By Canisia Lubrin
The Delegate Programme is an opportunity for local authors and journalists to enrich the level of discussion at select events throughout the International Festival of Authors. Canisia Lubrin—author of Voodoo Hypothesis and contributor to The Unpublished City—wrote about her experience as an IFOA 2017 delegate and for her, poetry and the Festival’s Canadian-ness left a lasting impression.
There is a sort of despairing desire that takes its cue from ecstasy. When I first participated in IFOA back in 2014, as one of what seemed like a legion of emerging writers to read in a pilot event called Brave New Word, I did not know by which vein I’d entered that storied, yet abstract character of being a writer—even momentarily, one that had been prescribed or is upheld as such, yet still a thing I regarded without that wild absolute geometry of the author.
I hardly had a moment to pause with any sufficient reverie towards the experience and its meaning. How the years churn out their consequence I will not speculate on now. What sees me as an IFOA delegate for the 38th edition of the Festival is a kind of elaborate dream, one that got wrapped into air when a certain clarity is found in that modulated appeal of event after ecstatic event, and here I was: in the throes of something now familiar, yet unexpected—something oddly warped in a strangeness prone to amnesia.
Most of the events I attended at IFOA are now blurred in the rear-view of my experience. Admittedly, this may be the work of a thing concussed, as I have been this past while.
The 38th International Festival of Authors, somehow, did not feel all that international to me. I say this as what I hope translates as and amounts to a kind of para-language, a bow to the sheer quantity of Canadian literature presented at this year’s festival. It is, of course, no strange or unexpected happening given the 150th year of confederation that 2017 is for this country and given the largely Canadian audience in attendance.
A celebration of the Best of the Best Canadian Poetry made for a night bursting with rocking poetic episodes from readings to musings (and some whispered grudging) to tributes and the like through an assemblage of the exalted Best Canadian Poetry anthology series’ editor Molly Peacock, guest editors and contributors, including Jacob McArthur Mooney and Karen Solie (past editors) and Bardia Sinaee (contributor) and Cara-Lyn Morgan (contributor) and Priscila Uppal (past editor) and George Elliot Clarke (past editor). This event’s packed room, much like the crowd attending Come Rhyme With Me showcasing the astounding work of UK spoken word poets Deanna Rodger and Dean Atta, was testament to the continuing and intensifying companionship of poetry for readers and creators of poetry.
Poetic New Worlds presented nine Canadian poets—who also participated in Poetry Now’s Battle of the Bards in the spring—along with Mireia Calafell of Barcelona reading from recently published collections. What a fine activity of watching how poetry moves in its manifold expressions within a short, concentrated hour.
The Toronto Lit Up: Launch of Launches with its omnibus celebration of books launched within the past year by more than 100 Toronto authors was an extraordinarily cosmopolitan social tributary of the Festival itself. Dionne Brand and Vahni Capildeo in Walking Cities treated their diverse audience to what is no doubt an inheritance of genius so expansive, it is nearly impossible to quantify. After several days of this kind of reverie, I unraveled in the mouth of literature, an ecstatic tremble, a defamiliarized blending into alphabets and maybe smoke.
Canisia Lubrin serves on the editorial board of the Humber Literary Review and on the advisory board of the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. She completed an MFA in fiction at Guelph-Humber and is the author of the poetry collection, Voodoo Hypothesis, forthcoming this fall from Wolsak & Wynn.