Top 5 Poetry, Essays & Short Stories from the 2017 Vancouver Writers Fest

This category is a bit of a mishmash. I’ve lumped poetry, screenplays, short stories and essays together. I’m sure someone is turning over in their grave due to this sacrilege.

Here we go.

To Love the Coming End – Leanne Dunic (poetry)
Empire of the Son – Tetsuro Shigematsu (script/play)
An Honest Woman – Jonina Kirton (poetry)
Mortal Trash – Kim Addonizio (poetry)
Too Much and Not the Mood – Durga Chew-Bose (essays)

There was a lot of great poetry in the festival’s book list. And I haven’t read poetry since high school. It was such an archaic experience I couldn’t get back into it for many, many years. I’ve recovered now and will no longer dread contemporary, relevant poetry.

To Love the Coming End – Poetry, with a disastrous focus. I liked poet Dunic’s approach: she explores her travels and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, while dealing with her own grief. I never thought of such a large scale disaster as poetic fodder, but Dunic pulls it off in ways that are relatable, and gives voice to the complicated emotions people feel when there is a large—but impersonal—crisis.

Mortal Trash – This was the first poetry volume I’d read in a long time, so I have a soft spot for it. Plus, I’m amused by angry, brash, outspoken, sassy women. And poet Kim Addonizio is probably all these things, if one can make assumptions about a person based on their poetry. Her observations are funny and cutting. And current.

An Honest Woman – Jonina Kirton pulls heart strings and pulls her poetry right out the headlines. And she goes after Donald Trump, so she gets 100 per cent right off the bat. Like Dunic, her poetry is ripped out of news headlines, but she focuses on sexism, gender and violence against women.

Too Much and Not The MoodChew-Bose had my attention the second she started writing about nook people, which I recognize on some level as introverts. Plus, I like her wandering brain and leaps of logic, which manage to entertain and travel across broad scopes in one essay.

Empire of the Son – This is the script for Tetsuro Shigematsu’s one man play. It’s heartfelt and sad and I love how sweet he is about his sisters. This play is the exact opposite of toxic masculinity and it examines fatherhood, being a son, and what it means to be good at both these things. Without all the sexist baggage we’ve come to expect.

Bonus pick
The most entertaining collection of short stories in the 2017 Vancouver Writers Fest: Has the World Ended Yet by Peter Darbyshire. It’s weird. It’s wacky. It’s a bizarre mix of mythology, dystopia, religion, contemporary and science fiction. Plus, the artwork is nostalgic and fun. Wins for weird. Also, we’re all gonna die.


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