Finding A Voice: Reviewing ‘The People’s Poetry Festival’

When a community of artists collectively clears its throat with the intent to sing for as long and as loud as it can, pull up a chair, and enjoy.

On August 19 up until the late evening hours of August 21st, 2011 Kensington became the venue for aspiring poets to collectively howl as one.

And howl they did. On street  corners. In cafes. From the rooftops (well not really but you get the idea). Expressing a need for passionate poetry was the mantra for the weekend.

The launch was a microcosm of the Calgary poetry scene, if you will, the purest snapshot of passionate creativity.  Headliners for the event included, but were not limited to Wakefield Brewster, Diane Guichon, Erin Dinkle, David Rhoades, Iqbal (Bob) Haider, Meghan Doraty and a sleuth of avid poetry enthusiasts.

Picture if you will, Pages bookstore in Kensington. A two story niche containing an ever expanding inventory of hard to find Canadian and international literature. The dominant feature is a large staircase that winds its way to a second floor loft area. An entire wall of windows showcase the trendiest street in avant garde Calgary: Kensington Rd NW. A close second is 10 St NW, just off Memorial Drive and across the river from the downtown core.

Everywhere you look are rows of hard to find, never heard of it before, but wouldn’t that be interesting? books. Imagine a large crowd gathered within a small two story shop, to the point where at least fifteen camp out on the staircase to listen in. Listen to what, you ask? The art form commonly refered to as the ‘Spoken Word’ of artists like Wakefield Brewster. With the tempo of a rap stylist, and the baratone voice of a baptist minister filled to the brim with conviction purely concieved of passion: it is a thing to hear. It will grab you, sit you down and transfix until it ends.

That is the power of the Spoken Word, and is the underlying driving force of the entire People’s Poetry Festival. And, to argue a further point, poetry itself.

The People’s Poetry Festival aimed to bring poetry out of the ‘ivory tower’ and into the hands of the people. The trick is to maintain that passion, foster it even, without losing the quality of the initial material. Unfortunately the quality of material presented at the festival did not equal the passion with which it was presented. The collective voice of the festival is not as refined as it could be; the mixtures of University alums, current University students, retirees, freelance artists and passionate public onlookers has immense potential to be a guiding influence on refining Calgary’s poetic voice.

Bottom line: the Festival demonstrated that Calgary is going through a second (if not third) boom cycle. We’ve had the real estate boom (and bust). We’ve been through the oil boom (and bust). Now, it seems, the Artistic community of Calgary is breaking out its collective voice with as much passion and furious energy as witnessed six years ago.

By and large the festival is a success at demonstrating that Calgary has found its collective poetic voice. This blogger is very excited to see where it leads those brave enough to howl along with the emerging poetic community, where anything and everything has such immidiate potential to literally boom.  

Congratulations to festival organizers and volunteers who made this whole event possible. Looking forward to next year!

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2 Responses to Finding A Voice: Reviewing ‘The People’s Poetry Festival’

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  2. Miguel says:

    Carmine BellThank you for this Web site, giving well-deserved rncigeitoon to creative artists working in behalf of the 99%.I really enjoyed hearing/reading Richard Downing’s poem Howl Again. It captures the ethos of the Occupy Movement and exemplifies ingenious, effective use of many devices of imaginative literature irony, of course, but also metaphor, simile, oxymoron, allusion, deliberate repetition for effect (like Ginsberg’s Howl ), enjambment, etc. The poem uses the devices so appropriately and effectively that readers can read, understand, and appreciate the poem’s content with no conscious awareness of these devices as artificial or intrusive. The conclusion is masterful in its climactic effect and hope for real change. Carmine Bell

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