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Poets set to descend on Nanaimo

Nanaimo will host the 2015 Cascadia Poetry Festival. The festival begins later this month. - Nicholas Pescod
Nanaimo will host the 2015 Cascadia Poetry Festival. The festival begins later this month.
— image credit: Nicholas Pescod

Beginning next week.

Poets will read and speak.

All throughout the Harbour City.

As part of a festival inspired by regional identity.

When the Cascadia Poetry Festival kicks off in Nanaimo on April 30, hundreds poets from the Pacific Northwest and beyond will be belting out all types of verses and rhymes.

“There are a lot of poetry festivals, but there are not a lot of festivals that are really dedicated to a more experimental side of poetry,” said festival organizer and founder, Paul Nelson.

In addition to various kinds of poetry readings, the four-day festival will feature plenty of workshops and after-hours events.

“In the evening there are headline readings with some of the most brilliant poets in the bio-region,” Nelson said.

Among the poets who will be at the festival include Naomi Beth Wakan, Barry McKinnon, George Stanley, Sharon Thesen, Christine Lowther, Christine Leclerc and Renée Sarojini Saklikar.

The Cascadia Poetry Festival, which was created in 2012, has been held twice before in Seattle.

This year’s festival marks the first time it has taken place outside of the United States.

“We wanted to do it in Canada,” Nelson said. “We just don’t want this to be a U.S. centric thing.”

Originally, Nelson considered having this year’s festival in Victoria, but was told Nanaimo would be an excellent choice.

“The Victoria people said no they don’t want to take this on, but said the people in Nanaimo would,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who has been to Nanaimo before, said that Nanaimo has a strong poetry community and is an ideal place to host the festival.

“Nanaimo has a lot of amenities and a good sense of community,” he said.

Nelson hopes that those who attend the festival return to the Harbour City.

“We want people to come back to this part of the world [Nanaimo] because of the festival.”

The Cascadia Poetry Festival was named and inspired by the Cascadia bio-regional independence and identification movement.

“We have such an amazing place where we live,” Nelson said. “The fact that it includes two countries is even more fascinating and leads to a lot more possibilities.”

The Cascadian boundaries encompass parts of Alaska, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Yukon and Wyoming as well as all of Washington.

Nelson said he created the festival as part of a personal pursuit to understand more about the Cascadia region.

“I created it out of my own desire to know more about the culture of this bio-region,” Nelson said.

Nelson added that the festival and the Cascadia movement is not about separating from Canada or the United States, but about understanding and culturally identifying with their geographical surroundings.

“We have the opportunity to shape the culture here,” he said. “Taking a cue from the indigenous people and doing it with honour and mixing it with people who wouldn’t be called indigenous.”

The Cascadia Poetry Festival runs from April 30 until May 3 and takes place at Vancouver Island University, building 355, as well as various locations throughout Nanaimo.

For more information, including a full schedule, ticket prices and list of performers, please visit www.cascadiapoetryfestival.org.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com
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