Poetry gods smile on Joseph Dandurand as he gets ready for Verses Festival of Words

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      April is National Poetry Month and this year’s theme is resilience. It’s a fitting choice in light of the recent recognition accorded to Joseph Dandurand.

      He's an archeologist, member of the Kwantlen First Nation, and author of The East Side of It All (Nightwood Editions).

      This collection of poems shares some of his experiences as a Downtown Eastside drug user trying to reconnect with family and his Indigenous roots.

      He recently made the Canadian shortlist for the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, which will be announced on June 23. The two other Canadian finalists are Canisa Lubrin for The Dyzgraphxst (McClelland & Stewart), and Yusuf Saadi for Pluviophile (Nightwood Editions).

      In addition, Dandurand’s The East Side of It All is on the shortlist the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, which is awarded each year as one of the B.C. and Yukon Book Prizes. They will be announced at a gala on September 18.

      Dandurand was the Vancouver Public Library's Indigenous Storyteller in Residence in 2019. He's written 12 other poetry books and produced several plays.

      He is also director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre and artistic director of Vancouver Poetry House, which puts on the 11th annual Verses Festival of Words from Thursday (April 22) to May 1.

      One of the highlights is Hullabaloo, billed as B.C.'s Youth Spoken Word Festival, from Thursday to Saturday (April 24) via Zoom. Hullabaloo includes a spoken word jamboree, along with a youth video poem screening, workshops, and a feature performance on closing night.

      In addition, Dandurand will give a presentation at the Verses Festival of Words called Talk the Talk: What is your ritual?

      The other finalists for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize are New Westminster resident Junie Désil for eat salt | gaze at the ocean (Talonbooks), Vancouver resident Valerie Mason-John for I Am Still Your Negro: An Homage to James Baldwin (University of Alberta Press), Macelester College professor Michael Prior for Burning Province (McClelland & Stewart), and former Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah for Music at the Heart of Thinking: Improvisations 1-170 (Talonbooks).