All stories relating to history
Wade Davis was awarded the £20,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for his book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (Vintage Canada) at an award ceremony in London, U.K., last night.
Into the Silence, which recounts English mountaineer George Mallory’s attempt to climb Mount Everest in the 1920s, was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language non-fiction, The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, and the Boardman Tasket Prize for Mountain Literature.
Davis is the author of 15 books, including The Serpent and the Rainbow (Simon & Schuster), an anthropological investigation of Voodoo culture’s place in Haitian history. He is currently an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.
Canzine, the country’s largest festival dedicated to zines and independent culture, happens this Sunday in Toronto (the Vancouver edition is scheduled for Nov. 17). Following the success of last year’s event, writer Jason Spencer spoke to several independent publishers about the importance of zine fairs to building readership. This article appeared in the Jan./Feb. issue of Q&Q.
Last October, publisher Beth Follett decided to try a new method of connecting with readers: she signed up her company, Pedlar Press, as a vendor at Canzine Toronto, a daylong celebration of indie culture presented by Broken Pencil magazine. Not knowing what to expect, Follett carefully arranged a selection of Pedlar titles on her display table just inside the front doors of the 918 Bathurst Centre, including ReLit Award winners Sweet by Dani Couture and Blood Relatives by Craig Francis Power. As hundreds of misfits, hipsters, and readers began crossing the threshold, she realized she had come to the right place.
“It’s very difficult these days to find an audience and reach new customers,” says Follett, who understands the need to build new alliances as more independent bookstores close down. “It’s very important for me to be here and not in some ivory tower, where only a slice of the populace knows about Canadian literature.”
With nearly 200 vendors, 2010’s Canzine was one of the biggest in its 15-year-plus history. Likewise, thousands of people showed up at Montreal’s Expozine, a two-day event held in November that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2011. “What does this mean for small presses? It’s a motivation to keep publishing,” says organizer Louis Rastelli. He adds that attending alternative gatherings can be eye-opening for people in the established book industry. “If the industry doesn’t get involved in what the new generation is doing, similar to the music [business], they [will] have some catching up to do.”
For some small presses, zine fairs perform a similar function to book launches. “You can do direct sales, so it’s a little cash boost, especially around the holidays when the [printer’s] bills are coming in,” says Nic Boshart, co-publisher of Invisible Publishing, which has had a presence at recent gatherings in Toronto, Halifax, and Montreal. But for many, such events are not so much about sales as they are about building relationships with new readers. Brett Savory, co-publisher of ChiZine Publications, says he attended Canzine Toronto in the hopes of accumulating social-media followers and promoting the press’s monthly Chiaroscuro reading series. Boshart adds that zine fairs are a good place to scout talent and network with presses one wouldn’t otherwise meet.
Not only do zine fairs bring scores of cultural artifacts to the public, they also provide a venue for interesting side events. In an effort to trump the previous year’s Puppet Slam, Canzine organized the Typewriter Orchestra Room, a cacophonous installation featuring a dozen poets attempting to channel Shakespeare. Canzine also hosted more conventional readings from authors such as Jonah Campbell, who read from his essay collection Food and Trembling (Invisible), and Expozine welcomed author Jonathan Goldstein, host of CBC Radio’s WireTap.
Such inventive programming can be an opportunity for authors who don’t fit in elsewhere. “If you can’t get a reading, make your own show,” says first-time Canzine Toronto vendor and seasoned attendee Liz Worth, author of Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (Bongo Beat/ECW Press) and the poetry collection Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions). “You really have to get creative and you have to push really hard.”
Still, publishers who want to succeed at zine fairs need to adapt in order to stand out. Given the number of exhibitors at Expozine – more than 270 – Rastelli recommends that publishers avoid selling titles at list price. “A lot of customers would like a bit of everything instead of spending all their money at one table, so we encourage people to have inexpensive books,” he says. “Even a publisher of perfect-bound books can produce a small zine worth $2, and at least if someone doesn’t buy a $20 book, they can go home with a sampler.” For her part, Follett, who plans to attend Canzine Toronto again in 2012, says she doesn’t advertise prices, in order to encourage discussion with interested readers.
Follett suggests potential vendors should think twice before dismissing zine fairs as lowbrow. “[T]here is a lot of ignorance, some of it willful, about who is producing art in Canada,” she says. “This is the ground where seeds are being planted for future excellence.”
Joseph Boyden’s writing interweaves the multifarious spirit of Canadian experiences by drawing upon a wealth of northern narratives. His first novel, Three Day Road (Penguin Canada), examines the trauma of the First World War through the story of two young Cree men, while his 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning novel Through Black Spruce (Viking Canada) questions the death of tradition in First Nations communities. Now, Boyden’s new novel, The Orenda, to be published by Hamish Hamilton Canada, takes a further look back into Canada’s formative years.
The Orenda opens in the 1630s with the kidnapping of a gifted Iroquois child, and the arrival of a charming Jesuit missionary, who interposes himself into the native community, in order to lead them onto the path of Christ.
Boyden’s long-time editor Nicole Winstanley, president and publisher of Penguin Canada, acquired the book. In a press release she says:
History is often portrayed in fiction in soft-light and sepia-tones … With The Orenda, Joseph brings a vivid immediacy to the violent collision of social, political, and spiritual forces that forged the beginnings of our country.
Publication is planned for September 2013.
New Brunswick author David Adams Richards was the big winner at this year’s Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Awards, which were presented Oct. 12 at a ceremony in Halifax.
Richards received the $20,000 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for his novel Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul (Doubleday Canada). Richards was up against two debut novelists: Valerie Compton (Tide Road, Goose Lane Editions) and Heather Jessup (The Lightning Field, Gaspereau Press).
Harry Thurston, who hails from Amherst, Nova Scotia, won the $2,000 Evelyn Richardson Memorial Non-Fiction Award for The Atlantic Coast: A Natural History (Greystone Books), which recently won a Lane Anderson Award for science writing.
Halifax writer Sue Goyette won the $2,000 Atlantic Poetry Prize for outskirts (Brick Books), which received the Pat Lowther Memorial Award in June.
Canadians can celebrate the fusion of fiction and poetry with history, science, and other art forms at events across the country this weekend, featured on Q&Q’s events calendar:
Experience 1912 – from vaudeville to horse-and-buggie rides – at the Sunshine City Festival from Aug. 17–19 in Orillia, Ontario. The city will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town at Couchiching Beach Park.
Speaking of sunshine, Canada’s longest-running summer literary gathering, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, takes place Aug. 16–19 in Sechelt, B.C. This year, the festival plays host to the world premiere of Northwords, a documentary about a literary expedition through Northern Labrador. Camilla Gibb, Ami McKay, and Douglas Gibson are set to appear.
For those who like poetry against the backdrop of nature, Marlene Creates’ Boreal Poetry Garden event on Aug. 18 may be time well spent. The artist gives a tour of her home in Portugal Cove-St. Philips, Newfoundland – complete with readings of site-specific poems, commentary by geologist Paul Dean, and a performance by Don McKay. Pre-registration is required.
The People’s Poetry Festival launches in Calgary this weekend, and there’s no shortage of poetry, spoken word, visual arts, and various other workshops on the itinerary. The free event begins Aug. 17 and runs until Aug. 19.
Artists from the Italian-Canadian community will gather in Sarnia, Ontario for a Book and Biscotti event on Aug. 19. Drop in to the Dante Club for readings, music, and discussion about Italian-Canadian internment, featuring Jim Zucchero, Delia De Santis, Venera Fazio, Norma West Linder, James Deahl, Di Cocco, and Elena Feick.
The Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour makes several stops along the Grand River this weekend before coming to a halt on Aug. 19 at the Chiefswood Museum in Oshweken, Ontario. The closing ceremony features special guests Shelley Clark, Dawn, and Marra, who will help mark the end of a 10-day canoe tour comprised of poets Moez Surani, Kevin MacPherson Eckhoff, Leigh Kotsilidis, Linda Besner, and Darryl Whetter, and Toronto musician Jack Marks. Don’t miss out on the last chance to catch scheduled performances, outlined on the festival itinerary. Plus, check out Q&Q‘s events calendar for more of this weekend’s literary gatherings.
Want to add an event to Q&Q’s calendar? Send your literary event listings to Quill & Quire. Please include the event name, date, time, location, cost, and a brief description.
The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.
In 2009, police discovered a car in the Rideau Canal just outside of Kingston, Ontario. The car contained the bodies of three sisters – Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia – and 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad. Authorities later arrested the girls’ father, brother, and mother, all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in the honour killings. Paul Schliesmann’s Honour on Trial (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $19.95 pa., Oct.) examines the facts behind the case that horrified Canadians.
BUSINESS & FINANCE
He’s been a dragon in his den and gone to prison for his reality-television show, Redemption Inc. Now, Kevin O’Leary, businessman, pundit, and author of the hybrid memoir/business guide Cold Hard Truth, returns with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Dec.), a guide to avoiding common financial mistakes. • O’Leary’s left-leaning opponent on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang, has a leadership book out this season. The Power of Why: Simple Questions that Lead to Success (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.) postulates that asking the right questions leads to increased productivity.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
From the internal combustion engine and cold fusion to the Internet and the artificial heart, all scientific discoveries and technological advancements are the product of human ingenuity. In the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, Neil Turok argues that science represents humanity’s best hope for progress and peace. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa.) appears in September. • Terence Dickinson is editor of the Canadian astronomy magazine Sky News and author of the bestseller NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. His new book, Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Images (Firefly Books, $49.95 cl., Sept.), is a visually sumptuous compendium of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
CULTURE & CRITICISM
Novelist and short-story writer Thomas King, who was also the first native person to deliver the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, has long been a committed advocate for native rights. In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), King examines the way European settlers and natives have viewed each other via pop culture, treaties, and legislation. • Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa., Nov.).
In A Civil Tongue, philosophy professor and public intellectual Mark Kingwell predicted the devolution of political discourse into a schoolyard-like shouting match. His new collection, Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility, and the Human Imagination (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., Sept.), is about how incivility and bad behaviour prevent us from achieving the kind of society we desire.
Poet, publisher, and critic Carmine Starnino turns his incisive and cutting attention to CanLit in his new collection of essays, Lazy Bastardism (Gaspereau Press, Sept.). • James Pollock believes that Canadian poetry lacks an authentic relationship with poetry from the rest of the world. His new book, You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., Nov.), attempts to situate Canadian poetry in a global context, through examinations of the work of writers such as Anne Carson, Eric Ormsby, and Karen Solie.
A new anthology from Women’s Press brings together essays addressing specific concerns of LGBT communities and individuals across the country. Edited by Maureen FitzGerald and Scott Rayter, Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies ($64.95 pa., Sept.) takes up issues of education, law, and religion, among others. • For a brief moment in the 1960s, Montreal became a hotbed of Civil Rights activism, radically challenging traditional conceptions of racial hierarchies. The 1968 Congress of Black Writers included activists and spokespeople such as Stokely Carmichael, C.L.R. James, and Harry Edwards. David Austin chronicles this important gathering in Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Nov.).
Belles Lettres (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Nov.) is a collection of postcards from authors such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, and Charlotte Brontë, collated and annotated by Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto’s International
Festival of Authors. • In The Other Side of Midnight: Taxi Cab Stories (Creative Book Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.), writer and anthologist Mike Heffernan chronicles the experiences of St. John’s cab drivers and their clients.
In the years following Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, the market for books about the Canadian punk music scene has been as frenzied as the audience at a Fucked Up concert. In Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, (ECW, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Sam Sutherland looks at the historical context for Canadian punk progenitors such as D.O.A., the Viletones, and Teenage Head. • One early Canadian punk band – Victoria’s NoMeansNo – is the subject of the latest book in the Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing. NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere ($12.95 pa.), by Halifax author Mark Black, is due out in October.
Marc Strange, who died in May, was known for mystery novels such as Body Blows and Follow Me Down. He was also the co-creator (with L.S. Strange) of the seminal Canadian television series The Beachcombers. Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40 (Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa., Sept.), co-written with Jackson Davies, the actor who played Constable John Constable in the series, chronicles the iconic show and its equally iconic lead actor.
Since its release in 1971, Ken Russell’s notoriously blasphemous film, The Devils, has been the subject of heavy censorship in both the U.S. and the U.K. Canadian film scholar Richard Crouse examines the history of this cult classic in Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils (ECW, $19.95 pa., Oct.), which includes an interview with the film’s director, who died in 2011.
Former model and current stay-at-home mom Kelly Oxford has found her largest measure of fame as a result of her sarcastic Twitter feed (@kellyoxford), which features such Oscar Wildean witticisms as “IDEA: ‘Bless This Mess’ novelty period panties” and “Some parents in China get their kids to work in factories and I can’t get my kid to pass me some Twizzlers.” The essays in Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., Sept.) promise more of the same. • If you prefer your humour with a larger dollop of political satire, you’ll be pleased to know that Rick Mercer has a collection of brand new rants on the way. A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Oct.) includes the author’s description of bungee jumping with Rick Hansen, and a more serious piece about Jamie Hubley, a gay teen who committed suicide after being bullied.
If you want to know whether you might be a redneck, ask Jeff Foxworthy. If you want to know whether you might be a native of Saskatchewan, check your birth certificate or consult the new book from author Carson Demmans and illustrator Jason Sylvestre. You Might Be from Saskatchewan If … (MacIntyre Purcell/Canadian Manda Group, $12.95 pa.) appears in September.
FOOD & DRINK
Rob Feenie is the latest Food Network Canada celebrity chef with a new cookbook. The host of New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie, who famously defeated Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America, offers innovative approaches to classic, family-friendly fare in Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends (D&M, $29.95 pa., Sept.). The recipes have undergone stringent quality control, each one having been approved by Feenie’s children, aged 3, 6, and 7.
Camilla V. Saulsbury’s 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature’s Superfood for Gluten-free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More (Robert Rose, $27.95 pa., Oct.) provides more healthy recipes based on the reigning superstar ingredient. • Aaron Ash, founder of Gorilla Food, a Vancouver restaurant that features vegan, organic, and raw cuisine, has achieved popularity among celebrity fans including Woody Harrelson and Katie Holmes. His new book, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 pa., Oct.), collects 150 recipes, all of which are made without a heat source.
Rocker Dave Bidini returns to his other passion – hockey – in A Wild Stab for It: This Is Game Eight from Russia (ECW, $22.95 cl., Sept.), in which the author talks to various Canadians about the influence of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The release of the book is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the iconic series. • The man who made that series so memorable also has a book out this fall. Co-written with sports commentator Roger Lajoie, The Goal of My Life (Fenn/M&S, $32.99 cl., Sept.) traces Paul Henderson’s route through the OHL and the NHL, on his way to scoring “the goal of the century.”
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, ex–CFL quarterback and coach Frank Cosentino has penned the appropriately titled The Grey Cup 100th Anniversary (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Oct.). • Crime fiction writer Michael Januska offers his own take on 100 years of Canadian football history in Grey Cup Century (Dundurn, $14.99 pa., Sept.).
Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.
For the third year in a row, Linda Besner and Leigh Kotsilidis will lead a group of poets and one musician on a canoe tour down the Grand River in Southwestern Ontario. The lineup for this year’s Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour includes Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, Moez Surani, Darryl Whetter, and singer-songwriter Jack Marks.
The 10-day, three-canoe author tour launches on Aug. 9 in Toronto, with readings scheduled in Elora, West Montrose, Bridgeport, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, and Ohsweken, plus a campfire poetry night at Brant Conservation Area.
Besner spoke with Quillblog about the challenges and rewards of marrying poetry with paddling.
What can people expect from your tour?
The towns we’ve chosen to go through often don’t get a lot of [author] tours going through. Like West Montrose, where we’ll read next to Kissing Bridge, the only remaining covered bridge in Ontario.
Because we’re coming by canoe there’s a kind of informal air to the proceedings. Once you get up there in your canoeing clothes and you’re sunburnt and mosquito-bitten, you’ve been paddling through people’s back yards, we’ve already got something to talk about with [the audience].
The people who come out for it aren’t always necessarily the kind of people who come to poetry readings. But because somebody is making the effort to come to them, and doing it in a way that has a connection to the place, people come out.
People come and talk to us after. Last year, this woman came up with her daughter and husband. She told us she had had a boyfriend who wrote her this poem. “I still have it memorized. Do you want to hear it?” she said. And of course I did want to hear this poem. She recited it by heart. Her daughter was like, “Mom, you never told me this story.” Her mom said, “Well, it never came up.”
What’s different this time around?
Last year, most people knew at least one other person on the trip well.
This year there are a couple of people I haven’t met at all – Darryl Whetter is coming up from Nova Scotia, and I haven’t met Kevin McPherson Eckhoff, or Jack Marks.
How did the trip go last year? Can you describe what it was like for you?
The organizing had been so stressful that I was actually surprised and pleased by how smoothly everything wound up going. Once you’re out on the water, once everybody’s together, I feel like it really brings out people’s teamwork skills. Everybody was nice to each other and took care of each other. On that river, because it’s so shallow and rocky, the person in front really has to call to the person in back to tell them what to do to find a channel through the rocks that won’t tip you.
For a lot of us, because we live in the city, it’s not often that we’re able to be out in the country for so long and spend days on the river. You spend day after day in the canoe and then when you’re going to sleep, you have this hallucinatory sense that you’re still moving from side to side and following the bends of the river. It really gets a physical grip on you.
What are some of the highlights of paddling through a community rather than embarking on a more traditional tour?
We link up with a lot of local organizations and try to incorporate local talent. We invite guest performers to join us at each location. Last year, we had Shelley Clark from the Six Nations of the Grand River community read with us, and she’ll read again this year.
One of the coolest places we’ll be going back to this year is our final stop at Chiefswood National Historic Site, which is the birth place of E. Pauline Johnson. She was sort of the first Mohawk poet in Canada to be taken seriously. Her house is still standing [as a museum] in the Six Nations’ territory. Going out there, learning about its history, getting to know the curator and the volunteers is amazing. You really do see how vibrant the culture is.
What kind of fundraising have you undertaken to cover the trip?
We do this trip on such a shoestring budget. We grocery shop and cook [at camp] as a group. We have gotten all of our camping sponsored by the Grand River Conservation Authority, which manages the campsites we’ll be staying on.
We have another really wonderful sponsor, Treks in the Wild. They’re a canoe company in Paris, Ontario, and they’re really who make this trip possible. They lend us the canoes and waterproof barrels for our merch for free, they shuttle us around, they come and get us when our campsite is too far from our reading venue for us to walk.
We’ve also been given some funding from our publishers: Véhicule Press, Coach House Books, Wolsak & Wynn, Palimpsest Press, and Brick Books.
Yesterday at San Diego’s international Comic-Con convention, two generations of Canadian cartoonists, Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) and Lynn Johnston (For Better or for Worse), shared the stage for a discussion about the craft of serialized comics.
Back at home, the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists is hoping to put some cash and prizes in the pockets of artists like Beaton and Johnston. The group is petitioning the Canada Council for the Arts to make cartoonists and cartoon publishers eligible for its grants and the Governor General’s Literary Awards (graphic novels are eligible for funds but are excluded from the GG awards).
The petition states:
Given the artistic quality of Canadian cartooning, it’s cultural importance, its centrality to an understanding of Canadian society and history, and its appeal to readers of all ages, a strong argument can and should be made that the Canada Council should support the work of cartoonists and that of publishers interested in publishing their work. The Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists is ideally positioned to lobby for such a change in Canada Council policy. And we do know that ACEC members are good at getting their point across.
UPDATE: According to Tara Lapointe, head of marketing communications for the Canada Council: “There are no barriers for editorial cartoonists or other artists who bridge editorial and visual art to apply for support from the Canada Council. In fact, they are eligible in two different programs. Under our Publishing program, publications need to demonstrate editorial oversight and/or commentary as part of the collection of works. In our Visual Art program, all professional visual artists, regardless of medium, are eligible if they meet two criteria: firstly, they have produced an independent body of work (e.g. not commissioned) and have had their work presented in a professional context such as a curated exhibition.”
Iva Cheung has won the 2011 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence for her work on Cow: A Bovine Biography (Greystone Books). Written by Florian Werner, and translated from German by Doris Ecker, the book draws on music, literature, and visual art to study the cultural history and significance of cows.
Cheung received the award at the Editor’s Association of Canada banquet in Ottawa on June 2. On her blog, she thanked all involved in the honour:
Thanks to the EAC for having this award in the first place, and thanks to the donors, awards committee, and judges for this tremendous honour … I’m extremely grateful to Nancy Flight for nominating me. When one of your most respected mentors deems your work worthy of an award, the nomination truly is an honour unto itself.
The EAC established the annual award in 1983 to recognize editors’ contributions to a work. Winners receive a cash prize of $2000. Editors Andrea Douglas, Heather Ball, and Jean Wilson served as judges for this year’s competition.
Other editors shortlisted for the prize were Smaro Kaboureli for In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing by Roy Miki (NeWest Press), and Peter Midgley for The Man in Blue Pyjamas by Jalal Barzanji, translated by Sabah Salih (The University of Alberta Press). Each received $500.
Calgary’s WordFest has teamed up with the Calgary Stampede to celebrate 100 years of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
WildWest Wordfest is a special summer “mini-fest” in tribute to Western Canada’s cowboy culture in literature, music, and art. The free three-day festival launches Monday at Motion Art Gallery with an appearance by Calgary poet laureate Kris Demeanor, an exhibit of images from the Stampede archives, and stories by the winners of the TumbleWord Writing Contest. (Entrants were asked to write a postcard story based on one of five archival Stampede images posted to the WordFest website.)
Highlights from the rest of the week include a Tuesday lunchtime presentation with Piikani storyteller and Stampede School site coordinator Anita Crowshoe; the launch for David Campion and Sandra Shields’ new book of Stampede photography, Cowboy Wild (Rocky Mountain Books), at the Art Gallery of Calgary on Tuesday evening; and the Cowboy Cabaret wrap-up party on Wednesday. The cabaret, which will be held at the Calgary Public Library, features auctioneer Bob Dyck, a collaboration between cowboy poet Doris Daley and singer-songwriter Bruce Innes, a reading from Tom Three Persons by Yvonne Trainer, and a performance of I Just Wanna Be a Stampede Queen by spoken word poet Sheri-D Wilson with dancer Hannah Stilwell.
The WordFest–Stampede partnership might leave some people scratching their heads, but WordFest marketing manager Mary Kapusta says with Calgary being named one of two cultural capitals of Canada for 2012 (the other is Ontario’s Niagara Region), the city has been “buzzing” with opportunities to show off its creative side.
Kapusta admits that the Cowtown’s community of artists hasn’t always appreciated the Stampede’s cultural value, though everyone from actors and singer-songwriters, to visual artists and writers has responded positively to this partnership. “It’s been an eye-opener for some in our community … learning that the Stampede is about more than just the races and the rodeo,” she says, expressing her own surprise at learning of the Stampede’s involvement in issues such as gender in sport, aboriginal rights and heritage, scientific and technological advances.
Most important, though, was discovering what the two festivals have in common: storytelling. “WordFest is all about stories,” Kapusta says, and the Stampede also treasures a good yarn. “The power of stories is a big thing for them,” she says, noting that the Stampede’s archives provided an entryway to the event’s legends and history. In fact, the archives were integral in putting the Wild West programming together, Kapusta says. “We’re pulling parts of that [history] and playing with it, exploring it, and throwing it against this modern backdrop.”