Meet Doyali Islam: Winner of 2019 Battle of the Bards

Doyali Islam at the 2019 PoetryNOW: 11th Annual Battle of the Bards

On April 3, we hosted PoetryNOW: 11th Annual Battle of the Bards, featuring 20 talented poets, each reading four minutes of their work. All poets maximized their limited time and gave us a showing of funny, compelling and beautiful performances. It was a fantastic way to begin National Poetry Month.

All the participants delivered remarkable work, however, it was Doyali Islam who stood out on this day to earn the 2019 title of top bard. We caught up with her to discuss the people she has to thank for her journey so far, the moment she fell in love with poetry and the poet we should all be looking out for.

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Top Ten Reads For Pride Month


To many readers, June marks the start of the summer reading season, but it also means Pride Month! In honour of the season, we’ve compiled a list of ten books by LGBTQIA+ authors that you’ll feel proud to add to your summer reading list. From poetry to non-fiction, from Scarborough to Jamaica, these titles represent only a small fraction of queer storytelling. We expect they’ll inspire you to add more to your bookshelves long past June.

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3 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Don't Be Nice. Director: Max Powers. 2017. Movie.

Screenshot from Don’t Be Nice, a film by Max Powers

In 1999, UNESCO adopted March 21 as World Poetry Day to “honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, foster the convergence between poetry and other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media” around the world. Today marks its 19th year.

In Canada, we’re fortunate to also be celebrating the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. This profoundly takes place during a time when social media dialogue and the issues of today are reviving an interest in poetry with a new generation. Poetry’s popularity is evidenced by the rise of Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey and The Sun and Her Flowers, among other poets, on Canadian and international bestseller lists. Also, responding to the demand for poetry, the League of Canadian Poets has released longlists for its Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and Raymond Souster Award, for the first time ever.

We’ve established our top three ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, and invite you to join us.

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A Remedy for Valentine’s Day Writer’s Block: Borrow Some Prose from the Pros


Valentine’s Day is approaching so the Toronto International Festival of Authors wants to help you with your writer’s block. For those special people in your life for whom a convenience store card just won’t suffice, look no further than to these poetic lines below. From poets both modern and classic, here is some prose to quote in your love letters, or to inspire verses of your own.

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Poetry and Canadiana

By Canisia Lubrin

Delegates banner - 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.

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