Last summer marked the launch of The People’s Poetry Festival (PFF), which ran along Kensington Road in numerous markets, cafés and pubs. It featured workshops, readings and do-it-yourself poetry stations where patrons could create an assortment of poems. Events varied from family-friendly to adults-only, creating a poetic environment with creative opportunities for a wide audience.
The PFF opens again this week in Kensington for its second instalment, kicking off on Friday, August 17 at Pages bookstore.
Shannon McClennan, the volunteer marketing and communications co-ordinator for the festival, says last year’s PFF surpassed all expectations. People turned out in droves to read, listen to, and write their own poetry. Many readings and performances were standing room only. A workstation devoted to haikus proved particularly popular, as did numerous kid-friendly events, like the “Dr. Seuss Slam,” for which kids and parents took sidewalk chalk and wrote poems and drew pictures on the pavement outside the Plaza Theatre.
“The fact that the festival turned out the way it did was phenomenal,” McClennan says. “We planned the festival in about three months and that was just amazing in itself.” The organizers have had more time this year, and McClennan believes that will result in more events and activities and better organization, which ultimately will translate into a better experience for patrons.
“This year’s festival is going to be bigger,” she says. Many popular events from last year will be revisited alongside a handful of new additions — for instance, Midnight Yoga for Alcoholics, a local organization run by award-winning poet Kirk Miles, will debut an open mic event called The Drunken Poets Night. There will be other open mic and music performances at various venues and, following an adults-only poetry reading on Saturday afternoon at The BottleHouse Beer Parlour, there will be an erotica writing workshop at the Resolution Gallery where participants can pen their own steamy literary creations.
Though the festival is only in its second year, it’s gaining a reputation as a platform for local poets to share their work with an appreciative audience. This is Kirk Miles’ first time at the PFF and he appreciates the grassroots nature of the festival.
“It’s a place where everyone has a voice,” he says. “A lot of young poets getting into the scene are checking [the PFF] out. The best thing is that it’s an opportunity for these young poets to showcase their work and it’s an opportunity for organizations like the Single Onion Poetry Series to scout for new talent.”
The PFF also features a Poet of Honour to headline the fest; this year it’s Jen Kunlire, a young spoken-word artist with a reputation for soulful psalms and social conscience. She will host some of the readings and performances while also sharing her own work throughout the weekend.
“I’ve never been a Poet of Honour before. I don’t really know what the Poet of Honour does. I’m scared,” jokes Kunlire, before adding, “But, no, really, it’s an honour to be acknowledged for the work I’ve done in the community. I hope it inspires others.
“Being a poet is a hard job, but with that job comes the beauty of poetry,” she says. “[The PFF] is great because you see this mix of voices — seasoned poets alongside new ones.... I think that’s really cool.”