The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2016 edition with a massively inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 21 to 25.
We asked a group of these much-admired writers to tell us about their finest reading experiences. Which books put a stamp on their imaginations early on? Which ones revealed to them the full powers of the written word?
Here’s what Elee Kraljii Gardiner told us. Not only is she the author of the poetry collection serpentine loop, as well as the co-editor of V6A: Writing From Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—she’s also the founder of Thursdays Writing Collective, the nonprofit organization based in the Carnegie Centre that serves aspiring writers challenged by poverty-related issues. She’ll make three appearances at this year’s Word, including a reading from her work at 1:10 p.m. on September 25, on the fest’s Sunrise Suite stage at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Blindfold, among John Asfour’s five books of poems and many books of translation, is a perfect mini-world demonstrating his intellect and curiosity. These poems are philosophical, humorous, biting, and so completely told in my friend’s voice that every time I read them it’s as if we are visiting, which is bittersweet—John died in 2014.
I met John one year after I wrote my first poem. He came to Vancouver as the inaugural writer in residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House and became a friend of Thursdays Writing Collective. We were pals and co-editors (of a TWC chapbook and of V6A: Writing From Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012): when he moved back to Montreal we continued to talk about poems and social justice and life.
He grew me up as a writer, opened his work for me to learn, weathered my juvenile questions. John let me accompany him through the process of creating a manuscript and publishing it—a path I have just enjoyed for the first time with my own book. His poems teach me something each reading, not just about how to navigate prejudice or survive an explosion as a teen in Lebanon, but about how a poet’s life is less about publication than connection. From that self-aware point the incisive poems in Blindfold unfold with clarity and truth.