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POETRY PHONE

The DVBIA is pleased to launch the Poetry Phone, a project celebrating the work of local Vancouver writers.

The Poetry Phone is Vancouver’s first free poetry hotline. Callers can dial 
1-833-POEMS-4-U (763-6748) to listen to poetry recordings provided by 10 local writers. After dialling the main line, callers can press numbers 0 to 9 to listen to different poems.

Partnering with renowned writer Renee Sarojini Saklikar as curator, our goal is to bring a new and accessible format of uplifting entertainment to anyone who has felt social isolation during the difficult times this past year. 

You can listen to the full audio of each poem or read along by clicking on its title.

To discover more about each writer, keep scrolling!


The Poems

1. RISE BY CHRISTINE BISSONNETTE

The Poem

In his book of poetry ‘The Book of Questions’, Pablo Neruda asks: “Why do trees conceal / the splendour of their roots?” (III), “And how do the roots know / they must climb towards the light?” (LXXII). We tend to think of rising only as ascension to the top, but perhaps equally as important in our search for meaning and fulfillment is our connection to our roots (our past), the earth, and our community. In this poem, I explore the meaning of the word ‘rise.’

The Author

Christine Bissonnette is a performance poet, writing facilitator, and Speech Arts teacher. She has been teaching public speaking and writing to school-aged students and adults since 2017. She has her BA in English and Theatre from UNB and is an authorized Breathexperience breathwork teacher. Her recent short film, Left Opened, uses poetry, music, and dance to explore the experience of anxiety and is currently touring international festivals. You can learn more about her here.


2. Ode to Chopsticks, Ode to the potato, Omelet by Fiona Tinwei Lam

The Poem

“Ode to Chopsticks” is a poem about a grandfather teaching his granddaughter how to use chopsticks shows how ordinary objects can be a portal into cultural history. In “Ode to the Potato,” tribute is paid to the humble potato–its history, legacy and presence–which honours the ordinary and overlooked. Lastly, “Omelet” is a celebration of cooking and eating together as a family.

The Author

Author of three poetry books and an illustrated children’s book, Fiona Tinwei Lam, has also written nonfiction, poetry, and fiction that appear in over 40 anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry anthologies (2010 and 2020). Her work has been shortlisted for the City of Vancouver Book Award. Her poems have thrice been selected on BC’s Poetry in Transit and have been aired on CBC Radio. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and teaches creative writing at SFU Continuing Studies. Visit Fiona’s website here.


3. And the Dance Most of All by Renee Sarojini Saklikar

The Poem

‘And the Dance Most of All’ is an eight-line poem created in response to the author’s obsession with bees, particularly how the bee’s dance communicates precise information about foraging. The poem is constructed to immerse the listener’s senses in the world of bees. It’s the last poem that appears in Listening to the Bees (Nightwood Editions, 2018), a beautifully made book, written in collaboration with one of the world’s leading honey bee scientists, Dr. Mark Winston. 

The Author

Trained as a lawyer, Saklikar is an instructor for Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College. She was the first Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey, (2015-2018) and was the 2017 UBC Okanagan Writer in Residence. Passionate about storytelling, Renée offers writing coach services and loves helping others find their creative voice.


4. Best Friend, worst thing you can say by Charles Demers

The Poem

In ‘Best Friend, Worst Thing You Can Say,’ comedian Charles Demers explores the challenges of dog ownership, the demands of being a good father and husband, and the strictures of Vancouver parks board policy.

The Author

Charles Demers is a comedian, author, playwright, and voice actor based in East Vancouver. He appears regularly on CBC Radio’s ‘The Debaters’ and is the author, most recently, of ‘Primary Obsessions,’ a mystery novel on mental health themes. Check out more of his work here.


5. When You Clean the Aquarium by Jennica Harper

The Poem

“When You Clean the Aquarium” is a love letter to pets and those who care for them.

The Author

Jennica Harper is the author of four poetry books, including Bounce House (Anvil Press, 2019). Her work has been a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Prize and won the Silver National Magazine Award. “When You Clean the Aquarium” is from Jennica’s first book of poetry, The Octopus and Other Poems, published by Signature Editions. Jennica is also a TV writer and co-created the hit comedy JANN, starring Jann Arden.


6. Gauntlet by Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek

The Poem

An African-Canadian woman re-orientates herself in Canada.

The Author

Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek is a poet. Her 100 Days (University of Alberta 2016) was nominated for several writing prizes, including the 2017 BC Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Alberta Book Awards and the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry. It won the 2017 IndieFab Book of the Year Award for poetry and the 2017 Glenna Lushei Prize for African Poetry. Otoniya lives with gratitude on the unceded, ancestral and traditional lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people in what we currently call Vancouver.


7. Falling by Jónína Kirton

The Poem

Some poems can be hard to pin down, and this is one such poem. In part, it speaks to how our desires might conflict with safety, desires that, if pursued, can bring resilience and other ways of being in this world.

The Author

Jónína Kirton is a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet and a graduate of the Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio, where she is currently their BIPOC Auntie supporting and mentoring BIPOC students. A late-blooming poet, she was sixty-one when she received the 2016 City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her first collection of poetry, page as bone ~ ink as blood, was released with Talonbooks in 2015. Her second collection, An Honest Woman, was released in 2017, again with Talonbooks and was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.


8. Hold by joanne arnott

The Poem

A happy poem celebrating friendship.

The Author

Joanne Arnott is a Métis/mixed-blood writer and arts activist, originally from Manitoba, at home on the west coast. She received the Gerald Lampert Award (LCP 1992), the Vancouver Mayor’s Art Award for Literary Arts (2017) and has published six poetry books, a collection of short nonfiction, and a children’s illustrated. Recent publications include her third poetry chapbook, Pensive & beyond (Nomados Press 2019) and the co-edited volume, Honouring the Strength of Indian Women: Plays, Stories and Poetry by Vera Manuel (U of Manitoba Press 2019). She is Poetry Mentor for The Writers Studio, SFU, and Poetry Editor for EVENT Magazine.


9. FEAST by Rachel rose

The Poem

‘Feast’ is a poem that does not flinch from the hard truths of what it means to be alive – that we may suffer, that we will die – but offers the consolation of gathering around a table to share the joy of good company.

The Author

Rachel Rose is the author of the forthcoming fiction collection, ‘The Octopus Has Three Hearts,’ and four collections of poetry, including Marry & Burn, which received a 2016 Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for a Governor General’s Award.


10. Celebrity Otter: Nyac and Celebrity Otter: Milo, a duo of poems by Dina Del Bucchia

The Poem

YouTube famous otters from the Vancouver Aquarium appear as celebrities in tribute poems to these natural disaster rescues. These paired poems look at how nature in captivity captivates contemporary audiences, as the natural world and our own bodies crumble around us.

The Author

Dina Del Bucchia is an otter and dress enthusiast. She is the author of the short story collection, “Don’t Tell Me What to Do,” and four collections of poetry: “Coping with Emotions and Otters,” “Blind Items,” “Rom-Com,” written with Daniel Zomparelli, and the newly released, “It’s a Big Deal!”. You can find out more about Dina, here.


Check back in the summer for outdoor readings of these poems as part of our Perch program.