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 in 2006, 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.

2007 – 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 like Jack McCarthy, Christian Bok, Anne Simpson, Roald Hoffmann (poet & Nobel-winning chemist).

2008-9 – 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 festival guests included 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 including Don McKay, George Bowering, Derek Beaulieu, Ariel Gordon and Tracy Hamm (for the Girls’ Night Out). Robert Kroetsch.

And our first ‘paid staff’ 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, the Tanyas (ie., Tanya Davis & and Tanya Evanson), Stephen Scobie.
And this year, we restart “The Poetry Route” – 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 this is the year that 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 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.