Our Story

Voice · Celebration · Community

Poetry is a source of energy, entertainment and joy shared by all societies. The Edmonton Poetry Festival celebrates poetry in all its forms. We get people from across the city involved as creators and audiences. Doesn’t matter what age you are, what culture you come from, or whether you fall for slam poetry or jump at reading the classics.

We work with all sorts of partners to build Edmonton’s vibrant poetry scene: publishers, writers’ organizations, community organizations, schools and literary groups. We connect poetry with other art forms (like music and visual art) and other parts of life (like science, politics, spirit). We aim to stimulate the growth and quality of work created and performed by Edmonton artists. We bring in national and international artists to inspire, entertain and educate.

We build bridges with the human voice and the art of language.

Festival History


The Edmonton Poetry Festival kicked off with the help of Edmonton’s then-poet laureate Alice Major and an organizing committee representing a wide range of poetry groups in the city. TELUS came on board as the founding sponsor. Victoria School for the Arts held a hugely successful poetry day, with dozens of local poets in classrooms and the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Pauline Michel in the school theatre.

There was Concrete Poetry — poems chalked all over Sir Winston Churchill Square. And there was the first-ever Blinks poetry event — sixty poets, 30 seconds each — organized by the Stroll of Poets Society.

The beats went on.


Generous funding from the Cultural Capital Program. A symposium. Special projects to create poetry with poets from other cultural communities and at-risk youth. The Honour Songs Project, creating performance from the words of Aboriginal women. A hip-hop night. Poems in a dozen languages at City Hall.

Special guests: Jack McCarthy, Christian Bok, Anne Simpson, Roald Hoffmann (poet & Nobel-winning chemist).


Two shorter festivals in 18 months, as we moved our regular festival week from September to April. The Breath-In-Poetry collective worked with us to host its slam finals for the first time during festival week. Master classes added for the first time in 2009.

Special guests: C.R. Avery, David O’Meara, bill bissett, Elizabeth Bachninsky, Jeramy Dodds, Jacob Scheier.

2010 – Found in Translation

Back to a full week-long program with 25 events and more than 35 professional poets participating. Literary Cocktails served for the first time. Book chats at the CBC. A special translation project and chapbook.

Special guests: Don McKay, George Bowering, Derek Beaulieu, Ariel Gordon, Tracy Hamm (for the Girls’ Night Out), Robert Kroetsch, and more.

Our first “paid staff” joins the team as Al Rasko came on board to look after financial administration and get the festival on a sustainable footing.

2011 – Get Caught Up

A night of African poetry. The Favourite Poem Lift-off. Poetry & jazz for a spring afternoon. How to live with a poet. Poetry and wine tasting. Poetry and mysticism with a real Whirling Dervish. Synaesthesia.

Special guests: Al Moritz, Ian Keteku, Karen Solie, Sheri-D Wilson, Regie Cabico, legendary sound poet Paul Dutton, Tanya Davis, Tanya Evanson, Stephen Scobie, and more.

We restart “Poetry Route” (now known as Poetry Moves on Transit) — poetry on Edmonton Transit vehicles throughout the city.

2012 – Words on the Line

Sketching with words – a workshop with poets and visual artists. Resonance – a poetry and film installation. Queer poetry. Our first bilingual French Twist. Short-order poetry on Sir Winston Churchill Square. A poem-and-honey tasting. Free-range poetry at the city market.

Special guests: Bob Holman, Dionne Brand, Jem Rolls, John Steffler, Brendan McLeod, and more.

Rayanne Doucet becomes executive director — our first year-round staff member to energize the festival.

2013 – Word Nation

A gathering of poets laureate from across Canada. A symposium on the state of poetry and an evening of their words at the Citadel Theatre. Plus poetry and blues, African Poetry and Arts Day, lunches with laureates, launches of books. Al Muttanabi Street comes to Edmonton.

Special guests: Liz Lochhead, Fred Wah, Bruce Meyer, Tanya Davis, Evelyn Lau, Don Kerr, Janet Marie Rogers, Kris Demeanor, George Elliott Clark, John B Lee, C.R. Avery, Komi Olaf, and more.

2014 – Word Bridges

Poems at City Hall and the Downtown Farmers Market. Conduit: work by immigrant writers. Creating across Cultures. The first hosting of Edmonton’s Slam Finals at the Poetry Festival. A Poetic Jam with Joy Harjo (now U.S. poet laureate). The Red Gala, an evening of erotic poetry and burlesque.

Special guests: Steven Heighton, Mary Pinkoski, Hugh McMillan (from Scotland), Sandy Pool, Ahmed Knowmadic, Marita Dachsel, and more.

2015 – Poetry Moves

Poets from across the country and the question: how does poetry move us? Poetry and politics. Une soirée de poésie décoiffante. A gala evening. Whiskey and Words from Wise Women.

Special guests: Taqralik Partridge, Ikenna Onyegbula (World Spoken Word Champion), Griffin Poetry Winner Sue Goyette, Parliamentary poet Michel Pleau, Gary Geddes, Garth Martens, Kathryn Mockler, Catherine Graham, Laurie MacFayden, Joanna Lilley, Helen Moffett (from South Africa), Sheri D Wilson, and more.

2016 – Poetry Becomes

Poetry becomes identity: exploring queer poetry. Brown, Black and Fierce. Science becomes poetry. Poetry becomes spirit, with Armand Garnet Ruffo. Poetry becomes visual art at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Poetry becomes social conscience. Poetry becomes City, a gathering of poets laureate in Edmonton’s City Hall. Poetry walks outdoors, and in the river valley. Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths, and a celebration of Tom Waits.

Special guests: Cat Kidd, Christian Bok, Kayla Czaga, Dennis Cooley, Anna Yin, Weyman Chan, Gerald Hill, Harold Rhenisch, Antony Di Nardo, Lise Gaboury-Diallo, and more.

2017 – Horizons/Eskonahkwahk

Cutlines and Skylines, the view from here. Language horizons with multilingual writers and Polyglot magazine. Beyond Reconciliation – poetry looking to the future. Poésies de Toutes Horizons.

Special guests: Liz Howard, Jane Munro, Ben Ladouceur, Nora Gould, Lillian Allen, Rebecca Thomas, Gregory Scofield, Shane Book, Richard Harrison, and more.

2018 – Your Voice Here/Nêhiyawêtân/Toi.Ta Voix. Ici.

Multilingual Voices: Expanding the Canlit Canon. Indigenous voices in poetry and art. Masterclass with Christian Campbell. Queer Expressions. Family Ties.

Special guests: Jan Zwicky, Christian Campbell, Jordan Abel, Helen Knott, Kai Cheng Thom, Ali Blythe, Patrick Friesen, Benjamin Hertwig, Alessandra Naccarato, and more.

2019 – HomeWord

Where we come from, where we’re headed. Poetry and Stillness. Fighting Normal.  Re:Home, how we understand the world around us.  Pê-kîwêhtatân Itwêwin, what does it mean to bring the word home? Landscape, an evening of live painting inspired by poetry.  And workshops in you-tubing, editors and their vulnerability, writing the land at the University of Alberta’s Botanical Garden with Jenna Butler.

Special guests: Canisia Lubrin, Buddy Wakefield, Arleen Pare, Natalie Wee, Doyali Islam, Brandon Wint, Randy Lundy, Cobra Collins, Nasra, Kelly Shepherd, Lady Vanessa Cardona, and more.

And every year …

An afternoon of local poets in cafes, book launches, noon-hour events at CBC, Poetry Central downtown, and partnerships all across the city. Poets in schools. Poetry year-round.