Festival Poets Disembark

Rhea Tregebov has loved poetry from an early age.

“It wasn’t until university that I realized what a central place it would take in my life,” she admits.

The multi-disciplinary writer and assistant professor of creative writing at UBC now juggles being a poet, novelist, editor and children’s author.

“It’s nice to feel ambidextrous in both prose and poetry,” she says.

Those skills have brought her north before as a guest of the Yukon Young Authors’ Conference. This week, as a guest poet at the Whitehorse Poetry festival, what she’s most looking forward to is the people.

“The Yukon seems to attract very independent-minded people, and it’s pretty exciting to think that I’m finding an audience of this calibre for my writing.”

Another prominent guest at the festival is bill bissett, the person who launched performance poetry in Canada in 1965.

Once hailed by Jack Kerouac in the Paris Review as “the greatest living poet today,” bissett has written nearly 70 books, including th last blewointment antholojee, and his latest collection, time (2010).

The enthusiasm of the festival organizers enticed five other poets North of 60 for readings with local guest Clea Roberts. Roberts’ debut poetry collection, Here Is Where We Disembark, was shortlisted for the Canadian League of Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

Vancouver’s Elizabeth Bachinksy enjoyed family vacations in the Yukon until she was ten. Along with reading poems about suburban teens in the Fraser Valley (from Home of Sudden Service, nominated for the 2006 Governor General’s Award), Bachinsky says she’ll read works about summers in the North.

“I’m really looking forward with connecting with the audience up there and seeing that 24 hour sunlight again.”

David Seymour, of Toronto, writes in a style reminiscent of Robert Bly. Several of his poems have been used as lyrics by the country band The Warped 45s.

Karen Solie, also based in Toronto, started as a reporter for the Lethbridge Herald, but moved into poetry and received a Griffin nomination for two of her three collections.

Miranda Pearson, a psychiatric nurse in Vancouver, is presenting her new book Harbour. It’s the first time she’s intentionally united her worlds of psychiatry and poetry.

“I think there is a bit of an unhinged voice that comes through,” she says.

“[It’s] almost as if it is another self that speaks. The act of writing, though, is very therapeutic. Making a poem gives order and structure to chaotic feelings and thoughts.”

And John Pass will read from his most recent work, Crawlspace. He’s previously written a quartet of volumes titled collectively At Large.

“The emphasis is on ways of imaginatively perceiving the world,” says Pass. “Each of the books is an attempt to view and engage life through Classicism, Christianity, Romanticism, Modernism.”

The 2011 Whitehorse Poetry Festival is dedicated to the memory of John Haines, the former Alaska poet laureate who was a Whitehorse Poetry Festival guest in 2007. He died earlier this year.

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