The Pandemic Challenge – Introducing 2020 Books by 14 Ontario Poets

“Well-thumbed books are strewn on the sill haphazardly/after bedtime’s nightly storytelling” – Frances Roberts Reilly*

My home library overflows with books: stacks of novels in my living room, short story collections in the family room, poetry books in my office. You could say I have a love for words. The challenge is to balance reading and reviewing with other daily activities. I wish I had time to read them all and some day I hope I will.

If your goal is to support local authors and/or to read work by an Ontario poet, it’s never too late. Perhaps you can help me out by cheering them on! Order one of their books, ask the library to include several books in their collection, maybe even post a review on Goodreads or other review locations.

Last week, I introduced several new anthologies that included work by members of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS). See the post here. Today, I present new collections** by individual members. All were published in 2020. Congratulations to all!

Three Cheers for the Award-winning:

 Swoon (Guernica Editions 2020) By Elana Wolff  ISBN13: 9781771835077     ISBN10: 1771835079

Swoon by Elana Wolff won the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry.

Congratulations to TOPS Life Member Elana Wolff! Her most recent poetry collection Swoon was named winner of the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry. This is quite an honour as the award is presented annually in recognition of “the finest Canadian writing on Jewish themes and subjects”. See additional information here.

According to the September 29, 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards media release, “This collection of poems explores a variety of subjects but returns again and again to our longing for transcendence. Informed by Jewish texts and contexts, with a sure-handed control of language and image, the poems are passionate but mature, precise and curious, willing to risk everything for a chance to slip behind the curtain of the familiar to get a glimpse at the divine. The poems in Swoon are philosophical considerations, meditations on the sacred and profane with a subtle understanding of one’s own connection to the world. It is a subtle, sensual book of observances pleasing to the ear.”

A review of this book written by Kate Marshall Flaherty appears here on the League of Canadian Poets website and also in the January 2021 issue of Verse Afire.

Additional information about Elana Wolff and her other books can be found on the Guernica Editions website.

Additional Cheers for New Work (in alphabetical order according to the poet’s last name):

Sonnets For Sahara Nights (Potlatch Publications 2020) by G. W. Down

For those who like more classical forms of poetry, check out this 68-page collection of 65 rhyming poems. G. W. Down is a new member of The Ontario Poetry Society but he has been involved with the Tower Poetry Society in Hamilton for years and is the current Editor-in-Chief for Tower Poetry. Additional information about his book is located here on The Book Band website.

field: haiku and senryu (HMS Press 2020) by kinshu ori aka Ronda Wicks Eller  ISBN 978-1-55253-083-2

 Ronda Wicks Eller has made an impressive debut,” wrote Canadian poet George Swede in his June 2020 Verse Afire review of field: haiku and senryu written by kinshu ori (the haijin name for Ronda Wicks Eller).

​Eller’s website states: “Taking its cue to start, the poems begin in spring and gradually slide through the other three seasons with an ease that’s bound to take many readers unaware. Afterward, moves into experimental spiritual haiku and, sure to leave a chuckle, deposits some mildly ribald bathroom senryu. Primarily holding to the prescribed 5-7-5 line metering, kinshu ori playfully and boldly shifts metrics in the discreet way that only a haijin can.”

Although Eller has numerous published books, field is her first published collection of Japanese haiku and senryu. For additional information, check out Ronda Wicks Eller’s website here.

The Dance Between: Poems About Women (Opal Editions 2019) by Susan Ioannou ISBN: 978-0920835548

This 72-page collection by Susan Ioannou invites you to meet more than 40 individual women, both real and imagined, whom you could long to know as each moves through her own life’s dance, some with clarity and momentary success, others caught mid-step, and many yearning to find their unique rhythms.

A book review written by Kate Marshall Flaherty will appear in the January 2021 issue of Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter.

Fire and Water: Love Poems (Black Moss Press 2020) by Eva Kolacz and Laurence Hutchman ISBN 978-0-88753-608-3

Experience the deep passion between Canadian poet Laurence Hutchman and poet/visual artist Eva Kolacz in this unique collection of intimate love poems written to and about each other.

Hear Eva and Laurence read for 15-minutes here on the Black Moss Press YouTube channel. This July 31, 2020 posting was part of the Great Lake Reading series organized by Marty Gervais and Alicia Labbe and the League of Canadian Poets and funded by the Canada Council. The reading was filmed by Kamilla Walker.

Check out this promo book video (see here) featuring publisher Marty Gervais and a published Q and A with Eva.

Additional information about this book also can be found here on the Black Moss Press website.

Cabbages and Kings – Poems 2012 – 2019  (Aeolus House 2020) by Norma West Linder ISBN 978-1-987872-262 (softcover)

Prolific Canadian poet Norma West Linder giftwraps 50 of her best poems written between 2012 and 2019 and presents them in a beautifully written book. “Call it a poet’s memory box of many things!” See my review of her book in an earlier blog post found here.

Without an Anchor – Poems of Freedom (Full Hearts Press 2020) by Anne Pelletier ISBN 978-1-7771416-3-9 and Through the Mist – Free Verse Writings with a View (Full Hearts Press 2020) by Anne Pelletier ISBN 978-1-7771416-0-8          

 “To run barefoot sets the mood.” For those who love a blend of artistic disciplines, check out Without an Anchor, a 139-page collection of poems and 60 photos by new TOPS member Anne Pelletier. According to Verse Afire reviewer Joan Sutcliffe, “this collection…comes together in a format that stimulates simultaneously in the reader a spirit of reverence for the dramatic displays of the natural world and a poignancy for the internal drama of the poet.”

This winning combination can also be seen in another one of Pelletier’s books Through the Mist, a 140-page collection of poems and over 60 photos. According to Verse Afire reviewer I. B. Iskov, “Her poems intertwine nature’s “rippling sentiments” with human frailties , nature’s “changing attire” with the mind’s changing attitudes.  One can actually envision the liquid flower dancing with the sun.”

Anne Pelletier wrote five poetry books before 2020 but has recently designed and independently published them through Full Hearts Press. Two of them (Without an Anchor and Through the Mist) have been featured in this post. She also recently published a young adult non-fiction, journaling style of book. See her website Full Hearts for additional information.

Parramisha: A Poetry Collection by Frances Roberts Reilly (Leaf by Leaf, an imprint of Cinnamon Press, 2020) by Frances Roberts Reilly ISBN: 978-1-78864-906-3

Parramisha includes 45 poems by poet Frances Roberts Reilly

Harpists, fiddlers, Gypsies. Dancing, jigs, and storytelling. I’m expecting them all and more in Frances Roberts Reilly’s new collection.

According to the book’s back cover “what’s written about us by non-Roma is a stereotypical image that’s both romantic and vilified. In writing our own Parramisha-story we are obligated to deconstruct those prevailing narratives readily available in popular culture and that have unjustly treated us.

Parramisha challenges the reader to reconstruct a new image as a life affirming narrative of our wholeness as a Romani identity.”

The 84-page collection is divided into five sections (Tatcho Romany Drom – True Heart’s Path; Yoi Rokkavus Romanus – She Speaks; Tatcho Kovas – True Things; Puri Folki – The Old Ones; and Familia – Family) and includes 45 poems. Also featured are several striking black, red and white illustrations by Ildiko Nova, a Hungarian-Canadian Romani visual artist and human rights activist.

Additional information about Roberts Reilly and her book can be found here on her website. 

Life print, in points (erbacce-press, Liverpool, UK, 2020) by Renée M. Sgroi ISBN: 978-1-912455-15-7.

Life print, in points features over 80 poems by Renée M. Sgroi.

Sifting through the “fine dust” of memory, poet Renée M. Sgroi skillfully gleans snapshots of life’s haunting “secrets/hushed behind” the domesticity of “drying towels, drying dishes”. Her work is not only profound and polished but displays a “melange of colour”, scents, and sound where a point (like birth or death) is an “o, an unclosed mouth exhaling” and loss is a “skimmer of ripples”. I can’t get these poems out of my head. She transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews, in a review of life print, in points published in the January 2021 issue of Verse Afire, states that “Sgroi has penned a sequence of lines and metaphors of vivid, descriptive language that paint a world…From a single dot, lines are created and more dots added until the image of the totality of a life is unveiled, much like the true life print of one human being from the unfurling of a DNA strand.”

Another review written by Anne Burke will appear in an upcoming issue of The Prairie Journal.

Renée M. Sgroi is definitely a poet to watch.   She is a member of The League of Canadian Poets, The Writers’ Union of Canada, and the past president of the Brooklin Poetry Society.”  Check out her website/blog for additional information.

(Disclosure: I first encountered Renée’s poems while blind judging The Ontario Poetry Society’s 2019 Golden Grassroots Poetry Chapbook Contest. Her chapbook submission August on Her Hands received on honourable mention award, so I was pleased to discover that a UK publisher picked up her full manuscript.)

 Coming Soon!

 Meta Stasis (Mosaic Press 2020) by Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews

Meta Stasis by Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews will be published by Mosaic Press, later this year.

 “Meta Statis is a sober-eyed look at predation, at the phenomenon of parasitic entities that callously aim to undo us to feed and create themselves, without empathy, impudent, defiant, animalistic,” posted poet Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews on her Facebook page. “The book is divided in three sections: the first about incurable cancer, as well as viral diseases, both real and virtual; the second about the devastating emotional aftermath of losing a previous loved one to a terminal illness; the third part deals with corruption, escalating world surveillance and decay at the societal and political levels.”

A blog post about Di Sciascio-Andrews and one of her earlier books appears here.

 The Other Life (Mosaic Press) by Patrick Connors

 Canadian poet Patrick Connors says to stay tuned! Additional information will be available at a later date. (In the meantime, a previous blog feature about the poet appears here.)

Serve the Sorrowing World with Joy  (Woodpecker Lane Press 2020) by Meg Freer and Chantel Lavoie ISBN: 978-1-9991829-9-1

Serve the Sorrowing World with Joy features work by Meg Freer and Chantel Lavoie.

A warm welcome to TOPS poets Meg Freer and Chantel Lavoie who recently collaborated on a collection of 19 poems and 19 photographs to honour the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, Kingston, Ontario. The 42-page chapbook also includes four pages of captions and notes on the poems. It is expected to be released any day now.

What a literary team!

Meg Freer grew up in Montana and now teaches piano in Kingston. Her photos, poems and prose have won several awards and have appeared in Ruminate, Vallum, Arc Poetry, and Juniper.

Chantel Lavoie is from Saskatchewan, teaches literature and culture at the Royal Military College in Kingston, and has published Where the Terror Lies and This Is about Angels, Women, and Men.

Are You Missing In-Person Launches?

Due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Ontario Poetry Society has temporarily paused all in-person events.  (Additional information about TOPS can be found on the website here.) However, several poets have participated in virtual readings.  See the event section of this website for a list of past Ontario-based events as well as information about upcoming events via ZOOM or other online platforms.

Three more cheers to all those supporting the work of writers across Canada and the world!

Thanks again for stopping by my blog! Happy reading, writing, or listening!

*from the poem “My Son’s Room” published in Parramisha: A Poetry Collection by Frances Roberts Reilly (Leaf by Leaf, an imprint of Cinnamon Press 2020) Reprinted with the author’s permission. Copyright © 2020 Frances Roberts Reilly. (p. 74)
**Efforts were made to track down all the 2020 books published by individual members of The Ontario Poetry Society. If I have missed your work, please contact me via the contact page on this website so I can mention your 2020 book in a future post.   

2 thoughts on “The Pandemic Challenge – Introducing 2020 Books by 14 Ontario Poets

    1. d78hill Post author

      Heather, you always make me smile. I’ve only had a single or a group of poems published in various anthologies or magazines this year. Perhaps, I should gather my rejection letters and publish those. Just teasing here! Take care.


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