Vancouver Poetry House is the largest spoken word organization in Canada. VPH is dedicated to bringing poetry from diverse oral and literary traditions to Vancouver and British Columbia. VPH oversees three programs: Vancouver Poetry Slam, a weekly community stage with a headlining performer; WordPlay Poets, an outreach program that offers workshops and performances in schools and communities around BC; and Verses Festival of Words, Canada’s largest, annual spoken word festival.
The irrevocable purpose of the Vancouver Poetry House Society is to advance, federate, shelter & maintain poetry in Vancouver with equal respect for the literary and oral traditions.
VPH shall operate without purpose of gain for its members, and any profits or other accretions to the Society shall be used solely to promote its objectives.
Vancouver Poetry House is a member-driven organization. We work to reduce barriers to literary art so that we can ensure accessibility and full participation for the communities we serve. We value diversity and the array of knowledge that different life experiences bring. We actively support skill and artistic capacity development for our membership and sharing with the wider community.
We value respectful dialogue, attempt to resolve conflict and misunderstandings in ways that respect each individual’s lived experience and act to build bridges of communication across misunderstandings. We nurture healthy, sustainable environments for the arts to thrive. We challenge systems of oppression through sharing the health-bringing arts to the wider community and by offering a place of solace and sharing to anyone who attends or takes part in our programs.
We seek to develop and share the myriad skills essential to living a sustainable life as an artist. In a diverse community there are many skills. Vancouver Poetry House nurtures moments and methods for the equitable sharing of those skills for the benefit of both individuals and community.
VPH seeks to provide opportunities to build skills that help members fulfill their capacity for artistic development and career goals.
A sustainable literary arts community rooted in social justice where new creativity can grow from old forms.
Vancouver Poetry House Society (VPH) completed its registration as a non-profit society in British Columbia in January 2005. Shortly afterward, VPH gained its charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency.
VPH’s roots within the Vancouver spoken word community, however, go back much further. The artist collective that formed the nucleus of VPH had been running the Vancouver Poetry Slam since 1996. When Vancouver Poetry House was formed, the Vancouver Poetry Slam became its first official program. Much of the impetus to create VPH came from artists within the slam community who wished to join their disparate efforts together under one umbrella and to professionalize the activities growing from the Vancouver Poetry Slam.
Since Vancouver Poetry House was established, it has hosted several spoken word festivals. VPH made successful bids to host the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2005 (in partnership with Spoken Word Canada) and the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2007 (in partnership with Poetry Slam Incorporated). Both were major spoken word festivals that drew artists from around the world to Vancouver.
2011 marked the debut of the Vancouver International Poetry Festival (VIPF), which took place April 18–23, 2011. The 2011 VIPF staged 32 spoken word individual performances, panels, and workshops, drawing over 1,500 in attendance. It also featured an historic landmark: the first-ever Canadian Individual Poetry Slam championship, launched in partnership with Spoken Word Canada. In 2012, VIPF featured 21 spoken word individual performances, panels, and workshops were staged, drawing 1,600 in attendance.
In 2013, VPH undertook a comprehensive rebranding process of the festival to reflect more accurately VPH’s embrace of both the oral and literary traditions. After lengthy community consultation that included collecting over 250 suggestions, the Vancouver International Poetry Festival was renamed Verses Festival of Words. The new festival has received a new influx of local funding support, including significant grants from the Vancouver Foundation and the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Project Grants program. The 2013 festival became the largest yet with 36 spoken word individual performances, panels, and workshops, drawing 1,650 attendees.
In 2014, Verses Festival of Words received funding from Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, BC Gaming, City of Vancouver, and Canadian Heritage’s Canada Arts Presentation Fund. These funders created a foundation to expand the festival from six to eight days with over 80 artists taking part in more than 30 events. The festival also added new media sponsors CJSF, CITR, and The Georgia Straight. This larger festival attracted 3,150 attendees, and garnered a great deal of press.
Since its inception, the Vancouver Poetry House have helped foster the careers of many spoken word artists, including Brendan McLeod, Barbara Adler, C.R. Avery, Shane Koyczan, Drek Daa, Cass King, Andrea Thompson, RC Weslowski, Fernando Raguero, Sasha Langford, Lisa Slater, Al Mader, Kevan ‘Scruffmouth’ Cameron, Jillian Christmas, Zaccheus Jackson, Magpie Ulysses, and many other professional spoken word artists. VPH programs continue to showcase artistic excellence in spoken word, highlighting the very best established and emerging spoken word artists.