Category Archives: News-Events

Memory and Loss Anthology Officially Launched

“…set me/wondering what an Alzheimer mind/feels like inside…” – Kate Marshall Flaherty*

 Imagine if we all lost our memories, dropped them like mittens into the snowy abyss or hid the pink mass in a suitcase and left it on a train.

Dates like Red Thursday or Black Friday or even a loved one’s birthday would mean nothing.

Think about it. That’s the point. We couldn’t! Our cognitive skills would be impaired or worse yet, our short-term memories would be zilch.

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What a journey…the train that sparked the Memory and Loss poetry anthology project.  All aboard with Editor/Compiler I. B. (Bunny) Iskov and Emma Laughlin Photo by David Brydges

Last weekend, several Canadian poets gathered in Ajax, Toronto, and Ottawa to help launch Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry. The primary goals were to draw attention to those suffering with Alzheimer and/or dementia and to raise some monies for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.

David Brydges, one of the organizers of the fundraising project, is pleased with the response so far.

“Some very memorable moments and memories were created for the three days of book launches,” he said. “We sold 50 copies of the Memory and Loss anthology and raised $500 for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto’s dedication to crafting their music to complement the themes from the Memory and Loss book were splendid and powerfully effective in bringing us all together. Those in attendance were particularly moved by the poetry, stories, and music for many had known someone who was afflicted by this disease or dementia. It was a serious but fun filled three days with a little PoeTrain adventure trip added to the mix.”

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A huge round of applause for Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto for creating new music and lyrics to tie in with the book’s Alzheimer and dementia theme.

Brydges who is also the engine-force behind the original PoeTrain Express to Cobalt in 2012 and the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour in 2015, has a talent for finding unique projects to pull poets and trains together. The Memory and Loss anthology grew from a kernel extracted from a good news story.

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In Toronto, cultural entrepreneur David Brydges presents Memory and Loss editor I. B. (Bunny) Iskov with the book cover’s original artwork by Laura Landers.

“I heard,” explained Brydges, “that Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee Company had purchased and restored a 1924 Pacific rail car built by Canadian National Railway and used by King George VI and the Queen Mother in the first Canadian tour by a reigning British monarch in 1939. It was used in 2012 to raise one million dollars and awareness for the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

The ONR passenger train towed it as far as Moosonee. A stop in New Liskeard and story in the Speaker tweaked my curiosity. They said if anyone else wants to have a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s and wants to use the train to contact them.

My original idealistic plan was to use it for the venue book launch to Ottawa but there were too many obstacles with Via Rail. Previous event planning experience has taught me to reach high then plan down if necessary. So, plan B the more practical was to have the launch in the private rail car in its siding near the Mother Parkers manufacturing plant in Ajax.

On Thursday, November 17 with the sun shining in Ajax beside the Mother Parkers Tea Plant, we had our first launch inside the private rail car. Paul Higgins Jr. present co-owner (since his father died of Alzheimer’s) attended to tell his story about his father’s disease and how they acquired this historic train car. Emma Laughlin was there to help with organizing and read a poem by poet laureate Anne Margetson called “Train Travel and Memories”. Poets Bunny Iskov, and Kate Marshall Flaherty travelled from Toronto along with Wendy Jean Maclean and her sister (who came from Brockville) for the afternoon event. Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto entertained some original tunes that had similar themes from the Memory and Loss book.

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Ajax was the first stop in the Memory and Loss three-city book launch tour. Supplied photo.

The second launch was held on Friday, November 18 in Toronto at The Hot House Restaurant & Bar. We had dinner beforehand and socialized with several poets in the anthology. Then fourteen poets read, from the anthology, their heart wrenching stories of how this disease has disrupted their lives and those they love. (Editor’s note: The readers included: David Brydges, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Fran Figge, Debbie Okun Hill, K. V. Skene, Kamal Parmar, Jean Kallmeyer, Donna Langevin, Charles Taylor, Joan Sutcliffe, Margaret Code, Marsha Barber, and Honey Novick.) Music and songs were once again performed by Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto.

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Special thanks to Toronto poet Kate Marshall Flaherty for her enthusiasm and help with organizing the three launches.

On Saturday, November 19 in Ottawa we had our final book launch and 45 people packed an excellent ambiance Pressed Café. Featured Ottawa poets were Ronnie Brown, Janice Falls, Blaine Marchand, and Susan McMaster. Gerry Mooney asked Fran Figge to read her very personal poem. Poets Bunny Iskov, Debbie, Okun Hill, Fran Figge, and David Brydges travelled by Via Rail train from Toronto to attend and participate. Kate Marshall Flaherty returned with her Ottawa musician friends who played their final event of this tour. With a hometown audience, they performed poetry and songs that blended to perfection. A surprise of the evening was a poem crafted during the show by Theresa Cull and read to us all.”

Thanks David for your detailed report.

Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry is published by Ink Bottle Press, 2016 and edited/compiled by I. B. (Bunny) Iskov. The 164-page anthology features approximately 125 Alzheimer/dementia poems by 67 Canadian poets.

For a list of anthology contributors and/or to read more about the three city tour click here.

Additional information about the launch sponsor The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) can be found here.

Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.

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In Ottawa, several local and out-of-town contributors shared their Alzheimer-themed work. The Memory and Loss poetry anthology includes the work of 67 Canadian poets.

This Sunday, November 27 starting at noon, The Ontario Poetry Society will host The Winter WarmUp Poetry Fest at Bar Italia, 582 College Street in Toronto Ontario. Contest winners from the Arborealis anthology as well as contributors to Memory and Loss, the membership anthology Latchkey Lyricality and/or the Fire and Sky “Fort McMurray fire themed” anthology will be asked to share a poem or two from these books. All TOPS members are welcome to read and are encouraged to bring their membership card to sign up for the members’ reading portion. Non-members may share their work during the Open Mic. Sign-up is at the door. Admission is free.

Join The Friends of the Ontario Poetry Society Facebook page for additional photos and information about upcoming events, contests and projects.

*Epigraph is from the poem “Far Away” by Kate Marshall Flaherty published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry, page 116 Copyright © Kate Marshall Flaherty 2016 used with permission from the author.

Three City Tour for new Memory and Loss Poetry Anthology

“Now dignity wears a tattered dress, /white, then gray, /smothered in a coffin. /Her memory erodes to dust.” –I. B. Iskov

Friday was Remembrance Day, a time to reflect on the past and all the veterans who fought for our country’s freedom. For those living with memory loss, remembering anything becomes a new and frustrating battle.

Toronto poet I. B. Iskov knows what it’s like to deal with a relative who struggles with a fading memory and broken thought.

“When my mom was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s, she was in her early 80’s,” wrote Iskov in her foreword for Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry. “Over time, when I called her, she would simply complain, “I can’t remember! I can’t remember!” Even now, in her advanced condition, she sometimes echoes this same anguish.”

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Memory and Loss:  A Canadian Anthology of Poetry was edited and compiled by I. B. (Bunny)  Iskov and published by Ink Bottle Press. It features approximately 125 poems by 67 poets.

Because of her experience with her mother, Iskov was pleased to be asked to edit this new Alzheimer’s and dementia themed “fundraising” project. The Canada-wide call for submissions resulted in a 164-page anthology that features approximately 125 poems by 67 Canadian poets.

“I am grateful to all the contributors, who have sent poems about their mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends who were afflicted with Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s,” wrote editor/compiler Iskov in her foreword. “Some of these poems made me cry. Others touched me deeply. I know you will experience these emotions, too, when you read the poems inside.”

The idea for the book originated from PoeTrain organizer David C. Brydges. He had heard that Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee Company had purchased and restored the 1924 Pacific rail car built by Canadian National Railway and used by King George VI and the Queen Mother in the first Canadian tour by a reigning British monarch in 1939. In 2012, it was used to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer Society of Canada. Could the PoeTrainers get involved in a future project?

Because his two grandmothers suffered from dementia, Brydges (with his creative mind) got the train rolling, if you pardon the cliché. He partnered with Ink Bottle Press to publish a ‘fundraising” book and The Ontario Poetry Society to assist with promotions.

“The original plan was to use the restored rail car for the venue book launch in Ottawa,” said Brydges, “but there were too many obstacles. So, plan B was to have the launch in the private rail car in its siding near the Mother Parkers manufacturing plant in Ajax.”

Toronto poet Kate Marshall Flaherty came aboard to assist with the organization of launch events in three different cities: Ajax, Toronto, and Ottawa. She secured Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto who will perform at all the venues plus she will co-host with Brydges. Editor Iskov and several other anthology contributors will be in attendance to read. (If you are a contributor and would like to read, please let Brydges, Iskov or Flaherty know.)

Help support this worthwhile cause. Mark these dates on your calendar and share the posters widely:

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Thursday, November 17 in Ajax: 2 to 4 p.m. at Pacific Rail Car (Mother Parkers Tea and Coffee), 144 Mills Road. Paul Higgins Jr. the present co-owner (since his father died of Alzheimer’s) will attend the Ajax launch to tell his story about his father’s disease and how they acquired this historic train car. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.

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Friday, November 18 in Toronto: Dinner/socializing from 7 to 8 p.m.; Show time at 8 p.m. at The HOTHOUSE Restaurant and Bar, 35 Church Street. Confirmed readers to date: David C. Brydges, Ann Elizabeth Carson, Margaret Code, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Debbie Okun Hill, I. B. Iskov, Donna Langevin, Honey Novick, Kamal Parmar, Charles Taylor, and Ed Woods. Admission is free.

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Saturday, November 19 in Ottawa: Dinner/socializing from 7 to 8 p.m.; Show time at 8 p.m. at pressed, 750 Gladstone Avenue. Featured Ottawa poets Janice Falls, Glenn Kletke, Blaine Marchand and Susan McMaster plus PoeTrainers David C. Brydges, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Debbie Okun Hill and Bunny Iskov.

Anthology contributors in alphabetical order are: Josephine Bolechala, Wendy Bourke, Ronnie R. Brown, David C. Brydges, April Bulmer, Fern G.Z. Carr, Ann Elizabeth Carson, Sarah Charles, Margaret Code, Marie McGrath Davis, Hans R. Devos, Theresa Donnelly, Janice Falls, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, the late yaqoob ghaznavi, Mary Grace Guevara, Leona Harris, Debbie Okun Hill, Nancy Holmes, Laurence Hutchman, Keith Inman, Susan Ioannou, I.B. Iskov, Terrance James, Jessie Lee Jennings, Judith Johanson, Jean Kallmeyer, Glenn Kletke, Donna Langevin, Doug Langille, Ruth Latta, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever, Norma West Linder, Mary Lipton, Jockie Loomer-Kruger, Carol L. MacKay, Wendy Jean MacLean, Carol Malyon, Blaine Marchand, Sheila Martindale, Susan McMaster, Gerry Mooney, kjmunro, Gail M. Murray, Honey Novick, Diane Attwell Palfrey, Kamal Parmar, Lou Ponstingl, Margo Prentice, Frances Roberts Reilly, Ellen B. Ryan, K. V. Skene, Michael Stacey, Marie Elyse St. George, J. J. Steinfeld, Joan Sutcliffe, Lynn Tait, Charles Taylor, Roger N. Tulk, Carolyne Van Der Meer, Wendy Visser, Laurelyn Whitt, Susan Wismer, Jan Wood, and Ed Woods.

Proceeds from the sale of Memory and Loss will be directed to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. The goal is to raise at least $1000 for research, programs, and services.

Still not convinced! Below is a sample of one of the poems, courtesy of I. B. Iskov:

Memory and Loss

   For my Mother

By I. B. Iskov

She watches the light fade

while the front door of her mind

rehearses opening and closing.

 

 

Dead people resurface,

tenacious on empty days,

retreat into shine.

 

 

With a certain touch,

murmurs emerge like static.

The response is immediate.

 

 

Voices illuminate corners

where her mind wafts

what it cannot draft.

 

 

Now dignity wears a tattered dress,

white, then gray,

smothered in a coffin.

 

Her memory erodes to dust.

 

 

John B. Lee, poet laureate for the city of Brantford and Norfolk County, shared this poem from the book:

 

Paperwhite Sijo**  

By John B. Lee

 

The paperwhites are blooming for Christmas with a honeysweet

fragrance permeating the room

my elderly mother receives them with a bland and meaningless

smile gifting her face

the dying memory of that vanishing perfume goes into the

darkness like a second darkness not yet there

 

 

Flaherty also gave permission to share a link to her work “Far Away”, a video poem produced by a two-man film crew (musicians Mark Korven and Tony Duggan-Smith) and posted on YouTube. Watch her heart-warming video poem here. A print copy of this same poem appears in the Memory and Loss anthology.

 

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society can be found here.

Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.

*epigraph is from the poem “Memory and Loss” by I. B. Iskov published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry (Ink Bottle Press, 2016), page 49 Copyright © I. B. Iskov 2016 used with permission from the author.

**The poem” Paperwhite Sijo” by John B. Lee is published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry (Ink Bottle Press, 2016), page 138 Copyright © John B. Lee 2016 used with permission from the author.

Canadian Readings of Lummox 5

“In place of Romanticism there is a new cynicism.*” – James Deahl, one of 16 Canadian contributors to LUMMOX 5

Imagine an international poetry anthology filled with ‘isms’: nationalism, surrealism, environmentalism, alcoholism, Buddhism, existentialism, consumerism, idealism, even terrorism.

According to RD Armstrong, Editor-in-Chief, LUMMOX 5, “there are at least 850 isms on record.”  Many of which are included in the 255-page “isms-themed” book released earlier this fall by LUMMOX Press in San Pedro, California.

Titled LUMMOX 5, the collection features the work of close to 150 poets from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Nepal.

Once again Ontario poets are well represented and include in alphabetical order: Ronnie R. Brown, James Deahl, Joseph A. Farina, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Debbie Okun Hill, Eryn Hiscock, Lawrence Hopperton, Susan Ioannou, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Norma West Linder, Deborah A. Morrison, Denis Robillard, Ken Stange, Lynn Tait, and Grace Vermeer.

To celebrate the Canadian contributions, three readings have been scheduled in the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Toronto and Sarnia. 

Mark these dates on your calendar:

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Several Canadian contributors of LUMMOX 5 will travel to Hamilton, Toronto, and Sarnia to showcase ‘isms-themed’ work.

Saturday, November 5 in Hamilton: LUMMOX 5 will be spotlighted with the launch of three other books: To Be With a Woman (LUMMOX Press, 2016) by James Deahl, Landscapes (Swords and Cyclamens, Israel, 2016) by James Deahl and Katherine Gordon, and Tall Stuff (Hidden Brook Press, 2016) a novel by Norma West Linder. Featured readers include Kent Bowman, Patrick Connors, James Deahl, Lawrence Hopperton, Ellen S. Jaffe, Norma West Linder, Michael Mirolla, and Deborah A. Morrison. This free event begins at 8 p.m. at The Staircase, 27 Dundurn Street, North.

Wednesday, November 9 in Toronto: LUMMOX 5 will be launched with readings by James Deahl, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Jennifer L. Foster, Debbie Okun Hill, Eryn Hiscock, Larry Hopperton, Donna Langevin, Norma West Linder, Michael Mirolla, and Lynn Tait. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Toronto Public Library, Main Street Branch, 137 Main Street. Admission is free.

Saturday, November 12 in Sarnia: Poets James Deahl, Debbie Okun Hill, John B. Lee, Norma West Linder, Denis Robillard and Lynn Tait will read from the LUMMOX 5 anthology. Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy will be a special guest reader. This free event begins at 2 p.m. at John’s Restaurant’s Famous Room, 1643 London Line.

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Canadian poets have also been featured in previous LUMMOX anthologies. Norma West Linder is seen reading in Hamilton on October 18, 2015.

Additional information about previous LUMMOX readings in Canada can be found here and here.

Additional information about 2016-2017 readings in the United States can be found here.

Non-themed submissions for LUMMOX 6 will be accepted from April 1 to May 31, 2017. In addition to poetry, essays on poetics, biographies, and the craft of writing, along with well-written rants and interviews will also be considered. For additional information check the LUMMOX Press website.

 *quote is from the essay “A Yankee in the Closet” by James Deahl published in LUMMOX 5 – 2016, page 198 Copyright © James Deahl 2016 used with permission from the author.

Meeting Poe in Dearborn, Michigan, USA

“If ghost trees could speak in tongues/they would speak here and now/converse with Poe’s spirit sailing/rolling inland from Lake Huron” –Debbie Okun Hill

Halloween faded like a tree spirit at the stroke of ‘midnight dreary’ but the image of American poet/short story writer Edgar Allan Poe and his raven remain at my desk.

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American poet/short story writer Edgar Allan Poe attended The Big Read Dearborn festivities in ‘cardboard spirit’.

He’s dead of course. The Poet! He’s been gone since October 7, 1849. Not sure about his ‘nevermore’ quipping raven. However, at this time of year, Poe and his fascination with the macabre and other mystical happenings often resurface in social media photos, quotes, and posts.

Last Tuesday, October 25, the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, celebrated Poe’s literary contributions through the “Dreaming Dreams Author Meet and Greet” event. The BIG READ DEARBORN festivities included a welcome and a refreshment table plus readings by 18 of the over 150 contributors of the 454-page Poe-themed anthology. According to the event program, “All the proceeds (from book sales) go toward future community-wide reading events in Dearborn.” Definitely, a good cause to support.

Bravo to all the Big Read Dearborn partners and sponsors and contributors who made this project come alive!

My own contribution was small: a two and a half page poetic dream sequence inspired by Poe’s poem “The Raven” and a visit I took to Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2013. At the time, the Carolinian Forest was losing its ash trees to the emerald ash borer and I was struck by the loss and how the fog was rolling in like Poe’s spirit from Lake Huron. This magical image or gift, as I like to call it, happens seldom, so I knew I had to record the sensation before the words dissipated back into the fog. The sighting of two crows (not ravens) stirred my imagination even more.

Now almost four years later, my Poe-inspired poem shares a home with other literary offerings in a beautiful anthology Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before. However, what made this journey to the Henry Ford Centennial Library even more special was that I had never stepped into this beautiful building before. If you are a visitor to the area, I strongly recommend that you stop by. The natural light from all the windows is especially noteworthy and I liked how parking was not an issue.

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The Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

Although, I’ve visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village on several occasions and even toured the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, I never knew that the library’s 15.3 acre property was deeded by the Ford Motor Company with construction of the memorial building made possible with a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. An additional grant helped with equipment and supplies.

Once inside the building, the first floor Rotunda area warmly welcomes visitors. On this occasion, Edgar Allan Poe stands life-size in ‘cardboard spirit’ for photo opportunities with emerging and established writers. The auditorium was also spacious and filled with spectators and readers. To sit in the audience and listen to all the writers (from the young fellow who needed some added help to reach the microphone to the retiree who shuffled to the podium) was inspiring. Creativity is alive and well. To single out just one or two works would be inappropriate as all the readers deserved applause. Overall the creative contributions rose from eight chapters: Celestial, Dreams, Ghost, Horror, Madness, Mystery, Poetry and Tribute.

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Eighteen contributors shared their work during the Dreaming Dreams Author Meet and Greet event held Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan.

If I may quote from the anthology’s back cover: “In this collection of Poe inspired stories and poems, you will find dreams (and nightmares), ghost stories, horrors, madness, mystery, imagination, and even some humor. Read these pages, and dream dreams never dreamt before.”

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“If ghost trees could speak in tongues…”

In the anthology’s introduction, Wolf Disner wrote: “The purpose of this collection is to honor him (Poe) and celebrate his works. Maybe it will even bring him back to life. Stranger things have happened. Trust me.”

If you are a writer, I hope you will keep your eyes open for such magical gifts and experiences. If you are a reader, keep reading….for reading opens up the imagination, takes you places and teaches you insights you may never have thought possible.

For additional information about the Henry Ford Centennial Library, check out their website.

For additional information about Big Read Dearborn and the Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before edited by Henry Fischer, Patty Podzikowski, Dan Lodge and Kathryn Takach ISBN 978-1-53529-090-6 click here. The anthology was published by the Dearborn Public Library as part of The Big Read Dearborn, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and managed by Arts Midwest.

*quote is from the poem “Meeting Poe in Canatara Park” by Debbie Okun Hill published in Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before, page 403 Copyright © Debbie Okun Hill 2016 used with permission from the author.

Six Canadian Poets Laureate To Gather in Windsor – October 27, 2016

Poet Laureate – one regarded by a country or region as its most eminent or representative poet – Mirriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary

 A newspaper editor once told me, “if this city ever gets a poet laureate, that would be BIG news.” I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not (he’s definitely not a fan of poetry) but if he was poking fun at the concept he should have been more open-minded and checked the facts.

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Black Moss Press publisher Marty Gervais says Poetry at the Manor is “proving to be the most popular and largest gathering of poets across the country”.

First of all, poets are similar to journalists in that they are also wordsmiths recording images of the world around them. True the writing style may differ between the two, but the passion and commitment are still there. Respect your colleagues.

Second, if you don’t like poetry, you haven’t met the right poet or read the right poem yet. Poems are like art or music or dance. There are different poetry styles to attract different people. Keep searching until you find something that you like. You may be surprised.

Third, at one time a poet laureate’s job was to write poems for special occasions as requested by the government or funding organization. Today his/her tasks may include writing for a new poetry collection or project, organizing community events, promoting poetry (and/or other cultural activities) and/or creating greater awareness among members of the general public. A daunting task at times with the job description tailored to each position.

Now, imagine what it would be like to meet not one but six poets laureate in one location. Better yet, see what all the excitement is about during the 4th Annual Poetry At the Manor” event to be held Thursday, October 27, 2016 at the Willistead Manor, Windsor, Ontario. This is no ordinary poetry celebration.

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Mark your calendar for the “4th Annual Poetry at the Manor”: Thursday, October 27, 2016 in Windsor.

Still not convinced? Check out the information and photos from last year.

Marty Gervais, the Poet Laureate of Windsor, also shares a non-exclusive sneak peek at what guests can expect to hear or see at Thursday’s FREE event. Below is an article he sent to me earlier this week. Used with permission from the author.

POETRY AT THE MANOR OCT. 27, 2016

Willistead Manor, Windsor, Ontario 

By Marty Gervais, Windsor’s First Poet Laureate

Nearly five years ago, Windsor set the standard across Canada for bringing together poets laureate from various Canadian cities for a major literary event.

The idea for such a gathering of poets was born here in 2012 when with the collaborating efforts of Cultural Affairs Office of the City of Windsor, I initiated “Poetry at the Manor” as part of my role as Windsor’s first poet laureate.

Since then, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Sudbury, Kingston, Mississauga, and other cities have followed suit with festivals of their own.

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Marty Gervais wears many hats. Not only is he Windsor’s first Poet Laureate but he is an award-winning journalist/poet/photographer/editor. He is the driving force behind Black Moss Press and has written more than a dozen books of poetry, two plays, and a novel. His book My Town: Faces of Windsor (Biblioasis, 2011) is a collection of 70 snapshots of people and places that call Windsor home.

Windsor, however, leads the pack, having brought some 16 writers from across Canada to this city for an intimate autumn evening of poetry and storytelling at Willistead Manor.

And once again, October 27, the city will host the now-popular “Poetry at the Manor” where five writers hailing from as far away as Vancouver, Calgary and Regina and as close as Mississauga and Sudbury, will represent their respective cities at this literary event in the “Great Hall” at Willistead.

This annual event is proving to be the most popular and largest gathering of poets across the country.

This year I have invited five poets laureate from across Canada to travel to Windsor, and read their work to Windsor audiences. These include such award-winning poets as Yvonne Blomer (Victoria, British Columbia), Micheline Maylor (Calgary, Alberta), Anna Yin (Mississauga, Ontario), Kim Fahner (Sudbury, Ontario) and Gerry Hill (Regina, Saskatchewan).

The poets, too, will be going into Windsor high schools to conduct writing workshops and readings.

“Poetry at the Manor, Vol. 4” is free, and there will also be food and song.

This year, the welcome musical guest Crissi Cochrane, a pop-soul singer-songwriter now based in Windsor, will entertain with what critics have described as “the silky vocals reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Norah Jones.”

In addition to public readings and discussion, there will be book signings and sales, literary giveaways, and Poetry-On-Demand with Windsor poet and published author Vanessa Shields.

Background on Invited Writers:

GERRY HILL: Two-time winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry, Gerald Hill published his sixth poetry collection, Hillsdale Book, with NeWest Press, and A Round For Fifty Years: A History of Regina’s Globe Theatre with Coteau Books, both in 2015. In the fall of 2015 he was Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence at Fool’s Paradise in Toronto. He lives and writes in Regina. He is Saskatchewan’s 6th Poet Laureate.

ANNA YIN: Anna Yin was born in China and immigrated to Canada in 1999. A finalist for Canada’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award in 2011 and in 2012, Anna has authored five poetry books, including Wings Toward Sunlight (2011) and Inhaling the Silence (2013). Anna won the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, the 2010/2014 MARTY Literary Arts Awards and the 2013 Professional Achievement Award from CPAC. Her poems and translations have appeared in the New York Times, Arc Poetry, CBC Radio, Rogers TV, China Daily, World Journal, Poetry in Transit, Rice Paper, Room, and more. Anna is Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate.

YVONNE BLOMER: Writer, critic, teacher and poet, Yvonne Blomer was born in Zimbabwe, and came to Canada when she was two. With her husband she has taught in Japan, cycled through Southeast Asia, and lived in the UK, where she completed a Masters in Creative Writing with Distinction at The University of East Anglia. Yvonne is proud to be serving as the Poet Laureate for the City of Victoria, BC, and is the Artistic Director emeritus of the Planet Earth Poetry reading series.

MICHELINE MAYLOR: Micheline Maylor has been short-listed for the Robert Kroetsch award for experimental poetry, and in 2013 was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award.  She teaches creative writing at Mount Royal University where she won the teaching excellence award in 2015. She serves as guest editor at Frontenac Press’ renowned Quartet series for 2013-17. She serves as the Past-president and co-founder of Freefall Literary Society, and is the consulting editor of FreeFall literary magazine. Her latest works can be found in Partisan, The Literary Review of Canada, and Quill and Quire. Micheline is a member of the Alberta Magazine Publisher’s Association. Micheline was appointed Calgary’s Poet Laureate on April 25, 2016.

KIM FAHNER: Kim Fahner lives, writes and teaches English in Sudbury, Ontario.  She has published her work in a number of Canadian poetry journals and anthologies over the last twenty years.  She has published three volumes of poetry, including You Must Imagine The Cold Here (Your Scrivener Press, 1997), braille on water (Penumbra Press, 2001), and The Narcoleptic Madonna (Penumbra Press, 2012). Kim had the honour of studying with Timothy Findley as her mentor at the Humber School for Writers.  In April 2013, Kim took part in The Battle of the Bards at Harbourfront/IFOA. Kim has been named the fourth poet laureate for the City of Greater Sudbury (for the tenure of 2016-18) and she is the first woman to be appointed to this role.

This event is traditionally standing-room-only, so mark your calendars now and plan to attend on Thursday, October 27, 2016.

BIG News Indeed!!!

Click the link for more information on Marty Gervais and the Poet Laureate Program.

 

Sarnia Writers James Deahl and Norma West Linder Launch Three New Books

So much of our journey occurs/between two great silences./We must either walk the path/of the blood-red moon/or go down to the river/and welcome whatever rises/from its black depth – James Deahl*

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Toronto Launch – October 18, 2016                                      Sarnia Launch – October 23, 2016

Summer’s heat lingers-clings to the windshield, to the steering wheel, to the green autumn leaves dipped in brilliant yellow paint and crimson red stain. Prolific Sarnia writer James Deahl tugs the knot in his tie and opens the power windows as he drives his car along Highway 402 towards London, Ontario.

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James Deahl chats about love and death during the Toronto launch of To Be With A Woman (LUMMOX Press, 2016)

His tour schedule includes the launch of three new books at the Toronto Public Library’s Parliament Street Branch and, for the next three hours of his trip, he speaks (almost non-stop) about Ontario’s landscapes, love and death. His passion for both poetry and his partner the prolific Canadian writer Norma West Linder rises with each breath as perspiration beads like liquid pebbles along his forehead.

“When Gilda died very shortly after her fifty-third birthday, I thought I would also die,” he says. He emphasizes this at the Toronto book launch and again in the introduction of his book To Be With A Woman: A Journey of Love & Death, Poems, 2007-2010. Gilda Mekler was Deahl’s second wife and his business partner for the now defunct small press Mekler and Deahl. After his long mourning period, he developed a close friendship and fell in love with Linder. “I love and honour my Norma and strive to be the man she deserves.”

His new 134-page poetry collection, published by LUMMOX Press, focuses on these two women. As stated in the Toronto Public Library flyer: the book “begins with the death of his second wife, Gilda Mekler, in early 2007 and ends with his engagement to Norma during the summer of 2010.”

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Guest reader and poet Pat Connors reads from his second Lyricalmyrical chapbook during the October 18, 2016 launch at the Toronto Public Library’s Parliament Street Branch.

Toronto launch’s guest reader Pat Connors, author of Part Time Contemplative (Lyricalmyrical), wrote that “James Deahl’s newest release is philosophical and ironic. It tells of love lost, and then of new love found, all leading to a great appreciation of an even more foundational relationship. He writes about the events which have marked his life with such clarity and honestly that it speaks to all of us.” Connors’ full review appears in the Volume 19, Number 111, October-November 2016 issue of Canadian Stories. 

Linder’s new and 26th book and 6th novel Tall Stuff (Hidden Brook Press, 2016) also focuses on love and has been described as “a romantic novel based on ‘little theatre’” or as the back cover states: Tall Stuff is “Singing in the Rain” meets “Love Story”.  Additional information about Linder’s book appears in this Lambton Shield article written by Sarnia writer Sharon Berg and posted on October 10, 2016.

The third book launched in Toronto is Landscapes: Poems from the seasons of Ontario’s soul published by Israel’s Cyclamens and Swords Publishing. The 74-page collection includes the poetry of both Katherine L. Gordon and James Deahl. According to Ottawa writer Ronnie R. Brown, “In Landscapes, two well-respected poets join forces to present a stunning display of places and ideas, “giving a tongue to the world around them”…”To read Landscapes, is to experience Canada from the comforts of your armchair.”

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Norma West Linder shares her work October 19, 2016 during CADENCE, Sarnia’s newest reading series with a little music.

Brantford’s Poet Laureate John B. Lee in his review published in the August/September 2016 issue of Canadian Stories concludes: “Like Anteus who takes his strength from the earth – they seem to be writing –I am here – in Ontario – standing on worthy ground –ground as good as any – inspired and inspiring – a place on which to stand from when you might move the earth with the fulcrum and lever of these fine poems.”

The Sarnia launch of all three books will be held this Sunday, October 23 from 1 to 2 p.m. at The Book Keeper, 500 Exmouth Street. Stop by and meet these prolific writers in person!

An earlier blog post about James Deahl and his poetry book Unbroken Lines (LUMMOX Press, 2015) appears here.

An earlier blog post about Norma West Linder and her novel The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015) appears here.

An earlier blog featuring their joint poetry collection Two Paths Through the Seasons (Cyclamen and Swords Publishing, Israel, 2014) appears here.

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Canadian writers James Deahl and Norma West Linder will be reading in Sarnia on Sunday, October 23, 2016.

*epigraph is from the poem “Our Travail” published in To Be With A Woman: A Journey Of Love and Death, Poems, 2007-2010 (LUMMOX Press, 2016) Copyright © James Deahl 2016

Follow this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

Look At Her – Vanessa Shields, a Gutsy Poetic Crusader

With each poem I write, I am less afraid – Vanessa Shields*

Call her a poetic crusader: a woman waving a feminist flag with a capital C for “Courage” and “Conviction ” pressed against her breast. In her new book Look at Her, Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields belts out poem after poem after poem of raw emotion focusing on four major themes: Body, Motherhood, Family, and Power.

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Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields is currently on tour with her second poetry collection, LOOK AT HER (Black Moss Press, 2016). Photo by Eveline Csomor

Intimate, almost always expressed in the first person point of view, her second poetry collection exposes private details that should or shouldn’t be shared depending on where you sit on the comfort scale. Liberal-minded readers will love it. “Don’t be afraid to have an opinion.” Conservative thinkers may turn away and insist they’d sooner not read: “My vagina is not a haystack/Yet I can feel a needle in her centre.”

Her powerful writing reminds me of feminist songwriter Helen Reddy’s 1972 billboard chart hit “I Am Woman” where the refrain roars, emphasizing a woman’s importance in being wise, strong and invincible. She’s all that and more…

And yet, Shields admits to a woman’s vulnerability as hinted in her words “my teenage self a sloppy poem under his nose”, “bruised buildings oozing too much feeling” and “she hopes the bruises don’t show through.” 

For me, her strongest writing evolves around the memories of family. In ‘Kitchen Dancing’, she writes, “My aunt scoops me up in her long strong arms and spins me/around like I’m a table cloth in the washing machine.” In the same poem, “he’d never use/a broom in that kitchen not when he could be sweeping her/sweeping us into his quiet devotion.”

Her writing style is very much her own. As she writes ‘In The Silence’, the last poem of the book: “I am muddy water pounding over rocks/searching for land….I won’t be afraid.”

Tomorrow (Friday, October 14, 2016), Vanessa Shields stops in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada as part of her current book tour.

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Vanessa Shields joins local poets for a special reading, Friday, October 14 at the Blackwater Coffee Co. in Sarnia, Ontario.

Curious about this energetic poet/editor? Pull up a chair for this enlightening conversation with Shields following her return from Ottawa.

Congratulations Vanessa!  Your second poetry collection  Look At Her published by Black Moss Press is like a sequel to your first collection I Am That Woman. Please describe your new book in a few sentences.

Thank you! Yes, many of the poems in Look At Her are responsorial to the poems in I Am That Woman. What I believe is at the heart of Look At Her is a conversation in poetry between my different experiences of ‘self’ as well as a conversation between myself and the people around me. I want to challenge myself, and readers to look within, and to look around and be honest about how we feel about ourselves and the world, how we treat ourselves and each other, and, essentially, how we communicate with ourselves and each other. A raw honesty is at the heart of this collection.

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Vanessa Shields’ first poetry collection I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press, 2013) ‘turned the themes of femininity and motherhood upside down.’

Both books are gutsy, written mainly from a first person point of view, and address some of the grittier aspects of being a woman in today’s society. I noticed your second book has less swearing but you’ve turned up the heat with more sexual references, and have pushed deeper into such issues as divorce, dysfunctional relationships, and power struggles. What lessons, if any, would you like the readers to walk away with?

Good question. One lesson, for sure, is that we are always learning and growing as human beings. The effect of our learning (in ‘life lesson’ form) is that our relationships, our beliefs, our abilities to love and be loved shift and, potentially, change. I think it’s my job as a poet to pay attention to how we treat ourselves, and each other, and to write about how I push through my own challenges. One lesson I’m constantly working on is being brave – as a writer that means having an opinion. Of course, we all have opinions, but it takes a certain something to put those opinions out of your head and onto paper for others to read, receive and respond to. On one level, there are lessons about parenting, sex, relationships, spirituality, family and forgiveness, but beneath that, I think the lessons have to do with the underlying goal of humanity – to love, to be able to love and be loved. No matter how I think through any human experiences, it always results in something related to love.

What is your favourite poem in the collection and why do you like it so much?

Another good question! There are many poems that really come to a different ‘life’ when I perform them. I often write knowing that I’ll get to read the work out loud to an audience, and that affects the theme and energy of the piece. So with ‘performance’ in mind, I really love ‘Doggy Style’ and ‘The First Time I Watched Porn’. Likely the poems that are more edgy and envelope pushing are the ones that have a good performance power to them. I also really love ‘If I Listen’ and ‘Not The Only Woman’. They hold the heart of ‘me’ in them. It’s hard to choose just one! Each of them is special to me.

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Look at Her by Vanessa Shields continues to push the boundaries.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

Well, as this book is shared and I get feedback from other writers, I find that they compare me to writers they’ve read that makes them feel the way my poems make them feel. Recently, I’ve been compared to Sharon Olds and Molly Peacock. I hadn’t heard of these poets before (I don’t like to admit it, but there you have it!), and wouldn’t you know, the day after I heard about Sharon Olds, there she was in my inbox in a newsletter that Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner send out called Lenny Letter. Olds wrote an incredible poem about breasts. I immediately went online to purchase books by both Olds and Peacock. I do think that we write from the same feminist place. But the truth is, I often feel like my work is just different enough that it’s not really like any other poetry.

I read a lot of poetry, and I don’t often find work that feels like mine. Not sure what that means…but when I get compared to writers, I always do research and read to see if there is a similarity. I think there is with Susan Olds, for sure. Eve Ensler, maybe too. I think, though, that I’m just at the beginning of this poetic frontier where I’m less afraid to write about how I feel about ‘big’ things…and that shows up in Look At Her. I’m certainly not the first poet to write about sex and body parts. I won’t be the last, but I do hope that there’s something about my work that stands out, and compels people to read poetry, and provokes them to talk about the themes/subjects I write about.

Sometimes it feels that writers must push the boundaries to be noticed. We can’t all be ax murders, former junkies, prostitutes, bank robbers, forensic scientists or even trans-genders. No disrespect, of course, but is there still room for poets who fall through those cracks and live what may be considered boring, stable lives or those who are more introverted and less flamboyant? What advice would you have for those who have a quieter voice?

A writer must write her truth. I think that my words, and often my performance of those words, affect people in a way that causes them to put me in the ‘push the boundaries’ list of writers. But I don’t really feel that way about my work. I think my aim is to jar or rattle the soul. For some people, hearing (talking about) sex does this. For others, it’s themes of war or rape. I believe with all my heart that everyone is creative. That each of us lives a life that is sharable and teachable through some form of creative expression. I don’t believe that life is ever ‘boring or stable’. I think that’s story we tell ourselves. I am extremely introverted much of the time. That is where these poems are born. I am quiet and pensive and often times, very shy. I’ve just learned and lived through the practice of writing how to express myself as a poet. Flamboyant? Perhaps, but that’s all part of performance for me. In the end, it’s a reader and the words. If she hears my literal voice as she reads, great, but mostly I don’t think that’s the case. The words and the meanings standalone like a line-up. The reader brings her own beliefs and life experience to the words and reacts. This is why I write – to reach people on deep levels.

I guess; I’m not sure that writers consciously write to push boundaries to be noticed. It’s not that simple. Maybe I’m naïve? I think that writers, if they are writing their truth, just write – and the results show up in reader responses that say ‘this writer pushes boundaries’ – but not to be noticed as a writer (the person) but as the words to provoke or make a point or cause change or chaos or whatever the message(s) entail.

Describe your writing process.

Consistently inconsistent. Hurried, yet calm. Disciplined, mostly. I write at various times during the day and night. Sometimes I have up to 2 hours of writing time, while mostly I have chunks of 30-45 minutes. I write poetry by hand on paper first. I carry notebooks everywhere I go so I always have something to write on. I love to type on keyboards that are clackety – I have one with my desktop computer in my office. I also write ‘out and about’ – in restaurants, bookstores, cafes, bars. I can write anywhere, it doesn’t matter if there’s plenty of noise or none. When I’m writing poetry, the first drafts, it can happen anywhere. When I’m working on my novel (or longer forms of writing), I do like to have a bit of quiet. Sometimes I write to music, but nothing with words or else I sing along! When it comes time for editing and revising, however, I find I need quiet. I like to edit at my home either at my dining room table or in my office (if it’s clean!). A messy office begs for me to clean it, and that’s totally distracting! I write every day. And everything counts – emails, hand-written letters, poetry, ideas, etc. I can say with pride that I’ve put in my 10,000 hours of writing practice and I feel confident calling myself a professional writer/expert! Writers write, and I get that, and I live that.

What are you currently working on?

I’m touring my new book so a lot of time is spent on promotions, marketing and travel. I wasn’t writing anything new for a few months, but now, I’m finding poetry is flowing through me again. I’m working on a collection of poetry about my Metis ancestry and my family’s ancestry in general. I am planning on getting back to my YA novel for what I hope is the last re-write. I’m super excited (giddy!) about working on this again. I think I might do NaNoWriMo again this year to help motivate me to write with discipline every day. I’m also working with Windsor’ Poet Laureate and my publisher, Marty Gervais, and 6 other local poets, on an anthology of poetry about Windsor’s history. I’m reading and choosing poetry for the next two Windsor Review volumes. I’m working on a panel presentation for the League of Canadian Poets Feminist Caucus…and now that I think about it, I need to write another blog for the League…Oh my. There is no shortage of writing work to be done!

What are your future plans?

Hmm. Well, in 3 -5 years, my dream is to open Gertrude’s Literary Café. 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. Before that, I’d like to see what happens with my YA novel(s). It’d be incredible to get an agent and a book(s) deal. It would be great to continue to get my poetry published…but in the end, 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!

In addition to writing non-fiction and completing a young adult novel, you are a former editor for Black Moss Press and the current poetry editor for the Environmental issue of The Windsor Review. Based on your experience, what advice (or secrets) would you share with a new poet in search of a publisher?

I wish there was a secret! I’d have to say, write with confidence. Submit with patience. Keep writing. Keep reading. Before you submit to a literary magazine, read what they’ve already published to see if your work fits. This goes for sending out full manuscripts as well. There are many great publishers I love, but I know that my writing doesn’t fit their publishing style. I have to accept that. Use Facebook groups and the Internet to find out where to send your work. There are literally thousands of contests and submission calls. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local writers for information about writing. I’ve learned about many amazing contests/publishers by simply asking writers for guidance. And the biggie – you must have someone else read your work before you submit a manuscript. Hire an editor. Revise. Read your work out loud. Then submit. When you get rejected – keep the rejection. File it. Start a collection. I keep mine and the stacks keep me humble and motivated…cry if you have to cry when you really wanted to get that poem published. I feel you. But…don’t give up. Wipe your face. Blow your nose. And get back to work.

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Vanessa Shields’ Selfie – “I Won’t be afraid”

It appears that the role of the writer has changed. Not only must writers create strong poems but they must also be experienced marketers. You have mastered that skill. How important are marketing skills for a writer? Can a writer still succeed in this highly competitive environment without touring, attending readings, blogging, and interacting on social media?  Why or why not?

This is a loaded question. I ask myself this question sooo often. In short, yes. A writer can survive without being a force of marketing/social media madness. The way the writer can survive is through her work. If the work is strong and resonates, readers will buy the book. It happens all the time. In the beginning, the power is in the words, the story. If a writer’s work becomes successful then she will likely have to do readings, plug-in and show up off the pages…but it is possible for the work to stand-alone.

However, I think that many of us enjoy the sharing part. The readings, the travel, the blogging, the interviews – whatever we can get to talk about our work and share it. There is so much great writing in the world. Sometimes, we get impatient and lose confidence in the time it takes for people to read our work. And, if want to be read a lot, sell loads of books, win awards, we simply must put ourselves out there – or work with our publishers to get us out there. I think you have to ask yourself what you want out of the industry. If you want to be known, be read, make noise – then you have to get out there and try to make it happen. I say try because although I market myself, promote myself, submit to contests/etc…I haven’t reached my own ‘pinnacle’ of ‘this-is-what-it-means-for-me-to-be-successful’.

I get frustrated A LOT. I cry about what’s not happening all the time. I have to calm myself down when I see that what feels like ‘everyone else but me’ is getting her work in the places I wish mine would be. It’s a dangerous place, this ‘why not me’ zone. You have to figure out what ‘success’ means to you. Based on that, you move forward and see if you can be the definition you have in your head and heart. I’ve had much success. I’ve felt the heat of a fiery, passionate reading where I’m floating afterwards. I’ve had many incredible conversations with readers that burst my heart. But I haven’t been reviewed by the Globe & Mail. I can’t seem to get Quill & Quire to notice me. I haven’t received a big-money grant….all of these things are part of my ‘success’ definition.

I’m constantly having to re-align and re-define what ‘success’ means because I’m very hard on myself and my work. And I compare my writing to everyone else’s. I want the success that others have – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Again, the danger is that in doing so, I lose the beauty and love that is happening with my work. I am getting it out there. I am touring it. I am reading and selling books. Why do I make all of this joy not ‘count’ because the Globe & Mail hasn’t written a review? Sheesh. I wish I had an answer…but I don’t! Except…to make everything ‘count’.

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

I think…yes. Think about what you love to do. Do that. A little every day. See what happens. And…if you read my book(s)…please take the time to go on Goodreads or Amazon and rate me or write a review or do both! This counts – for my heart, and for me to feel ‘successful’! Even if you didn’t like it. Everyone counts!

Thanks Vanessa for sharing your views today! I love your enthusiasm, your generous words of encouragement!

For future tour dates, readings and insights follow Shields on her blog.

Additional information about Vanessa Shields’ books is posted on the Black Moss Press website.

*from “Acknowledgements” published in the book Look At Her (Black Moss Press, 2016) page 105. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Vanessa Shields, 2016

DISCLOSURE: Vanessa Shields was my editor for my first poetry collection Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014). While I have maintained my objectivity in this blog post to the best of my ability (I even purchased my own review copy.),  I highly recommend that readers form their own opinions about the poet and her books. Better yet.  Attend one of her readings and meet her in person. 

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.