“…set me/wondering what an Alzheimer mind/feels like inside…” – Kate Marshall Flaherty*
Imagine if we all lost our memories, dropped them like mittens into the snowy abyss or hid the pink mass in a suitcase and left it on a train.
Dates like Red Thursday or Black Friday or even a loved one’s birthday would mean nothing.
Think about it. That’s the point. We couldn’t! Our cognitive skills would be impaired or worse yet, our short-term memories would be zilch.
Last weekend, several Canadian poets gathered in Ajax, Toronto, and Ottawa to help launch Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry. The primary goals were to draw attention to those suffering with Alzheimer and/or dementia and to raise some monies for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.
David Brydges, one of the organizers of the fundraising project, is pleased with the response so far.
“Some very memorable moments and memories were created for the three days of book launches,” he said. “We sold 50 copies of the Memory and Loss anthology and raised $500 for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto’s dedication to crafting their music to complement the themes from the Memory and Loss book were splendid and powerfully effective in bringing us all together. Those in attendance were particularly moved by the poetry, stories, and music for many had known someone who was afflicted by this disease or dementia. It was a serious but fun filled three days with a little PoeTrain adventure trip added to the mix.”
Brydges who is also the engine-force behind the original PoeTrain Express to Cobalt in 2012 and the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour in 2015, has a talent for finding unique projects to pull poets and trains together. The Memory and Loss anthology grew from a kernel extracted from a good news story.
“I heard,” explained Brydges, “that Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee Company had purchased and restored a 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. It was used in 2012 to raise one million dollars and awareness for the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
The ONR passenger train towed it as far as Moosonee. A stop in New Liskeard and story in the Speaker tweaked my curiosity. They said if anyone else wants to have a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s and wants to use the train to contact them.
My original idealistic plan was to use it for the venue book launch to Ottawa but there were too many obstacles with Via Rail. Previous event planning experience has taught me to reach high then plan down if necessary. So, plan B the more practical was to have the launch in the private rail car in its siding near the Mother Parkers manufacturing plant in Ajax.
On Thursday, November 17 with the sun shining in Ajax beside the Mother Parkers Tea Plant, we had our first launch inside the private rail car. Paul Higgins Jr. present co-owner (since his father died of Alzheimer’s) attended to tell his story about his father’s disease and how they acquired this historic train car. Emma Laughlin was there to help with organizing and read a poem by poet laureate Anne Margetson called “Train Travel and Memories”. Poets Bunny Iskov, and Kate Marshall Flaherty travelled from Toronto along with Wendy Jean Maclean and her sister (who came from Brockville) for the afternoon event. Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto entertained some original tunes that had similar themes from the Memory and Loss book.
The second launch was held on Friday, November 18 in Toronto at The Hot House Restaurant & Bar. We had dinner beforehand and socialized with several poets in the anthology. Then fourteen poets read, from the anthology, their heart wrenching stories of how this disease has disrupted their lives and those they love. (Editor’s note: The readers included: David Brydges, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Fran Figge, Debbie Okun Hill, K. V. Skene, Kamal Parmar, Jean Kallmeyer, Donna Langevin, Charles Taylor, Joan Sutcliffe, Margaret Code, Marsha Barber, and Honey Novick.) Music and songs were once again performed by Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto.
On Saturday, November 19 in Ottawa we had our final book launch and 45 people packed an excellent ambiance Pressed Café. Featured Ottawa poets were Ronnie Brown, Janice Falls, Blaine Marchand, and Susan McMaster. Gerry Mooney asked Fran Figge to read her very personal poem. Poets Bunny Iskov, Debbie, Okun Hill, Fran Figge, and David Brydges travelled by Via Rail train from Toronto to attend and participate. Kate Marshall Flaherty returned with her Ottawa musician friends who played their final event of this tour. With a hometown audience, they performed poetry and songs that blended to perfection. A surprise of the evening was a poem crafted during the show by Theresa Cull and read to us all.”
Thanks David for your detailed report.
Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry is published by Ink Bottle Press, 2016 and edited/compiled by I. B. (Bunny) Iskov. The 164-page anthology features approximately 125 Alzheimer/dementia poems by 67 Canadian poets.
For a list of anthology contributors and/or to read more about the three city tour click here.
Additional information about the launch sponsor The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) can be found here.
Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.
This Sunday, November 27 starting at noon, The Ontario Poetry Society will host The Winter WarmUp Poetry Fest at Bar Italia, 582 College Street in Toronto Ontario. Contest winners from the Arborealis anthology as well as contributors to Memory and Loss, the membership anthology Latchkey Lyricality and/or the Fire and Sky “Fort McMurray fire themed” anthology will be asked to share a poem or two from these books. All TOPS members are welcome to read and are encouraged to bring their membership card to sign up for the members’ reading portion. Non-members may share their work during the Open Mic. Sign-up is at the door. Admission is free.
Join The Friends of the Ontario Poetry Society Facebook page for additional photos and information about upcoming events, contests and projects.
*Epigraph is from the poem “Far Away” by Kate Marshall Flaherty published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry, page 116 Copyright © Kate Marshall Flaherty 2016 used with permission from the author.
What a prolific and active group of fellow poets, Debbie….thanks for sharing.
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