(This story is sponsored by the Vancouver Poetry House.)
From April 21st to 30th, the Verses Festival of Words will bring together a unique lineup of spoken word and page poets, singer-songwriters, improvisers, and storytellers. The annual event invites poetry enthusiasts, spoken word aficionados, and folks simply craving connection to celebrate the power of alliterative and rhyming performance.
Since evocative and euphonious music is often described as “poetic”, this year’s festival combines spoken word with sounds inspired by a cross-section of genres. From hip-hop and folk to ’80s glam-rock, attendees will find themselves getting lost in the music from local and international artists.
The festival will include two unmissable in-person events, specially curated by poet and spoken word artist Brandon Wint.
While attending Carleton University in Ottawa, he discovered a vibrant poetry community and later joined the Canadian spoken word team.
In 2019, Wint uprooted his life and moved to Vancouver in the midst of the pandemic, quickly linking forces with the Vancouver Poetry House. For the two-time national slam champion, the amalgamation of music and spoken word in this year’s festival resonates with him on a personal level.
“I think I’ve put out maybe five albums and EPs over the last eight years, along with a few films set to music,” shares Wint. “For me personally, a multidisciplinary approach has always been important. I view poetry as the essence of communication so any time something is communicating on a profound level, as a culture, we have a tendency to compare that thing to poetry. Like describing the way a dancer moves or a particular shot in a film as very poetic—it’s something about the connection of expression to truth. There’s a certain emotional significance that moves everything into poetry once you get into it deeply enough, so from the multidisciplinary and musical side of things, it makes sense.”
The first event curated and hosted by Wint will take place at the Vancity Culture Lab (The Cultch) on April 24th at 8 p.m. Sounds Like Fire will feature award-winning local poets and musicians, including Francis Arevalo, Kimmortal, Hari Alluri, and Desiree Dawson. Those who attend the event virtually through POETV or in-person can expect to experience equal parts tenderness and fire, water, and righteous rage.
“There’s going to be beautiful warmth and intimacy felt at Sounds Like Fire because these artists know each other and have worked together before. My approach was to bring powerful, open-hearted human beings into the space and ask them to be caring and sincere,” he says.
“I think the reason people leave their houses to see performances is because we all have some inherent relationship and understanding of the human condition. But when we take a risk or put ourselves in the presence of a communal art-making process, we get to see the human condition represented in a way that makes it unavoidable. I think our lives are so full of distraction that the role of performance is to remind everyone in the room that we share humanity in common and that’s more of a positive thing than a negative thing.”
On April 30th at 7:30 p.m., Wint will be facilitating the festival’s closing night event Rhythm, Water & Words: Fluid Lyricism. Guests can expect to be taken on a journey through melody, rhythm, and word, which will leave them feeling captivated and fearless.
Edmonton poet laureate Titilope Sonuga, award-winning spoken word artist and trailblazer Britta B, and acclaimed Vancouver-based musician Tonye Aganaba will grace the Vancity Culture Lab stage.
“Generally, when I am curating things, I bring in people that I trust, people whose humanity I respect on a deep level,” reveals Wint. “It’s just like you peel back a little bit, show the audience your heart, and everyone else in the room is like ‘oh shit, I have a heart too’ and it usually works out pretty well.”
Poets from across the country will also be joining the festival to compete in the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam. After three nights of head-to-head poetry bouts, one artist will be named the 2022 champion.
Other artists participating in this year’s Verses Festival of Words include Rudy Francisco, Savage Family, Veda Hille, and Joseph Dandurand.
Wint views poetry happening in a live context is one of the most life-changing things that we have as humans. While he can’t guarantee that everyone will feel its profound impacts, many folks will leave an event with a renewed sense of hope and belonging.
“I think poetry has life-changing potential but unless you’re in the room, you don’t always know it,” he says. “My goal, as someone who loves and lives through poetry, is to invite as many people into the room as possible. I promise that some of them will receive the medicine that they won’t have access to anywhere else.”
For the full lineup of events and masterclasses, click here.
To purchase your tickets, visit www.eventbrite.ca/vancouver-poetry-house/.