Ottawa's Ian Keteku's featured poem which appears on Edmonton buses. Photo credit: Lindy Pratch


This summer saw the start of two initiatives that approach the idea of performance, and poetry, in a unique way in Edmonton.

First, Edmonton saw the appointment of its fourth Poet Laureate. Known for pushing the boundaries of who can be considered a poet laureate by appointing hip-hop songwriter Cadence Weapon for the role in 2009, this year Anna Marie Sewell was selected. Sewell comes from an interdisciplinary tradition of theatre, music and poetry; one that continues the work of Cadence Weapon to bring poetry into the performance arena and recognizes the traditional role of poet laureate as a town crier.

Sewell’s first initiative as poet laureate was to create the Poetry Catcher. Drawing on her Mi’gmaq heritage, Sewell has placed a dream catcher in City Hall with a book below where people are meant to come and record their impressions, dreams, visions of home and Edmonton, which she will then read and create poems from over the next two years. The Poetry Catcher project brings an interesting public, performative aspect to poetry in Edmonton, as it moves the poetic voices of Edmontonians into the public realm. It is asking Edmontonians to think poetically and then to produce and display those thoughts in a public arena.

Second, the Edmonton Poetry Festival is continuing its project, The Poetry Route: Takin’ it to the Steets. The Poetry Route is a project that puts poems by writers of all ages and nationalities into public transit vehicles in Edmonton.

The series kicked off in April with poems by four writers who featured prominently in this year’s Edmonton Poetry Festival: Tim Bowling and Jannie Edwards of Edmonton; Griffin Award-winner Karen Solie of Toronto; and world slam poetry champion Ian Keteku of Ottawa. The current flight of poems (October-November) celebrates the 100th anniversary of Edmonton’s original Chinatown with poems displayed in English and Chinese characters. As a nod to the Alberta Winter Games, poetry by students featuring a Winter Activities theme will launch in February 2012.

Like the Poetry Catcher project, The Poetry Route offers the chance for Edmontonians to see poetry move into a public sphere and to be able to share the poems publicly. While not a performance in the traditional sense, the both projects engage the public outside of traditional poetry arenas and through putting poetry on display in easily accessed venues, thus creating a performance of the words. Both of these projects are a positive move to expose the Edmonton public to poetry and make its performance the norm.


Calgary continues to engage audiences in top notch spoken word poetry in Alberta.

In preparation, for the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, the Calgary Slam team has featured throughout the summer at the Calgary Slam, including hosting a Fundraiser Benefit Slam, Auction and Open Mic on September 29. The event featured a number of Calgary artists and merged poetry, visual arts, and music in its program.

The Calgary Youth Slam continues to be Alberta’s largest and strongest youth slam. Picking up from the end of the school year, the youth slam continues to draw in youth from around Calgary to compete and share their words.

The Spoken Word Workbook, edited by Sheri-D Wilson, has brought together internationally-recognized spoken word artists to discuss the art of spoken word, as well as to teach students with practical exercises. The website for the book has now launched and includes videos and exercises with the spoken word artists. To find out more information and to purchase the book/gain access to the website, visit:

Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 Spoken Word Program at the Banff Centre. Under director Sheri-D Wilson, this year’s faculty will feature Victor Hernàndez Cruz and Geneviève Letarte. This is the premiere spoken word education program in North America and brings together students of spoken word to study for two weeks at the renowned Banff Centre.  For more information and to apply please visit:


Tim Bowling and Jannie Edwards celebrate The Poetry Route: Takin' it to the Streets. Photo credit: Laurie MacFayden.
Anna Marie Sewell (Poet Laureate) and Edmonton City Councillor Kerry Diotte. Photo credit: City of Edmonton.