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English department encourages student attendance with free tickets

Photo: Rémi Yuan

Versefest celebrates the love of poetry and spoken word. From sea to sea, world-class talent will stop by the capital for the weeklong literary festival running March 24–30.

With help from the University of Ottawa’s English department, two of Versefest’s events are being held on campus for free. Governor General’s Award-winning poet Lorna Crozier is stopping by Simard Hall on March 30 at 1 p.m. to participate in a free poetry reading. In addition, poet Nicole Brossard is hosting a bilingual poetry reading in Simard Hall on March 25 at 3 p.m.

The department has been purchasing tickets for students for a number of years, but this year, for the sessions downtown, 50 free tickets are being given out at the door for students who bring their valid student card. U of O English professor Cameron Anstee says this year is especially unique because of the festival’s push to have more bilingual voices.

Anstee says he’s looking most forward to seeing Ottawa’s literary community come out and engage with one another in an inclusive setting, and to hear the wide range of voices that the festival brings together.

“It is an exciting thing in our city, one for other cities to be jealous of, and U of O students should be excited to see some of that on our campus,” he said in a statement.

The U of O’s Undergraduate English Students’ Association (UESA) is involved with its open mic and literary series, Blue Mondays. Outside of Versefest, the series features performances at Café Nostalgica the third Monday of every month.

UESA president Mia Morgan, a Versefest volunteer, says it’s her favourite festival in Ottawa.

“It’s a really good place to hear people you’ve probably never heard of before,” says Morgan.

“I’m really excited because we’re hosting Sandra Ridley,” she adds, referring to local poet and finalist of the prestigous ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. “She’s amazing—it’s going to be fantastic.”

Morgan has also waited a long time for Crozier’s reading, another of her must-sees. “I heard she was coming in September, and I almost had a heart attack, so I’m really excited.”

Blue Mondays presents Lise Gaboury-Diallo and Sandra Ridley on March 25 at Knox Presbyterian Church at 9 p.m.

Tickets are available at ranging from $15-50 for evening, all day, and entire festival packages.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper