I went to a slam poetry event at Ottawa’s VERSeFest tonight, and it was extremely good. The speakers were very talented, and the crowd was duly appreciative.

For the most part, the poets were very critical of government policy and society in general. I suppose that is normal at these events, which have a certain idealistic revolutionary flavour. At the end, I wished I had a chance to respond to some of the speakers and say that, for the most part, problems persist because they are difficult to solve, not because people are malevolent. More often, they are just focused on other priorities, or blocked by structural constraints and the inherent difficulty of solving enduring problems. All that said, a lack of compassion is definitely one reason why problems like homelessness endure, and poetry is a medium that seems capable of encouraging greater compassion.

This is the first time this particular festival is being held, and it seems to involve a tonne of different events. Tomorrow (Saturday, March 13th) is the last day, with a bilingual poetry event at 1:30pm, Japanese form poetry at 3:00pm, a Dusty Owl Reading Series event at 5:00pm, and a closing ceremony at 7:00pm.

Passes for the day are $10, and available at Arts Court (2 Daly Avenue), The Manx (370 Elgin Street), and Collected Works (1242 Wellington Street).

I have about eight gigabytes of RAW image files from the event to process, but I will definitely put up a link to the Flickr set once I have dealt with them.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

. March 12, 2011 at 12:58 am

Logophiles Unite! Verse Fest Ottawa 2011

Ottawa loves words. Poetry and spoken word readings have popped up all over the city, calling attention to the increasing demand for live poetry. “This demand,” says poet and performer John Akpata, “was missing completely” from Ottawa not even ten years ago. “They said that it wasn’t real poetry and that we were just failed hip-hop MCs. Now that all the poets are supporting each other we can bring all of that [artistry] to the public.”

Verse Fest Ottawa is the culmination of Ottawa’s growing demand for rhymes and wordy rhythms. From March 8 to the 13 at the Arts Court (2 Daly Avenue) the festival will present readings, performances, workshops and discussions in a manner Ottawa has never seen. Given the calibre of the participants, ticket prices of only $7.50 per event is a steal.

Tristan March 12, 2011 at 9:40 am

” I wished I had a chance to respond to some of the speakers and say that, for the most part, problems persist because they are difficult to solve, not because people are malevolent. ”

Willful blindness is a kind of malevolence. So, for instance, if you were a parent of a child and the other parent was abusing the child but you didn’t know – but you could have found out, because you felt something was a bit off but rather than find out what frightening thing could have been wrong you chose not to investigate, and therefore “didn’t know”, and are therefore “not morally culpable for what happened”. Except you are, because you could have know, and emotionally you probably know that you could have known. And that’s a much more brutal kind of malevolence than physical assault, because it’s what allows regimes to become genocidal.

oleh March 12, 2011 at 11:15 am

I believe that in Canada problems persist because they are difficult to solve rather than because politicians are malevolent. (This may be different in societies where those in power are corrupt to such an extent that their primary purpose is to line their own pockets). There certainly is a role for the critic, who tears down and criticizes. It is so easy to find something to criticize. The more difficult role but also the more important role is that of the builder.

oleh March 12, 2011 at 11:36 am

As an extension of my last comment, if someone basically continuously criticizes, I stop being as influenced by it.

Milan March 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

But criticizing is also difficult, and often personally costly for the person doing it. Nobody likes being made uncomfortable about the ethics of their own behaviour. And yet it is very important that people be made to reflect on it.

Justin March 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I agreed so much with your comment about how some problems are simply hard to solve and persist not out of malevolence, but because of their complexity.

It took me a while to gain the insight you suggest regarding the difficulty of solving problems. I remember wondering during a lot of my undergrad about why problems with obvious “solutions” weren’t being solved.

I think however that the idealism of young people can be inspiring and a counterweight to the cynicism that can come as one grows up about changing the world.

Often I think young people are able to change the world simply because they don’t realize how hard it actually is.

Pearl March 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

where are you on Flickr?

Milan March 17, 2011 at 9:01 pm
Pearl March 18, 2011 at 10:54 am

thanks.

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