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VerseFest: A hotbed of poetry

New festival combines spoken word with written poetry

VerseFest Ottawa is for poetry lovers and spoken word performance junkies.

Fourteen of Ottawa’s poetry reading series have joined forces to introduce new and old poets to Ottawa’s growing poetry fan base. Each series will host its own events featuring local and national poets over the course of five days.

Jessica Ruano is a local performer and the media liaison for VerseFest.

“It’s a really diverse crowd from all different backgrounds,” she says. “Ottawa has become the hotbed of poetry. We have a lot of talent here, so people are drawn here.”

There will be two readings and talks each evening with additional workshops planned for Saturday. Voices of Venus, Ottawa’s monthly women’s spoken word series will host a special erotica evening with Beth Anne Fischer.

Other queer poets include Xtra’s own Marcus McCann.

Poets for Human Rights, an event hosted by Ottawa poet Kevin Matthews, is the only event in the festival that called for submissions by poets.

“We specifically asked for work that tackled human rights issues, whether that was global migration issues or domestic human rights struggles or struggles of war-affected people,” says Matthews. “We actually got quite a range of stuff, and I think that what we have chosen is a balance between people who are using their poetry as a form of activism for peace, for indigenous rights and as a mode of self-expression to express one’s own struggle for one’s own rights.”