“Now dignity wears a tattered dress, /white, then gray, /smothered in a coffin. /Her memory erodes to dust.” –I. B. Iskov
Friday was Remembrance Day, a time to reflect on the past and all the veterans who fought for our country’s freedom. For those living with memory loss, remembering anything becomes a new and frustrating battle.
Toronto poet I. B. Iskov knows what it’s like to deal with a relative who struggles with a fading memory and broken thought.
“When my mom was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s, she was in her early 80’s,” wrote Iskov in her foreword for Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry. “Over time, when I called her, she would simply complain, “I can’t remember! I can’t remember!” Even now, in her advanced condition, she sometimes echoes this same anguish.”
Because of her experience with her mother, Iskov was pleased to be asked to edit this new Alzheimer’s and dementia themed “fundraising” project. The Canada-wide call for submissions resulted in a 164-page anthology that features approximately 125 poems by 67 Canadian poets.
“I am grateful to all the contributors, who have sent poems about their mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends who were afflicted with Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s,” wrote editor/compiler Iskov in her foreword. “Some of these poems made me cry. Others touched me deeply. I know you will experience these emotions, too, when you read the poems inside.”
The idea for the book originated from PoeTrain organizer David C. Brydges. He had heard that Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee Company had purchased and restored the 1924 Pacific rail car built by Canadian National Railway and used by King George VI and the Queen Mother in the first Canadian tour by a reigning British monarch in 1939. In 2012, it was used to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer Society of Canada. Could the PoeTrainers get involved in a future project?
Because his two grandmothers suffered from dementia, Brydges (with his creative mind) got the train rolling, if you pardon the cliché. He partnered with Ink Bottle Press to publish a ‘fundraising” book and The Ontario Poetry Society to assist with promotions.
“The original plan was to use the restored rail car for the venue book launch in Ottawa,” said Brydges, “but there were too many obstacles. So, plan B was to have the launch in the private rail car in its siding near the Mother Parkers manufacturing plant in Ajax.”
Toronto poet Kate Marshall Flaherty came aboard to assist with the organization of launch events in three different cities: Ajax, Toronto, and Ottawa. She secured Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto who will perform at all the venues plus she will co-host with Brydges. Editor Iskov and several other anthology contributors will be in attendance to read. (If you are a contributor and would like to read, please let Brydges, Iskov or Flaherty know.)
Help support this worthwhile cause. Mark these dates on your calendar and share the posters widely:
Thursday, November 17 in Ajax: 2 to 4 p.m. at Pacific Rail Car (Mother Parkers Tea and Coffee), 144 Mills Road. Paul Higgins Jr. the present co-owner (since his father died of Alzheimer’s) will attend the Ajax launch to tell his story about his father’s disease and how they acquired this historic train car. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.
Friday, November 18 in Toronto: Dinner/socializing from 7 to 8 p.m.; Show time at 8 p.m. at The HOTHOUSE Restaurant and Bar, 35 Church Street. Confirmed readers to date: David C. Brydges, Ann Elizabeth Carson, Margaret Code, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Debbie Okun Hill, I. B. Iskov, Donna Langevin, Honey Novick, Kamal Parmar, Charles Taylor, and Ed Woods. Admission is free.
Saturday, November 19 in Ottawa: Dinner/socializing from 7 to 8 p.m.; Show time at 8 p.m. at pressed, 750 Gladstone Avenue. Featured Ottawa poets Janice Falls, Glenn Kletke, Blaine Marchand and Susan McMaster plus PoeTrainers David C. Brydges, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Debbie Okun Hill and Bunny Iskov.
Anthology contributors in alphabetical order are: Josephine Bolechala, Wendy Bourke, Ronnie R. Brown, David C. Brydges, April Bulmer, Fern G.Z. Carr, Ann Elizabeth Carson, Sarah Charles, Margaret Code, Marie McGrath Davis, Hans R. Devos, Theresa Donnelly, Janice Falls, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, the late yaqoob ghaznavi, Mary Grace Guevara, Leona Harris, Debbie Okun Hill, Nancy Holmes, Laurence Hutchman, Keith Inman, Susan Ioannou, I.B. Iskov, Terrance James, Jessie Lee Jennings, Judith Johanson, Jean Kallmeyer, Glenn Kletke, Donna Langevin, Doug Langille, Ruth Latta, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever, Norma West Linder, Mary Lipton, Jockie Loomer-Kruger, Carol L. MacKay, Wendy Jean MacLean, Carol Malyon, Blaine Marchand, Sheila Martindale, Susan McMaster, Gerry Mooney, kjmunro, Gail M. Murray, Honey Novick, Diane Attwell Palfrey, Kamal Parmar, Lou Ponstingl, Margo Prentice, Frances Roberts Reilly, Ellen B. Ryan, K. V. Skene, Michael Stacey, Marie Elyse St. George, J. J. Steinfeld, Joan Sutcliffe, Lynn Tait, Charles Taylor, Roger N. Tulk, Carolyne Van Der Meer, Wendy Visser, Laurelyn Whitt, Susan Wismer, Jan Wood, and Ed Woods.
Proceeds from the sale of Memory and Loss will be directed to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. The goal is to raise at least $1000 for research, programs, and services.
Still not convinced! Below is a sample of one of the poems, courtesy of I. B. Iskov:
Memory and Loss
For my Mother
By I. B. Iskov
She watches the light fade
while the front door of her mind
rehearses opening and closing.
Dead people resurface,
tenacious on empty days,
retreat into shine.
With a certain touch,
murmurs emerge like static.
The response is immediate.
Voices illuminate corners
where her mind wafts
what it cannot draft.
Now dignity wears a tattered dress,
white, then gray,
smothered in a coffin.
Her memory erodes to dust.
John B. Lee, poet laureate for the city of Brantford and Norfolk County, shared this poem from the book:
By John B. Lee
The paperwhites are blooming for Christmas with a honeysweet
fragrance permeating the room
my elderly mother receives them with a bland and meaningless
smile gifting her face
the dying memory of that vanishing perfume goes into the
darkness like a second darkness not yet there
Flaherty also gave permission to share a link to her work “Far Away”, a video poem produced by a two-man film crew (musicians Mark Korven and Tony Duggan-Smith) and posted on YouTube. Watch her heart-warming video poem here. A print copy of this same poem appears in the Memory and Loss anthology.
Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society can be found here.
Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.
*epigraph is from the poem “Memory and Loss” by I. B. Iskov published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry (Ink Bottle Press, 2016), page 49 Copyright © I. B. Iskov 2016 used with permission from the author.
**The poem” Paperwhite Sijo” by John B. Lee is published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry (Ink Bottle Press, 2016), page 138 Copyright © John B. Lee 2016 used with permission from the author.