Impressions of the Edmonton Poetry Festival

Under normal circumstances, the Edmonton Poetry Festival would be drawing to a close. However, these aren’t normal circumstances, not with the pandemic. As with every other event, it’s been postponed. Though my normal summer plans are out of the window, I can try to continue my Impressions series, at least in a limited capacity. Using my previous experiences as both visitor and volunteer, I can at least share what I already know about it. Perhaps, once it returns, you’ll give it a chance?

Alright, so let’s talk about the highlights! The focus of this festival, as you probably guessed, is poetry. The EPF takes place in the downtown Edmonton area, but it doesn’t really have a central hub; rather, much like the Fringe and Found Festivals, it’s scattered across multiple venues.

The logo of the Edmonton Poetry Festival.

From my recollection, there are both free and paid events, as well as a membership pass you can buy to get price discounts and support the local arts. Some events you can attend include classic poetry readings, writing workshops, social gatherings, and information panels by more experienced writers and artists.

This next part isn’t technically part of the festival, but it’s still relevant, so I think it’s worth bringing up. The society running this festival also hosts a contest known as Poetry Moves on Transit, which displays the works of local poets on the city’s public transit system. Each selected entry also gets a small cash award and a physical copy of the poster, and it’s a great way for lesser-known Edmontonian poets to get their voices heard.

The banner for the Poetry Moves On Transit program.

On the subject of transportation, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding your way around, though do keep in mind the cost of downtown parking. There’s no shortage of food and drink options downtown, and there are even local cafes such as The Nook and Three Bananas doubling as venues. The festival’s website is relatively easy to navigate, as well as being visually appealing with a pop of personality. There is one thing that puts me off though, which is the fact that the event has no central grounds. Everything festival-related happens either online or at venues, so the experience can at times feel disjointed, but this small thing isn’t enough to ruin the experience as a whole.

From the volunteer side, there’s also a fair bit to take away. There’s the chance to gain insight from other writers and poets, and it’s a potential gold mine of writing inspiration. Some goodies are available as part of the package, including but not limited to pins, poems, and a complimentary membership pass. Volunteers also get their own dedicated reading spots, so they can read their own poetry in front of a live audience.

Yours truly at a poetry reading in 2019, photography by Randall Edwards.

This festival encourages freedom of speech and open creativity. As such, everyone is welcome to share their works, no matter which walk of life they come from. This freedom naturally comes with a lack of censorship, so do be advised of that; however, there’s nothing particularly egregious, and the brochure does have 18+ notices for certain events. Overall, though this festival is rather niche in certain aspects, it hosts a interesting selection of events with a warm and inviting atmosphere.

The banner for the 2019 festival.

If I glossed over certain aspects here, you’ll have to forgive me, as my memory of past events tends to be rather spotty. Also, I don’t have any photos saved from this festival for some reason, so I had to make do with what I was able to gather online. As an apology of sorts, let me include a bonus work of poetry, an updated excerpt from the original prose poem I had read in the above image.

Bonus Poetry
His Kingdom’s End

Upon his mighty pedestal, a revered idol keeps watch amidst his pile of glorious rubble. Deities of gold, gods of riches and greed, but how mighty can He really be? He has no subjects left to serve, nor subjects to be served by.
Once seated in a reverent temple of marble, their statues crack under the glare of an unforgiving sun as sands blow in from antique lands. Forgotten is His name, lost is He in shame? He looks upon the works of kings yet despairs not, for a kingdom’s end shall come.
It always does.
It always will.
Still, He stands on guard, for He knows they shall see. One day, they’d know how their fore-bearer’s ends came to be, so their newly-risen king could at last change His people’s destiny.