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Posted July 18, 2012

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Summer Poetry Tour on Water

CANOEING POETRY TOUR - “FISH QUILL POETRY BOAT” SETS OUT ON THE GRAND RIVER ON AUGUST 9

A floating poetry and music tour sets out by canoe on the Grand River outside Waterloo. From August 9th-19th, six performers in three canoes will paddle from Elora to Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, giving readings and playing music at cafés, arts venues, and local heritage sites along the way.

Toronto – A group of artists is setting out on a ten-day poetry and music tour by canoe down the Grand River in southwestern Ontario. The group, calling itself Fish Quill Poetry Boat, will be paddling from Elora to the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and performing their work in cafés, arts centres, and heritage sites along the way. Fish Quill Poetry Boat is comprised of poets Moez Surani, Kevin MacPherson Eckhoff, Leigh Kotsilidis, Linda Besner, and Darryl Whetter, with Toronto musician Jack Marks. Local guest poets and/or musicians will also be joining them at each venue along the way.

Fish Quill Poetry Boat will kick off the tour with a performance in Toronto on August 9th at 8pm at the TRANZAC Club. Scheduled stops for Fish Quill Poetry Boat are the Elora Farmer’s Market on August 11th, West Montrose Kissing Bridge on August 12th, West Bridgeport’s Gallery on the Grand on August 13th, Cambridge’s O’Keefe Cottage Cafe & Ice Cream Parlour on August 15th, Paris’ Brown Dog Coffee Roastery on August 16th, Brantford’s Station Coffee House & Gallery on August 17th, Campfire Poetry Night at Brantford’s Brant Conservation Area on August 18th, and Six Nation’s Chiefswood National Historic Site on August 19th. With the exception of the Toronto and Elora performances (8pm and noon), all performances are at 7pm. All performances free of charge. The tour also includes Paddle with the Poets Day, a family activity taking place on August 19th. The public is invited to rent a canoe or bring along their own and join Fish Quill Poetry Boat at noon at Newport Bridge. The group will be paddling to Chiefswood, and guest paddlers will have the opportunity to hear poetry and music en route.

One notable stop on the tour is Chiefswood National Historic Site on August 19th. Chiefswood is the only surviving pre-Confederation Native mansion in Ontario, and is the birthplace and childhood home of celebrated writer and performer Tekahionwake, E. Pauline Johnson, best known for her iconic canoeing poem, “The Song My Paddle Sings.” The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of Pauline Johnson’s birth.  Curator Karen Dearlove says, “We believe that the Fish Quill Poetry Tour is a great way to feature contemporary poetry and creativity at a site known historically for fostering literary creative dreams.” Fish Quill Poetry Boat will be sharing the stage at Chiefswood with local Six Nations writers and performers.

Leigh Kotsilidis, one of the tour’s organizers, says “Many of these towns and villages are not included on standard Canadian reading tours. But before roads, rivers were the communication systems, and the towns that line Canada’s rivers are rich in history.  We hope to give riverside residents a greater sense of ownership of and connectedness to contemporary literary culture.”

Fish Quill Poetry Boat is in its third year, and canoes are once again being lent free of charge by Brantford-based outdoor adventure company Treks in the Wild. “A very cool idea,” says Andy Tonkin, canoeing guide and co-owner of Treks in the Wild, who will be coming along for the ride. The Grand River Conservation Authority and rare Charitable Research Reserve also sponsor the tour and will be giving presentations at select venues.

Last year’s tour was featured in local newspapers including The Waterloo Record and The Brant News, and interviews with several of the poets aired on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air and on Monday Night With The Arts on Waterloo’s CKWR.


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