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Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

April is National Poetry Month and in lieu of hosting events like poetry readings the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library is publishing a booklet of poetry by Vancouver Island poets.

Starting April 1, libraries across the Vancouver Island Regional Library system are offering copies of the Poems in your Pocket Collection. The booklet, an initiative of Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley, contains work by the winners of the library’s Poem in your Pocket contest, which ran from January to March.

Ripley said the competition garnered 152 submissions from artists across the Island region.

“This being our first time I didn’t really know what to expect so I was really overwhelmed by the number of responses we got,” she said. “It was fantastic and we got entries from all over our service area, too, from down in Sooke and Sidney all the way up to Bella Coola and everywhere in between.”

After narrowing down the entries to a 35-poem shortlist, Ripley and VIRL’s adult programs committee chose 15 poems to be included in the booklet.

Five Nanaimo poets and two from Gabriola Island made the cut, as well as three from Tofino, two from Qualicum Beach and one each from Duncan, Comox Valley and Sooke. Among the poets, who all submitted their work anonymously, is former Tofino poet laureate Joanna Streetly.

Ripley said cutting down the 152 poems to the final 15 was “definitely a tough decision.”

“It’s always a subjective thing when you’re judging poetry but we tried to look at the ones that were doing the more interesting things with language or metaphor or good at creating a tone or an atmosphere,” she said.

Ripley said the committee sought to feature a diverse selection of poetry, and those that made the cut cover a range of subjects and forms. There’s even a cento poem, which is a collage-like poem in which each line in borrowed from another written work to create something new.

Overall, Ripley said putting the booklet together was “a really great experience” and this may not be the last Poems in your Pocket Collection.

“People were really excited about it, the content that we received was fabulous so I think it’s definitely something we would try to do again,” she said.

The booklet is available from VIRL libraries and can be viewed and downloaded on the library’s National Poetry Month web page.

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