Former Edmonton poet laureate Anna Marie Sewell is the featured performer at WordStorm Society of the Arts’ upcoming 15 Minutes of Infamy spoken word event. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Lippiatt)

Former Edmonton poet laureate Anna Marie Sewell reads from new book in Nanaimo

Sewell performs at WordStorm’s 15 Minutes of Infamy spoken word event at the Green Olive

The last time Anna Marie Sewell passed through Nanaimo she was on vacation. This time, it’s all business.

The former poet laureate for the City of Edmonton is the featured performer at the upcoming vernal equinox edition of Wordstorm Society of the Arts’ 15 Minutes of Infamy spoken word event at the Green Olive on March 20.

“I’m bringing poetry, I’m bringing songs, I’m hoping to present things in a way that will invite a new group of people to engage with it because I just think that’s more fun, you know?” Sewell said.

The event is hosted and curated by Ladysmith-based poet and musician Shelley Leedahl. This season for the first time the 15 Minutes of Infamy host also programs the evening, and Leedahl said her goal was to assemble artists diverse in their use of words.

“I was able to invite professional artists that I know and whose work I admire,” she said.

Aside from Sewell, the evening will include Nanaimo playwright and novelist Jennifer Wynne Webber, Ladysmith singer-songwriter Andrew Martin and poet Daniel MacIsaac, who was raised in Nanaimo but now lives in Victoria. The event has a strong Saskatchewan connection, as Leedahl, Webber and Martin all lived in Saskatoon before moving to the Island.

Sewell will be reading from her latest collection of work, For the Changing Moon, which ponders people’s perceptions of identity.

“I wanted to write something that talked about life as a tidal event, that talked about women’s lives, in particular, as a tidal event,” she said. “And being an intercultural person myself, how that gives me a different awareness of what those tides are. Because I’m Mi’kmaq and Anishinaabe and Polish and at different times that means people always want to put a label on me.”

Sewell said the purpose of poetry is to “exercise people’s spirits” and the “communal link between heart and heart.” Her previous book launches in Alberta and Ontario were participatory events that included storytelling, music and other guests reciting her work, an approach to poetry readings she’d like to see become more commonplace.

“I wanted to make it more normal and natural to share work in a way that was more in line with the, I suppose, tribal, circular, old-fashioned way of sharing stories and poems,” she said. “Poems are meant to be part of the fabric of a community, so I’m really looking forward to this event because I understand that it’s got its own scene happening there … and it’s wonderful and interesting and intriguing, maybe a little challenging to come in as a person who’s not from the community and say, ‘Hey, let me join your circle of poetry.’”

WHAT’S ON … 15 Minutes of Infamy takes place at the Green Olive, 150 Skinner St., on Wednesday, March 20 from 7 to 9 p.m.

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