EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - March 25, 2013) - American poet Robert Frost encouraged readers to travel "The Road Less Taken" in his famous four-stanza poem.
Nowhere is this spirit of adventure more fully embraced than in Edmonton's poetry scene. Poems jump off the page and onto city buses while poets leap out of their shells and onto the stage, where they perform their verses.
Today, Edmonton's trendy north-side High Street neighbourhood is home to Duchess Bake Shop, one of the best patisseries in Canada. In 2005, the area was better known for its literary treat, Roar: The Festival of the Spoken Word. Fans roamed up and down 124th Street in a literary pub-crawl to enjoy readings in various cafes and bars. One of the festival's highlights was the Raving Poets, a group of musicians who improvised a soundtrack to a writer's reading.
During the same period, Edmonton's south-side neighbourhood, Old Strathcona welcomed the arts with open arms. The iconic Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival took over the area in the summer while the Stroll of Poets descended on Whyte Avenue in the fall. About 200 poets read five minute poems in over a dozen venues on the first Sunday in October.
In 2006, Edmonton's Poet Laureate Alice Major brought north and south together. She invited the diverse poetry community downtown for the inaugural Edmonton Poetry Festival. Members of the Stroll of Poets brainstormed something unique to kick off the week. The result was the Blinks, a raucous event that even Robbie Burns would have enjoyed. Mardi Gras met poetry reading in this costumed gala. Over 60 brave poets took to the stage at the Artery, Edmonton's trendy arts venue, to deliver 30-second poems. The Blinks Philharmonic Orchestra played off the rare poet who dared go over their time limit. The tradition continues to this day.
Guerrilla tactics brought poems to the people. Poets used chalk to write their favourite verses on the pavement of Sir Winston Churchill Square - the heart of Edmonton's downtown - so commuters could read them on their way to and from work. This urban poetry has since moved from downtown sidewalks to city buses. Printed poems appear on interior panels of the buses of The Poetry Route where they have generated over a million views.
This year's incarnation of the festival - dubbed Word Nation - will bring 14 of Canada's poet laureates together with Liz Lochhead, the National Poet of Scotland. Throughout the week, you'll enjoy poetry readings, conference sessions and stage performances. You won't want to miss Breath in Poetry Collective's slam finals, where Edmonton slam poets vie to represent the city at the Canadian Festival of the Spoken Word. Or you can sit back in the Citadel Theatre and watch actors dramatize the works of Canadian poet laureates in a stage performance aptly titled the Poetry Map of Canada.
The Edmonton Poetry Festival thrives on its diversity with events that run the gamut, from academic to spoken word to slam to performance. Alice Major's original vision to bring poetry to the people still fuels the festival today. She recalls a shy inner city youth showing up at an event at the Stanley Milner Library. The girl was too shy to read her poetry and asked someone else to read her poem for her. She beamed as she listened to her words read aloud.
For Alice, this experience summed up the heart of the festival: "It's about giving people voice, whether it is people who are coming from away or from our own community… we get a chance to hear people that we might not otherwise."
In Edmonton, the road less taken always leads to the most thrilling of destinations.