Vancouver poetry hotline launched to bring local writers to those isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic

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      An initiative to bring an entertaining diversion into the lives of those negatively affected by isolation during the pandemic is as close as the nearest phone.

      The Poetry Phone, a project launched today (February 5) by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), features recordings of 10 local writers reading their works.

      The recordings, according to a February 5 DVBIA release, are "intended for those less comfortable or unfamiliar with newer forms of technology. This project aims to bring a new and accessible format of uplifting entertainment to anyone who has felt the effects of social isolation that this past year has brought."

      The poems are curated by local writer Renee Sarojini Saklikar, who has one of her own works, "And the Dance Most of All", included in the recordings. Saklikar's 2013 book of poetry, children of air india: un/authorized exhibits and interjections, won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry and made the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize shortlist.

      The release states that "callers should dial 1-833-POEMS-4-U (1-833-763-6748) to listen to poetry recordings from ten local writers. Callers will have the option to listen to different poems by pressing 0 - 9."

      The line is accessible from both landlines and any cellular device and can be called 24 hours a day for all of 2021.

      The following is a list of the local writers and works featured on the Poetry Phone:

      • "Rise", by Christine Bissonnette
      • "Ode to Chopsticks, Ode to the Potatoe, Omelet", by Fiona Tinwei Lam
      • "And the Dance Most of All", by Renee Sarojini Saklikar
      • "Best Friend, What Not to Say", by Charles Demers
      • "When you clean the aquarium", by Jennica Harper
      • "Gauntlet", by Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek
      • "Falling", by Joìniìna Kirton
      • "Hold", by Joanne Arnott
      • "Feast", by Rachel Rose
      • "Celebrity Otter:Nyac, and Celebrity Otter: Milo", by Dina Del Bucchia

      Charles Gauthier, DVBIA president and CEO, said in the release that even small gestures can bring positive results. “2020 has been a challenging year for many people, and it’s the small things that can bring joy to someone’s day. The Poetry Phone is a simple way to bring a smile to people’s faces and celebrate the work of local artists.”