Waking the Bard

EVENT: Waking the Bard 
Saturday, April 23, 2016
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (Doors open at 7 p.m.)
Victoria City Hall Antechamber

Thank you to everyone who came out to Waking the Bard. Hosted by Victoria Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer, Waking the Bard was a free evening of poetry, theatre and live music in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s life/death. April 23 is widely accepted as both the day of Shakespeare’s birth and death. 

University of Victoria Fine Arts students, known as The Bard Raving Mad Players, performed an original play inspired by Shakespeare’s works, and guest poets created and performed a response to Shakespearean sonnets. Joining Yvonne Blomer were Youth Poet Laureate Ann-Bernice Thomas and local poets Iain Higgins, Sonnet L’Abbe, Anita Lahey and Troy Sebastian. Elizabethan music will be performed by the Banquo Folk Ensemble. 

The free event included complimentary cake, beverages and door prizes donated by local businesses. Special thanks to Bolen Books, Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival, Ooh La La Cupcakes, Oscar & Libby’s, Russell Books and The Market on Yates.


Below are some of the responses to Shakepeare's sonnets that were presented at Waking the Bard.

Poet Bios

Host Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer

Yvonne Blomer is an established poet, having published three collections of poetry and co-edited Poems from Planet Earth, an anthology from the Planet Earth Poetry reading series. Her work has twice been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards and she has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry in English as well as in anthologies and literary journals in Canada, the UK and Japan. Yvonne’s recent collection of poems is As if a Raven (Palimpsest Press, 2014). Her travel memoir Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur will be published in 2017.

In 2014 Yvonne became Victoria’s fourth Poet Laureate. After graduating from the University of Victoria, Yvonne lived in Kyushu, Japan for two years with her husband and obtained her Masters in Poetry at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. In addition to poetry, Yvonne writes creative nonfiction and teaches poetry and memoir courses through Camosun College. www.yvonneblomer.com

Youth Poet Laureate Ann-Bernice Thomas

In 2016 Ann-Bernice Thomas became Victoria’s latest Youth Poet Laureate. A spoken word artist and screenplay writer, Ann-Bernice is in her second year of study at the University of Victoria, double majoring in Creative Writing and Theatre Production. Ann-Bernice aims to use her voice to rally change, social awareness, and share stories (personal or otherwise) that are waiting to be told.

She has performed at the Ferguson Rally in 2014, the Scotiabank Aids Walk for Life in 2015, and stage-managed and performed in the applied theatre show Waste Management in 2015, which toured to different high schools discussing dumpster diving, capitalism and the world of waste we have created for ourselves. Ann-Bernice is currently working on her photo-poetry project An Exploration of the Human Body. She has lived in England, Jamaica, Toronto, and now calls Victoria her home. 

Iain Higgins

Iain Higgins is a poet, translator, critic, and teacher, as well as member of The Malahat Review editorial board (fiction). His books include Then Again (poems), The Invention of Poetry (translation of Selected Poems of Adam Czerniawski), and The Book of John Mandeville (translation of a medieval bestseller). His poetry has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies such as Global Poetry Anthology (Signal Editions, 2011), Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry (2005), and Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry (2008).

 Sonnet L’Abbe

Sonnet L'Abbé has a PhD in English Literature from the University of British Columbia and a BFA in film and video from York University. She has taught English at universities in South Korea and Creative Writing at a number of Canadian universities, including her most recent appointment at Vancouver Island University. L'Abbé was the guest editor of the Best Canadian Poetry 2014 anthology. In 2015, she was the Edna Staebler Writer In Residence at Wilfrid Laurier University.

As a critic, she is a regular reviewer of fiction and poetry for major Canadian publications, as well as a contributor to CBC Radio One. She has been shortlisted for the 2010 CBC Literary Award for poetry and has won the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award for most promising writer under 35. She is the author of A Strange Field (2001) and Killarnoe (2007).

Anita Lahey

Anita Laheyis the author of The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture (Palimpsest, 2013), as well as two Véhicule Press poetry collections: Out to Dry in Cape Breton (2006) and Spinning Side Kick (2011). She is assistant series editor for the annual anthology Best Canadian Poetry in English, and is a former editor of Arc Poetry Magazine. She writes the occasional literary blog “Henrietta & Me” (anitalahey.wordpress.com). Anita recently moved to Victoria.

Troy Sebastian

Troy Sebastion is a writer from the Ktunaxa community of  ʔaq̓am. He writes poetry and fiction and is currently writing his first novel. In 2014, Troy studied under Witi Ihimaera and Richard Wagamese at the Banff Centre’s Indigenous Writers program.  He has performed at many venues in Victoria including the 2014 Victoria Writer’s Festival and the Anarachist Bookfair. He is co-host of CFUV’s Native Waves Radio that focuses on indigenous music, art and politics. His writing has been published in the Ktuqcqakyam, Analogue and Feedback Magazine. He lives in Lekwungen territory with his partner Denni.


 The Bard Raving Mad Players (University of Victoria Fine Arts students)

The Bard Raving Mad Players (University of Victoria Fine Arts students) have come together from different parts of Canada and are pursuing different disciplines within theatre, but share an admiration for the legendary playwright, Shakespeare.  Under the tutelage of director Karin Saari, the troupe has prepared an original play to bring as much of the Bard to their audience as they can in the 20 minutes they will take the stage at Waking the Bard held at City Hall. Actors (from L to R): Elizabeth Martin, Molly McDowell, Karin Saari (director), Duncan Alexander, Arielle Parsons. 

 Banquo Folk Ensemble

Taking their name from Shakespeare's Macbeth, this group of musicians has been presenting folk music from the written and oral traditions of over eight centuries ago using voice and instruments of the era, including recorders, flute, hurdy gurdy, cittern, shawm, smallpipes, percussion and more. Creating their own arrangements of existing music, Banquo bridges the gap between “art” music and the folk tradition, always bearing in mind the goal of minstrels throughout the centuries: to please and entertain their audiences!