Verses Festival of Words celebrates five years


From the 2014 Verses Festival of Words. Photo by Patrick Shannon

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Since Shane Koyczan’s performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, spoken word has become one of the fastest growing art forms in Canada. Once again capitalizing on that rise in popularity, the Vancouver Poetry House presents the fifth edition of its Verses Festival of Words, featuring a number of queer voices.

In what organizers say has become the largest spoken word festival in the country, Verses refuses to be boxed in by its spoken word framework though, with eleven days of events that will include everything from book launches with burlesque dancers to musical activist storytellers.

“In the 21st century, the role of the writer remains unchanged: to bring new ideas to the public, to play with the musicality of language, and to examine complex issues. However, the way that writers do these things is changing rapidly in the digital age,” says Managing Director Chris Gilpin. “Verses showcases new forms of literary production, including video-poetry, interdisciplinary shows, and spoken word competitions. That’s why it’s the most exciting alternative literary festival in Canada.”

Among the queer artists represented at this year’s festival is Amber Dawn, who will launch her latest book “Where the Words End My Body Begins” as part of the Real Vancouver Writers’ Series. Storyteller Ivan Coyote returns with “Tomboy Survival Guide”, an expanded version of the show that originally premiered as part of this year’s PuSh Festival. Dawn and Coyote will also teach master classes as part of the festival.

Other queer voices include Maggie Harkins who will host the ASL Showcase, visual arts exhibition curator Daniel Zomparelli, and Sheri D Wilson and Lishai Peel who return to host Take Back the Mic.

The festival will crown its fifth Canadian Individual Slam Champion, who will represent English Canada at the World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris and continues with its popular community stage series designed to help nurture local poets.

New this year, Verses has teamed up with Hullabaloo, the annual youth festival of poetry. Hullabloo brings sixteen school teams and over 80 young poets together from across British Columbia for its own four day celebration of spoken word.  Also new this year is a gala presentation at the York Theatre that will feature performances from nearly every artist from both the youth and adult programming.

“Verses Festival is designed to be a community-conscious, adventurous celebration of the spoken word,” says Christmas. “A stretch of our collective imagination that attempts to expand our canon with a creative blend of styles and mediums. My personal goal is that everyone who attends the festival will leave having seen something that they had never seen before, but must see again.”

(Photo above from the 2014 Verses Festival of Words. Photo by Patrick Shannon).

The 2015 Verses Festival of Words takes place at various venues around Vancouver from April 23 to May 3. Visit for tickets and information.  

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