In its third year of existence, the Word Feast Festival was launched on Sept. 17, 2019, at Gallery 78 in Fredericton by Festival lead organizer and former Fredericton cultural laureate, Ian Letourneau. Letourneau and festival communications employee, Jennifer Houle, hosted the event in both English and French.
The evening also featured a trilingual poem commissioned by the festival organizers from Fredericton Poet Laureate, Jenna Lynn Albert. The poem, which epitomizes the festival’s name, was read in English, French and Wolastoqiyik.
Grounded solidly in New Brunswick imagery, Albert’s charming poem features rich verses intermingling our natural environment and a shared harvest banquet. The French translation was done by Suzanne Blanchard and Jo-Anne Elder. The Wolastoqiyik translation was read by translator Allan Tremblay.
by Jenna Lynn Albert
Late September heat breaks
like a fever: we are all appetite.
Our familiar hunger beckons us
to old-growth. We forage
through leaf litter, root amongst
den trees on hands and knees.
Old white pine, rock maple
and bur oak offer us acorns,
pine nuts and delicate whirlybirds,
bark star-crossing our palms
with lines we are not yet able to read.
We gather riverbank grapes,
gently pry chaga blooms from yellow
birch for tea. Deer have marked
the finest crab-apple trees with deep
runes and garlands of antler velvet.
Their tart fruit tops off the yield,
pomanders scenting our procession
from forest to feast. Place settings
are simple: knife, fork, book.
Under harvest moon we break bread,
break into the wine, salt liberally.
Each morsel is garnished with a story,
words passing around the table
like half-sour pickles, canned beets.
Lips pink from ripe elderberries
and poetry, we savour the creative
juices lingering on our tongues.
Two established New Brunswick writers, R.W. Gray and Gabriel Robichaud, were the featured writers.
Robichaud read poems in French and with translations by Jo-Anne Elder from his collections of poetry. Probably because of his background as an actor, Robichaud’s poetry is made to be declaimed, resembling spoken word poetry. The poet regaled the public with poetical musings about adolescence in the suburbs as well as poems from his most recent collection, titled Acadie Road (2018).
Gray was the winner of the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for his collection Entropic (2016), also the title of his debut feature film which premiered at the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival on Sept. 13th. Gray chose to read the darkly funny and tragic title story from his first collection, Crisp (2010).
Finally, Westminster Books owner, Janet North, received the well-deserved Word Feast Community Impact Award for her important role in the capital’s cultural community.
The festival featured a week of readings, literary events and workshops, from Sept. 16-22.
Sophie Lavoie, a member of the NB Media Co-op editorial board, writes on arts and culture.