Thursday, February 21, 2019

announcing: VERSeFest 2019!

Diverse lineup of poets announced for VERSEFest 2019

Ottawa, ON – February 15, 2019  VERSeFest, Ottawa’s International Poetry Festival, will return for its ninth annual edition March 26 - 31, 2019, showcasing more than 80 poets from six countries.

With the largest lineup in the festival’s history, VERSeFest will feature seven days of poetry, spoken word, and music across genres, cultures, and international borders in both English and French. For the first time, VERSeFest will host a pre-festival launch event, which will take place at City Hall on March 23rd, where Ottawa’s two new poet laureates will also be announced.

Over 80 poets have been confirmed, including Canadian icon and best-selling children’s author Dennis Lee;  the youngest ever Griffin Poetry Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt; sound poet and maracas-shaking musician bill bissett; the politically astute Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg poet and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson; one of Acadia’s most prominent and prolific poets, playwrights, and visual artists -- Herménégilde Chiasson; and Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen, who is also known for her dramatic texts and libretti.

Local Ottawa poets to take the stage will include 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.

“VERSeFest is Canada’s largest and most important bilingual poetry festival, and provides a unique and rich outlet for the community to share and grow their passion for poetry and spoken word,” said City of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. “VERSeFest...highlights the best poetry from around the world while fostering a creative, inclusive, diverse and accessible environment for both performers and patrons.”

According to Festival Director Monty Reid, “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.”

Ottawa’s growing identity as a poetry town reflects in the dozen reading series that make up the collective behind the festival’s umbrella organization VERSe Ottawa. Over 2,000 festival goers are expected to attend readings taking place at Knox Presbyterian Church, alongside a school program and a selection of Gatineau-based events. Musical guests will be featured at select events, and visitors will have the chance to take in the art exhibit concrete is porous, featuring 47 works by 24 Canadian poets.

In 2017, VERSe Ottawa and the City of Ottawa reinstated the Poet Laureate Program. There are two current Ottawa poet laureates – one English, one French – each appointed to serve a two-year term. Their mandate is to act as Ottawa’s artistic ambassadors, to promote the literary arts, and to advance Ottawa’s unique voice in the world.

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Poet Laureate Program:


Monty Reid, Festival Director:
Vivian Vavassis, Communications Director:

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