It's simple! Five presenters get fifteen minutes each to introduce one of their favourite dead poets and read a selection of that poet's work. To clarify here, by "dead poet" we mean "non-living poet", not "character from that Robin Williams movie". In summary:
Readings take place from 3-5 PM on the second Sunday of every odd-numbered month (i.e. January, March, May, etc.), and are run out of the Vancouver Library's Central Branch (Alice McKay Room), in Downtown Vancouver. There's an intermission and good conversation to boot.
Dead Poets History
David Zieroth founded the Dead Poets Reading Series (then called "The Night of the Dead Poets") in 2007. Here's David on the founding of the series:
When John Fisher of Upstart Crow Books at 238 Lonsdale in North Vancouver asked me to help co-ordinate a special reading event on the North Shore, I wrote to a few poets to ask if they would be willing to read at The Night of the Dead Poets on Friday, May 25th, 2007.
As John said: "As a lover of poetry readings, I have often noticed that poets reading their own material are poor readers of their own poems. At the same time, these poets are often excellent readers of other people’s poems that they love. The idea for the Dead Poets readings grew out of this observation."
What we were looking for was an evening in which five poets/readers/poetry-lovers/writers with extensive public reading experience read poems from one of their favourite dead poets (English-writing souls of this and the last century or perhaps even earlier), brilliant work from the past they wanted to bring anew to an audience’s ears. Each reader would talk about the life of the poet (dates, influences, struggles, achievements, books), introduce and read three to five poems (depending on length) and perhaps talk about how the poet has influenced him/her, a presentation of about 15-20 minutes in total. We wanted the reader’s connection with the chosen poems, admiration and passion in the reader’s voice.
So began the Night of the Dead Poets, the first in what has now become the Dead Poets Reading Series. The poets read some of their best-loved poems to a keen audience, enjoyed the pleasure of hearing others read adored poems, delighted in the array of books and art in the store (now sadly defunct), engaged in conversation with a community of like-minded readers and writers, affirming the place and love of poetry!
That announcement of this first reading—see who read whom elsewhere on this site—had this note from one of our greatest poets:
"If we have to be dead…
then we hope to be read."
- David Zieroth, September 2011
David ran the series occasionally from 2007 until 2010, both at Upstart Crow and later at The Café for Contemporary Art (both located in North Vancouver). In 2010 David decided that running the series as a one-man show, in addition to writing award winning books and producing a beautiful line of chapbooks, was too much work. The series was put on indefinite hiatus. What can we say, some people just don't know how to multitask.
In August 2011, three past participants in the series (Christopher Levenson, Rob Taylor and Diane Tucker) decided that if they combined their formidable powers they just might be able to do as good a job as one David Zieroth. This quickly proved impossible, and Sandy Shreve was added to the team. When Sandy moved away from the Lower Mainland, she was replaced by the indomitable Kate Braid.
For its first two years, the "reborn" series ran out of Project Space, in Vancouver's Chinatown. Upon the sad news of Project Space's closure in October 2013, the Dead Poets Reading Series entered into a partnership with the Vancouver Public Library to host readings out of their Central Branch.
The future of the DPRS is still being written, even if our poets are no longer writing. Join us, won't you?