Audio: The Battle of the Bards

Poets go into battle at Harbourfront – but you can get a sneak preview of the action right here


THE BATTLE OF THE BARDS at Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room (235 Queen Quay West), Wednesday (March 30), 7:30 pm. $10 supporters, students and youth 25 and under free. ifoa.org.


You don’t necessarily associate poets with alpha aggression, unless we’re talking about those who go all out at spoken word slams, but every year the International Festival of Authors manages to bring out the competitive spirit in a bunch of bards.

The Battle Of The Bards (aka Poetry NOW, in recognition of NOW Magazine’s sponsorship of the event) gathers 20 poets, all of whom have published works within the last five years, in a contest to choose who gives the best poetry reading. The winner gets a slot at IFOA in the fall and a free ad for the poet’s recently published books.

Note: the prize is not awarded for the best poetry. Oh, for sure, the judges will assess the wordplay of each presenter. But the reading’s got to have more than great text it needs dynamic delivery. 

That means, for example, that a celebrated poet like Margaret Atwood, famous for her deadpan, almost completely flat readings, wouldn’t be the odds-on favourite to take the top spot, should she be competing. (She’s not).

It also means that the Battle, which I’ll again be hosting, is a hugely entertaining evening of poetry and performance. 

The writers, diverse in style and subject and including 1999 Toronto Book Award nominee Chris Chambers, Vanessa Shields, Bänoo Zan and Lara Bozabalian, each get five minutes to do their thing. A panel of judges deliberates and announces the winner the next morning. (See nowtoronto.com March 31 for the results.)

Almost as fascinating as the contest itself is the audience – fierce supporters not only of their favourite poets, but of the art itself. They really rock the room. 

Some of the competing poets preview their presentations in audio clips below:

susanc@nowtoronto.com | @susangcole

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