For 16 years, usually on the weekend before Thanksgiving, poets have descended upon UNB campus to read their poetry at Memorial Hall.
Poetry Weekend was held on Oct. 5 and 6 this year, and was spread across six sessions: 11am, 2pm and 8pm Saturday and Sunday.
There were around 10 poets reading each session, making for an incredible array of around 60 unique poets across the 2 days. Each session was an hour long but passed quickly as each poet was introduced and read anywhere from one to four poems in the five minutes that was allotted to them.
The five minutes each is an important aspect to the weekend as it speaks to the overall equality of the event. No poet, no matter how distinguished or well-known, was given more time. This is not an event meant to showcase big names. It’s truly about the poetry and hearing from as many different voices as possible.
The event organizers are Ross Leckie and Sue Sinclair. Leckie was asked about the diversity of poets who were reading. He said that there were professors, students—only graduate students this year—and poets at large from all across Canada and the States.
“We’ve got poets as far west as Toronto and as far east as Newfoundland this year.”
The readings were well attended, with more than 50 chairs set out in the main room of Memorial Hall. Each poet got a quick introduction from Leckie before coming to the podium and reading. The amount of distinct voices coming from different age groups and identities held off any monotony that may have otherwise set in over an hour.
Some of the poets were clearly nervous when they first got up but settled in quickly. The majority were talkative before reading their poems, often times providing some context. Others, like Dominique Béchard, were not.
“I have no funny anecdotes. My life is a dark void,” she said flatly, to widespread laughter.
The poems themselves were incredibly varied, as you would expect from a group of 60 poets. Some were funny. Others were crushing. Some were deeply intimate. Others were held at an arm's length, to be observed. The only through line was the language, that tool with which you could do anything. In the end, that was where the magic was.
Below are selected quotes from some of the author’s readings and prefaces. Don’t get your fix from a reporter scribbling down quotations though. Support your local poetry scene and make sure to attend Poetry Weekend next year!
“You know the years have worn on them; they’ve worn on you too.” - Shannon Webb-Campbell
“To this day, the most beautiful cock I’ve ever served.” - Kirby
“You can touch the gearshift but not her leg.” - Nolan Natasha
“My father and I exchanged eyesight.” - Hugh Thomas
“Raised in mock sound, the thrill of flight all around.” - Kayla Geitzler
“One of the things I think about is how conversation is the closest thing we have to time travel.” - Claire Kelly