, and this year’s edition’s been hotly anticipated.

Capital Slam on Feb. 11 (this is at a different time from usual because of VERSeFest), features local, national, and international champion Ian Keteku as well as the usual slam competition. Also, February’s slam will give priority in the signup to people who haven’t competed yet this season, so show up early to get on the list.

The Tree Reading Series is featuring Leslie Vryenhoek (an editor at Riddle Fence) and Marilyn Bowering (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award) on the 14th – yes, that’s Valentine’s Day, but think about the long and storied history of poetry and romance!

For any Lord of the Rings fans, or fans of Wagner, there’s the Ottawa Storytellers show at the Fourth Stage on the 16th: “Dragon’s Gold: A Sword Reforged, A Ring Accursed.” Three storytellers – Jennifer Cayley, Jan Andrews, and Katherine Grier – all of whom are great at telling Norse legends, will be telling stories from the original Quest of the Ring. The show’s at 7:30: tickets are $20.

Also on the 16th, the A B Series presents GEODE, a music and poetry group including poet Susan McMaster and a group of musicians on bass, winds steel guitar, keyboards and percussion. Their work blends poetry, jazz, blue, new music, world music and classical. They’ll be performing at Gallery 101 at 8:00. Tickets are $9.

The next night, the 17th, the Factory Reading Series is hosting Deanna Young, Mike Blouin and Robin Macdonald, over at the Carleton Tavern (upstairs). Two of the writers – Deanna Young and Mike Blouin – are launching new chapbooks, and Robin Macdonald has poetry in the latest issue of the online journal Ottawater.

On Sunday the 19thDusty Owl is hosting their annual fundraiser for Ottawa’s delegates to the Black Youth Congress; they partner with 3 Dreads and a Bald Head, a group that works to provide opportunities to black youth in Ottawa, on this fundraiser each year. It’s at the Elmdale House Tavern on Wellington, at 3:00 pm, and will feature poets Joanne John, Jacqueline Lawrence, and John Akpata.

Friday the 24th is Once Upon a Slam, one of the only storytelling slams in the country. It’s just like a poetry slam, except you get five minutes to tell a story. Audience judges rate the stories – it’s all in fun – and there’s a featured performer. I’ve become a regular at OUAS: the stories are always varied and fun, and whenever I can, I sign up for the slam. It’s at the Mercury Lounge: doors at 6:45, slam at 7:15.

And then we’re all off to VERSeFest!

Lots of opportunity to take in some great events, Ottawa. Which are YOU going to attend?