Ottawa International Writers Festival

Episode 54: Interview with Monty Reid, director of VERSeFest

The Small Machine Talks with a.m kozak and Amanda Earl

Monty Reid was born in Saskatchewan, worked for many years in Alberta, and now lives in Ottawa. His books include Garden (Chaudiere), The Luskville Reductions (Brick), and CrawlSpace(Anansi). Recent chapbooks include the nipple variations (postghost press), Seam (above/ground) and Site Conditions (Apt. 9). He has won Alberta’s Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry on three occasions, the Lampman Award, National Magazine Awards, and is a three-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award. He was one of the founders of the Writers Guild of Alberta and was for many years the Managing Editor for Arc Poetry Magazine.  He is currently the Director of VerseFest, Ottawa’s international poetry festival. Photo taken by Grant Savage.

We talk about the origins of the festival with former director, Rod Pederson, the role of the artistic director and the way in which VERSeFEST works with the city’s various literary organizations taking part.

We discuss companion activities such as Laureate City, which brings together poets laureate from across Canada to celebrate Ottawa getting a poet laureate program again, and has taken place in Ottawa for its first two years, and the possibility of a video poem festival sometime in the future.

We learn about some of the poets who will be participating in at the festival this year, which will take place from March 24 to 29, 2020 and include 80 poets from all over the world. Some of the poets will be Adele Barclay, Gwen Benaway, Canisia Lubrin, Karen Solie, Robin Richardson, Kaie Kellough, Monica Rink, and more.

Monty talks about the need to have a diverse festival that includes BIPOC and francophone poets. He mentions some of his fondest memories, including Lenelle Moise, Mary Ruefle’s demonstration of how to fold a fitted sheet. Amanda remembers a spoken word duo from BC, the 2 Dope Boys.

Monty explains that the whole festival is run by volunteers. They work with the Ottawa International Writers Festival, there’s a new program with Carleton University and their poetry from prisons initiative. Amanda talks about her favourite aspects, the talks from the Factory Reading Series, the panel on translation.

We discuss Monty’s acoustic trio band, Call Me Katie, and also his gardening.

In the future VERSeFest will be doing more collaborations. It has some with the Library of Congress, the Festival de Poésie in Trois Rivières, there are collaborations planned with the Edmonton Poetry Festival, the idea being to have a circuit for poets who travel from one festival to another, which is especially important for poets travelling from overseas.

Amanda mentions the bookseller Perfect Books, and the great selection of books at the festival. Monty also mentions the indie table for chapbooks and ephemeral material, and French books from Coin du Livre.

Monty talks about additional things at the festival such as a concrete poetry exhibit that happened last year, and musical acts.

Go to to pick up passes and tickets and find out about the upcoming festival.

We asked Monty about his own poetry. He’s working on two manuscripts, one on our surveillance society, the other on the parasites that live in our bodies.

Amanda asked Monty about his gardening. He has acquired a small greenhouse. Aaron asks about the relationship between poets and gardening. Monty suggests the relationship may be hope.

Amanda mentions Arial Gordon’s book, Treed: Amanda wishes she would read at the Arboretum.

Thanks to Monty Reid for being our guest on the Small Machine Talks, and thanks to you, for listening.

Please share our episodes with fellow poetry fans. Next episode will be sometime in February, all being well.

Episode 48 – Interview with Nina Jane Drystek

The Small Machine Talks

co-hosted by Amanda Earl and a.m. kozak

Episode 48: Interview with Nina Jane Drystek

Recorded on August 15, 2019, Ward 14

nina jane drystek is a poet, writer and performer based in Ottawa. her poetry has appeared in Canthius, talking about strawberries, the DUSIE: Tuesday poem,, in/words, ottawater, small talk and Window Cat Press, as well as in self-published chapbooks, and chapbooks and broadsides by & co. collective, of which she is a member. #26: ‘knewro suite from simulacrum press came out this year.

she is a member of the sound poetry ensemble quatuour gualuour, and creates performances of her own. if you have ever lived in the same city as her you have likely seen her riding a red bicycle around town. you can find her @textcurious.

We talk about when Nina Jane began writing, collaborations from an early age, Canterbury High School, performance of poetry, cocktails, consignment shops, writing as a space of self-expression and time to be alone, publishing and self-publishing, chapbooks, handling rejection.

We discuss the origins of Nina Jane’s writing group and press, & Co Collective, meeting writers at In/Words’ weekly workshops, the informal nature of & Co Collective.

We talk about a forthcoming reading in Montreal, Nina Jane’s love of editing, a workshop we both took with rob mclennan and how workshops work in general. Spontaneous editing vs having the text ahead of time and the beauty of workshopping in the moment.

Nina Jane explains that she likes attending readings to hear the writers read in their own words. I ask Nina Jane about her background in theatre. She explains about her exploration of dramaturgy in grad school at Guelph, and her interest in performance. Nina Jane wrote and performed a one-person show in grade 7 about suicide.

She was interested in the performance of the scream, experimental scream therapy, nonverbal vocalization, the abrasive stuff that puts you on edge, plays about women behaving badly.

We talk about Nina Jane’s work for the Ottawa International Writers Festival as a volunteer in high school and then later as a staff member, and her own event organization, the value of conversations about writing and hearing work read aloud.

We talk about what makes for a good reading, such as a good host who is thinking about the audience experience, the difficulties of the Q and A session at the end of some readings. Amanda mentions the space created by the audience and the performer as another space.

Nina Jane talks about a poetry book that has influenced her, Aisha Sasha John’s I have to live and her work with performance and dance. As a teen, Nina Jane really liked the poetry infused novels of Francesca Lia Block, she liked writers who told stories through poetry. Amanda is frustrated by the idea of not being allowed to have characters in poetry. Nina Jane mentions an American novelist, Jesse Ball, who started out as a poet, his poems are filled with characters. We investigate the autobiographical nature of nursery rhymes.

We talk about being too distant from one’s poetry vs writing more personally.

We return to sound poetry and discuss quatuour gualuour, the sound poetry group Nina Jane’s involved in. She’s also writing her own sound poetry as someone who’s interested in writing things for performance and for multiple voices, seeing what others do with the work when they perform it.

We end with a discussion of Nina Jane’s cycling, the literary and feminist connections. We discuss a few books and ask for recommendations from listeners for poetry books about cycling. Amanda mentions the Invisible Publishing blog which has a list of such.


Ward 14

MCNDm  a night of performance and poetry in Montreal – September 8, 2019

Sheila Callaghan

Ottawa International Writers Festival

Blue Metropolis

Aisha Sasha John – I have to live

Francesca Lia Block

Jesse Ball

Dennis Cooley, the Bentleys

Yvonne Bloomer, Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur

Kate Harris, Land of Lost Borders

Catriona Strang, Reveries of a Solitary Biker

Transcontinental Race: Germany’s Fiona Kolbinger becomes first female winner of endurance race,

Invisible Publishing – Ten Books That Put One Foot In Front of the Other:

Thanks to everyone for listening. Stay tuned for a new episode shortly.

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