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A few choice words for Haiku Idol

Five-month countdown to Olympics marked by live, high-speed poetry writinb



What: Haiku Idol and Battle of the Book Clubs

Where: Players Chophouse

When: Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25

Inspired by the 1988 Calgary Olympics, the home of the 2010 Games is about to play host to a contest that organizers worry might get out of control.
After all, the stakes don't get any higher for a poet than when there's a chance to get paid.

Haiku Idol debuts in Whistler on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Players Chophouse to mark the five-month countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics. It is a live, high-speed, poetry-writing contest that involves one bag of money, one thesaurus, 20 writers ranging from the celebrated to the obscure and the pressure of a deadline.

At Haiku Idol, writers will test their mettle when they're given one torn-out page from the thesaurus, one pencil, one half hour as everyone else heads to the bar (or circles to watch the animals at work), to scribe a poem, of any length and any style. When the bell rings, it's pencils down and mikes up, as they take the spotlight to read and reveal what the crucible created. The winner takes the money, and runs.

Says Whistler Readers and Writers Festival Director Stella Harvey: "If competition truly breeds excellence, then it is time the poets stopped swanning about and put themselves in the starting gate."

Whistler's Haiku Idol was inspired by a National Poetry Sweatshop that took place as part of Calgary's 1998 Cultural Olympiad. Whistler writer Leslie Anthony remembers the event, at which he represented Ontario, involved much gnashing of teeth.

"People would occasionally glance up from their drinks to watch the poets, elevated under harsh glaring light with their allotted sharpened pencils as they sweated over their papers, tore out their hair and crumpled their notes up in aborted efforts," Anthony recalled.

Whistler's reprise of the event will kick off with a performance from spoken word maestro, the first Canadian poet to win the USA Individual National Poetry Slam, Shane Koyczan.

Twenty competitors will then take to the sweatshop to cook out a little poetry. Whistler's unofficial Poet Laureaute Pam Barnsley and veteran ski scribe Michel Beaudry have already signed on. Local hip hop artist MC Nobdoy Really has also been invited to strut his impromptu stuff.

The literary jousting begins at 7:30 Saturday night with He Read, She Read: The Battle of the Book Clubs. Haiku Idol follows.

Due to limited seating, potential poetry-slammers and audience members are advised to purchase their tickets in advance at www.theviciouscircle.ca


Readers and writers busy all weekend

The Whistler Readers & Writers Festival kicks off Friday evening at Legends Hotel with What's the Point of All These Words?, featuring Paul Grant and novelists Lee Henderson, Claire Mulligan and Annabel Lyon. The conversation will be followed by readings from their brand new books and a live performance of songs from the forthcoming Whistler/Snow: the Musical.

Workshops take place all day Saturday at Legends, starting at 8:30 a.m. and wrapping up at 6:30 p.m. The Battle of the Book Clubs and Haiku Idol are at 7:30 at Players Chophouse.

Sunday there are two two-hour workshops, at 2 and 4:30 p.m., with Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds, this year's writers in residence.

Also Sunday at 4:30 is the Pack of Pickled Poets guided walk to the Poet's Pause sculpture, with Pam Barnsley and Mary MacDonald.

The festival wraps up Sunday evening with readings by Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds and participants in the Writers in Residence program, at 7:30 p.m. at the Alta Lake Station House.

For the full schedule visit www.theviciouscircle.ca