World of Words: Poetry Festival reached for the stars

When local poet Michael Reynolds reads at the 2009 Whitehorse Poetry Festival, he’ll join a closely connected group of guests that includes Michael Ondaatje, Don McKay, CD Wright, Adam Sol and Erin Mouré.

“It’s exciting that we will all meet in Whitehorse!” said Mouré from Montréal.

Organizer Clea Roberts said the June 19-21 festival attracts the stars of modern poetry because, aside from being in a popular destination, “the reputation of the Whitehorse Poetry Festival is certainly getting out there.”

Festival headliner Toronto writer Michael Ondaatje is best known as a novelist, although he launched his career as a poet. His reading and reception at 8:30 p.m., Friday, at the Yukon Arts Centre, opens the weekend of craft and trade workshops, panel discussions and readings.

Like the Rambler family four-door, Don McKay has been all over the country. He numbers among an emerging class of eco-poets, which includes Dennis Lee. At his 10 a.m. Saturday workshop at MacBride Museum, Yukoners can learn about the craft of poetics in the boreal forest.

“Because my own writing focuses on the relationship between the natural world and the human-made world,” said Roberts who attended McKay’s reading five years ago at Well-Read Books, “hearing him introduce and read his poems was quite illuminating for me.”

Although this is CD Wright’s first visit to the territory, the Arkansas poet will find many familiar faces. Ondaatje, her partner at the 1:15 p.m. Saturday panel discussion, is a long-time friend.

Wright, a leading US poet, says her own work changes from project to project because each one “reveals ways for me to proceed, choices I didn’t know I had before. The action lies in the unforeseen opportunities the language provides.”

Of the Yukon, she’s “ready to be awed.”

Winner of Ontario’s Trillium Award for Crowd of Sounds, Adam Sol was born in New York and raised in Connecticut. His writing differs from “the four types of Jewish-American poems” that influenced him. His latest work, Jeremiah, Ohio, released by House of Anansi Press in 2008, is a novel in poems.

From 2:45 to 5 p.m., Saturday, he’ll have the ear of local youth at a workshop and open mic session.

Erin Mouré, likely the best connected guest at the festival, once talked poetics with Wright’s class at Brown University. Wright admires “Mouré’s strange and edgy writing.”

Mouré has also attended Sol’s readings in Toronto and, on Saturday at 11:15 a.m., they’ll share the stage at MacBride.

While here, Mouré hopes to learn how “the communities relate to that terrain and to each other.” With a long family history in the North, including her navigator father who flew out of Watson Lake during the ’40s, and her uncle, John Callison, Mouré believes, “There’s a little bit of the North sprinkled in us all.”

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