VERSefest set to stage largest poetry party ever

The children's author and poet Dennis Lee will be part of this year's VERSefest.

More than 80 poets from six countries will be landing in Ottawa for the ninth VERSeFest.

The annual celebration of verse runs from March 26  to 31 will host its largest lineup ever, organizers say. There will be a pre-launch event March 23 at Ottawa City when the municipality will meet its new poet laureates. In 2017, VERSe Ottawa and the city reinstated the poet laureate program. There are two city laureates – one English, one French. Each is appointed to a two-year term with a mandate to act as artistic ambassadors for the city and to promote the literary arts.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is coming to the event.

Griffin Poetry Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt will be on hand this spring.

As usual some big names in the poetry world will be attending including the venerated Dennis Lee; the youngest ever Griffin Poetry Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt; sound poet and musician bill bissett; the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg poet, novelist and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson; the Acadian poet, playwright and visual artists Herménégilde Chiasson and the Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen.

As always a strong contingent of local Ottawa poets will be on hand including the festival’s first poet-in-residence Amal El-Mohtar, as well as Gilles Latour, Deanna Young, David O’Meara, Cameron Anstee and Julie Huard.

“This is the biggest festival we’ve ever put together with international guests coming from Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, and the USA. We’re excited to not only have the opportunity to host some legendary poets this year, but also to expose our audience to outstanding emerging talent,” VERSefest director Monty Reid said in a media release.

The festival says it expects more than 2,000 patrons to attend readings at Knox Presbyterian Church, along with a school program and a selection of events in Gatineau. 

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.