Edmonton literati plan to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial with the means they know best— the printed word.
A non-fiction anthology titled High Level Lit: Musings on YEG for Canada’s 150th birthday—featuring a dozen authors reflecting on Edmonton’s place within Canada’s history—will be published in Eighteen Bridges Magazine this October during the Edmonton International Literary Festival.
In a first of multiple salons promoting the anthology, former Edmonton-PEN Canada writer-in-exile Jalal Barzanji, Malcom (Minister Faust) Azania and Edmonton’s youth poet laureate Nasra Adem will present to a full house at 99Ten on Mar. 1.
The salons are organized by the Edmonton Community Foundation and are free to attend, but the first event reached capacity shortly after it was announced. However, there is a waitlist system in place until Feb. 28 for those without tickets who still want to attend.
Adem hopes to connect with that audience through the High Level Lit Salons, and her work.
“I’m working on a piece of poetry that is interlaced with my commentary on the state of Edmonton and people’s relationships to Edmonton, to nationalism, to art’s responsibility in telling the truth at this time in our wonderful sociopolitical climate,” she says. “I find it’s always easier to write a poem, because in a poem, all I have to do is be completely honest, then it’s a good thing.”
Through that honesty she hopes to reach as many people as will listen.
“I’m hoping it challenges at least one person’s idea of what it means to be proud of a city, or a nation, or a government, or a place, and what we’re rooting our pride in,” Adem says.
By looking back at how Edmonton and Canada came to be, Adem says she joins her fellow writers in gauging our progress as a society. She does so through poetry, but like Barzanji and Azania, her non-fiction work is informed by her history and spans multiple genres.
“It’s the past that will be bringing us into these salons,” Adem says. “The past of who we are and where we’ve been, and how we’ve come to writing, that will bring us into those rooms.”
She hopes, by focussing on the physicality of what it means to live in Edmonton and absorb its past, she can help redefine our sense of community.
“I shouldn’t have to tell you that I’m just like you, that I love Tim Hortons, for you to respect my humanity and for you to believe that I should be afforded the same freedoms as you,” Adem says. “I hope that through writing, especially in this anthology, I can challenge enough people, challenge their way of thinking, and challenge their idea and their relationship to action.”
In addition to Azania, Barzani and Adem, the anthology will include works from, Lynn Coady, Jennifer Cockrall-King, Richard van Camp, Darrin Hagen, Myrna Kostash, Bruce McCulloch, Roland Pemberton, Anna Marie Sewell, and Paula Simons.
The specifics of when each author will be featured at future High Level Lit salons will be announced later this year.