Mark your calendars, poetry lovers. In/Verse, The Federation of BC Writers’ monthly poetry reading series, returns on January 14th. The online event features curated readings by established and early-career poets from British Columbia and the Yukon. Each month, poets will share their work and participate in a conversation about their writing and experiences.
The series is hosted by poet Neil Surkan, who inherited the role from the previous host, Susan Alexander, in December 2022. Surkan is the author of two full-length books of poetry, Unbecoming and On High, both from McGill-Queen’s University Press. Born in Penticton, he recently returned to British Columbia after completing his doctorate in Alberta and says the opportunity to host In/Verse couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It has been such a great experience digging into the new catalogs that are coming up, staying contemporary with what’s going on, but also just remembering some of the poets who deeply inspired me as an emerging writer that happens to still be living in Victoria, or Vancouver, or a small town in the interior, or up in the Yukon,” Surkan said. “I’m really excited to show the diversity of the roster of BC and Yukon-based poets and really get into the minutiae of what it means to write from this particular place — with all the responsibility and accountability that comes therein.”
As host, Surkan moderates the online event, facilitates conversation between the poets, and plays a role in curating each line up of readers.
“I thought it would feel like a constraint to curate a reading series that was dictated by borderlines. What has actually happened is that it’s just been such an exciting and intimate way to think about a community that is necessarily somewhat arbitrary, and yet has its own particular dynamics and foci,” he said.
“So many of these writers really do push back against this sense of ‘the province’. And that’s, I think, one of the greatest strengths of a reading series like this is that you have kind of a dual nature of being under the umbrella of the BC Federation of writers, but at the same time to write within that and to resist. Poets do that really well.”
Though many events have switched back to pre-pandemic physical venues or hybrid formats, In/Verse has made the deliberate decision to remain digital. The online format has created new opportunities to include poets from remote and rural areas, including the Yukon.
Online events, despite the possibility of technical glitches, are also more accessible for many poets and audience members.
“It also makes it so that people can feel safe to show up, not turn their camera on, and drink a coffee. Just have some solitude while they listen to poets working through their ideas,” he said. “Of course, there are also folks who show up and have their cameras on it feels amazing to have this kind of constellated sense of community, again, within the bounds of a province in terms of how we select writers.”
The event on January 14 features Vancouver poet Catriona Strang reading alongside writers Bára Hladík and Steffi Tad-y. Strang is the author of several books including Low Fancy, Corked, and Reveries of a Solitary Biker. Her latest book of poems, Unfuckable Lardass, was published in 2022 by Talonbooks. Hladík is an emerging poet currently living on Vancouver Island whose work has appeared in publications such as EVENT Magazine and Hamilton Arts and Letters. Tad-y is also early in her career; From the Shoreline, her first full-length collection of poems, was published by Gordon Hill Press last year.
“This is a really quintessential lineup in terms of thinking about how exciting and intergenerational our contemporary poetry moment is,” Surkan explained. “I think there’s really fascinating overlap between these three poets. And yet, they are writing in their own spaces much of the time, so I’m excited just to hear intersections and the conversations that will arise around some of their shared focuses.”
The next In/Verse event is on Saturday, January 14th at 2 PM. Register here.