Mid September in Fredericton was filled with writing workshops, talks over lunch at some of Fredericton’s finest restaurants and countless readings, all put on by local and far from home authors alike. Only one event could bring such a multitude of literary experiences upon us.
The 3rd annual Word Feast Literary Festival ran from September 16-22 at many locations around Fredericton. Ian Letourneau, Fredericton's First Laureate, pioneered the project and it has been carried out since 2017.
When asked how Word Feast was initiated, Letourneau explained that the city of Fredericton announced they were creating a poet laureate position and the creation of the position came with the awareness that other local festivals were well-supported, so it was time for Fredericton to have a literary festival. He quickly set about searching for volunteers and started to plan.
Reaching out to artists is not a problem. Letourneau has a vast network of writers. He says he has been involved in many local and national writing organizations and has attended festivals from Whitehorse to Moncton as an audience member and writer. He worked for seven years as an editor and administrator at The Fiddlehead and as an editor with Goose Lane.
The festival has had a positive impact on the artist community and the general public. When asked about the effects of the festival on the artist community, Letourneau said local writers are being included and getting paid to read their work and people who like to read and enjoy literature can now support an exciting event.
The literary festival had a variety of events around different local businesses. Their annual Poetry Bash that took place on Thursday night at York County Cider was one of their most attended events. The event featured two English Ph.D. students with new books along with the Parliamentary poet Georgette LeBlanc and Doyali Islam, editor of the ARC poetry magazine.
This year, the festival made a collective effort to be more bilingual and had three Francophone poets participating. Letourneau plans to continue this push in the coming years.
Letourneau also spoke further on what is coming up in subsequent years. He said they commissioned the current Fredericton Poet Laureate Jenna Lyn Albert to write a celebratory Word Feast poem that will be used to open the festival every year. The poem will be translated and read in French and Wolastoqey.
3rd Annual Word Feast Lecture
Friday’s main event was Friday Night Lit where the 3rd Annual Word Feast Lecture was read by Carrianne Leung titled "Writing in a Dangerous Time”.
The event began with a reading by Shannon Webb-Campbell, who is a mixed indigenous settler poet, writer and critic. She read from her book of poems "I Am A Body of Land,” which was inspired by her familial roots.
After Webb-Cambell's presentation, Carrianne Leung followed up with her lecture. Leung holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and Equity Studies from OISE/University of Toronto. She is a fiction writer and educator based in Toronto. She has been recognized for her debut novel, "The Wondrous Woo," and her collection of linked stories, "That Time I Loved You”.
Leung started her speech explaining how she first came up with the title of the talk.
"It does feel like a very dangerous time that we live in” she said.
From the title, you would imagine the talk was about writing, but Leung talked more about the social and environmental issues we are dealing with in present society, and an author's shifting responsibility in this society.
"Perhaps this talk is not even about writing, and maybe more about being human” said Leung.
Words and Music
Saturday at the Playhouse, Word Feast held the marquee event "Words and Music". The event featured authors Carrianne Leung, Amy Spurway and musician Adyn Townes.
The event began with Amy Spurway reading a section of her book "Crow”. Spurway was born and raised in Cape Breton Island. Her writing career started early in her life when at the age of eleven she landed her first gig with CBC radio. She kept the audience engaged while reading—her tone changing every time she read a different character—bringing them to life.
After Spurway's performance, Adyn Townes, an east coast singer-songwriter performed a couple of his songs. Townes made the audience laugh by making fun of his tendency to write melancholic songs.
His songs had a gentle timbre and a fast and moderate tempo. You would find yourself moving from side to side while Townes performed. The lights of the playhouse changed according to the rhythm of the songs, with flashes of blue, purple and red dazzling the audience.
His charisma made his performance very enjoyable, and he had the audience singing along with a Bruce Springsteen cover by the show’s end.
Carrianne Leung also participated in this event and read a piece of her book "That Time I loved You." The story takes place in the 1970s and depicts the life of a teenage Chinese Canadian girl confronting the realities of adult life and trying to stay true to herself.
After the event The Brunswickan asked Leung further questions about her lecture the previous night, "Writing in a Dangerous Time". In particular, her use of a quotation from the Canadian poet Billy-Ray Belcourt on how it is not just an author's responsibility to witness these times, but also to push back.
Leung said that as a writer you could reflect on society and express something about humanity, and that is a way to show what is buried in time.