'An embarrassment of riches'

Danette Dooley
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League of Canadian Poets offers packed festival schedule

For the first time in its 35-year history, the League of Canadian Poets is holding its annual poetry festival and conference in this province.

According to local poet and filmmaker Marian Frances White, the poets will be taking part in panel discussions, social events, book launches, readings, award presentations and a special lecture by Griffin Poetry Prize winner, Don McKay.

Poet Don McKay

For the first time in its 35-year history, the League of Canadian Poets is holding its annual poetry festival and conference in this province.

According to local poet and filmmaker Marian Frances White, the poets will be taking part in panel discussions, social events, book launches, readings, award presentations and a special lecture by Griffin Poetry Prize winner, Don McKay.

"It's what we call the embarrassment of riches, where you've got to pick and choose where there are so many wonderful panels and people to meet and social events to experience," White says.

One of the topics that the poets will discuss is The Moving Image of Poetry. The title is well suited, White says.

"Poetry has really changed from just being on the page to being used in film and video."

As well, White says, local publisher Rattling Books produces books of poetry and other literary works on CD.

White will be showing a six-minute film highlighting footage of her ancestors at a family reunion along the province's coastline.

"I'll be using poetry juxtaposed against the timelessness of our shores," she says.

Another Newfoundland poet, Mary Dalton will moderate the panel discussion "The Newfoundland Poetic Voice."

"We hear time and time again how the Newfoundland voice does really have a poetic ring to it, so Mary will be moderating a panel with some of our finest poets," White says.

The festival runs today until to Sunday.

The conference and panel discussions take place today at the Battery Hotel.

Both the panel discussions and the readings are free and open to the public.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the Anne Szumigalski Memorial Lecture delivered by McKay.

During an interview at his St. John's home on Wednesday, McKay says his talk will focus on nature poetry as it relates to recent specific events in geological research.

He'll take the opportunity to encourage poets to become natural historians as well as urge geologists to be more poetical.

"I've been pretty keen on nature and the environment for some years now, so this will give me a chance to get in my two cents worth," he says.

The author of 11 books of poetry and two-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award, in 2007 McKay clinched the Griffin prize and with it, a cheque for $50,000 for his latest book of poetry Strike/Slip.

He'd been nominated for the award on two previous occasions.

Originally from Owen Sound, Ont., McKay has spent his career as a writer, editor and teacher.

He has taught at universities throughout the country including a term as writer-in-residence at Memorial University.

When he relocated from British Columbia to Newfoundland to take up the position at MUN a-year-and-a-half ago, McKay had no idea the move would be a permanent one.

"I fell in love with the place. It's partly the rocks," he says.

Newfoundland, McKay says, tops all places in the world for a geology-passionate poet.

"I would like nature poets to be accurate about what they're looking at ... good observers."

McKay's lecture takes places on Saturday at the Fluvarium.

The gala evening will be followed by dinner, award presentations, readings and a book launch of 12 new books of poetry.

For further information on the festival and conference call the Battery Hotel at 709-576-0040 and ask for the League of Canadian Poets' registration desk. For further information on the League of Canadian Poets visit www.poets.ca.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: League of Canadian Poets, Battery Hotel, Fluvarium

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Owen Sound British Columbia

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