For the eight years that the Poetry Gabriola Festival ran, organization chair Andreas Kahre said it was the second-largest poetry festival in Canada. Then, after the 2012 event and with a change in personnel, the annual celebration came to an end.
This weekend the hiatus is over as Poetry Gabriola holds its first poetry festival in six years.
“We all felt that we had enough support in the community and there was enough demand … and we think that it’s a good time for poetry to be heard again because there are enough things to speak to,” Kahre said.
The Big Little Poetry Festival, taking place at the Hive Emporium on Feb. 24 and 25, will feature presentations from four award-winning poets: Nanaimo poet laureate Tina Biello, Victoria poet laureate Yvonne Blomer, fellow Victoria resident Marilyn Bowering and Vancouver’s Kayla Czaga. There will also be musical entertainment courtesy the PGS Improvisers Collective.
“They’re all awesome poets and they’re all at different stages in their careers so part of the reason we wanted these four is because they’re going to appeal to pretty much everyone,” Poetry Gabriola secretary P.C. Vandall said.
“We’ve got Kayla, who’s been writing since 2012, and we’ve got Marilyn, who’s been publishing poetry since 1973.”
Kahre said the festival will give people a chance to “rethink” what the event could become. He said the idea is to return to an annual format and the organization is applying for a commissioning grant to once again draw more poets from across Canada.
“We do continue to present from across the country, especially from Quebec. These four are currently local, although … they have a national reputation but they are still based in this region,” he said.
“There isn’t a particular theme at the moment we’re really sort of letting them take the lead on that … So it’ll be really a kind of little renaissance of our festival.”
Kahre said it’s important to include both local and out-of-province poets. He said both sides benefit from that exchange.
“They enrich one another. They create tension between each other. They have different points of view. But it’s interesting to discover where they have overlapping interests and where they diverge,” he said.
“It’s also a matter of exposing poets from, say, Ontario or Quebec or from the Prairies, to this landscape and its conditions and what they can discover here and it’s also a way to showcase local poets and give them a chance to move outwards so they have a broader audience and that has worked very well in the past. We’re hoping to move into that kind of role again.”
WHAT’S ON … Poetry Gabriola’s Big Little Poetry Festival comes to the Hive Emporium featuring Marilyn Bowering and Yvonne Blomer on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. and Tina Biello and Kayla Czaga on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $15 per night or $25 for a weekend pass. $5 off for Poetry Gabriola members.