Category Archives: News-Events

Introducing Thimbles by Canadian Poet Vanessa Shields

“I saw the thimble on your finger but I didn’t know//you were our thimble.” – Vanessa Shields

I fell in love with Thimbles, the third and latest poetry collection by Canadian poet Vanessa Shields, while it was still an infant in PDF format.

thimbles - front cover

Published by Palimpsest Press, Thimbles is the third and latest poetry collection by Canadian Poet Vanessa Shields.

Wow, such a raw and honest ravelling and unravelling of emotions. Such a heart-wrenching tribute to the late Maria Giuditta Merlo Bison, her loving, seamstress grandmother (or as the Italians would say Nonna).

As I slipped inside Shields’ imaginary sewing basket and learned more about her personal inter-generational love story, my appreciation for the book grew stronger!

Thumbs up!

In my opinion, it’s Shields’ best poetry collection to date. Even CBC Books recently listed it as one of the “55 Canadian poetry collections to check out in spring 2021”.

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, her work not only explored a new maturity in subject matter but her use of the sewing and mountain themes and motifs beautifully stitched together the narrative thread of her 94 poems.

Continue reading

Embracing Books About Trees

“We need trees. They give us oxygen, wood, medicine, food, shelter, shade, paper –the list goes on and on.” –Dearborn Public Library; Dearborn Michigan*

When was the last time you hugged a tree? Admit it, during these pandemic on-again-off-again lockdowns, reading a good book or taking a quiet stroll through a tree-lined park often eased the emptiness from those missed social gatherings with family and friends. 

Forests have healing powers and that is one reason trees need to remain in good health for future generations.  On Sunday, March 21, 2021, concerned organizations and individuals with the help of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations celebrated International Day of Forests ( #IntlForestDay ). This year’s theme was “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being.” For additional details, here is the link.

International Day of Forests March 21, 2021

International Day of Forests was celebrated March 21, 2021.

I’m not much of an activist, but as a writer and a reader, I’ve been impressed by some of the tree-themed literary projects that have been organized and promoted over the years. The following books were not affiliated with International Day of Forests, but I wanted to draw attention to them.

TREE BOOKS – HOT OFF THE PRESS:

Tree Anthology edited by Henry Fischer, Nicole Lane, Kathryn Takach, and Dan Lodge (Dearborn Public Library 2021) 294 pages.

What a beautiful book. I am hugging this anthology now and I look forward to reading the variety of stories and poems written by 67 contributors ranging from the school aged youth to the retired young at heart. There is also a Picture-a-Tree section featuring striking black and white images taken during Michigan’s stay-at-home orders.

Continue reading

A Strong Collection – Sharon Berg’s Naming the Shadows – Stories

 “Don’t shake your head, shadow, I’m serious.” -Sharon Berg*

Canadian author/publisher/poet Sharon Berg* prefaces her short story collection Naming the Shadows (Porcupine’s Quill 2019) with a quote by C. G. Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Not everyone yearns to peer or dig deep into the darkness but for those readers who appreciate great literature and take the time to analyze the content in more detail, they shall be rewarded.

untitled

Naming the Shadows: Stories (Porcupine’s Quill 2019) by Sharon Berg ISBN 9780889844292 (softcover) was officially launched September 29, 2019 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Berg never flinches from tough subjects nor sugar-coats her work. She pushes boundaries and draws attention to such inequalities and injustices as betrayal and infidelity, bullying, manipulation, torture and assault, rape and sexual deviance, the exploitation of Midgets in a freak show, street living and abuse, theft and consequences, love lost and grief, adoption and single parenting, ageism, plus the heaviness of dark secrets and confessions. These are the shadows that Berg clearly names and wants to bring to light.

Continue reading

Throwback Saturday – The Love of Poetry Gathering 2020

somewhere between Arrivals and Departure/and Duty Free/we are grounded.* – K.V. Skene

Cancelled! Postponed! Grounded! Stay home! Stay safe! What is a lover of poetry to do?

Since March, due to the threat of COVID-19, Canadian literary and arts organizations have been banned from hosting public events or large gatherings. Non-essential travel has also been discouraged.

1 - TOPS Feb 9, 2020 in North York

Prior to the cancellation of events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic early February 2020 in North York, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Raj Moonsammy.

After two months of social distancing, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) website still states, “No events are being planned during the Pandemic.” That means the May reading in Cobourg has been cancelled and it is still not known when poets will be allowed to publicly (or even privately) gather in large groups again.

Yesterday, I received my copy of Verse Afire, the bi-annual publication of TOPS and was reminded of The Love of Poetry Gathering held February 9, 2020 at the union social eatery in North York, Ontario, Canada. It brought back so many fond memories of reuniting with and hugging poet-friends as well as meeting new people who also love the genre of poetry.

Continue reading

Another Win for Toronto Poet Donna Langevin

I’ve learned to listen with my eyes. – Donna Langevin*

Try it! Listen with your eyes! If you read the back cover of The Banister Volume 34, an Ontario poetry anthology launched October 26, 2019 by the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association (CAA), you will be transformed by Donna Langevin’s award-winning and heart-felt words.

For example, imagine what it would be like to have trouble hearing: “I’ve lost the inner ear within my ear, the sea of sounds once filling up its shell – cathedral bells…echoes in the belfry.”  Such lines introduced her poem “Even With the Help of My Hearing Aids” which won first prize in the CAA’s 2019 poetry contest.

CAA Banister 2019 anthology

Congratulations to Toronto poet/playwright Donna Langevin who won first prize for her poem “Even With the Help of My Hearing Aids”.

It’s a poignant piece and contest judge Bruce Meyer praised it highly. In his comments (p. ix and x) he wrote that Langevin’s first place creation is “a beautifully crafted poem…The poet has a wonderful idea of what constitutes a poetic line, and within those lines, the poem connects, not by paltry simile but through the unison of image and language.”

Meyer also stated that “language [in a poem] should engage both the ear and the eye”.(p. ix)

Langevin’s work certainly does that and this poet has a habit of winning contests. One of her humourous poems, “The first time”, received an honourable mention while two more of her poems were also selected for the same anthology.  Two years earlier, she won second prize in the CAA’s 2017 Banister contest and in the 2014 GritLIT contest, plus she was short-listed for the Descant Winston Collins Prize 2012.

A few days ago, I chatted with Donna (via e-mail) about her recent win, her poetry books including Brimming (Piquant Press, 2019), her writing space, and her plans for the future. 

Continue reading

Supporting Sarnia-Lambton’s Literary Scene

“Create community wherever you find yourself.” – Audrey Stringer*

Sarnia-Lambton’s literary community continues to evolve.

Between 2010 and 2018, this southwestern Ontario region has lost seven key and prolific members of its literary community, a few others have moved to other areas, several more have vanished behind closed doors to write, read, or just mourn their loss of friends, family, pets, health, or job.

So many fond memories of Sarnia and area writers sharing their work at The Lawrence House Centre for the Arts.

However, despite the changes, several local writers continue to write and share their words with the public. Some are already well known; others are just making a name for themselves. Some are traditionally published while others have self-published their manuscripts. Over the years, I’ve featured several Sarnia-Lambton writers on my blog.

Today, I’m sharing a compilation of new and familiar writers who are in the literary spotlight this autumn. I hope you will help to celebrate their accomplishments with a loud standing ovation. (My apologies if I’ve missed anyone. Please send me a note in the comment’s section and I will make a note to feature them in an upcoming blog.)

Audrey Stringer’s Fourth Book has Arrived at The Book Keeper

111 Butterfly Moments: Tips to Embrace and Live Life with Joy.

Continue reading

‘Travelling The Lost Highway’ with Sarnia Writers Deahl & Linder

We awaken to distant thunder,/the sound of rain in the black walnut – James Deahl*

Three cheers and a thunderous applause for Sarnia’s literary couple James Deahl and Norma West Linder who continue to travel and entertain readers and audiences with their prolific work.

James Deahl and Norma West Linder are prolific award-winning Canadian writers who call Sarnia, Ontario, Canada their home. Both launched new work on September 9, 2019.

Last month, their double book launch officially introduced Travelling The Lost Highway, Deahl’s 164-page poetry collection inspired by some of the secluded Canadian and American roads Deahl and Linder travelled as a couple plus Perk’s First Love– A 1984 Drum Corps Summer, Linder’s fictional novel aimed at the youth or young adult market.

Featured books at Double Launch September 9, 2019 in Sarnia

 The double book launch featured more than just two books.

Both shared their work at the literary celebration which also included readings by four contributors to Tamaracks and Lummox anthologies. Guest readers were Joseph A. Farina, Ryan Gibbs, David Haskins, and Rhonda Melanson.

Featured readers at double launch September 9, 2019 in Sarnia

The launch included readings by Joseph A. Farina, Norma West Linder, David Haskins, James Deahl, Ryan Gibbs, and Rhonda Melanson.

Continue reading

Gertrude’s Writing Room – Behind the Scenes with Vanessa Shields

I want roots in a space so I can do all the things I love to do in one location – and invite everyone to share the space with me! – Vanessa Shields*

Set up the ‘famous-author-themed’ chairs, open up the front door, and roll out the literary welcome mats! She did it!

“A gathering place for writers.” That’s how the website describes Gertrude’s Writing Room, a Windsor-based venture created and run by Vanessa Shields, local editor/mentor/instructor/poet and author of several books including the Black Moss Press poetry collections I Am That Woman (2013) and Look At Her (2016).

Vanessa Shields at Gertrude's Writing Room Open House Photo by Kara Smith

Welcome to Gertrude’s Writing Room: a Windsor-based venture created and run by Vanessa Shields! Photo by Kara Smith

Shields is no stranger to this blog. Back in 2016 in a Q and A post featuring her second poetry collection, she reiterated her long-time dream of opening “a space for creative writing, book launches, reading series, storytelling series, reading…with delicious coffees/teas and fresh pastries. I have no idea how to life this dream to life, but it’s there and very real in my mind.”

Fast forward several years! Shields is indeed realizing her long term goals. Not only did she “life” a modified version of her dream, but over the summer her business Gertrude’s Writing Room celebrated its first year anniversary with an open house in a new location inside Willistead Park, 1899 Niagara Street.

Continue reading

Introducing Naming the Shadows by Sharon Berg

We were breaking strict rules, heading towards the high, crumbling hillside that was the northern face of this valley called Cedar Vale – Sharon Berg*

 What happens next for Elke, the young protagonist in Sharon Berg’s fictional tale “Trespass” is a heart-wrenching account of how quickly innocence can slip into a dangerous and dark abyss. The tension builds and as a reader, I am left scarred similar to my feelings after reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Will the horrors between bullies and victims never end?

However with shadows comes light and for this Sarnia writer her ability to shock (and move readers into action) is offset by her caring and strong interest in portraying the human experience in its painful as well as its tender, healing moments.

For almost a year, Facebook followers have received teasers about Berg’s upcoming short fiction collection Naming the Shadows to be published by the established trade publisher The Porcupine’s Quill based out of Erin in Wellington County. She’s proudly shared the cover depicting a painting by Alvinston artist Liana Russwurm and has created on-line posters for her upcoming book tour. “Trespass” is part of this new book which includes 9 short stories and two novelettes.

September 29, 2019 in Sarnia

Launching September 29 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia: Naming the Shadows (Porcupine’s Quill 2019) is the debut short fiction collection by Sarnia writer Sharon Berg. Special guests include Berg, artist Liana Russwurm, and poet/musician Tom Gannon Hamilton who will offer background music as she reads from the book.

Now the real work will begin!

Continue reading

More Advice from Poetry Contest Judges

Who licks the gold stars/Decides on the winner,/The one who rises to/The next level? –Debbie Okun Hill from the poem “Licking Glue from Gold Stars”*

Behold the various opinions of poetry contest judges!

When I was an elementary school student, the grade one teacher would place a shiny gold star on any assignment deserving top marks. Sometimes, for special occasions, she would replace the star with a seasonal sticker such as a jack-o-lantern, a holiday wreath, and/or a bright red valentine. Oh, how this little reward was intended to motivate classmates to do their best! Not once did I ever doubt the teacher’s ability to judge.

Gold Stars - yellow 1

However, over time, I’ve discovered that to judge another person’s work is a huge responsibility, sometimes it’s subjective depending on the judge’s preferences, and when it comes to evaluating poetry, it’s not an easy task.

Earlier this summer, I posted a blog feature outlining my criteria or rough guidelines for blind-judging and selecting My Sister Rides A Sorrow Mule by John B. Lee as the a prize-winning poetry chapbook for a recent contest. See the blog post here. Upon sharing the information, I asked for opinions from other contest judges.

Below are the responses I received:

Continue reading