We were stoked to attend the Battle of the Bards 2018, a poetry recitation competition held by the International Festival of Authors, on March 28th at Harbourfront Centre. Twenty poets each had 5 minutes to recite their poems. It was the performance of their work, and not the composition, that was evaluated. The prize: an opportunity to read at IFOA 2018, and an advertisement for their book in NOW Magazine, proud sponsor of the event.
Susan G. Cole, Senior Entertainment Editor for NOW Magazine, was the charismatic host. The poets read in alphabetical order, beginning with Stéphane Bouquet, whose efforts to preform the English translation of his poems were valiant and charming.
Although all of the poets deserve an article of their own, as time and space are limited, we’ll spotlight only a few.
Pino Collucio had great stage presence; his gestures were broad and confident because, we guess, he had committed to memory in entirety the poems he performed. His verse rhythms were light and traditional, and he left the audience in good spirits.
David A. Groulx, an Ojibwe and French Canadian poet, shared several intense poems about oppression and survival. His poetry was succinct and he had a beautiful, deep voice, which could not be more perfect for live performance. His choice to recite several poems in sequence, without pause, was powerful; the listeners had no break to recover from his words’ weight. The constant motion of his reading echoed the movement of the Wabigoon River, after which his book is named.
my drunken sidewalk
bring your simple bucolic
charm to me
I am your city
(from “I am your city”)
Margo LaPierre read the poem “Bear Skin Rug” from her collection Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes. Margo had the polished appearance of a pageant contestant, and surprised us with her violent and evocative poetry. Her delivery was arresting, she had the audience leaning forward in their seats. From her poem, which won silver at the Alberta Magazine Publishers Awards:
Papa, I have this bear,
but Papa bring me a fox
When you come back from killing.
Bring back the orphans
and make me a mother
of things that are wild.
(from “Bear Skin Rug”)
Rebecca Păpucaru read several poems from her collection The Panic Room. Both her words and the delivery were spot on, and she had great comedic timing. Her poem “If I Had Your Cock” was inspired by the rush of heteronormative desire you feel when your antidepressants kick in. Her unabashed honesty and enjoyably lascivious content were refreshing.
And the winner?
Paul Vermeersch has been declared winner. Vermeersch knows how to get dressed: a vibrant red jacket and metallic silver shoes. And he knows how to keep it comical. His poems, too, are colourful, like flowers:
I warned you I was bad at flowers.
I only know a few, but then… I began
to name them, and I was struck by all
the flowers that I knew: roses, chowders,
geraniums, areolae, mason jars, Japan,
mayonnaise, owls, orgasms, eyeballs,
(from “Bad at Flowers”)
He read from his sixth book, Self Defence for the Brave and Happy.
We look forward to seeing him read at the Festival, which will take place from the 18th to 28th of October, 2018.