The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has launched the Poetry Phone project, making it available to the public for free.
Charles Gauthier, CEO of the DVBIA, led the initiative with a team of 10 local poets and Renee Sarojini Saklikar as the curator. When you dial 1-833-POEMS-4-U (763-6748), you can select from 10 poems to listen to and to keep you company wherever you are.
Gauthier says that the inspiration behind this project was from one of his staff who was born in Ireland, and had experienced phone poetry before. They saw the importance of the poetry phone project, especially in times like these where all of us face social isolation and other challenges due to the pandemic.
“This would really be a relatively easy way for people to get inspiration and have a laugh by listening to one or all of the 10 poems featured on the poetry phone, especially for people who are not familiar with technology, like the elderly,” he says.
The DVBIA’s Poetry Phone has received over 600 calls from people who listen to their poems. Overall, it has received nothing but positive feedback from the public. They plan to continue with this project in the long run, and add some more options and opportunities for local artists and poets to showcase their talents and to interact with one another.
“It’s great to listen to something pre-recorded, but it is also great to actually interact with the poets directly,” he says.
“It would be like a writers festival that has typically happened live. You buy a book from an author and read it yourself, but it is always great to go to something like this to have the actual author read a specific section from a book that they wrote because they can put inflection, tone, and bring the book to life,” Gauthier says.
When it’s safe, Gauthier hopes to have the poets present their poems to the public in spaces like Vancouver’s downtown area.
It’s too early to tell if the DVBIA will continue this project into 2022, but they will support local artists like they have been doing since 1992. The association works closely with performance artists and galleries to have something prepared for the community, like street performances and painting murals around Downtown during the pandemic.
“Our organization has been doing programming with artists of all forms for a very long time. It could be working with the local art galleries to bring in replicas of famous sculptures.” Gauthier says. “During the pandemic, we worked with the Vancouver Mural Festival to paint boarded-up storefronts, and we also created a platform for street performers to actually record a musical piece and feature that on our social media platforms.”
“We’ve always supported artists and will likely continue to do so in the future, and the poetry component adds another interesting element to it,” he adds.
The Poetry Phone project has a lot to offer. It can be accessed through the phone number or their website.