3rd Cascadia Poetry Festival

Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo

NANAIMO, BC – The Cascadia Poetry Festival is coming to Nanaimo.  The third in an annual festival series that originated in 2012 in Seattle, CPF3-2015 is expected to bring more than four-hundred visitors to eat, sleep and soak up some great poetry in this Vancouver Island city.

Cascadia began as the brain-child of poet and arts activist Paul Nelson, through an organization called SPLAB (the Seattle Poetics Laboratory). It started out small, with about one hundred poets and attendees from both sides of the border. By its second bout in 2014 that number had quadrupled.  Canadian poets have participated from the outset, but this will be the first time the CPF has come to Canada.

As the CPF website (www.cascadiapoetryfestival.org) makes clear, this is a festival born with a visionary concept – an international festival that seeks to “bioregionally animate and culturally construct” Cascadia by gathering writers, artists and scientists to “collaborate, discover and foster deeper connection between inhabitants and the place itself.” Cascadia, as defined by writer and scientist David McCloskey, is the bioregion that stretches “in a great curving arc from Northern California to southeast Alaska—a vast swath which also includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and more than half of British Columbia.”

Accessibility is a key value for this festival. A Gold Pass to four days of readings, panels and discussions costs $25 and only $10 for students. The four scheduled workshops aren’t covered by the pass but, at $60, they are a literary bargain. You can buy your tickets on the CPF website. The schedule is already posted on the website too, and bios of the forty-two participating poets from both sides of the border. And, of course, you can volunteer! 

The Cascadia Poetry Festival creates a special ambiance, says CPF3-2015 Co-Chair, Vancouver Island poet David Fraser.  “It brings together people who want to be part of the important conversation about our rich, trans-national community.”

The informal mingling at CPF is as important as the panels and performances, Fraser says. “We create time and space for people to sit and talk about what Cascadia really means to us.”

Lantzville poet and publisher, Ursula Vaira, writes about Cascadia in her book about kayaking through the region – and see what happens, published by Caitlin Press in 2011. Two of the couplets in her extended poem, Frog River, say this:

Perfectly still, river becomes mountains
becomes cloud.

Canoe becomes bird.
the hollow bone.

Vaira will be part of the CPF3-2015 lineup—a lineup that brings together emerging and established poets. One of the featured participants, Brenda Hillman, won the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize. 

CPF3-2015 is forging a relationship between area poets and local businesses, schools, Vancouver Island University and the City of Nanaimo—everyone helping to make the festival a success and to highlight the area’s strength as a community of poets and writers. There were four-hundred attendees at Seattle’s CPF, held in May of this year. CPF3-2015 organizers are hoping to match or better that.

Taking the lead in festival organizing is a small Nanaimo-based arts society called “WordStorm” (www.wordstorm.ca) – a dynamic group of writers who run monthly Spoken Word performances in local cafés (currently the Vault Café on Nanaimo’s Wallace Street). CPF3 co-chair, Fraser, is also WordStorm’s artistic director and president.

“Spreading the word that Nanaimo is not only a gorgeous place, but also a major arts destination is one of the city’s key strategic goals,” Fraser remarks.  “It is gratifying that a small, volunteer group of poets is helping to manifest that message.” 

Check it all out here: www.cascadiapoetryfestival.org

Find us on Facebook for news and updates: Cascadia Poetry Festival

To sponsor or volunteer, contact David Fraser at ascentaspirations@gmail.com

About Splabman

SPLAB founder Paul Nelson wrote Organic Poetry (VDM Verlag, German, 2008) as well as a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, Washington, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, 2010). In 26 years of radio he interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, George Bowering, Joanne Kyger, Jerome Rothenberg & others. Founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, recent publications on and off-line include: Hambone, Pageboy, Menacing Hedge, Fieralingue, Rain Taxi, Solitary Plover, the Soul of the Earth anthology, Along the Rim: The Best of the Pacific Rim Review (Vol 2), Inactual, Raft magazine and Golden Handcuffs Review. He lives in Seattle, won the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from the Capilano Review and writes at least one American Sentence every day.
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