My whole life shining/charged and fused/with its wick of burning flesh. – David Stones*
Toronto bard David Stonesis on fire! He may consider himself a “weekend writer or poet”, but his highly-successful poetry collection Infinite Sequels(Friesen Press 2013) and his poetic performances (based on the book) are certainly attracting attention.
With blazing spotlight performances at the Stratford SpringWorks 2015, the London Fringe 2018, and most recently at the Hamilton Fringe 2019, he and his work have been labelled as “dazzling,” “unforgettable,” and ‘utterly mesmerizing.”
David Stones’ “dazzling” performances are inspired by his book Infinite Sequels (Friesen Press 2013).
I’m not surprised. As a successful businessperson, Stones is proficient in wooing an audience for a standing ovation.
“I will address all seasons in turn/and summer the memories” – Donna Allard, International Beat Poet Laureate*
As a child I welcomed summer, those endless memories reading yet another book in the comforts of my favourite tree. As an adult, I still enjoy being squirreled away to enjoy the summer tranquility that outdoor reading can bring.
However, while vacationing from social media last June, I missed the biggest literary news to hit the area: the great Canadian author Margaret Atwoodwould be touring with her latest book. One of her readings would be held at a local hotel in late November 2019. By the time I heard about the event, all the tickets were sold out.
Each year Sarnia’s indie bookstore, the Book Keeper, hosts numerous visits by emerging and established authors. Canadian author Margaret Atwood will be in the area in November but event tickets are already sold out. Photo courtesy of The Book Keeper
Although I will miss one of my favourite authors read, bookstores, libraries, and other organizers of literary events are already gearing up for a busy fall season and I’m looking forward to hearing more updates as they become available. Some of those Ontario happenings appear on the event section of my blog.
What are you doing for the rest of the summer to feed your literary mind?
Below is my August/September “hoping to read soon” reading material as well as some of the Fall 2019 book releases and activities that I’ll be following.
The life of those/who went before/their bodies take the shape of sheers/that breathe upon the window ledge – John B. Lee – author of My Sister Rides a Sorrow Mule, winner of The Ontario Poetry Society’s 2019 Golden Chapbook Poetry Prize.
If someone asked you to judge a poetry chapbook contest, what would you look for? The squish of rain beneath rubber boots? The whirl and clang of a pinball machine? Would you seek out manuscripts focusing on your favourite subjects or would you evaluate the work on originality or the strength of the writing? How does one evaluate and compare a collection of Shakespearian sonnets to a test tube of experimental poems? Can a bushel of McIntosh apples compete with a box of Mandarin oranges? Can the writing of a people’s poet battle with a scholar’s life’s work and vice versa?
How many of you have entered manuscripts into contests and upon release of the winner’s list have asked, where did I go wrong? How can I improve my chances for the next submission call? Where can I go for advice? Should I even bother to enter another contest?
Judging a poetry contest is like comparing apples with oranges. Find a manuscript with hackneyed clichés and themes and it’s quickly eliminated from the competition.
Last May, a cardboard box filled with poetry chapbook manuscripts arrived at my door with the instructions to select a top winner and five honourable mentions by November 2019. My head spun like a flying saucer heading straight for a chain-link fence. I had judged poetry contests before but this was my first assignment judging a manuscript contest. Just reading through the poems once could take months. I finally understood the weight thrust upon publishers inundated with a year’s worth of manuscripts. This would be no easy task.
“When I depart/ bring me to a place/of summer days/where flowers bloom/and friends hold my hands.//Then my heart will rejoice.” Carmen Ziolkowski*
When the news of Carmen Ziolkowski’s departure arrived in late December, a wintry chill settled on Sarnia-Lambton’s literary community. It left me and others numb but five months later, flowers did indeed bloom during her Celebration of Lifeheld May 26, 2019 at the Sarnia Riding Club.
With the club house windows overlooking Lake Huron and a large vase of carnations greeting family and friends at the door, the love for this inspirational woman filled the room.
Carmen Ziolkowski often wrote about love and flowers.
As a writer, Carmen often wrote about flowers; she left a bountiful bouquet, a legacy of literary buds and blooms for her readers to admire and cherish. Trilliums, dancing cherry blossoms, forsythia, periwinkle, wisteria, bleeding hearts, and even bright dandelions scented her work. Her poetry sang with birdsong, the chirp of a sparrow, the tweet of a robin, the boisterous vocals of geese, cardinals, and eagles as they swooped and soared across the pages. The sun and the moon also played vital roles in her seasonal portraits.
i’m in the bus which is really just an old car/and it’s night and pouring rain and i’m/thirteen and the car is jammed with bodies… – Eleonore Shönmaier*
Have you filled your pockets with poems yet? Have you dropped a poetic postcard in the mail? There’s still time to swirl in this whirlwind of poetic celebration. Below is a cluster of literary news items collected and raked up like paper leaves off my desk. Quick, line your calendar pockets with the words of poetry.
Tomorrow (Thursday, April 18 to be exact), The League of Canadian Poetswill roll out nature’s leafy-green carpet to present Poem in Your Pocket Day, another initiative for its National Poetry Month 2019 (#NPM19) celebration. According to the League’s website, “you can carry a poem, share a poem, or even start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event.”
Have you checked your mailbox lately? Look at what the League snail-mailed to me the other day! I’ve decided to share it a few hours early.
So bright and full, it will incite lunatic talk,/bring the daredevil out in us and cause minor injury,/never again to be this big, within life’s tick-tock. – Tom Gannon Hamilton*
Every April, poets across Canada celebrate National Poetry Month (#NPM).Some travel to read and/or visit out-of-town events while others stay close to home to organize or attend festivities in their own regions. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, to share common interests, to hear other people’s work, and to grow as a poet.
“Sarnia’s gone big celebrating National Poetry Month. Join us!” said organizer Sharon Berg on Facebook.
Call this year’s #NPM19 a literary celebration as big as an orange moon and expect rhythm, rhyme, similes, and metaphors to soar across the skies like UFOs. To the general public, poetry may sound like the language of aliens but for audiences willing to listen, a new and deeper understanding of the world may be discovered.
“Canadian literature has emerged as a world literature in the full sense of the term,” – James Deahl, editor of TAMARACKS*
It’s not every day that an American publisher takes an exclusive look at Canadian poetry but last autumn Lummox Press from San Pedro, California forged ahead and published TAMARACKS – Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century, a 240-page anthology edited by Sarnia, Ontario resident James Deahl and compiled for the United States market.
TAMARACKS: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century (Lummox Press 2018) was edited by Sarnia, Ontario resident James Deahl.
Now it’s time to celebrate!
In less than a month, over half of the 113 contributors of TAMARACKS will begin touring the province and sharing verses from this anthology filled with over 175 contemporary poems ranging in topics from World War I (Robert Acorn’s “Passchendaele”) to Canada’s Residential Schools tragedy (Rhonda Melanson’s “One Catholic’s Apology for Residential Schools”). As of today, eight celebration launches have been scheduled between late March and early May 2019 for such Ontario cities as Hamilton, Toronto, Welland, and Sarnia.
Another celebration, this one organized by the publisher, will be held in California in mid-April. Additional events in London and North Bay are being considered for the autumn.