Westmount’s annual PoetryFest in the Park
A Magical Mystery Tour into the world of Words and Music
By Wanda Potrykus
August has arrived and summer has passed its mid-mark, so it’s time to think about Westmount’s annual PoetryFest in the Park curated by the Westmount Community Events division. It is happening, as always, on the third Sunday of August (this year it’s the 21st), which means just before the CEGEPs and the public schools re-open and as the university and private school students come back into town to prepare for the start of their new semesters after Labour Day.
The 2016 version of Words and Music, also known by aficionados as Poetry in the Park, has a new location and an excitingly diverse line-up (see below for further details). Here’s hoping you’ll be intrigued enough to pay us a visit even if you don’t consider poetry to be ‘your thing’. Why not simply pass by and enjoy the wide variety of music also on offer? The event this year is a veritable magical mystery tour into the world of Words and Music and promises to be a fascinating ride, with a little something for everyone. Do join us!
The new location is on the north side of the rooftop entrance pavilion to the Westmount Recreation Centre (WRC) on the patio and grass in front of the entrance to the Mouton Noir Café in the park facing the Westmount United Church on De Maisonneuve Avenue. This means you can pick up an ice cream, a cooling drink, like iced tea or a delicious coffee, or even a salad or sandwich while enjoying the event… and for those wondering… yes, there is shade and chairs on the patio, but it is always a good idea to bring your own blanket or folding chair.
Diversity in sounds, languages and communities
This year’s Words and Music event has something to appeal to nearly everyone. We are featuring a myriad of ages from the young to the not so young.
We have poets and musicians representing a wide diversity of communities and sounds: black and white; French and English with a bit of tongue-in-cheek franglais word play for good measure; as well as a little person and a young autistic artist; along with a cacophony of musical instruments and voices, from a hammer dulcimer, an Irish whistle, a trumpet, and a capella voice, to the music of Lower the Stars – a talented, new Montreal-based Indie pop band featuring voice, keyboard, guitars and drums.
Diversity in Poetry styles – from Rap and Slam, to Spoken Word, to Free Verse… to???
Words and Music 2016 is thrilled to be able to announce the participation of the exciting and noted French Canadian rap and slam artist MC JUNE as well as Fabrice Koffy, a musician, rap artist and poet hailing originally from the Côte d’Ivoire, and who has been featured at Montreal’s Nuits d’Afrique, FrancoFolies and the Montreal Jazz festivals among others.
Both these performers are well known on the rap, slam, spoken word and poetry circuit in Quebec, across Canada, and elsewhere; however, it is their first time appearing in Westmount. MC JUNE is also a published author and poetry workshop coordinator.
English language rappers have not been forgotten either, as we are also pleased to introduce you to a new voice on the local music scene, the talented autistic artist Enoch Broomes, who will share with us his various singing and rap styles.
Word Art thrives in Westmount
Among our other performers, Jason “Blackbird” Selman will thrill us with his trumpet and amaze us with his verbal word play and performance virtuosity.
Those of you connected with the Westmount Teen Centre will recognize him as one of their animators, but what you may not know is that he, too, along with being an accomplished poet and musician, is also a poetry workshop coordinator – most recently for a thought provoking joint-venture between the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) and the Atwater Library (Westmount’s other library) and the Atwater Writers Exhibition (AWE) who last March organized an inter-generational weekend poetry writing and performance workshop entitled Write, Share, Speak: Spoken Word Performance. I attended their closing concert and enjoyed it immensely. It would be marvellous to see this as a regular event on their calendars. Check out their websites for future collaborations.
Whoever said ‘size matters’ never met Frank
Another exciting new performer for Westmount audiences to enjoy is Frank Verpaelst, who belongs to the community of the little people of Canada, and, although he may be small in stature, he has a huge amount of talent and force of will.
Frank will showcase his musical talents by accompanying himself by playing a duet on hammer dulcimer and Irish whistle. He will also share some of his poetry for children.
Resident Westmount poets are not forgotten as we introduce a new voice – Ann Gamsa – a psychologist whose professional specialty is pain management but whose poetry touches the senses in a multitude of other ways. We also welcome back Cora Sire, who published a new book entitled The Other Oscar this spring and is working hard on another due out in 2017.
In addition, we are also very pleased to be able to feature one of Westmount Library’s 2016 McEntyre writing competition winners – Leah Annia Plante-Wiener, fresh from the Stratford Festival’s musical theatre camp for young people. Although our youngest poet this year, she is an accomplished award winning writer, performer, and musician, and who was so excited to be invited to participate she changed her return date from Stratford to accommodate this event.
A multitude of talent
Our other poet-participants are no less talented and include: Jeff Parent, hailing from Sherbrooke, Quebec, who was a finalist in The Fiddlehead* 2016 Tell It Slant poetry contest; Ilona Martonfi, published poet and poetry event organizer extraordinaire, as well as Marcia R. Goldberg and Isobel Cunningham whose varied and multi-dimensional work I first encountered at the QWF – Atwater Library-AWE poetry concert. Come check out their insights and poetic word art for yourselves.
Intrigued? Please do join us for Westmount’s magical mystery tour into the world of Words and Music.
Footnote: If you like what you hear, and want to take home any of the published work of our performers, a selection of their work will be on sale at the event.
Event: Words and Music 2016
Date: August 21
Place: Westmount Park – outside WRC Mouton Noir Café
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Rain date: Inside the Mouton Noir Café at the WRC
* The Fiddlehead is Atlantic Canada’s International Literary Journal and is the oldest and most prestigious Canadian literary magazine still in production.
Feature image: Fabrice Koffy
Wanda Potrykus is a writer, editor, translator and poet. A graduate of McGill, she has spent most of her career in marketing communications, PR, event and media relations specializing in international aviation, telecommunications, education and the marketing of the arts.