“the snow is solitary/but not silent/there is the piercing /of the white-stained green” – David Stones*
Writing and reading may be solitary pursuits but like the snow mentioned in David Stones’ poetic lines above, Canada’s vast literary community is not silent. It is a flurry of words, sometimes a blizzard of voices supported by a potpourri of literary activities and events.
Below is a small scoop of national, regional, or local voices, plus books, projects, and events vying for your attention. May you open your heart this season and welcome the gift of creativity. Several of the local events are free. Many of these books are available for reading from the library.
FOR THE READERS:
NEW ON MY SHELF (in alphabetical order, according to author):
Conditions of Desire (Hidden Brook Press, 2018) by John Di Leonardo. This imprint of the John B. Lee Signature Series is a 74-page debut collection of ekphrastic poems as well as six drawings by Brooklin artist/poet John Di Leonardo. Di Leonardo was recently accepted as a full-member of The League of Canadian Poets and will be the editor/compiler/illustrator for Dancing on Stones, the 2019 membership anthology for The Ontario Poetry Society. More information about this submission call is available here. Watch for a Q and A feature in early 2019.
Out of Line: Daring to be an Artist Outside the Big City (Wolsak and Wynn, 2018) by Tanis MacDonald. What can I say? This book of essays collected no dust on my shelf. It spoke to me immediately and I highly recommend it to my rural (and urban) writing friends. As a former Manitoba resident, I recognized some of the issues MacDonald expressed. As a current writer in rural Ontario, I also found her words inspiring. “Remember that creating art is a Long Game; it will take your whole life to grow into the artist that you are.” (p. 61)
Lost Aria (Ekstasis Editions, 2018) by Carmelo Militano. This fifth book, recently launched by award-winning Manitoba poet and writer Carmelo Militano, features eight short stories influenced by Canadian and Italian settings. Over the years, Militano has dabbled in several genres with two poetry collections, a novel and a work of non-fiction published. He also hosts and produces P.I. New Poetry show, CKUW 95.9 FM at the University of Winnipeg. How will his short stories compare to his poetry? I shall find out.
Insomnia Bird: Edmonton poems (Thistledown Press, 2018) by Kelly Shepherd. What a nice surprise to receive this review copy in the mail. Shepherd is not new to the poetry scene but his work is new to me and I look forward to reading this second collection inspired by an Albertan cityscape. His first full-length book, Shift, was longlisted for the Edmonton Public Library’s 2017 People Choice Award. A review of his work will appear on this blog in the New Year.
River Woman (House of Anansi, 2018) by Katherena Vermette. One of my favourite poetry books is Vermette’s North End Love Songs (The Muses Company). Her depiction of her Winnipeg neighbourhood and her references to the dying elms trees captured my attention shortly after the book won the Governor-General Awards for poetry. I’m looking forward to reading her second collection of poetry as well as her first novel The Break which has already received so many prestigious awards.
The Bones (2017) by Laura Wythe. Small book fairs are wonderful places to meet writers and Southwestern Ontario writer Laura Wythe caught my attention with her eye-catching flyer about her fibre arts show “text to textiles”. The 2018 show tied in with her novel about a textile curator who must navigate a massive flood in Southwestern Ontario. I loved Wythe’s artwork. I hope I will also enjoy her novel. How will these two different artistic pursuits mesh together?
The Nashwaak Review based out of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. A local writer friend suggested I should read this journal. With over 400 pages filled with fiction, poetry, travel articles, essays, reviews, and art work, it is one of the thickest literary journals I’ve ever seen in Canada. What will I learn after reading two issues? Perhaps a clue to what type of work the editors may like.
Hummingbird: A Novel (Locarno Press, 2018) by Tristan Hughes. Here’s another book with a bird on the front cover. This one caught my eye for several reasons. First, someone pointed it out to my while I was browsing at a bookstore. “The language is poetic and beautifully written. You’d like it,” she said. Second, it was written by someone who was born in the small northern Ontario community of Atikokan and I’m fascinated by rural writers. Third, it is set in northern Ontario. Fourth, the award winning author is a senior lecturer and an AHRC Fellow in Creative Writing at Cardiff University and this is his fifth book.
ON MY WISH LIST
Pall of Silence: My Journey from Tragedy to Trust (Discern Products, 2017) by Albertan writer Eleanor Bertin. What is it like to lose an 18-year old son to a hit-and-run-driver? Bertin dares to question her faith after this tragic event and to share her experience of loss and her journey towards acceptance. An interview, with Bertin, about her first novel appears here. I’m expecting her second book based on true events to be a tougher but thought-provoking read. An author to watch in the religious and spirituality genre!
PR by Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing (Two Sylvias Press, 2018) by Jeannine Hall Gailey. This is a title that I stumbled upon on the internet, proving that word-of-mouth and social media posts can indeed sell books. Written by the second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington, this book may be aimed more for the US market but it is the first publicity/marketing guide that I’ve seen that is geared to poets. I look forward to reviewing the book and posting my thoughts on my blog in 2019.
ANTHOLOGIES AND E-ZINES, WITH THANKS TO THE EDITORS
I recently updated my website to include some new anthologies and e-zines in which my work has appeared in 2018. Rather than relist them in this post, you can read about the anthologies here and journals/e-zines here.
Anthologies and journals are great places to read the work of a variety of writers. Thank you to all the editors who selected my work for their projects,
One of the highlights for 2018 was having ten of my previous published poems reprinted in English and translated into Greek. This new anthology Hellenic Encounters is the brain child of Paulos Ioannou who spent hours translating all the work for the book. Other featured poets include Dorothy Stott, Michael Stacey, I. B. Iskov, Husain Mehdi, Honey Novick, and Paulos Ioannou.
Another highlight was having my colour photograph of a maple leaf selected for the cover of Tamaracks, a new anthology edited by well-known Canadian poet James Deahl and produced by California publisher Lummox Press. Watch this blog for an upcoming post promoting the spring 2019 launch dates and locations including Venice, California and Welland, Ontario.
CONGRATULATIONS DAVID STONES!
What a nice surprise to discover that the first place winner for the Brooklin Poetry Society’s inaugural poetry contest was a poem by Toronto poet David Stones. Stones is a performance poet who often adds an extra flair of drama to his readings. He can often be heard at open mic events in the London, Ontario area. A few days ago, I started reading his debut book Infinite Sequels: Poems (Friesen Press, 2013) which includes the poetic lines in the epigraph I shared at the beginning of this post. Watch for a review of his book in the upcoming months.
More information about the Brooklin Poetry Society contest can be found here. My judge’s comments are posted here and Stones’ award-winning poem plus the poems by the other winners appear under the poetry contest winners link here.
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN THE BIG POND RUMOURS CONTEST?
Sharon Berg, a publisher with the Sarnia mico-press Big Pond Rumours Press, is organizing a poetry and short story contest with a December 15, 2018 deadline. See the flyer below:
POETRY CHAPBOOK MANUSCRIPTS WANTED!
Next spring I’ll be judging the submitted manuscripts for The Ontario Poetry Society’s Golden Grassroots Chapbook contest. Contest guidelines are here.
MORE CONTESTS FROM THE ONTARIO POETRY SOCIETY!
Check out the latest contests for 2018 and 2019 here.
RATTLE’S EKPHRASTIC CHALLENGE:
One of my favourite contests is the Ekphrastic Challenge run by Rattle Magazine. An image is posted on-line each month, and poets are encouraged to submit work based on that month’s image. It’s fun and FREE to submit! And sometimes it’s nice to support our friends across the border.
Not sure about the value of submitting to contests. See my previous blog post “Poetry Contests: Is it Poetic Gambling?” here
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
More exciting news:
For those interested in sharing their work, Open Stage hosted by Missy Burgess and John Pilat is still held on the second and third Monday of the month at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. This is open to musicians, poets, storytellers, comedians and more. Check out this previous blog feature here.
Plus a new program called Writers’ Block aimed at songwriters is held on the last Sunday of every month at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. More info here.
On the first Wednesday of every month, the committee of Kevin Heslop, Koral Scott, and Brittany Renaud presents LOMP: reading series & open mic at the TAP Centre for Creativity, 203 Dundas Street. More information here.
Synaeresis: arts + poetry via Andreas Gripp and his committee will be launching the Mykonos Reading Series, on the second Tuesday of every month, starting December 11 at Mykonos Restaurant. More details here.
Poetry London offers a one-hour workshop followed by out-of-town guest readers on the third Wednesday of each month. The next event will be held January 23, 2019. More information here.
A listing of additional literary events can be found in the event section of my blog.
DID I MISS SOMETHING?
Blogging is only one of my labours of love! I wish I had the room (and time) to mention and celebrate the accomplishments of all the publishers, organizers, writers, editors living and working so hard for so little payment in this country. Thankfully, there are others who are also blogging and reviewing books plus sharing news about Canadian writers and events.
Sometimes it’s just fun to slip away, read, and make angels in the snow!
*From the poem “SNOW” from the book Infinite Sequels: Poems (Friesen Press, 2013) Page 27 Used with permission from the author © David Stones 2013