“I’m one of those people who embellishes everything,” Vancouver Poet Laureate George McWhirter told the first-ever festival for the written arts on Bowen Island this weekend.

“I can’t leave anything alone,” he said, before launching into a series of poems on opening night at Cates Hill Chapel.

McWhirter’s memories as a small boy, seeing oranges for the first time washed up on a beach, set the scene for his poem “Overboard”. While being bitten by a lady bug (“Twice!” he noted indignantly) morphed into “The Rouge and the Black.”

Arts council executive director Jacqueline Massey, making the introductions, quoted one of McWhirter’s previous observations: “A poem is anything you look at twice.”

The Write on Bowen! Festival was the brainchild of Carol Cram and showcased a mixture of island poets, writers, and songwriters.

After a full day of workshops and panels on Saturday, festival goers gathered on Sunday to walk in the Lieben Lands, a legendary writers’ retreat where notables such as Malcolm Lowry, Alice Munro, Margaret Laurence, and Eric Nicol worked and played.

Opening night was MC’d by the multitalented 17-year-old Calder Stewart. First up was author James Glave, who read an excerpt from his newly published book “Almost Green: How I Built an Eco-Shed, Ditched my SUV, Alienated the In-Laws, and Changed my Life Forever”.

In one section, six terrified males – The Green Team Extreme – try to move The Tankosaurus”, a behemoth rainwater storage tank, into position.

As a last resort, he’s forced to back his golden-pearl premium edition Lexus RX-300 into position to help move the tank and save the day. It seemed serendipitous that the SUV he was trying to ditch should play a leading role, he said. “It was as if the Lexus and I had made our peace.”

Lisa Shatsky read six poems, including “On Not Reading Newspapers” and “Tell Us Something Nice”, dedicating them to Bowen’s beloved Ross Carter, who died June 29 at the age of 79.

Songwriter Julie Vik performed two of her songs, closing with “Shudder”, as an alder tree grasps for life.

Perhaps the spirit of the festival could best be summed up by one of Bernice Lever’s poems, “Going For the Gold”, which she performed Friday night. It notes that sports and science set their benchmarks. . .

    “yet in the arts
    world-class achievement glows forever:
    a shine to spur others
    to their own excellence
    not to better or to bury others
    but to achieve their own brightness”
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