Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ten Days of Poetry

The 27th annual International Festival of Poetry

Trois-Rivières, Sept. 30-Oct. 9, 2011

Ten days of poetry, all day, every day, from 9 a.m. to midnight.
       93 invited poets, from 5 continents
              320 separate events, taking place in
                     cafés, restaurants, theaters, schools, art galleries,
                            museums, libraries, bookstores, the park

Strung across from tree to tree, sheets of poems
from regional & national poets, school children, senior citizens.
[click on photos to enlarge]

Winner of the $15,000 Grand prix Quebecor this year was poet Louise Dupré ; a $1,000 top prize was given to a teacher for innovation in teaching poetry; $2,000 prize to an unpublished poet, $1,000 for best poem from a senior citizen, & other cash prizes. One is encouraged not just to come hear other poets but to participate and submit poems as well. A woman [not in the photo] looking for her poem among the hundreds hanging in the park, told me over 400 were submitted in her particular category alone.  I was especially moved by a 7-line poem from an unnamed 12-year old child, who wrote of realizing, for the first time . . . that "life is not eternal".

Park bench sitters commenting on one of the poems
 Parc Champlain, a veritable garden of words last week.  Each poem was encased in a transparent waterproof pouch, in case it rained, which it did the first few days.

Continuing on with the virtual tour -

If you visit downtown Trois-Rivières you will see these permanent little plaques all over the place - 300 of them to be exact, outside of restaurants, in walkways, on walls of buildings--even  the sides of houses--extracts of poems by Quebecois poets, as well as 100 poems in 21 languages on the Poetry Walk down near the port. 

This one, by poet Anne Hébert,  says:
"You and me, island in the city, 
under the rain, into the world . . ."

"Into the
world . . ."

as in:

 Four wall poems hanging out together, their only audience that day:  the three waiting bicycles [below].

A slim little 100-page booklet with details of all the reading events was available for free at local libraries, shops and restaurants. One poet told me, on Friday, that she'd given 26 readings so far and was having the time of her life meeting and spending time with other poets, townfolk and poetry lovers.  

With so many events going on simultaneously, it's sometimes the case where you'd go to a scheduled reading and find 5 poets lined up to read but only three people in the audience.  If you happened to be one of those three, you'd then have had a chance to sit and talk, individually, with each of the poets, from as far away as Russia or Japan or Argentina, whom you might've otherwise never gotten an opportunity to meet.

Muffins et poésie at Café Morgane inside the Clément Morin bookstore, a rainy Sunday morning at 11:00 - U.S. poet/translator/publisher Andrea Moorhead (seen here with Gérald Gaudet)  - reading and discussing all things poetry.  Especially interesting to me was the discourse on the difficulties (and joy of discovery vis-a-vis  nuance in language) encountered in the process of translating poetry.  Andrea publishes a journal called Osiris, out of Deerfield, Massachusetts, which features international poetry in original language and English translation.  

Wednesday morning poetry breakfast at resto Le Sacristain, with poets Marius Daniel Popescu (Romania/Switzerland); Nathalie Handal (Palestine/U.S.); Rei Berroa (Dominican Republic/U.S.) and  Sedley Richard Assonne (Mauritius Island). I will be posting some of their work at the cove in the near future.

At noon, Diner-poèsie in the foyer of the Maison de la culture - with  Dmitry Legeza, Olga Khokhlova (Russia), Felipe Garcia Quintero (Colombia), and François Guerrette (Québec).  This was a "Bring-Your-Own-Lunch" affair.

On the way back to the terminal to catch a bus home I passed Le Lupin restaurant where yet another reading was taking place upstairs - and through the open windows on the top floor,  poetry floated out onto the street below. Ahead of me, a puzzled passerby stopped, looking up at the sky, searching for where that melodic voice was coming from.

Six poets reciting poèmes en langue anglaise at St. James Episcopal Church on Friday.  Left to right: Nela Rio (Argentina/New Brunswick), Christine De Luca (Scotland), David Musgrave (Australia), James Norcliffe (New Zealand), Alice Major (Alberta), and Anna Swanson (British Columbia).

Christine De Luca read poems in a Shetland Island dialect; one of Nela Rio's poems was an imagined dialogue with 16th-century poet Leonor de Ovando;  James Norcliffe entertained us with an animated recitation of Yippee!, about a bunch of escaped podiatrists who can teach one something about frustration/ irony/ scorn/    . . .  and hate.  Poems from Alice Major and Anna Swanson will appear in an upcoming Salamander Cove posting.

I also went to diner-poèsie at Le Manoir  and heard poets Coral Bracho (Mexico) and Jean-Phillippe Bergeron (Québec).  My only regret is that I did not have the time or opportunity to get to more events this time around.  Of course there is always next year, different poets but same times, same places, same ten whole days and nights of poetry; you just have to choose (and plan ahead!).

A small sampling:

Sedley Richard Assonne,
"Madame Eugene"  read/sung in Creole

Rei Berroa

Marius Daniel Popescu

François Guerrette

Some photos -   taken while walking from one poetry reading to another:

A sidewalk mural as part of a peace exhibit
at the Museum of Popular Culture

sign at top:   "Justice for All"

October leaves blown & scattered:
gathering, unnoticed

Water from the park fountain, bursting by

Alleyway graffiti

Up close and personal

Monument to the unknown poet, in homage to poets worldwide -
in the plaza outside Le Bibliothèque Gatien-Lapointe

Reaching to the sky

"Open - Prison".   There are no inmates incarcerated there--this refers to an historic building that once  housed Trois-Rivières' criminals in the 1960s and '70s.    The guides  who give the tours and answer visitors' questions are former inmates.   Originally built in 1822 to hold around 40 prisoners, it was sometimes  packed with over a hundred. When it closed in 1986, it was the oldest functional corrections establishment in Canada.

You are invited, should this be of interest,  to experience a one-night sentence  behind bars:  You get booked, spend a night in a cell, and receive  breakfast fit for a prisoner. (You can go in a group of 15 to 39 others  if you'd rather not do this alone.) 
La vielle prison de Trois-Rivieres

Before you leave, you get a discharge paper with your fingerprints and mug shot (to take as a souvenir).   At least that's what happened when I  took this tour some years ago (though I didn't do the overnight-behind-bars part of it).  I did, however, step into the dark and dismal dungeon, and hear some very harrowing tales about what it was like to  have been a prisoner back in the 1800s.  Just imagine, you could be sent  to prison then for inadvertent impious utterances or swearing on the street.

 rue des Ursulines

 A bit of house history
[for the white house in photo above]

Outside St. James, en route to yet another poetry reading

 Inside St. James church, at the baptismal font, this sculpted bird descends from the ceiling on a kind of pulley when the font is opened.  Erected in 1764,this Anglican church served as a garrison chapel, a hospital, a court and a prison.  Today services are conducted there in both French and English.  Across the street is an Ursuline convent built in the late 1600s. Down one street and over a hill takes you to the port.

Three minutes away by foot,
a shady grove with dancing sun shadows

Earlier, at Végétarien, autumn squashes!

Tree-limb Rorschach on pine needles

Scene from last year's poetry festival

A fine week, all in all.  [A belated happy birthday to Sedley A., we would have toasted you on the Friday at table had we known!]


*street photos © awyn photography