There was an ambiance of joy and friendship at the Picaroon’s Roundhouse in Fredericton on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 as it hosted the final stop on the Creating Community Literary Event province-wide tour.
This journey around the province, organized by the Acadian creative writing journal, Ancrages, featured 12 New Brunswick authors of different origins reading texts about community. Fredericton was the final stop after similar events in Bathurst, Edmundston, Moncton, Saint John and Rexton.
Fredericton-based authors included Muhammad Al-Digeil and Shelby Beaatz Sappier who both produced personal testimonials on belonging. A trip to Buenos Aires was the starting point for Al-Digeil’s often humorous text about how he perceives his Kenyan-Canadian identity versus how people see him, as someone clearly neither White nor African who has been in Canada for over twenty years. Sappier, a local well-known rapper originally from Negootkook First Nation (Tobique), produced a straight-forward but thoughtful text written in the third person about the difficult journey of a typical Indigenous young person.
Two other Indigenous poets from Pabineau First Nation participated. Now based in Halifax, Raymond Sewell, who used to rap under the name Red Suga, opened the afternoon’s readings with a song in Mi’kmaq and read two other poems. Phyllis Grant, author and musician, read two songs in “slam” style, urging the crowd to declaim the refrain of her anthem “Up Risin.’”
Paul Bossé, an author and filmmaker based in Moncton, used the simplicity of his first name as the starting point for a pondering on his identity, being born of a Brayon father and a Franco-Saskatchewan mother. Artist Brigitte Lavallée, of Petit Rocher, shared a wonderfully reflective poem which alluded to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Sheedy Petit Jean, based in Moncton, wrote of the difficulties of immigration and integration and recited parts of her text in Haitian Creole. Finally, Sébastien Bérubé, a young poet from Edmundston with two collections of poetry under his belt who is also a musician, read a strongly-worded poem that was a treatise against capitalism in the province and its impact on the population. French-language authors’ texts were surtitled in English, and vice versa.
Renowned author Beth Powning shared a beautiful story about picking blueberries with recent Syrian refugees near her home in Sussex which prompted her own reflections on her identity. Writer Elizabeth Blanchard of Grand Barachois read a charming text about language’s role in identity. Originally from Newfoundland, narrative writer Gerard Collins, now based in Sussex, wrote a text about the importance of online community for introverts like himself. Rounding out the evening, short-story writer Lee Thomson, of Moncton, enlisted the help of his fellow authors in a chorale-style reading of his historical short story.
Former Lieutenant-Governor and celebrated Acadian artist Herménégilde Chiasson and Fredericton-based translator and poet Jo-Anne Elder were two of the twelve literary translators who converted the texts into a language other than the one they were written in. The texts will be published in 2018 in a special issue by Ancrages.
Coordinated by Moncton-based translator Sonya Malaborza, the tour was sponsored by Ancrages and received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Moncton, the Province of New Brunswick, and New Chapter.
Sohpie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture and is an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op.