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Saturday marked the first in what will hopefully be many small and informal Café / Culture readings from Vallum. Hosted at the cosy Arts Café on Saturday, a considerable crowd gathered to sip wine, nibble hot sandwiches and hear poets Ilona Martonfi, Danielle Lafrance, Jeffrey Mackie, and me, Drew McKevitt, as well musical guest Jesika Starnino.

As this was the first Café / Culture reading ever, Vallum‘s staff was a bit nervous about how the event would go off. Fortunately it was tremendously sucessful, entertaining, and loaded with talented performers, due in large part to Connor Friesen, Vallum‘s summer intern, who organized the event, as well as the poets and musical act who aggreed to participate.

Around seven, as poets and guests drifted in, Jesika Starnino began warming up by playing cover songs by the likes of George Michael and Michael Jackson —loosening the overall mood and making it clear that this reading would be far from stodgy.

Then I was up, glad to be participating, but reluctant and slightly frightful of taking the mic and reading first. Initially I found the idea of reading for fifteen minutes daunting and a little more than terrifying, but the generous time given each poet was perhaps what made the gathering so enjoyable and intriguing. Fewer readers allowed for a more in depth listen to each one. Coupled with the intimate setting of the Arts Café, the overall effect was warm, friendly and personal.

Ilona Martonfi read second from her book recounting poignant, sometimes stark, childhood memories. She was followed by Danielle Lafrance, a feminist essayist and poet, whose series spoke to struggles many young women face when trying to carve identities for themselves. Jeffrey Mackie went last, reading a long humorous poem, that ranted about the state of culture, or rather the lack there of. Finishing the evening, Jesika Starnino played her unique and delightful folk / pop. Particularly crowd pleasing were comic songs about annoying ex-boyfriends and getting tanked with girlfriends in Montreal.

If you missed out on the reading, don’t worry, there are sure to be more in the future. And hopefully, you’ll even be able to catch this one on YouTube. Keep checking our blog and website for links to Vallum’s YouTube channel.