Poet and artist Winona Linn appears at this year's Verses Festival of Words
Poet and artist Winona Linn appears at this year's Verses Festival of Words. Photo by Caroline Bletchert.

In the first of a series, we meet Winona Linn, one of the poets and performers at this year’s Verses Festival of Words, Vancouver’s annual alternative literary festival celebrating the power of words – written, spoken and sung.

Linn is a poet and artist, currently living in Paris, France. She is a regular writer and feature performer in the Paris literary and spoken word scenes, is the director of Paris Lit Up Slam Series, and is in the process of publishing her third book, a graphic novel. In her second year at school, she slammed for, and won, a spot on the two-time champion Hali Slam team and competed on a national level at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. Linn was the 2011 poet laureate of the Federal Green Party of Canada, and wrote and performed poems on a variety of issues for the duration of the 2011 election.  You can find out more online at http://www.winonalinn.com or follow her on Twitter.

Linn will perform at Verses Festival of Words, which runs fro April 21 to May 1, in events including Hullaballoo’s All Star Slam on April 22 at Rio Theatre.

Q[/dropcap]Why is poetry/writing important to you?

Poetry is important to me simply because it is the art form that I love the best. Spoken word poetry gives me the means to communicate directly with my public, and speak in an engaging and effective way about the things that matter to me.

Q[/dropcap]What prompted you to begin writing?

My father is a poet. He has always been encouraging creative impulses in his children. It was through my closeness with him that I kept at this art that we shared, and now enjoy making a living from it. I’m very lucky to have been surrounded by poetry my whole life.

Q[/dropcap]Do you remember the first piece you wrote? What was it?

The first spoken word piece I wrote was called “Bioluminescence.” It was a piece written while I was living in Halifax, in rhyming couplets, that explained the hardships of a supernatural teenager who glowed in the dark. Silly stuff.

Q[/dropcap]Has your writing changed since you began?

My writing changes constantly. I would be very worried if it didn’t! I hope that my writing, like all of me, will constantly change and adapt to the knowledge and new experiences that I gain.

Q[/dropcap]How does a piece begin for you, with an idea, a form or an image?

Poems come to life in many different ways. Often I am inspired by nature. More often, I am angered by society. Most often, I am blown away by the beauty of humanity, and I try to write in a way that echoes that beauty.

Q[/dropcap]Do you have a favourite piece that you have written? What is it and why is it your favourite?

I don’t have a favourite piece. I am both excited by and constantly disappointed with my writing. I think most artists have a love/hate relationship with their art. One piece that I enjoy performing lately is entitled “Dreams,” and is a long, rambling story of finding love in a Starbucks. With added science-fiction. And swearing.

Q[/dropcap]What poets/writers inspire you?

Halifax’s El Jones. El is so much more than a poet, so much more than a writer. There are too many of us “writers” who write about difficult issues to gain personal credibility as “strong,” or “fire” poets and then refuse to do the work that is required in our own communities. El is a real activist, community leader, prison industrial complex abolitionist, and all-around great human. She also writes excellent poetry.

Q[/dropcap]What are you looking forward to at this year’s Verses Festival, and what makes it important for you to participate?

Verses Festival is the best festival of spoken word in the country. I am looking forward to the sharing of voices from all across Canada, I am looking forward to hearing some good poetry, and I am looking forward to being part of a community that is consciously trying to better itself every year. We can do so much more as artists to positively effect our communities, and the directors of Verses are working hard this year to do so.