TORONTO — An Indigenous writer and assistant professor at the University of Toronto is being featured in a pandemic-era version of “Dial-a-Poem,” a project that calls on individuals weekly and encourages writers to do some of their work. does.

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Kateri Akiwenzi-dum, an Anishinaabe author and founder of Kageddons PressSaid she had been aware of Dial-a-Poem since the 1980s, when it was first launched in Montreal by poet Fortner Anderson. But she said she hadn’t heard much about it since then.

“I got an email from its organizer in Montreal asking if I would be interested in participating,” she said. “As soon as I heard about it. I was like wow, this is amazing and really cool. I want to be a part of it.”


This week, people dialing 514-558-8649 will be able to listen to one of two English poems by Akiwenzi-Dam—”Funny Business (How Nanbush Romanced Stone)” or “Reconciling the Books.”

Speaking with Granthshala News Toronto, Akiwenzi-Dam said that both of her poems are from a new collection and she wants to give them a trial run through Dial-a-Poem. At the same time, he also wondered how he would translate it into audio form, saying that listening to a poem on the phone is “very intense” and “personal”.

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“We’re used to having private conversations (over the phone) and so it feels intimate in a way that it wouldn’t be in a cafe or university auditorium or anywhere you can hear poetry or spoken word.”

“Funny Business” is a slightly humorous story as Akiwenzi-dam finds it a fun read and “Reconciling the Books” is a sentimental read meant to involve empathy and understanding for truth and reconciliation.

While Dial-a-Poem launched in Montreal in the late 1980s, the program has been around since the 1960s. Since then, similar projects have come in waves throughout North America and Europe.

The most recent Montreal edition was relaunched in December 2020 amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ARCMLTA non-profit organization called ARCMLT, which is dedicated to preserving the local Montreal culture.

The organization also spent the last few years digitizing and archiving poems from the Dial-a-Poem project of the 1980s. Those poems are also available on this year’s phone line.

Akiwenzi-Dam said she is honored to participate in this year’s project and hopes it makes poetry more accessible.

“People are finding a variety of ways to express themselves through poetry, and have been for many years. I really support that. I think it’s so important to make poetry accessible to a wider audience. . I think we need this in our lives. I don’t think there is a time when we don’t,” she said.

“We need all those different ways of communicating with each other and bringing beauty and new ways of looking at things to each other. I think poetry can do that and I think dial-a -Things like Poem provide a great place for all broad categories of people to enjoy poetry.”

Akiwenzi-Dam’s latest work-(Re)Generation: The Poetry of Kateri Akiwenzi-Damm– was published in August 2021. She is also working on a new collection, which she says captures what she was thinking during the pandemic for the past year and a half.

“They are not necessarily directly related to the pandemic. It just gave me food for thought and I think we were all experiencing these heightened emotions and feelings in a variety of ways,” she said. “I also started working at U of T as an English professor teaching creative writing, Indigenous (literature) and oral traditions, and so I got a lot to think about in terms of having an indigenous faculty on a campus. which was seldom any indigenous people.”

“I really needed an outlet to think and poetry for me often serves that purpose for me. It gave me a way to work through things and try to see things in different ways.” Is.”