Category Archives: blog posts

More Than a Library

October 2018 is Canadian Library Month and today during Ontario Public Library Week, I applaud the creation of all the libraries I’ve visited including several across the country in other provinces. As the celebration poster states, “A Visit Will Get You Thinking”.

Canadian Library Month 2018 poster

This Monday at a southwestern Ontario library branch, I received a pink papered heart and was encouraged to write down why I valued public libraries. Yes, it got me thinking as my mind drifted over the Ontario-Manitoba border towards a “Not-so-little library on the prairie”.*

Oh, how our libraries have changed: more open spaces, more natural light like the new Gaynor Family Regional Library!

During my childhood on the prairies, one of my goals was to read every book in our house including my parent’s collection of Reader’s Digest and a musty 1926 – 24-volume set of encyclopedia entitled The Book of Knowledge. In the winter, I would hibernate with second hand novels in my bedroom. In the summer, I would sit in a tree in our backyard and devour each paragraph and chapter until it was time for supper.

However, when the family’s limited supply of books was depleted, I turned to the local high school where part of the community library’s holdings were shelved in a temporary space. Despite not having a permanent home, these books opened up new worlds for me and once again I vowed to read every word ever written. (I’m still working on that!)

Oh, how our libraries have evolved: a gathering place for like-minded souls.

 If books are friends then libraries are safe places filled with unique experiences and personalities. One of my joys of travelling is to stop at a neighbourhood library and explore the local history and culture. I can often predict what a city or town or village is like from the book treasures stored on its library shelves.

Gaynor Family Regional Library Photo 1

A warm welcoming place for the community!

Some have become community centres listening to the patron’s needs by offering programs and services unheard of before….like knitting classes and Lego building groups for children.

Oh, how our libraries have become a home away from home: a place to unwind and share.

One of my favourite libraries (away-from-home) is the Gaynor Family Regional Library in Selkirk, Manitoba. Most folks have never heard of this hidden gem but I discovered it for the first time while I was on tour with my debut poetry book Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) in May 2015.

Gaynor Family Regional Library Photo 2

This 18,000 square foot book lover’s paradise officially opened in 2014 and is one of the newest public libraries in Manitoba.

Located about a half-hour’s drive north of Winnipeg, this environmentally responsible facility finally opened in 2014 after a long dedicated and collaborative (yet challenging) journey with local and regional supporters.

I arrived within a year of its official opening and I can still remember the heartfelt reception I received.

Ken Kuryliw - Director - Library Services - Gaynor Family Regional Library

Ken Kuryliw, Director, Library Services, Gaynor Family Regional Library.

Ken Kuryliw, Director, Library Services, was outside waiting for me, and he directed me through the glass doors. Even the spacious foyer appeared larger than the size of the former library on Main Street. What a change! My first impression of the new building was favourable: warm and welcoming….plenty of ‘sunny Manitoba’ light with large windows….the conference room was a spacious area with a stage and all the props that I needed….a place to display my books and an easel plus tables and chairs for all the workshop attendees.

Beyond the conference room was the Red River Planning District offices that shared the building. On the left was UBUNTU, the urban café and bakery….where according to its website, it serves “specialty coffee, tea and other beverages, pastries, cakes, desserts, soup and panini, as well as freshly-baked, hand-crafted bread.” It is open five-days a week. The library is open six days. Both are closed on Mondays.

Gaynor Family Regional Library Photo 3

Natural light in ‘sunny Manitoba’.

“We want people to read, talk and eat,” said Kuryliw as we walked by the café. Even after three years, these initial comments still make me smile.

Oh, how I love books: the scent of an illustrated cover, the feel of the spine, the rustle of pages

I could tell a great deal of thought went into the planning of this facility….the entrance of the children’s area was marked by giant sized books. So much fun PLUS two dedicated rooms were decorated with red and white toadstool chairs for children to sit on…. A teen area was tucked farther away in a north corner with modular furniture that could be moved and rearranged to suit everyone’s needs. The aisles between the book shelves were roomy.

Gaynor Family Regional Library Photo 5

The children’s library: a hide-away with giant books and toadstool chairs.

On one side, the Bob Jefferson Room commemorated a long-time resident and supporter and was available to community groups for meetings and other events. The reception and check-out area was also spacious and welcoming with friendly and helpful staff.

What I loved the most were the tall windows and the large comfortable sofa chairs where anyone could relax and curl onto with a good book.

Ten computer stations were available for public use. For those who had their own computers, free Wi-Fi was available throughout the building and on the outdoor patio areas. Patrons could plug in their equipment and/or recharge their cell phones in comfort.

Gaynor Family Regional Library Photo 4

A group effort…with special thanks to so many donors!

A community bulletin board kept visitors informed. Between the front doors, community brochures sat like warm toast in presentation racks.

Kuryliw mentioned that the land beyond the library was being maintained as a nature preserve with prairie grasses and other wild vegetation.

There was plenty of parking too!

Several days later, I returned and had lunch, a quiche at the café. Five stars for sure….homemade with fresh ingredients…. Yummy!

Ubuntu Cafe and Bakery Photo 2

UBUNTU Café and Bakery offers lots of variety and is open five days a week.

A year later, I was back in the province and brought a friend with me. This was also her first visit and she was also impressed by the windows and spacious feel to the facility. We paused at the community bulletin board and were in awe of all the events that were planned.

On this particular day, three women were at the back, spinning wool on their spinning wheels. They showcased their wares and told us that three more spinners/knitters were on their way. A teen sat beneath the Quiet Zone sign.  In the community room, an author prepared to read and we paused to have lunch which was just as perfect as the meal I had a year earlier.

Ubuntu Cafe and Bakery Photo 1

Lunch like you’ve never tasted before. Yummy!

Later that evening, I brought my laptop and posted a blog while seated in one of the comfortable chairs near the two sided fire place. A flame flickered and I felt like I was at home and not at a library. What a beautiful environment! The Selkirk residents should be proud of what they have accomplished….a library that not only offers books but a safe environment to meet, to learn, to share.

Oh, how some libraries inspire us to dream: to spread our creative wings.

I shall be back like an echo returning to the comforts of a second home.

Gaynor Family Regional Library Photo 6

A home away from home!

When was the last time you stepped into a public library?

 

Happy Canadian Library Month!

 

*Special thanks to reporter Lorraine Stevenson and the Manitoba Cooperator who coined the phrase “Not-so-little library on the prairie” and used it as a title for a May 27, 2016 on-line article about the Gaynor Family Regional Library.

 

Advertisements

I. B. Iskov’s Latest Chapbook Embraces Her Best Poems

 

“I am visiting my childhood memories/green as tomatoes in May/stalked until they are red/and plucked like roses,” –I. B. Iskov, Founder, The Ontario Poetry Society.*

I B Iskov launches My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018)

Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov in London, Ontario, Canada.

A huge bouquet of virtual roses for Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov who recently launched her latest chapbook My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018). Over the years, she has not only acquired many accolades for her dedicated work with The Ontario Poetry Society but praise has also been bestowed on her writing. Many of these award-wining memory-infused poems are included in her new book. Almost all have been previously published between 2000 and 2017. I look forward to reading this new collection.

tops bookmark logo

Iskov will host The Ontario Poetry Society’s Autumn Ingathering for Poetry event, this Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville, Ontario. Everyone is welcome.

You may hear Iskov read from My Coming of Age this Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville where she is hosting The Ontario Poetry Society’s Autumn Ingathering for Poetry event. Open to the public, this free event will begin at 1 p.m. at Taste of Columbia – Fair Trade Coffee & Gift Shop; 67 Bronte Rd., Units 2 and 3. It will include mini-book launches, members’ readings, and an open mic for non-members. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Additional information here.

Can’t wait?

Below is a review** (of Iskov’s chapbook) written by award-winning Canadian poet Elana Wolff:

My Coming of Age - HMS Press 2018 - by IB Iskov

My Coming of Age by I. B. Iskov was recently published by HMS Press.

My Coming of Age     

I.B. Iskov

HMS Press, 2018, 48 pp

ISBN: 978-1-55253-095-5

The forty-four poems in My Coming of Age—a chapbook with the inside-cover subtitle The Best of an Ongoing Collection of a Life Expressed in Poetry—represent I. B. (Bunny) Iskov’s selection of previously published poems, most of which have received contest citations. The title poem, “My Coming of Age”—a riff on the fan-fiction mold, told as homage to The Beatles—aptly captures the poet’s characteristic wry sense of humour and unshielded personableness in the face of life’s swerves, curves, and world concerns. “The Beatles belonged to me / in my coming of age. It was a freer time / even though the Viet Nam war was raging, / even though there was unrest in the Middle East, / even though my parents were constantly fighting, / I had my Beatles record / to keep me safe and happy / when they sang All You Need Is Love …”

Bunny Iskov displays a discerning eye for the everyday, as captured in titles like “Chronic Cough”, “Wringer Washer Warranty”, and “Ode to My Computer”; genuine interest in the ‘everyman’ in poems like “Trucker on the 401”, “Lucy and Desi”, and “Pamela for Mayor”; and strong identification with her Jewish self in “What Is a Jew”, “The Jewish Side of the Poem”, and “Be on Guard”.

An Iskov poem speaks with personal conviction and plainspoken pluck: “I am in charge,” says the narrator in “Bedtime Chimera”; “My depression is a page in your book,” she declares in “As One Cradles Pain”; “I remember the last time / I worked the street in high heels,” she says tongue-in-cheek in the savvy-shopper piece, cleverly titled “Cheap Love”.

There’s a strong thread of sadness underlying the humour and juxtaposed the easiness in many of these pieces. Humour is often a cover and a face for deep and complicated emotions, and it’s clear that I.B. Iskov has the latter. She reveals her own “Complicated Suffering and Personal Complexities”; remembers and pays tribute to those who have gone to the other side: the beloved people’s poet, Ted Plantos, in the surging opening poem “What Plantos Meant to Poets Trapped Within Socio-Economic Boundaries”; her girlfriends “Marilyn, Rhondi and Lolly” (lost to cancer) in “Making Macaroni and Cheese”; her mother in “Memory and Loss”; and the dead at large in “When the Dead Do not Depart”.

In possibly the most touching and illuminating piece in the chapbook, “Glass House”, the poet writes: “I open my cabinet doors, / rearrange familiar figurines … “I care for moments, dust them off, display them / on little easels. / I’m composed.” This could be the artist’s statement. She makes what she will of her life—delicately, deliberately and artfully, piece by piece.

Wallace Stevens wrote that “the poet is the priest of the invisible.” I submit that Bunny Iskov is the priestess of the visible. My Coming of Age is a collection that will let you know who I. B. Iskov is and what she stands for.  (end of Elana Wolff’s review)

A sample of books by IB Iskov

I.B. (Bunny) Iskov has had several books published over the years.

Additional information about I.B. Iskov appears here.

A blog post about her book Skirting the Edge appears here.

A blog post about her receipt of the 2017 Absolutely Fabulous Women Award for women over 40 for her contributions to the literary arts in the Golden Horseshoe area appears here.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society can be found on its website.

Follow this blog for future Canadian writer profiles.

Coming soon a question and answer feature with Tom Cull, London Ontario’s current Poet Laureate and a review of his debut book bad animals.

Later this year, more details about the Canadian launches of California-based anthologies LUMMOX 7 edited by Lummox Press publisher RD Armstrong and TAMARACKS edited by Canadian poet James Deahl and featuring an all Canadian line-up.

Plus, Sharon Berg’s re-introduction to CADENCE, a new folk art salon launching January 2019 in Sarnia, Ontario. Background information re: the former Cadence reading series appears here. Watch for a new partnership with the Lambton County Library.

**quote is from the poem “Pluck” in the book My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov Copyright © 2017 by I. B. Iskov, page 45. Used with permission.
**Elana Wolff’s review of My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov will appear in a future issue of Verse Afire and was reprinted here with permission from the author.  

De Santis Co-Edits Seventh Italian Canadian Anthology

“It was my first day of school in Canada and I didn’t understand a word of English. I was feeling lost and lonely. But when Morena spoke to me in Italian, her words were like rays of sunlight illuminating the darkness.” –Delia De Santis*

 Italian Canadian writer Delia De Santis values the immigrant’s voice. Read one of her stories and you’ll hear authentic dialogue: the banter between neighbours, the fragmented sentences of broken English, the chatter of women at a social gathering.  It’s a skill that comes easy to her like cooking and serving Italian frittata for a guest or working behind the scenes at a local Books and Biscotti event.

Delia De Santis co-edited People Places Passages - Longbridge Books 2018 Image 1

Delia De Santis is a Bright’s Grove editor/short fiction writer known nationally for her work with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.

Her gift for describing the struggles, joys, and cadences of this culturally-rich group is the basil that seasons her storytelling. As she wrote in one of her stories,

“Oh. So now I am not even Italian anymore,” he laughs. “What kind of talk is that? You were friends with my mother…you don’t think she was Italian? Didn’t she speak and cook Italian? Didn’t she do everything Italian? If you ask me, there was no woman around more Italian than my mother…”**

As a co-editor, De Santis also encourages other Italian Canadian writers to share their unique voices and ensures them that their written creations will be heard nationally and internationally. Her latest project People, Places, Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing represents her seventh anthology. Recently released by Longbridge Books, this book was edited with Giulia De Gasperi, and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni.

According to its back cover, the anthology features short stories, poems, memoirs, and excerpts of plays and novels in English, French, Italian, and a variety of Italian dialects. Its 98 contributors are established and prize-winning authors as well as emerging writers. The volume is the most comprehensive collection yet of Italian-Canadian writing, and a milestone in the history of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW). The writings in this anthology take readers on a journey through myriad worlds and themes: Canada and Italy, past and present, immigration, language, memory, friendship, love, fear, mystery, tears and laughter – an essential volume for students and scholars of Italian Canadiana.”

People Places Passages published by Longbridge Books 2018

People, Places, Passages (Longbridge 2018) is the seventh anthology focusing on Italian Canadian culture that Delia De Santis has co-edited. Included in the 98 contributors are local writers Joseph A Farina, the late Venera Fazio, and Carmen Laurenza Ziolkowski.

De Santis will soon travel to Manitoba for the 17th Biennial Conference, Roots, Routes and Recognition: Italian Canadians in Literature and the Arts, to be held at the University of Winnipeg, September 27-29, 2018. In addition to reading her short story “Why Is It Dark?,” she will participate in two panels: “Honouring and Remembering Venera Fazio” where she will read an essay about a friend/colleague/co-editor who recently passed away; and “The Making of an Anthology: People, Places, Passages”, a look at this important book created for the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW)’s 30th anniversary.

De Santis was also a panel member at the Montreal’s Blue Metropolis Literary Festival on April 29 and the first edition of Librissimi – Toronto Italian Book Fair at the Columbus Centre in Toronto on May 5. 2018.

Last week, I asked Delia to share her thoughts about her writing and editing process. Below are her responses:

First of all, congratulations Delia, on the recent release of the anthology People, Places, Passages. How does this seventh anthology differ from all the others?

September 27 to 29, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Open to the public. Program guides available from the University of Winnipeg.

Thank you, Debbie. When this anthology finally went to the publisher for its final proofing and printing, after two years of us the co-editors, working on it, it was a great relief. It’s an understatement to say that People, Places, Passages is a big book. It’s 545 pages.

Actually, at one point we were wondering if we should make two books instead of one—the contributions seemed to be an overwhelming amount of writing. But our publisher Domenic Cusmano, of Longbridge Books, Montreal, was able to set it all up beautifully in one book. He did a fantastic job. And we just loved the cover design Corrado Cusmano came up with. It’s eye catching and the title placement perfect. We are proud of the finished product.

Besides featuring Italian Canadian writers, is there a common theme that loosely connects all the seven anthologies together?

I would say “Life.” There are myriad themes in the pages of this anthology. Migration is well noted. Immigration, and the aftermath of it; looking back either in memory or transferring memory. The present, too, humanity in all its aspects, joy, fear, laughter. Revisiting the past, but always with forward movement. The progression of life that takes us to the present.

Could you share a glimpse into your editing process? How does an editor decide what is included or not included in a book?

Deciding whether to accept a piece of writing or not to accept it is the first task you deal with, of course. Sometimes that’s easy and sometimes it’s quite difficult. You could be presented with material that is meticulously crafted but ineffective and pieces that are written in a careless manner but interesting and memorable in content. But whatever you decide, you have to keep in mind the reader. Would someone, after reading a story think, “I am glad I read that…” The writing has to move you in some way, especially to reflection.

Delia De Santis reads during a Bluewater Reading Series event in Sarnia - May 9, 2015

Dialogue is the oregano that seasons Delia’s storytelling.

What does a normal editing day look like?

Normally, my editing takes place in the evening. After supper is over and the kitchen is cleaned up, I go to my computer room, close the door, and work away. When I am working on an anthology, I hardly get to watch TV or read a book. Sometimes, when I am pondering on what to say to the author, how to word the suggestions for corrections for example, I will make a printout of the writing, put it on the dinette table and leave it there for me to add quick notes on the margin of the pages while I am cooking or baking, or cleaning. I carry that person’s writing in my mind while I perform tasks that are not cerebral. That actually works quite well for me.

When did you first decide you also wanted to be an editor?  Was there an incident that led you in that direction?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I recall Venera Fazio asking me if I would like to work with her on an anthology of writers who were Sicilian North Americans or writers of any other extraction but who wrote about Sicily or its culture. Without even stopping to think it over, I said “Okay.” And then I thought, “What am I doing? I have no editing experience—and I am not even Sicilian!” But I am not someone who gives up easily. So what I didn’t know, I researched and found out—I learned. All my life actually I have learned a lot on my own—figuring it out by myself. In the end, that project was a wonderful experience for me. The book’s title is Sweet Lemons. It had so many great reviews, and it went into second printing. I didn’t feel like an amateur anymore. I had turned professional. And I must also say, I acquired a real love of editing.

Through your editing and volunteer work, you’ve been an advocate for Italian Canadian writers. In fact you’ve been a member and involved with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW) since it began in 1986. You were also the treasurer off and on for 20 years and were recently elected vice-president. The AICW website lists you as the key contact person for this national non-profit organization of over 100 writers from Canada, the United States, Italy, and other parts of Europe. In April 2016, the AICW presented you and your writing/editing friend the late Venera Fazio with an award for your “extraordinary contributions to the Italian Canadian writing community and to Canadian literature.” See more info here. What motivates you to work so hard for this special group?

Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis were honoured for their contributions to the Italian Canadian community, 2016

Co-editor (the late) Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis were honoured for their extensive contributions to the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW).

The AICW is like family to me. Its members, Italian Canadians and second generation, expats, and educators, not necessarily Italian, who study or teach Italian culture, students of Italian language, most of us, share a common background, or interests. It’s also a reality that at first it was not easy for Italian immigrant writers to get their work published. It was mostly rejected for being too ethnic, and it was difficult to break into the Canadian literary scene.

The Association of Italian Canadian Writers became an instrument for promoting the work of its members and a conduit for publishing opportunities. At first, some writers felt that by belonging to the AICW meant ghettoizing oneself, but that’s an idea that has been pretty well dispelled now that we have mostly become comfortable in our position as writers… and even found that our ethnicity and duality can be advantageous at times.

Personally, I am part of my local community of all people, I don’t keep myself excluded. And I don’t feel excluded. But I actually like being in the skin of someone who understands two cultures. It’s not a takeaway. I find it broadens my outlook on life. And, the AICW still functions for me on an important level—besides that of providing me with volunteering opportunities and beneficial networking—that of being able to acquire vital and lasting friendships in North America and Italy.

Fast Forward and Other Stories by Delia De Santis

Fast Forward and Other Stories (Longbridge Books, 2008) is Delia De Santis’ debut short fiction collection.

Let’s switch the focus to your own writing. You’ve been so busy with editing and yet in 2008, Longbridge published Fast Forward and Other Stories which was your debut collection of short stories. Which of your short stories (either in this collection or in other publications) is your most favourite?  Why does it appeal to you?

The favourite of my short stories is “Faces in the Windows.” It was written in the magic realism style. It’s about people in a nursing home, drawn to their windows to watch an old man sitting in his backyard, playing the accordion in the middle of the night. It’s a story that if I were a reader reading it the first time, I would never forget it. I’ve read many stories that I have never forgotten. Even if I don’t remember the whole storyline, I remember the feeling they gave me. Stories of lasting quality.

You have a sharp ear for dialogue. What advice would you give to another writer who yearns to improve his/her dialogue? What is your secret?

Dialogue comes easy to me. If anything has helped me, is that I used to read a lot of plays. So perhaps immersing yourself in reading plays would be good. And of course, it helps to be a good listener. Dialogue doesn’t have to be perfect construction of sentences. It has to capture the character of the speaker and be in the context of the situation at the moment. If your character is a doctor for example, how does he speak when conversing to other doctors, to the staff at the hospital, how does he talk to his family, to his patients? The dialogue has to reflect the mood, the feelings, of the person who is doing the speaking. It has to sound natural, just as in real life.

What are you currently working on?

I am more than half way editing another anthology with Giulia De Gasperi, who is an excellent editor and translator, and I am also doing some of my own writing.

Short stories by Delia De Santis appear in both of thse anthologies

Delia’s work has also appeared in several prestigious Italian Canadian themed anthologies.

Wow, you sound busy. Do you have any other plans for the future?

Yes, I would like to put together another collection of my own short stories. I have some that were not included in Fast Forward and Other Stories, but I need to write a few more.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

For writers: don’t give up writing. Writers make a difference in the world, especially since freedom of speech is not allowed everywhere in the world. Our voice must be valued in our country, but also be made to reach those countries where writers are being silenced and imprisoned.

For readers: please support writers from all over, but also give support and encouragement to our local authors. There is a wealth of talent right here in our town, which continues to enrich our minds… and our community, every day.

Delia, thank you for welcoming me into your home and sharing your thoughts with me. Have a wonderful trip to Manitoba and I look forward to hearing future updates on your writing and editing projects.

PIC_Book_Peregrinations

Delia De Santis is the author of the collection Fast Forward and Other Stories and her short stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Some of her work has been translated into Italian. She is the co-editor of seven anthologies: Sweet Lemons: Writings With a Sicilian Accent (2004); Writing Beyond History: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry (2006); Strange Peregrinations: Italian Canadian Literary Landscapes (2007); Sweet Lemon 2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent (2010); Italian Canadians At Table: A Narrative Feast in Five Courses (2013); Exploring Voice: Italian Canadian Female Writers (2016); and People, Places, Passages (2018).

Delia De Santis has co-edited 7 anthologies featuring the work of Italian writers

Since 2004, Delia De Santis has co-edited seven Italian Canadian themed anthologies. Two are missing from this photo.

For several years, Delia has been on the executive of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, presently as vice president; and belongs to the Writers Union of Canada. She lives in Bright’s Grove, Ontario with her husband. They have two grown sons of whom they are very proud.

Another profile interview with Delia De Santis appears on the Gloria Pearson-Vasey website.

*from the article “Coming of Age” by Delia De Santis published in the book People, Places, Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing (Longbridge Books, 2018), edited by Giulia De Gasperie, Delia De Santis, and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni, page 111. Reprinted with the author’s presmission. Copyright © 2018 the Authors, Editors, Translators, Association of Italian Canadian Writers.
**from the story “The Last Frozen Dinner” published in the book Fast Forward and Other Stories (Longbridge Books, 2008) by Delia De Santis page 41. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © 2008 Delia De Santis.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

Opening Doors and Windows with Editor Harold Rhenisch

“You sit/awake tonight, your fingers/over the pages scattered out before you,/listening too through your hands.”– Harold Rhenisch*

Allow your head to spin with ideas! If the mind is a wooden red door with frosted or cracked panes then Editor Harold Rhenisch opened several windows for me! That’s my view of a worthy editor or mentor. He opened and closed doors and windows until I felt unhinged and accepted new possibilities: a stronger voice (or voices) and an infinite imagination ‘summer’-saulting like tumbleweeds across a silent and vacant field.

Harold Rhenisch - author photo 1

The editor as magician? Harold Rhenisch says “an editor is a set of wise eyes with a sharp knife and a smile”.

If you are an editor and/or a writer who has worked with an editor, you may disagree. You may even slam the door on my fingers and tell me my observations are wrong. C’est la vie!

What I have learned is that in the literary world there are no clear paths. Writing begins as a solitary journey and it meanders and can transport you to places and people you never expected or imagined before. Each experience whether negative or positive becomes a lesson for growth.

When local mentor Canadian author Peggy Fletcher passed away in January 2012, I lost my steering wheel and felt lost. I missed the way she would close her eyes during a writers’ workshop, listen intently to a poem, and immediately pinpoint a misplaced beat or word. No one could ever replace this nature-loving writer and over time I just gave up looking.

In 2015, on a whim, I joined the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association (CAA) and two years later I decided to tap into its electronic writer in residence program. I had heard about Harold Rhenisch and wondered if his keen interest in the Earth would be the right fit for a manuscript I was working on.

The initial on-line meeting with Harold was brief but I felt an instant connection with his zen-like approach to writing and editing. We were both raised in rural environments and for some unknown reason that was important to me. His deep thinking and extensive knowledge base impressed me and I trusted him to navigate my thoughts through my storm of uncertainty. He had also lost his mentor. We agreed to work for a longer period.

For three months, he offered suggestions, taught me to let go, to dig deep, but to also play. He stretched my own knowledge base and nudged me into further research.  He made my head spin! What a wonderful experience!

Keith Inman, a Canadian Author’s Association member and author of The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press 2014) and SEAsia (Black Moss Press 2017) also enjoyed working with Harold.

He wrote: “Harold has a magical way of suggesting changes to your work, like filtered light, while at the same time, instilling confidence. He might suggest a few options for a line that isn’t quite working effectively, then add, “But, perhaps, your original line was better.” He can also zero-in on the overwritten, “Well, you’ve worked the poetry right out of that one.” For me, his voice still echoes in my head when I’m editing…a spritely cheer along a shaded forest trail.”

Sunrise at Big Bar Lake Photo by Harold Rhenisch

“Harold has a magical way of suggesting changes to your work, like filtered light,…” said Canadian Poet Keith Inman. Even Harold’s photographs are magical like this mystical sunrise captured at Big Bar Lake in British Columbia. Harold wrote, “The sun rose through this mist as a wind. Isn’t it grand?”

Today, I still haven’t met Harold Rhenisch in person. We live thousands of kilometers apart but last week via e-mail, we chatted about mentors, the importance of editing, and his plans for the future.

Hi Harold, thank you for agreeing to share your thoughts. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer? Describe that scene for me in a few lines.

I was going to be an entomologist and a consulting horticulturalist in the orchard industry. I took a creative writing course in Grade 11, in 1973. In 1974, I acted in a summer Shakespeare program at UVic, with the support of my writing teacher. I followed up with acting and writing in Grade 12, and played Puck at UVic in the summer of 1975. Playwriting was my first love, but as my speech coach noted, “You really like the poetic speeches, don’t you?” Indeed, I did. The Puck part was type casting. I have been playing the role ever since.

In your introduction to your 11th poetry book The Spoken World, you mentioned that your earlier role models were Rainer Maria Rilke, Ezra Pound, J. Michael Yates, and Al Purdy. In a couple of sentences, what did each of these poets teach you?

Rilke showed that a conversation across metaphysical boundaries was possible, and gave some models of how to do it. I was reading Rilke in translation, which is a very bad idea. What I really got out of it was the American transcendentalism it was translated into, but that was a start. I wound up at Rilke’s grave in Switzerland in 2013. By that time, I was the age he was when he died. It was profoundly moving.

The View from Rilke's Garden Photo by Harold Rhenisch

The view from Rilke’s Garden at Muzart Castle in Veyras, Switzerland. “My image looks over the grapes to the south slope of the Rhone,” explains Rhenisch. “[Rilke] rewrote the Duino Elegies (and wrote the Sonnets to Orpheus) here.” Photo by Harold Rhenisch

Pound showed that it was possible to speak of old things in new ways and to orient writing around moments of vision. There is expansiveness to that available nowhere else. Like Robert Graves, he had the ability to speak of a world of poetic certainty with deep cultural roots, quite different from the social positioning that poetry is often used for. I learned Classical Greek because of Pound’s model. My translations of Iamblichus which resulted were my real education in both old worlds and poetic form. I doubt anyone else has had this education in such old, old cultural roots, from before the time of the pharaohs.

Yates wrote exquisite, highly-shaped intellectual objects which spoke of the country I knew outside of the cities, at an intersection of European and existential experience. What’s more, they were witty and clever and complex and musical. That appealed to me a lot. His Esox Nobilior Non Esox Lucius was a masterpiece of controlled randomness. I still don’t think it was random. I still think it was a high point worth emulating.

Purdy wrote about my Canada, and with a sense of loss I felt as well, in simple, clear speech, without setting aside rigour. “The Country North of Belleville,” that was a poem for me: wisdom, irony, beauty, history, humanity and its feet on the ground.

There were others: [Eugène] Guillevic, [Paul] Celan, W.S. Graham, [W.S.] Merwin, Kathleen Raine, and more. Raine for her mystical tradition, which I responded to.

Canadian poet Robin Skelton was a huge influence in your life. Not only did you edit his work posthumously into two poetry volumes, but you also wrote the book The Spoken World which blended the voices of you and Robin.  In “Drawing Hands”, one of your tribute poems to Robin, you penned the line, “I want to draw hands that touch fire.”  The poem ends with the epigraph that introduces this blog.  I could feel the kinetic energy between the two of you. It reminded me of the hands in Michelangelo’s famous painting “The Creation of Adam” where the God-like figure transfers life and knowledge to a human being. What do you miss most about Robin and what was the best advice he shared with you?

Robin wore numerous rings on his hands, even several rings per finger. They were all symbolic and were part of his magical practice. The poem plays with that. They were also the hands of a healer.

Robin was one of those poets who was rebuilding the ancient northern traditions of writing (in his case out of Wiccan tradition) in the greater anglo-saxon-nordic world. For him, poetry was a real thing in a real world, with real effects. I miss that, but, of course, I miss his voice and his laughter and the way he would greet people at the door. When you were welcomed into his house, you were welcomed into Robin. The house was a recreation of the Modern Gallery in the Manchester Art Gallery, plus the John Rylands Library, also in Manchester. That was Robin’s secret. That story has not been told. One was, however, being ushered into something with great depth and great warmth.

Two Books by Canadian poet Harold Rhenisch

A prolific writer, Harold Rhenisch has published 30 books of poetry, fiction, poetic nonfiction, translation, essays and environmental writing since 1982. Return to Open Water (Ronsdale Press, 2007) features new and selected poems while The Spoken World (Hagios Press, 2011) blends the voices of Harold and his mentor the late Robin Skelton. The latter book is still available through Radiant Press.

He gave many pieces of advice. Three stand out. One was “the poetry does not matter, but how else are we going to teach our children how to think?” From that, I understood that poetry is a way of thinking, not of self-expression.  Another was, “we all live in eternity but we live there alone.” This was shortly before he died in 1997. I understood this to mean that only on this Earth do we have a chance to love, touch each other, even hate and feel, then we are back to the elements. Very Nordic! The third came when I gave him a manuscript (that I am still straightening out, nearly 20 years later):  “I can’t hear the music in it, and the music never lies. If I can’t hear the music in it, it is not finished.” A simplification of that message might be that the music of a poem tells the story, that poetry has plots quite different from prose, and that it’s not up to the poet to make the story but to hear it. Again, very Nordic.

How important are mentors and what do you see are their roles in fostering excellent writing?

What else is there? Creative writing workshops are not a substitute if you believe in long traditions and craft. A mentor can even be wrong. It doesn’t matter. One gains courage and then rises to fill it. For example, after I had written only three good poems, Robin made a point of seeking me out specifically at one of his famous Thursday Night Parties. His guests would be artists and writers from across the city, the country and the world, and any students who got the courage to show up.

Robin brought two glasses and a bottle of red wine, poured us both a sloshy glass, and in a passageway between the hall and the dining room raised his glass in a toast to The Goddess, and drank it down like blood. Shaken, I did the same, knowing that he had accepted me into a rather special brotherhood. It took me thirty years to rise to fill that moment. Sadly, by that time Robin was gone.

There comes a time at which one stops quoting one’s mentors, as one is the mentor oneself, or at least the message. “One is either the poetry or one talks about it,” Robin once wrote, or something close to that. Paraphrasing that, at some point one becomes the poetry. It’s not synonymous with literary writing. Poetry is a calling. I am saddened when writers write poetry as if it were fiction. I try to help them see the poetry itself as the message.

Maybe that’s the role of a mentor: to help people see with two minds at once by standing in that middle space. Poetry tells stories, of course, but not in the way of “fiction,” and not according to the same story-telling rules. In a literary world dominated by fiction, I keep silent about that.

Horsethief Butte Photo by Harold Rhenisch

Harold wrote “maybe that’s the role of a mentor: to help people see with two minds at once by standing in that middle space.” I didn’t ask Harold why he sent me this photo of  Horsethief Butte  located near Dalles, Oregon.  Is it because the person is standing on the edge of darkness and light? Or did something happen here that should be written about?  Thought-provoking isn’t it? A great springboard for a poem! Photo by Harold Rhenisch

Let’s chat a bit about editing. You’ve been the Electronic Writer in Residence with the Canadian Authors Association in Niagara for twenty years and this is the window through which I first met you. (More information about the program can be found its website. Please note you must be a member of the Niagara Branch to participate in this program.) What do you feel is the role of the editor in today’s literary community? Should writers personally hire an editor or should writers rely on the editorial services of a trade publisher? I have heard arguments from both sides. Please expand your answer.

An editor is a set of wise eyes with a sharp knife and a smile.

More specifically, when I was beginning, the role of an editor was to encourage a writer to fit into a national style. It fit poorly, but had to be done. Now there is only a global style and editors, in that sense, are redundant. However, the primary task remains: are you going to write poetry or be a poet? Not the same. An editor can guide you through that process.

But, more practically, few trade publishers offer editorial services and if they do they are likely reverting to a market-driven model, which is fine if you are writing as a social gesture and not in a conversation with eternity. Your choice.

What should a writer watch out for when hiring and/or working with an editor? 

An editor should help you see what works and should admit when something doesn’t and use your response as a guide to find a better solution, drawing from tradition. If an editor just tells you to do something prescriptively, run. That’s just book learning.

As an editor, how would you define strong writing? What do you look for when helping a writer to polish his/her manuscript for publication? 

All writing is strong writing when it is aware of itself and refuses itself indulgences. No excuses. I look for a sense of language as an art form, a sense of play, and a sense of form. When I find explanation or argument, I skim very quickly until I find story again. When I travelled on the Camino through East Germany in 2010 and 2012, I learned how to follow a story not of my own making, relentlessly, along a burning line. That is the editor’s skill: just the story, please. In a poem, however, the story can be the radiance of the colour blue, for example. Delight helps.

Can an editor fix ‘bad’ writing? Why or why not

There is no bad writing. There is writing that is poorly arranged or that bounces over the surface. So? I can do that myself. Blush. An editor can cut all that, without guilt, and at the same time encourage the writer to write more. These are skills one can learn from writing play scripts. Everything there is for the jugular.

As our population ages, do you feel that writers have an expiry or best before date? Why or why not?

Marie Louise Kaschnitz came into her own in the 1960s by writing beautiful but very reactionary prose in very revolutionary West Germany. There is absolutely no best before date. I have had many aging clients writing extraordinarily well. The only question is one of audience. The only answer is one of honesty. You can skip two or three generations with honesty. It is hard. The ego you need to push yourself forward is in the end not always your best friend. You might need an editor to stand at your side. The editor’s job might be to gain trust. At some point, both must accept the point they have arrived at together. And why not? It is a great journey, no matter how far it goes.

Harold Rhenisch at Goðafoss, photo by Diane Rhenisch

Rhensich believes “poetry is a calling”. One day Iceland called him and he answered. His journey took him to a farm built by Icelandic author Gunnar Gunnarsson. Here is Harold near Godafoss, known as the ‘waterfall of the gods’ in Iceland. Photo by Diane Rhenisch.

In 2017, your poem “Saying the Names Shanty” was short-listed for the CBC Poetry Prize. This is not the first time your work has been recognized. How important are contests (which are often judged subjectively) to helping or hindering a writer’s career? Can a writer have a successful writing career without winning or placing in any literary contest?

Anything that encourages a writer to go on in the echoing silence is great. Is the CBC contest important? It was for Gail Anderson Dargatz. For me, with two awards and multiple short-listings, no… except it kept me finishing works I would have otherwise felt there was no audience for… and that’s the thing: without audience it is very hard to write at all. Even an audience of one is a boon. It is the greatest gift to another person: to listen. Especially to listen deeply to what they find most important.

You’ve had a successful career as a writer and as an editor you’ve helped to polish several books by Canadian poets including Rove by Laurie D. Graham, shortlisted for the League of Canadian Poets 2014 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. So far, I’ve read only a couple of your poetry books but I have loved both of them. You have an amazing sense of humour and a broad knowledge base and yet, you can connect with the reader emotionally and spiritually as well. What’s next for Harold Rhenisch? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Canada is becoming a country divided between various literary and creative writing elites. I hope to make a solid contribution that bridges indigenous and non-indigenous divides. More and more, I find the conceits of literature to be limiting, and am learning to read the land. This is not a new journey.

In 1994, I chose to present a workshop on mythology with Garry Gottfriedson rather than poetry. Garry went along willingly.

In 2009, I walked out of the League of Canadian Poets convention in Vancouver in great pain after being asked to take on Bliss Carman as my poetic ancestor, which was a profound colonial demand. I drove straight to the mouth of the Columbia and followed my river home, like a salmon coming back from the sea. I am still on that journey.

Harold Rhenisch - author in nature photo Photo by Harold Rhenisch

An editor or mentor can inspire or encourage deeper thought. According to Rhenisch, “It is the greatest gift to another person: to listen. Especially to listen deeply to what they find most important.” Photo by Diane Rhenisch

I hope, however, to publish a few of my essays on an alternative, old path through poetry. I think the world needs it. There is still much I want to say about Shakespeare, and Puck. Or, rather, that Puck wants to say by me, now that he has my voice.

This has been incredible sharing on your part! I could ask you questions all day, but time and space are limited. Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers? I feel like the conversation has only just begun.

I keep an apple tree called a Benvoulin, and she keeps me. I found her growing wild in a ditch in 1981. She tastes of Riesling wine when ripe and like fresh pineapple when almost over-ripe. Her flesh is white as snow. Our joined ancestry goes back 30,000 years, when bears chose her ancestors in Khazakstan. Robin gave me a poetic tradition as old as that. I think I have been brought to this conversation in order to pass it on. When I published my book Fusion in 2000, it was mocked for its pre-modern thinking. I am older now. I see now what Robin was looking for. Joy is certainly one word for it. Generosity is another.

Thanks Harold. You’ve been most generous with your time. My hope is that this conversation will inspire others to step outside their comfort zones, to walk down a path less travelled, and to listen in silence for the voices that can steer all of us toward some greater truth.

Harold Rhenisch has published 30 books of poetry, fiction, poetic nonfiction, translation, essays and environmental writing since 1982. He reviews history for The Ormsby Review and is an active book editor and mentor. He lives in Syilx territory in British Columbia.

Follow his blogs for more insight on his thought-provoking work:

Harold Rhenisch   Online Home of the Canadian Poet, Writer and Editor.

Okanagan Okanogan Reclaiming the Art of Living on the Earth

A Farm in Iceland    Writing With Gunnar Gunnarsson

and also

Steam Punk City – Wituals

The Green Earth Dictionary

*Epigraph is from the poem “Drawing Hands – for Robin Skelton” by Harold Rhenisch published in the book return to open water: poems new & selected (Ronsdale Press, 2007) by Harold Rhenisch, page 65. Copyright 2007 Harold Rhenisch. Used with permission.

Follow this blog for additional Canadian poet profiles and/or literary events.

Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering – A Pictorial Reflection

“All summer was heat/in steaming reflections/warm beads of sweat imitated the rain,/pretended to nourish grass and birds,/found shade in tired branches.” – I. B. Iskov*

 I have never been to Greece but last Sunday (August 19, 2018) I could almost imagine the waves lapping the shores of the Cyclades, the whispers of Greek gods and goddesses, and the serenity of poetic blue skies over whitewashed structures.

 

The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - September 19, 2018

Founding member/treasurer I. B. Iskov celebrated her birthday at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering held Sunday, August 19, 2018 at Mykonos Restaurant. Half way through the program, baklava (a rich sweet dessert pastry) was served.

What a dreamy place for members of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) to share poetry on the breezy outdoor patio of Mykonos Restaurant in London, Ontario, Canada. Not only did the scent of Greek food and the turquoise seaside-themed décor add to the ambience but Heidi, the co-owner, showed her support for The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering by applauding loudly.

What a celebration it was!

In addition to the membership anthology Delicate Impact, four books by TOPS members were launched: My Misty Madness: A Semi-Autobiography (a Reflection and Lots of Poetry) by Emily Cox; El Marillo (Big Pond Rumous Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton; My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov, and After the River (Black Moss Press, 2018) by Denis Robillard. More information about Delicate Impact appears here.

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - Featured Readers and Books Launched 2018

Celebrating new books by TOPS members.

Several members of the TOPS Executive (President Fran Figge, Founder/Treasurer I. B. Iskov, and Secretary Kamal Parmar) and three Branch Managers (Stan Burfield of London, Najah Shuqair of Sarnia, and Roy James of Windsor) were in attendance.

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - EXECUTIVE and Branch Managers - 2018

Cheers to the TOPS team who stopped in to chat and share their work.

What an eclectic and full afternoon: sixteen members (not counting the book launch readers) shared their work followed by an open mic presenter. Several people including spouses were there to support and applaud.

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - Members - 2018

The Ontario Poetry Society currently has over 200 members. Several of them read their work during the London, Ontario, Canada event: Frances Roberts-Reilly, Debbie Okun Hill, Janice McDonald, Keith Inman, and David D Plain.

According to the restaurant website, “Mykonos is a sacred place where we celebrate life and each other with joy, warmth, good food and drink.”

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - Members 2 - 2018

More Readers: Carl Lapp, Ken Lumpkin, David Stones, Wayne Ray, and Roy Adams.

I agree. Sometimes just a photo or a poetic word can brighten a day or transport you to another place like Mykonos or one of the other Greek islands. Life is for living!

Delicate Impact anthology - August 19, 2018

The Ontario Poetry Society launched Delicate Impact (Beret Days Press, 2018), a membership anthology edited and compiled by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society can be found on its website.

The next TOPS reading “The Autumn Ingathering for Poetry” will be held Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville. More info here..

 A partial list of upcoming literary events in Ontario can be on my website.

*quote is from the poem “Autumn’s Grandeur” in the book My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov Copyright © 2017 by I. B. Iskov, page 20. Used with permission.

Delicate Impact – Celebrating Poets

I have a soft spot for The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and the not-for-profit organization has a soft spot for poets.

Every year around this time, The Ontario Poetry Society releases its annual membership anthology. The process begins in March when members interested in sharing their work will submit their ten best poems based on the year’s theme. Then during the spring months, an assigned editor will select the best work from those submissions.

Delicate Impact - Beret Days Press 2018

Delicate Impact (Beret Days Press 2018) edited by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson features the delicate-themed work of 63 poets from The Ontario Poetry Society.

It’s a huge project but the result is an eclectic mix of work celebrating poets and poetry. Some submissions are new creations. Others are previously published and/or contest winners. What a wonderful showcase!

This year’s anthology Delicate Impact: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Verse (Beret Days Press 2018) edited and compiled by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson, features the work of 63 poets on 214 pages. The book is divided into four sections: Handle With Care, Delicate Matters, Delicate Cycles of Life, and The Climate’s Delicate, The Air Most Sweet.

April Bulmer- Author Photo - Creeds and Remedies Photo Nadezhda

Editor April Bulmer has just released her 11th poetry book, Out of Darkness, Light (Hidden Brook Press, 2018, John B. Lee Signature Series.). Photo by Nadezhda.

“The word… [delicate]…is an adjective that denotes a variety of definitions…” wrote Bulmer in her introduction. “…The poets in this anthology investigate many of these meanings in their delicately-crafted poems.”

Bulmer cited many examples: Kate Marshall Flaherty described an apple slice, John B. Lee penned a poem about foxes and Elana Wolff highlighted the blush of a crab apple tree. Other reccurring themes included birds and cycles and recycling with more cited examples by Donna Langevan, Kathy Robertson, Alvin G. Ens, and Katherine L Gordon.

Some of the contributors will be in London, Ontario today (Sunday, August 19) to read from the Delicate Impact anthology. Others will be launching new books or presenting new work. Non-members may share their poetry during the open mic portion of the event. Sign-up for readers is at the door. The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering starts at 12:30 p.m. at Mykonos Restaurant, 572 Adelaide Street North. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome even if it is your first or hundredth time reading. Prepare to share one or two short poems. The length of each reading depends on the number of readers signed up.

Applause for this year’s editor/compiler:

Book-Out-of-Darkness-Light-April-Bulmer-Front-Cover-4-inch

April Bulmer’s 11th book of poetry, Out of Darkness, Light (Hidden Brook Press, John B. Lee Signature Series) was released in May, 2018. More information here.

She is known for her spiritual poems and her interest in women’s issues.

Another of April’s books (And With Thy Spirit, Hidden Brook Press) was recently named a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (U.S.) in its spirituality category.

April lives in Cambridge, Ontario.

Sample Books by poet April Bulmer - 2018

April Bulmer is known for her spiritual poems and her interest in women’s issues.

Applause for this year’s illustrator:

Nan Williamson Artist Photo

Nan Williamson

Nan Williamson is an artist and poet. She is a graduate of The Humber School for Writers, 2013; her poems have appeared in literary journals in Canada and the UK.  Her sold-out chapbook, leave the door open for the moon, was published by Jackson Creek Press, 2015.

Always interested in the verbal-visual connection, she plays with shapes, colours, and texture to wed form and content in paint and poetry.

Nan is inspired by beauty – natural, or created in the arts and by language and the challenge of painting with brushes – or words.

 

Chapbook and Delicate Impact illustrations by Nan Williamson

Delicate Impact illustrator Nan Williamson is also a published poet. Her limited edition chapbook leave the door open for the moon (Jackson Creek Press 2015) quickly sold out. Her illustrations appear on the front and back cover of Delicate Impact as well as on the anthology’s matching bookmark.

Applause for this year’s featured poets:

 In alphabetical order: Sheila Bello, Christopher Black, Clara Blackwood, Wendy Bourke, Allan Briesmaster, Ronnie R. Brown, David C. Brydges, April Bulmer, Mark Clement, John Corvese, Linda Crosfield, Laura De Leon, Alvin G. Ens, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Gill Foss, Renée Francoeur, Howard Freelander, Meg Freer, Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, Siegfried Gatkowski, Linda Lou Gauthier, Suparna Ghosh, Joyce Goodwin, Katherine L. Gordon, Glenna Hall, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, Eva Kolacz-Hutchman, Keith Inman,  I. B. Iskov, R. Patrick James, Judith Johanson, Mark Kruk, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever, Melanie Lever, Norma West Linder, Tom MacGregor, Bob MacKenzie, Martha Mallory, Fred Manson, Fotios Panos, Yavar Khan Qadri, Frances Roberts-Reilly, Kathy Robertson, Ellen B. Ryan, K.V. Skene, Michael Stacey, Dorothy Stott, Ellen Elizabeth Stout, Elsie Suréna, Lynn Tait, Vanna Tessier, Jim Tomkins, Sheila Tucker, Lily Williams, Nan Williamson, Elana Wolff, Jan Wood, Ed Woods, and Carmen Ziolkowski.

Submission Call For the 2019 Anthology:

Next year’s membership anthology Dancing on Stones will be edited, complied and illustrated by John Di Leonardo. He will be seeking poems on Landforms/Natural Environments, Music, Relationships, Impactful Situations. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2019. More information here.

What are you waiting for?

 If you are at all timid about sharing your writing and don’t know where to turn, consider becoming a member. If you are an experienced writer looking for opportunities to give back to the community, contact the group as new judges and/or editors are often needed for some of its projects.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society as well as their future readings can be found on its website.

Information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found here on my website.

Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours Organizes Regional Tour of Prize-Winning Poet

“This morning, my stomach is a helicopter,/on top and in the rear, thrum, rumble, flutter/look how I run; will I need a mop?” – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

A southwestern Ontario poetry tour** featuring headliners Toronto poet and musician Tom Gannon Hamilton and Sarnia author and micro-press owner Sharon Berg will demonstrate how poetry can tell a story, be entertaining, serious and/or humorous based on such subjects as the war in El Salvador, dysfunctional relationships, art, suicide, cannibalism, nature, and more.

Tom Gannon Hamilton

Prize-winning poet Tom Gannon Hamilton will headline Big Pond Rumours Southwestern Ontario Tour with events in London, Sarnia, Petrolia, and Windsor  between August 19 to 28, 2018.

Organized by Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours (BPR), the five readings will take place in four urban settings (London, Petrolia, Sarnia, and Windsor) between August 19 and 28, 2018. The tour also features a variety of other authors (Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby, London author and visual artist Sile Englert, Lambton poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill, Lambton author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby, and Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith) who will read on specified dates and in different locations.

“My goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this form of writing can accomplish,” said Berg who is also the tour organizer. “Poetry was once revered by kings and practised by people of the highest intellect. But in Canada, poetry has been celebrated as an art form for the people, which led to the appointment of poet laureates in tens of cities across the country. Every poem tells a story, and on this tour, with these authors, you are sure to receive a variety of stories.”

Sharoon Berg

Featured reader and tour organizer Sharon Berg says “my goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this art form can accomplish.”

Headliner Hamilton has a unique story to share. In addition to being the founder, curator, and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon (in partnership with the Toronto Public Libraries), he was also an aid worker during the war in El Salvador. His chapbook manuscript El Marillo, which won 1st place in an annual contest organized by Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Press, focuses on the havoc of events taking place in the 1980s during the extreme violence of the 12-year Civil War in El Salvador.

He has also just released Panoptic, a full-sized book, with Aeolus House, a micro-press owned by Canadian poet/editor Allan Briesmaster.

“This means that he has two books of stunning poetry to promote on this tour,” said Berg. “Hamilton is also an accomplished musician who makes his daily living performing music. He is likely to share a tune or two at each of the readings.”

Headliner Berg is returning to active participation in the Canadian poetry scene after a long hiatus while she worked as a teacher. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine & Press in 2006.

“The existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant,” said Berg. “Indeed, both the international literary magazine and the press have gradually gained attention across the country for the work they are doing in promoting Canadian authors and providing an international forum for literary work.”

The press has already published chapbooks featuring Nelson Ball, Sharon Berg, Harold Feddersen, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, John Oughton, Brian Purdy, and Bob Wakulich. Plus, in 2016, Big Pond Rumours also released Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix A Poet’s Workshop (1976 to 1986) which includes authors like: Heather Roberts Cadsby, Richard Harrison, Stuart Ross, and Libby Scheier.

THE TOUR SCHEDULE

August 19 in London: Hamilton launches his chapbook at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Summer Sultry Poetry Gathering, 1 p.m. at Mykanos Restaurant.

August 23 in London: London author and visual artist Síle Englert reads with Hamilton and Berg, 7 p.m. at Brown and Dickson Bookstore.

August 25 in Sarnia: Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby and Lambton County author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby will read with Hamilton 1 p.m. at the Sarnia Public Library on Christina Street.

August 26 in Windsor: Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith will read with Hamilton and Berg 1 p.m. at Storyteller Bookstore.

August 28 in Petrolia: Lambton Country poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill will read with Hamilton and Berg 6 p.m. at The Cottage Petrolia on Petrolia Line.

Each event is open to the general public. Admission is free.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT BIG POND RUMOURS PRESS?

As the owner of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press (BPR) and a recent retiree, Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia and a new home in August 2016. “I moved here, in part, because Sarnia has a small but vital community of authors,” she said. Her work on the magazine and as a publisher had gone on for years as a sideline while she worked, but both the E-Zine and her press were “small potatoes back then. Indeed, I refer to the press as a micro press because it publishes just four chapbooks (30 pages or less) for Canadian authors a year, the press runs being limited to 100 copies. Still, most Canadian poets and first time novelists have press runs of 500 copies with larger presses, so the existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant.”

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours Press can be found here and on its website.

MORE INFO ON THE SPOTLIGHT READERS AND THEIR WORK

 TOM GANNON HAMILTON:

El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton

In March 2018, Tom Gannon Hamilton won 1st place in an annual Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press. Hamilton’s poetry in El Marillo, is of a different character than most authors in Canada present to their readers. It is literary, but it also reveals the effect of being an eye witness to atrocities through lines of poetry that bring readers right into the scene as a witness. Hamilton was a relief worker with Salvaide, an organization promoting social justice, during his time in El Salvador. He worked to provide medical supplies and other aid to the low income civilians in El Marillo. While thousand of people were being disappeared, the UN reports that the war killed at least 75,000 people between 1980 and 1992.

Hamilton has turned those tragic events into moving poetry. His award-winning chapbook is a dramatic and startling piece of work filled with every human emotion: from horror to terror, from grief and misery to sweet remembrance of others who joined him on that project in El Salvador. As one reviewer wrote of his work, “a lesser man would have had a nervous breakdown rather than turning those events into poetry”. Hamilton put his chapbook together as a way of making a public record about what he witnessed and of celebrating the work Salvaide did to save thousands of lives. It is also a text with special meaning for him as his wife died due to drowning under suspicious circumstances while she was in El Salvador. The pain he deals with related to this loss, is transformed into a celebration of her efforts to gain justice for the people she had devoted her life to.

Quattro Books Presents

As for his book Panoptic recently released by Aleous House, Canadian poet Donna Langevin wrote “Maestro Hamilton composes poems with the same musicality, virtuosity and fidelity that he brings to the violin he feels wed to.” This full-length collection will be officially launched in Ottawa on September 9 and in Toronto on September 12. 

SHARON BERG:

Odyssey and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg is founder of Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine & Press in Sarnia. Her first book was published in 1979 and her work includes: The Body Labyrinth, Coach House (1984), Black Moths, Big Pond Rumours (2006), The Great Hoop Dance, Big Pond Rumours Press (2016), Odyssey & Other Poems, Big Pond Rumours (2017) and two audio cassette tapes (Tape 5, Gallery 101 Productions and Black Moths, Public Energies, 1986). She also publishes academic work on the history of First Nations education.

Referring to her first poetry book with Borealis Press, John Robert Colombo said “love becomes lyric in your hands, and poem after poem I am moved from delight to delicious delight.” With the release of her second book from Coach House Press in 1984, Dennis Lee said, “She is one of the younger poets to watch,” while a book review in Malahat Review said, “These are vigorous, quick moving poems with a surprising tension and strength.” After more than 30 years, she will read from her long anticipated third poetry manuscript on this tour.

 ADDITIONAL GUEST READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

 Heather Roberts Cadsby: In the 1980s, Cadsby co-produced Poetry Toronto and co-founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and the Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she served as the director of the ArtBar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections (Brick Books 2018) is her fifth poetry collection. More info here.

Sile Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her stories have shortlisted in contests for Room Magazine and longlisted in Prism International. Her poetry placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and featured in Room Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology, The Canadian Authors Association’s Saving Bannister Anthology, Misunderstanding Magazine, and Crannog Magazine (Ireland). Read her Contemporary Verse 2 poem here.

Debbie Okun Hill is a Lambton County poet/blogger with over 30 years of writing and promotional experience. Drawing from Experience is a collection of ekphrastic poems that present her impression of various works of art. Her books are: Tarnished Trophies, Black Moss (2014), Chalk Dust Clouds, Beret Day Press (2017) and Drawing from Experience, Big Pond Rumours (2017). More info here.

Phyllis Humby lives in Lambton and is a well-known blogger at The Write Break, a columnist at First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors. More info here.

Laurie Smith, is a poet, editor, and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario. She is also an award-winning poet and author of short fiction. Among her collections are Said the Cannibal, Gallstones, One Ninth of a Cat’s Life, Menagerie, and an upcoming collection of poetry inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Read about Smith’s humorous 2018 National Poetry Month reading in Sarnia here.

* From the poem “Running of a Country” from the prize-winning chapbook El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Tom Gannon Hamilton, 2018

**Written from the files of Big Pond Rumours Press and Sharon Berg.

Additional information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found in the event section of this blog.