A lively crowd of attendees filled the gallery space at the Fredericton Public Library on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, for the inaugural event of Fredericton’s brand new literary festival, Word Feast.
Word Feast is the brainchild of Ian Letourneau, cultural laureate of Fredericton, who managed to gather support for his idea and put it together in the last year. In his opening statement, Letourneau stated he hoped that Word Feast was “building something that has a lasting legacy” and mentioned being especially keen on creating a new generation of readers through the school outreach activities.
MLA David Coon brought greetings and joked about writing a poem called “Platitudes” fitting to his status of politician rather than poet. Coon chose to share a poem called “New Brunswick” by local author Fred Cogswell.
Robert “Bob” Gibbs was the recipient of the inaugural award for Community Impact. Michael Pacey said a few words about Gibbs, whose first collection was published in 1968. Gibbs trained a generation of authors in his work as a professor of English at UNB. This award was accepted by an emotional Nancy Bauer who paid tribute to the author.
A book cover and design exhibit is included in the gallery space until the end of the month. Curated by Keith Helmuth, the book covers from six regional publishers travelled around the province before coming to Fredericton and will have more stops in the future.
Local authors were called upon to participate and at the inaugural event: Lucas Crawford (poetry), Arash Habibi Lashkari (narrative) and Rebecca Salazar (poet). Two other poets, Venezuelan-Canadian Neyda H. Long and Acadian Jean-Philippe Raîche, read their poetry in its original language of composition (Spanish and French).
The evening’s featured reader was Peter Clair, an artist and author who was born in Elsipogtog but now calls Tobique home. Clair read from his recently published novel Taapoategl & Pallet: A Mi’kmaq Journey of Loss and Survival. The novel fuses the stories of two characters (Taapoategl, a young girl, and Pallet, a young man) set in different time periods in the Mi’kmaq territory. During his intervention which also included singing, Clair read with some birch bark “pages” that originally collected the tales contained in his novel.
The Word Feast event boasts a series of free and paying recitals, readings, workshops and other happenings that will take place in various sites around the city, including the Public Library, local bars, cafés, schools, and other unexpected locations.
Sponsors of the new festival include the Province of New Brunswick’s Literary Promotion Program, the NB Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, the City of Fredericton, Cedar Valley Investments, the Canada Council for the Arts, the League of Canadian Poets, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the King St. Ale House, The Abbey Café, Gaspereau Press, Covey’s, Westminster Books, among other backers.
For more information on the festival, go here.
Sophie M. Lavoie, an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op, writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.