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It’s Here! National Poetry Month 2018! Let’s Celebrate!

 

The poet guests have arrived carting their suitcases of books and waving their pocket poems in the air. Expect to see them sprouting like snowdrops and daffodils across the Canadian landscape. April nudges the scribes from their wintry abodes to share their words with the public.

This year, the League of Canadian Poets (LCP) shares the news in a black, white and gold poster trumpeting the words “Celebrating twenty years of National Poetry Month in Canada.” Similar to other years, the 30-day party will prod people to experience the power of poetry: write or read a poem a day or think outside the box and create personal poetic memories. Mayors and municipal politicians can expect visits from poets during their council meetings. Students may find a poet or two in their schools. Libraries may offer special writing workshops.

April 2018 - NPM2018_Poster-665x1024

National Poetry Month 2018 (#NPM18) officially started on April 1, 2018 and will continue until the end of the month.

Expect Canadian publishers to be launching new books and literary organizations to be spotlighting poetry readings by well-known and lesser-known poets. Check out the League website for a list of events happening in your area plus information about their 700 plus members in Canada.

Our American neighbours will also be celebrating. In fact, they spearheaded the first NPM event and the Canadians followed a couple of years later. According to their United States website, “National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.” Check out their website for additional information and resource material from across the border.

Back in Canada and closer to home, for those in the Sarnia-Lambton area, Canadian poets James Deahl and Sharon Berg have organized a special #NPM18 event for Saturday, April 28 at the Famous Room in John’s Restaurant, 1643 London Line in Sarnia. Spotlight readers include Marty Gervais (Windsor poet laureate and publisher of Black Moss Press), Kateri Lanthier (winner of the 2013 Walrus Poetry Prize and the Toronto author of Siren published by Véhicule Press, 2017) and Stuart Ross (a well-known Toronto poet/editor and most recently the author of A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent published by Wolsak and Wynn, 2016 and Pockets launched by ECW Press, 2017.

REVISED April 18, 2018: PLEASE NOTE THAT STUART ROSS HAS HAD TO CANCEL HIS READING AND THAT LAURIE SMITH (Windsor poet and author of Said The Cannibal published by Urban Farmhouse Press 2017) WILL BE READING INSTEAD.

April 28, 2018 in Sarnia - revised guest

Check out the line-up of featured readers planned for Sarnia’s National Poetry Month event to be held Saturday, April 28, 2018.

Local readers include Lois Nantais, Ryan Gibbs, and Grace Vermeer.  (See circled images on the top of this blog post.) An optional pre-reading dinner that allows audience members to mingle with the guest readers will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the free public reading to start at 6:30 p.m. The event is made possible with support from The League of Canadian Poets.

In other news, Sharon Berg, publisher of the Sarnia micro-press Big Pond Rumours recently announced the winners of her 2018 chapbook contest and this month will be publishing El Marillio, the poems of the first prize winner Tom Gannon Hamilton. Below is the list of winners and the scheduled release dates for their chapbooks.

Big Pond Rumours chapbook winners

Sarnia is also the home to poet/editor James Deahl who recently edited the Canadian anthology Tamaracks to be published and distributed to a U.S. audience by Lummox Press later this autumn.  One hundred and thirteen Canadian poets were selected for the anthology.

According to Deahl in a recent e-mail to contributors, “Over three decades have passed since the most recent major survey of Canuck poetry. At least thirty of our important poets have left planet earth since then, including many of my personal friends like Milton Acorn, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Raymond Souster, Sam Simchovitch, Dorothy Livesay, Gwen Hauser, Marty Singleton, and Al Purdy. To renew our literature at least thirty new poets have emerged. So it was time for a fresh look at the full range of our poetry.”

He also mentioned, “Contributors’ readings will take place in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge, Hamilton, Ottawa, Sarnia, Toronto, with three in Toronto. Also possible are North Bay and Kingston. (And I would be open to holding other Tamaracks readings where Ontario contributors live such as Oakville, Windsor, Barrie, St. Catharines, Brantford, Brighton, Port Dover, Cobourg, Thorold, etc.)”  Watch the event section of this blog for updates.

For those interested in having some fun with poetry, the Sarnia Library is encouraging people to celebrate National Poetry Month by dropping in to create a Collage Poem on Saturday, April 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. at 124 Christina Street. This event is open to all ages.

In the London area, Poetry London, the London Open Mic Poetry Night Series, and the COUPLETS: a collaborative poetry reading series will also host events during April.

Lummox 5 Sarnia Launch with Denis Robillard Photo 1 November 12, 2016

Poet Denis Robillard will be launching his first trade book on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 in Windsor.

In Windsor, highlights include the launch of the poetry books All the Words Between by Mary Ann Mulhern and Ask the River by Denis Robillard, April 4 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Fogolar Furtan Club of Windsor, 1800 North Service Road. The free event is being organized by The University of Windsor’s Editing and Publishing Practicum.

For additional information about these and other Ontario reading events, check the event section of this blog. If I’ve missed your provincial event, feel free to add a note in the comments section or send me info via the contact form on this blog.

For those who are wondering what my plans are for the month, my goal is to read (and review) as many poetry books as I can before I embark on my next project. Is it possible to read a poetry book a day? My sagging bookshelves are challenging me.

Coming soon on this blog is a profile on London poet Andy Verboom and his vision for COUPLETS, the collaborative poetry reading series he launched in southwestern Ontario a few years ago.

Also, follow this blog for a future insider’s look at the pros and cons of working with an editor.

Happy National Poetry Month Everyone!

Wherever you may be, let the celebrations begin!

 

 

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Memories – The Love of Poetry Gathering

Today the grey clouds parted like curtains on a stage and the sun slid into view wearing a radiant coat! Melted snow dripped and dropped off the neighbourhood rooftops. It smelled like spring…like poetry…like love sneaking around a corner for Valentine’s Day.

If only Cupid had warmed the Earth a little sooner.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering in North York invite

The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic on February 11, 2018 at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge in North York, Ontario.

 

Last Sunday, several local members of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) braved the cold icy weather to attend “The Love of Poetry Gathering” at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge in North York, Ontario. According to TOPS Vice-President Joan Sutcliffe, “the event was reasonably well attended and enjoyed by all who made it.”

Symposium Restaurant North York Feb 11, 2018 Photo Larry Iskov

“There were three book launches,” she wrote. “Reflections: Places, People, Love & Loss – a chapbook by John Hastings, published by Beret Days Press as Stanza Break Series #62; Bottom of the Wine Jar – an English/Spanish anthology launched by Patrick Connors as one of four contributors in connection with the Cuba Literary festival; and Letters to My Father by Banoo Zan, a Persian/English book published by Piquant Press in 2017.”

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering - book launches Feb 11, 2017 in North York

One book, one anthology, and one chapbook by members of The Ontario Poetry Society were spotlighted in North York, Ontario.

 

Additional readers (in alphabetical order) included: Marsha Barber, Sheila Bello, Allan Briesmaster, Howard Freedlander, I.B. (Bunny) Iskov, Mark Kruk, Joan Sutcliffe, Lilly Williams, and Victor Zurkowski.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering - featured readers Feb 11, 2017 in North York

I, like many out-of-town poets, missed the gathering due to the inclement weather and the dangerous driving conditions. However, thanks to Larry Iskov, many of the memories were captured in these photographs.

Featured Readers North York event Feb 11, 2018 Photo by Larry Iskov

May you have a warm and wonderful week!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Poet Profile – Penn Kemp and Barbaric Cultural Practice

“But our/yearning to hear fills our ears the way seashells will imitate real//roar of ocean wave, appearing/disappearing.”* – Penn Kemp

Canadian poet Penn Kemp loves ‘sound’ and her book Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books, 2016) astounds me with her word play, her vocalized chords, and the musical rhythms of her poetic stanzas. She is the barbaric activist riding her horse at full tilt and the experienced voice “in the yellow cornfield of your mind.” (p. 39) The key is to listen carefully to catch each nuance before the next line appears.

BLOG IMAGE Barbaric-Cultural-Practice_front-cover

Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books, 2016) features 72 poems by Penn Kemp.

Divided into five sections (Electrical Events, Light Eats, Heart and Stroke Foundation, In Dream Sequins, and Wild Crafting), her recent 112-page book includes 72 poems that challenge the status quo of the world. Her interest in nature, dreams, and Goddesses plus the way politics, technology, and global warming can interfere with our well-being are prevalent threads in this collection.

For example, in the poem “Skipping Time” (where she analyzes the reality of dreams and the process of using those dreams to create new work), she writes; “Intuition and instinct, the play of crimson and purple,//these weave a web through skeins of dream fabric/from which I fabricate poems as the dream wheel turns.” (p. 67)

The transitions between poems are flawless but some of the work requires extra effort to comprehend. Her subject matter may be down to Earth; however, her intellectual quest pushes the boundaries.

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review:

This is a book that needs to be read slowly and if possible read aloud!…To appreciate the poems …, the reader must focus on [Kemp’s] technique of playing with sound and rhythm. Not only does she use alliteration and internal rhymes but the repetition of words acts as an echo or refrain to reinforce the musical quality of the work. For example, in her poem “Synaesthetics” she writes: “and ring in our ear, ring in New Year/until a hush of snow smothers sound”. (p. 93)

 More examples are found in her poem “An Ounce of Edible Oil” where she uses such phrases as “Their fumes set me fuming”, “Exhausted by exhaust”, and “sensitive is sensitized”. (p. 48)

Even the title of the book has layers of meaning. In her acknowledgements, she writes “Several of the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice “were provoked into being by political events; hence the title.” (p. 110). However, at the beginning of her introductory poem “Tip Line”, she plays with these three words in a humorous way: “Barbaric, of the wild/Cultural in yoghurt, wine and cheese/Practice for ten thousand hours”. (p. 11)

Humour is also woven in the poem “Ode to Tim Two Bits Whopper”. She writes: “We would bow to you if we could still bend.” (p. 46)

BLOG IMAGE From the poem In Light by Penn Kemp

From the poem “In Light” by Penn Kemp. One of several previously published poems reprinted in Barbaric Culture Practice. Image courtesy The League of Canadian Poets.

One of her most creative poems both orally and visually is “Night Orchestra” where she steers away from her use of couplets, and 1-, 3-, and 4-line stanzas to present a concrete poem with word repetitions such as illustrated in her first line: “dip dip  dip  dip  deep  dip  deep  dip  deepen   deep  end”. (p. 22)

To add another dimension to Kemp’s work, her book also includes QR Codes which act as digital links to video and audio performances of many of her poems. Once again, this reinforces her belief stated in her acknowledgements that “Poetry needs to be heard as well as read.” (p. 110)

BLOG IMAGE Anna Yin congratulates Penn Kemp, winner of the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for Spoken Word Photo by Okun Hill

Anna Yin congratulates Penn Kemp, winner of the 2015 Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for Spoken Word, May 30, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This statement doesn’t surprise me. Kemp waves the flags of an activist, sound poet, performer, and playwright. An experienced and prolific writer, she is a Life Member of The League of Canadian Poets and, in 2015, she was the winner of their Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for Spoken Word. She was the Writer-in-Residence for Western University and the inaugural Poet Laureate for London, Ontario. Her list of books (many published by her own press Pendas Productions) are too numerous to mention here but are listed in the League of Canadian Poets Membership Directory 

I first met Penn about a decade ago at a Writer’s Union of Canada meeting in her home. Her larger than life and colourful personality plus her love for the arts was reflected in her father’s art on the walls. She was/is out-going and fearless and her performances are “sound-filled” and memorable.

A long poem celebrating her father is included in her new book of poems, Local Heroes (Insomniac Press, 2018). This book will be launched at Museum London in a multimedia presentation on April 19, 2018. More information will be provided below.

BLOG IMAGE Barbaric Cultural Practice London launch with Penn Kemp and Allan Briesmaster Image 3 Oct 11, 2016

Canadian Poet Penn Kemp with her editor/publisher Allan Briesmaster at the official launch of Barbaric Cultural Practice, October 11, 2016, at Oxford Book Shop in London, Ontario.

At her official London launch of Barbaric Cultural Practice held October 11, 2016 at the Oxford Book Shop, she dazzled her admiring fans (standing room only) as her Quattro Books editor/publisher Allan Briesmaster looked on.

After reading and re-reading her book, I recently asked Penn a few questions via e-mail. Below are her responses:

Penn, you have waited so long for this interview. Thank you for your patience. First, please tell me how you do it?  How do you manage to juggle all that you do?  The writing? The performing? The promoting? The acquiring of grants? How do you keep your work organized? How do you prevent yourself from burning out?

Enthusiasm. I follow where the energy leads. And collaboration: other artists to play with, in the creation of a piece! I’ve been publishing for 52 years, so it’s what I know. My body stops me from burning out by falling apart before I do. But figuring out budgets for grants does burn me out. J

Not everyone understands poetry and certainly some of your performances (especially some of your chanting and your experiments with sound) will raise eyebrows in a crowded room. Yet, it doesn’t take long for you to warm up an audience.

Sounding is usually infectious, involving the audience in the spirit of play. It’s fun to walk into a school auditorium, dressed conservatively, and begin participatory sounding with students. They’re with me, and so are their enthusiastic teachers. But the body language of more staid teachers who are into control is something to behold: they usually go rigid until they see their students inspired to write.

Describe your typical reader and/or poetry fan for this book.

I can no more imagine a typical reader of my work than I can imagine a typical poet!

As a poet, how difficult is it to keep a loyal fan base?

I offer my work through social media, Facebook, Twitter, Googleplus, LinkedIn. It bewilders me that there are always many more comments on my personal posts than on my poems.

When you were Writer-in-Residence at the University of Western Ontario (now known as Western), you emphasized the need for me to include more sound in my writing. That advice has never left me. Why is sound so important to you?

 Sound is more primal than sight. Within the womb, you hear through the permeable membrane of your mother’s belly wall long before your eyes open at birth. Usually, my process is to follow the sound throughout a poem rather than a theme. I find the resonance that the poem wishes to convey and follow that sound down the rabbit hole and back again… The poem that is most true for me is not “sound over sense”, but sound leads the exploration. The poem that begins with sound is both deeply familiar, as if waiting to be discovered. Yet I don’t know where it’s heading until it has run its course. Sound entices me into adventure. I follow the sound where it leads into the next phrase as if following Ariadne’s clue into the dark labyrinth and back out again to clarity. Perhaps that’s how all the punning and wordplay happens, in that spirit of surprise.

BLOG IMAGE Barbaric Cultural Practice London launch with Penn Kemp Image 2 Oct 11, 2016

Kemp was the inaugural poet laureate for London, Ontario.

My poems that begin with an idea or an image are much more conceptual and, I feel, less embodied. Usually such poems are more prosaic and structured… and controlled, constructed rather than found or come upon (invenio).

For me, sound poetry can be a last resort for creative expression when words fail the enormity of the emotions. The sound of human voices can be used to portray the environment and the inner space. Sound Opera is a collective collaboration of musicians and performers of works based on my text. Sound Opera explodes the notion of a literary reading into myriad art forms. Seven of my Sound Operas have been performed at Aeolian Hall, London.

Because of your interest in sound, what types of sounds inspire you? Do you write to music?  Or do you prefer the rustle of aspen leaves?

I can edit to music because it provides a steady background that keeps me focused. But in writing, music is a distraction that would lead me off course. Outside, I’m intrigued by birdsong and yes to the rustle of leaves, redbuds in my garden.

I understand you have a new book being launched this April by Insomniac Press. What is it about?

Here’s a promo blurb about Local Heroes:

In Local Heroes, Penn Kemp celebrates legendary cultural heroes from London, Ontario. These poems evoke a specific city in its particular landscape and history. Kemp documents London’s literary and artistic heritage in honouring artists in fields ranging from visual and language arts to figure skating. Presented as an overview, the collection stretches from Victoria explorer Teresa Harris to the contemporary arts scene. Local Heroes acknowledges the Indigenous peoples here, and the ongoing waves of settlers who have called the area home, as London grew from colonial outpost to vibrant cultural centre. Local Heroes spans time but remains in place.  The collection present three sections, in historical order.

 

BLOG IMAGE Brighid painting by James Kemp

Painting by James Kemp to be included in Penn Kemp’s new book Local Heroes to be released April 19, 2018 in London, Ontario.

 

I look forward to the release of this new poetry collection! What’s next for Penn Kemp in terms of your life and/or your literary aspirations?

Right now, I have a backlog of material that I’d like to hone into several manuscripts. At this stage in life, it’s a joy to be home writing and editing.

April is Poetry Month, and I’ll be launching Local Heroes and touring then. And I very much look forward to the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s “Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths”, where as the feature reader, I’ll be matched with the wine on sale that evening: a full-bodied red, perhaps?

Two events where I’m performing to celebrate women writers. May 28 with Judy Rebick at London Central Library and later on July 22 at Eldon House Historical Museum in London for a Sunday tea to launch my CD, The Dream Life of Teresa Harris.

This summer, I’ll be working with a multimedia artist to create Augmented Reality markers based on site-specific poems. And as always, I’m collaborating with other poets and musicians whose work touches mine.

Wow, your energy inspires me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about writing. I wish you continued success for your future goals and projects.

Thank you for your insightful, perceptive questions and review. I’m grateful for your close reading!

You’re welcome!

BLOG IMAGE Penn Kemp Photo by Mary McDonald

Canadian Poet Penn Kemp brings enthusiasm to her work. Photo by Mary McDonald.

Here’s Penn’s reading schedule for the next three months:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 in London: A Reading with Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt, 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. AHB-3R07, Western University.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 in Toronto: Words and Music Salon, 2:30 to 3:30 pm. The Tiki Room, the Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave. Sponsored by the League of Poets, Metro Reading in Public Places.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 in London: The launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press 2018) by Penn Kemp. The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Penn’s reading. The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning. The poet will then sign books.6:30 to 7:15 p.m. – Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000; 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Penn’s reading; and 8:30 to 9 p.m. – book signing. Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 in Victoria, B.C.: ‘ALT’ show, Victoria Poetry Project, 8 pm

Friday, April 27, 2018 in Edmonton, Alberta:  Featured reader, “Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths”, The Edmonton Poetry Festival.

Monday, May 28, 2018 in London: Women Trailblazers: Writers and Voices for Change: Heroes. A reading and lecture series celebrating Canadian women writers. Featured guests: Judy Rebick and Penn Kemp, 7 to 8:30 pm, Stevenson & Hunt Room, Central Library, 251 Dundas Street .

Additional information about Kemp and her upcoming workshops and readings can be found on her websiteblog ; twitter account ; Facebook account  ; and Facebook author page.

Addition information about Barbaric Cultural Practice appears on the Quattro Books website.

 Additional information about Local Heroes will soon appear on the Insomniac Press website.

Follow this blog for additional Canadian author and poet profiles.

*Quote is from the poem “Drives Destination” printed in the book Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Press, 2016). Page 89. Copyright © 2016, Penn Kemp and Quattro Books, Inc. Used with permission.

Celebrating Poetry in North York, Cobourg, St. Catharines, and more

If poetry is life, what then is life?/Or is that the abstraction/before the reflected surface. –Keith Inman*

You’ve got mail! Here’s your personal e-invitation! Gather your love poems and release your pink- and red-ribbon word-gifts to your poetic peers. This Sunday, February 11, 2018, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travels to North York to host “The Love Of Poetry Gathering”, an afternoon of spotlight book launches, members’ readings, and an open mic for non-members.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering in North York invite

The Ontario Poetry Society will host “The Love of Poetry Gathering” this Sunday, February 11 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 5221 Yonge Street in North York, Ontario. Admission is free.

The event starts at 12 noon and runs until approximately 4 p.m. at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 5221 Yonge Street, (2 Blocks north of North York Centre, South of Finch Avenue) in North York, Ontario. Sign-up for book launch spotlights and readings is at the door. Admission is free. Everyone (including first time readers) is welcome. Depending on the number of people signed-up, each person should come prepared to read either two short poems or one longer poem. All styles from rhyming couplets to free verse to experimental to rap and spoken word are accepted. More information here.If you can’t attend the Sunday event, TOPS will be hosting at least three more open mic events in 2018. The next one will be the “Spring into Poetry Party” to be held Saturday, May 5, 2018 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the café: Meet at 66 King East in Cobourg, Ontario. A summer event is tentatively planned for Sunday, August 26 in London and information about an autumn event will be announced at a later date.

On Saturday, March 3, 2018, Roy Adams and the Hamilton branch of The Ontario Poetry Society will team up with Brydge Builder Press for “A Hamilton Poetry Night”, 8 to 10:30 p.m. at The Staircase, 27 Dundurn Street North. Highlights include the launch of Vagabond Post Office: A Poet’s Path Home by David C. Brydges (TOPS Cobalt branch manager), featured readings by Kathy Fisher and Gary Barwin plus music by David McIntosh. TOPS president Fran Figge will emcee the evening. An open mic will follow. Admission is free.

March 3, 2018 in Hamilton, Ontario

TOPS Cobalt branch manager (David C. Brydges) will be launching his new book Vagabond Post Office: A Poet’s Path Home, Saturday, March 3 in Hamilton.

THROWBACK THURSDAY:

For those who missed it: TOPS travelled to St. Catharines for the first time last November 12, 2017. Six members took to the stage and two new books and two new chapbooks were spotlighted during the “Autumn Harvest Poetry Festival”.

Keith Inman introduced his second trade book SEAsia (Black Moss Press, 2017). Canadian poet John B. Lee stated in his review published in the January 2018 issue of Verse Afire “..in Niagara poet Keith Inman’s book of poetry we take something of a cultural journey in which we accompany the poet on his travels seeing the southeast Asian world through the filter of language as we depart by way of poetry from our common home in Canada travelling east by way of Cambodia and Vietnam and returning to our Native land changed by the experience of having been away. …we are companions on a journey. We are fellow travelers having knowledge of going hence from the familiar and returning from the foreign. And we wonder what it means to belong. How is it for the exile?” Check the Black Moss Press website for the full review plus info about Keith Inman and his books.

Transitory Tango, TOPS 2017 membership anthology edited and compiled by Ottawa poet Ronnie R. Brown was also introduced with readings by several members. Additional information about this anthology and the list of contributors is posted on the TOPS website.

Debbie Okun Hill shared two new chapbooks: Drawing from Experience (a runner-up in the 2017 Big Pond Rumours Chapbook contest) and Chalk Dust Clouds (this year’s winner of TOPS Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award.) Info about the first chapbook appears here. In a recent Verse Fire review of Chalk Dust Clouds, Canadian poet Ronnie R. Brown states “Replete with unique and unexpected images, Okun Hill manages to produce a small collection that stands large in the readers’ minds. From the boy who writes his love’s name on his arm in ball point, to a recycled book of paper dolls, Okun Hill pushes all the buttons, rewinding the reader’s mind back to an earlier and simpler time when erasing the blackboard and slapping the erasers was a reward worth fighting for.” The contest results appear here.

Other spotlight readers (in alphabetical order) were Roy Adams, Fran Figge, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, and Kamal Parmar. Work by non-members were also shared.

TOPS Members Reading in St Catharines - November 12, 2017 blog version

The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic on November 12, 2017 at the Mahtay Café & Lounge in St. Catharines. Featured readers included: (back row, left to right) Roy Adams, Keith Inman, Debbie Okun Hill, Fran Figge, and Kamal Parmar. (Front row) I. B. (Bunny) Iskov.

The Ontario Poetry Society is a poetry friendly grassroots organization with over 240 members. It was founded to create a democratic organization for members to unite in camaraderie, friendship, emotional support and encouragement in all aspects of poetry, including writing, performing and publishing. Additional information can be found on its website.

Several other articles about this organization have been posted on this blog over the years.

A partial listing of Ontario literary events for 2018 appears here.

Follow this blog for future news about Canada’s literary community.

*From the poem “What is Poetry?” from the book SEAsia (Black Moss Press, 2017). Used with permission from the author. Copyright © Keith Inman 2017

Lummox Press Seeks Poetry for New “Canadian Only” Anthology

If you’re a Canadian poet, polish up your poems but don’t wait too long! Lummox Press of San Pedro, California wants to see your best work for a new “Canadian Only” anthology. The deadline for submissions is February 7, 2018.

LUMMOX 6 - Sarnia reading - James Deahl - Photo 1 November 18, 2017

Canadian poet James Deahl will edit a new “Canadian Only” poetry anthology for Lummox Press. The book is expected to be released in October or November 2018 with readings in early 2019.

 

James Deahl (the Canadian poet assigned to edit the project) has already started some of the pre-editing but expects more poetry to come in over the next few weeks. The target size of the book will be 200 pages.

“My working title is Tamaracks: Canadian poetry for the 21st century,” he said. “Publication should be in late October/November…There will be contributors’ readings early next year in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Sarnia, etc. Los Angeles too. All contributors will be invited to participate in all readings.”

Deahl’s passion for poetry is evident. He is the author of 26 literary titles and many of his accomplishments have been featured on this blog before. Two of his books To Be With a Woman (2016) and Unbroken Lines (2015) have been published by Lummox Press. For four years he has also encouraged Canadian poets to submit work to LUMMOX, an American poetry anthology published by the same press and has helped to organize Canadian launches for these books.

LUMMOX 6 - Sarnia reading - N. Leonard Segall - Photo 1 November 18, 2017

Leonard Segall, board rep, Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, says a few words at the Lummox Number 6 launch in Sarnia.

 

Last fall, several Canadian contributors of LUMMOX Number 6 participated in a reading in Hamilton.

On November 18, the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts hosted a launch for the same anthology in Sarnia.

The 216-page anthology featured the work of over 150 poets from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, China, and Dubai.

Seven of the 23 Canadian contributors plus a previous Canadian contributor were on hand to share their work during this afternoon event.

Additional information about the anthology featuring American, Canadian, and International poets and authors appears here.

Below are additional images highlighting that event:

LUMMOX Six Sarnia launch November 18, 2017 at the Lawrence House - featured readers

Canadian poets were well represented in LUMMOX Number 6 published by Lummox Press in San Pedro, California.

 

LUMMOX 6 - Sarnia reading - Group - Photo 1 November 18, 2017

Several LUMMOX contributors shared their work during the November 18, 2017 launch at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia. From left to right: Rhonda Melanson, Grace Vermeer, Lynn Tait, David Haskins, Debbie Okun Hill, James Deahl, Norma West Linder, and Jennifer L. Foster.

 

Submissions for LUMMOX Number 7 (to be edited by R. D. Armstrong) will open later this spring. More information is available on the LUMMOX Press website.

Below is the official “Call for Submissions”

for the “Canadian Only” anthology!

Lummox Press of San Pedro, California plans to publish an anthology of Canadian poetry.

This is open to all Canadian poets.

Interested poets are invited to send their 6 best poems to:

James Deahl; 985 Maxwell Street; Suite 112; Sarnia, Ontario; N7S 4G2

or

jedeahl (at) gmail (dot) com

Hardcopy is most welcome.

E-mailed submissions should be in one file, either .doc or .docx  (I prefer .doc).

There is no limit on length.

Poems may be published or unpublished. Poets will be required to get permission to reprint previously published work from the initial publisher.

Deadline: Wednesday, February 7, 2018

 

Additional information about LUMMOX PRESS can be found here.

Follow this blog for future profiles on Canadian authors and poets.

Coming soon: a feature on Penn Kemp, a well-known sound poet from London, Ontario.

Officially Launched – Drawing From Experience

“We sat on the ledge/weathered edge of life’s dock/…celebrating the ascent of friendship.”    -Debbie Okun Hill*

New books remind me of paper boats launched into a river. Some will float near the dock and amuse the locals who are fishing along the shoreline. Some may crash into a wave and sink like the Titanic to annoy the pickerel and bass. Others may venture beyond the sunset and entertain strangers in foreign ports.

Drawing from Experience - Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017 - by Debbie Okun Hill

I hope my poems reach you like a friend with an outstretched hand.

Unlike novels, a poetry chapbook can be fragile like origami and calligraphy mixed together. It is the watercolour of the literary arts and sometimes misunderstood like the mysteries of life.

The passage of time is a mystery too…like a drifting boat.

Over two months ago, Big Pond Rumours Press officially launched my poetry chapbook. Drawing From Experience, at the Exmouth Street Coffee Lodge in Sarnia. For me, the afternoon was more than an event to introduce my art-themed poems to an audience. It was an opportunity to spotlight the literary arts as well as to applaud the support of friends, family and other writers. What a celebration it was!

Drawing from Experience Launch Featured Readers and more November 11, 2018

An entertaining afternoon with featured readers Anne Kavanagh Beachey and Ryan Gibbs, the chapbook launch of Drawing From Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Debbie Okun Hill, emcee Bob McCarthy, and Big Pond Rumours Press founder Sharon Berg.

Special thanks to featured guest readers and former Lambton County residents and writers Anne Kavanagh Beachey and Ryan Gibbs who returned to Sarnia to share their stories and poems. Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy was the emcee and his humour warmed up the audience. (Bios on these authors can be found in an earlier blog post.)

Drawing from Experience Open Mic Readers November 11, 2018

Open Mic Readers: Top Row (left to right) – David D Plain, Lynn Tait, Norma West Linder, Bob McCarthy. Bottom Row (left to right) – Gloria Pearson-Vasey, Bob Boulton, Carmen Ziolkowski.

Belated thanks to the ‘collage of open mic performers” (in alphabetical order): Sharon Berg, Bob Boulton, Norma West Linder, Bob McCarthy, David D Plain, Lynn Tait, Gloria Pearson-Vasey, and Carmen Ziolkowski.

Plus a round of applause to Sharon Berg, publisher of Big Pond Rumours Press who worked hard to not only publish my chapbook but the work of three other poets: Bob Wakulich, Nelson Ball, and Harold Fedderson.

Additional information and earlier reviews focusing on my chapbook Drawing From Experience can be found here.

Big Pond Rumours Press 2nd Annual Chapbook Contest

Big Pond Rumours Press is currently seeking poetry, flash or short fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts for its next chapbook contest. Deadline is February 28, 2018.

Big Pond Rumours Press is a micro-press based out of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Submissions for its second annual chapbook manuscript contest is now open until February 28, 2018. Additional information about the press and the contest can be found on its website.

*From the poem “Starting a New Tradition” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 5 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017

 

 

More Applause for Singer-Songwriter Gregger Botting and His Debut CD

I will be the servant to your stiletto heels/And the marks that you leave on me I will keep concealed…* -Gregger Botting

Chatham-born Gregger Botting returns to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada,  Sunday, January 21, 2018 for an afternoon House Concert at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. Grab your tickets now!

Every time Gregger performs live at a coffee shop or during an outdoor event, his voice strengthens and his confidence soars. Behind the scenes, his fans praise his humble and casual nature. The guitarist displays a genuine interest in helping people and harbours a deep parental love for his young daughter. On stage, his wide smile automatically warms up the audience; his magnetic personality keeps them listening. According to a Lawrence House release, “Gregger will be performing a mix of his original songs as well as covering some favourite and familiar rock/folk/Americana hits of the 1960s.”

Hear my applause again and again.

April 2017 Gregger Botting event in Petrolia

Gregger Botting’s debut CD “Never Saw a Thing Coming” was recorded at DNA Media in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and released digitally in January 2017. All of the songs were written by Botting.

 

I normally don’t blog about musicians but Greg (stage name Gregger) has been part of Sarnia’s literary scene for several years: first as one of the few singer-songwriters to attend Spoken Word at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts and more recently as part of Open Stage, a new open mic event hosted by musician Missy Burgess.

With a common interest in words and rhythm, poets and songwriters are often inspired by each other. I admire Gregger’s dedication and commitment to his music plus the depth of emotions in his lyrics.

In his debut CD, Never Saw A Thing Coming, Botting draws on the vulnerabilities of falling in love, the loneliness of break-ups, the healing of open wounds, and the uncertainties of a future relationship.

His 11-song CD showcases a variety of musical styles and voices from the twangy-country feel of “Hippie Girl” to the slower tempo of “About to Fall” to the rock ‘n roll sound of “It’s You” to the jazzy and bluesy “Bad Day Blues”. I love the sound of “The Grand Catastrophe” with Botting’s harp-sounding guitar picked melody. His duet with London folk songstress Taylor Holden is also noteworthy, reminding me of the famous Johnny Cash and June Carter collaboration.

His lyrics lean toward the more traditional verse with catchy lines like Hearts can heal but I’m not sure from “Hippie Girl” and I’ll help to take your tears away from “It’s You”. He also writes gems like the stiletto reference mentioned at the top of this blog and I will be the ashes and you can be the fire from “As Fast As You Come (You Disappear)”.

In my opinion, his strongest lyrics stem from the song he often plays at gigs. This title track “Never Saw A Thing Coming” includes the words That joker he lives in a house of cards/one day they fell down and they fell pretty hard/The Kings and Queens they laughed at him. Later, he adds: His record was worst [sic] than the weatherman’s.

In the last track, hope prevails in “Promise of Another Day” where the duet sings Darkness now gone, sunlight now gained/The moments of love show when we are saved.

Gregger Botting performs at Coffee Lodge August 10, 2017 Photo 6

Lambton County singer-songwriter Gregger Botting performs at the Coffee Lodge, Exmouth Street location in Sarnia, August 10, 2017. His next concert will be at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts this Sunday, January 21, 2018

Several months ago, I had a chance to interview Gregger about his journey as a musician and his experiences with his first CD. Below is his response to my questions:

First of all, belated congratulations on the release of Never Saw A Thing Coming, your debut CD. In one or two lines, describe the style of music and theme behind your CD? Was there a message you wanted the audience to walk away with? If yes, what is it?

Well thank you very much. So the album by design is a mixture of folk, blues, rock, Americana… I certainly wanted it to be an interesting mix of material. It’s going to be familiar but I am a product of my musical heroes and ‘if it ain’t broken’, as they say… The mix of genres keeps you on your toes with their feel and instrumentation, so I hope that brings the ‘fresh to the familiar’ in its overall sound.

In regards to theme (and I don’t know how intentional it was while selecting the songs at the time) but what I noticed as I look back on its overall theme, are the ideas of love, loss and a nostalgia for life moments that good or bad, make an impact and are relatable to people. I hope as people listen in a contemplative kind of way, that on the whole, it has a reassuring kind of vibe.

What is your favourite song on the CD and why is it so special to you?

I know that this sounds completely cornball, but all the songs I finish are sort of special. I find that when I write, if my intuition is telling me to see a particular song through (either immediately or being constantly compelled to return to it) then something outside of me is going on. No song felt like a chore. I am pretty certain that I was really pumped-up after writing each tune. So, back to your question, I’ll toss three out to you.

The title track “Never Saw a Thing Coming” was a song that came pretty quick from start to finish….and I knew there was something about it as soon as it was finished. It’s not quite a story but nor is it this free associating wordplay. It’s autobiographical yet equally relatable. It came quickly from the song writing gods so I am grateful for it.

“All ‘Bout the Soul” is a tribute to Kris Kristofferson, a song writing legend and hero of mine. Also, my friend Roger Fisher who recorded guitar on the record says it is probably his favourite song and so that means a lot too. He told me as soon as I played it for him, he could imagine it on the radio. He does a great classic-country guitar solo on it.

“Hippie Girl” took years between the first half and second half of the song. It was one I was always going back to in the notebook. It is special in that, when I completed it, the sensation of excitement and confidence about it (even as just words on a page) was really strong. At the time, I felt like that one (on a lyrical level) was so smooth in its imagery and would be able to easily speak with other people. That’s the reason it kicks off the album…That and Producer Adam Miner, told me as much and so I’ll bow to the wise.

A musician’s journey can be a challenging one. How long did it take to collect enough material to put out a CD? What was the most difficult part about the process? Did you ever feel like giving up? Why or why not? How did you stay motivated?

I went to DNA Media in Sarnia with a bunch of home recordings of songs. Producer Adam Miner (DNA Media) and I discussed what I was looking to do and he told me to go with my instinct and pick the sure-bet songs to start…and we went from there. The songs I provided were written in roughly a five year period.

The most difficult part of the process was fighting my own self-doubt. I think it bogs more people down than anything else. While I was excited for so many of the other musicians who came in and did outstanding performances during the process, there were times when I wondered about the purpose of it all.

I had written enough material that I felt were good (to me) and complete, that ultimately I knew I had to do something with them. Surely I wasn’t meant to just play them alone in my living room. I don’t want to get all hippie-dippy on it but I chalked it up to something more than me. There’s a point to it all, no? There has to be. Maybe it was all just cathartic at the time, but maybe it was to be shared. Where’s this stuff coming from? How’d I come up with that? So one day you decide to do something concrete with it. Get it out there.

With authors, the cover of the book is the first thing that readers will notice. I was quite impressed by the cover of your CD and the images used to promote your work. How challenging was it to decide on the right cover?  Please explain the process.

The credit goes 100% to DNA Media. I dragged photographer Natali Bravo to a couple locations in and around Petrolia (where I am living) and she eyed new locations, 200 feet from my locations that ultimately made the cover and CD inserts.

Once we had the photographs, Music Producer Adam Miner and I sat down and he whipped up some magic in Photoshop. We tinkered with size and alignment of some text, but Adam is both an audio and visual artist so things came together fairly quickly. The photos told us the colour scheme and some back and forth with different ideas, and there it was.

Adam really has an eye for quality and he doesn’t fool around when he has a vision going. I am grateful for them both to help me out with this for sure.

When did you first decide you wanted to write songs and be a musician? Was it something you always dreamed about or was it a decision you made later on in your life? Please elaborate.

I always enjoyed music and as a little kid was driving around with my dad who listened to 104.3 WOMC out of Detroit. 1950’s rock ‘n roll, The Motown sound, early British Invasion, Chuck Berry, it was all great stuff. I liked 94.7 WCSX which was more into Jimi Hendrix, Cream and harder, edgier classic rock of the later 1960’s and early 70’s.

I don’t know if there ever was a moment that I consciously considered either as something I could be. I think my guitar playing was and is out of enjoyment ever since I picked it up as a teenager.

Writing songs was something I had tried from time to time as a teenager and in my 20’s but they were only pieces and were varying degrees of awful. Ultimately I knew that I really had nothing to say. I never really was into current trend music and anyone I was listening to had a pretty authentic persona. I was and still am of the belief that the great songs come from authenticity that I didn’t have.

I found myself writing while struggling with the end of my marriage in my early 30’s. I wasn’t writing songs necessarily, but I was writing my struggle and writing to sort things out in my head. After we separated, it was kind of a conscious notion that I should try writing some songs. They were dark and a lot of them only sketches of a full song. But they were a constructive way to work through things and focus my thoughts when I’d get home from the day job. So that’s where things evolved and I started to have something to say. I gained some of that life experience/authenticity that I was able to use as fuel.

What inspires you? Who are your mentors?

Surrounding myself with other inspired people is a good start I think. It is not a competitive endeavour by any means, but surrounding yourself with other creative people just seems to rub off. I often feel inspired after attending an open mic or something where people are relaxed, having fun and sharing their material.

Other times though, I’ve no clue what inspires me…until it does.

As far as mentors, there is a quote from Tom Waits that goes “For a songwriter you don’t really go to song writing school; you learn by listening to tunes.” It probably is an osmosis kind of thing.  Writers I am sure love to read and likewise musicians listen to music absorbing little things they likely don’t even notice.  The artists (that I have a pretty good collection of their material) were guys like Bob Dylan, Kris Kirstofferson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits so if I’m not listening to their records often, I am always going back to their canon from time to time. I’m really hoping the whole osmosis idea is an actual thing. Haha.

Gregger Botting performs at Coffee Lodge August 10, 2017 Photo 2

“Writing songs was something I had tried from time to time as a teenager”, said Gregger.

Tell me a little about your writing process. Do you have a specific routine or do you just write when the muse nudges you? Is there a certain place where you like to write?  Which comes first the music or the lyrics? Please elaborate.

The lyrics always come first. I find that I am able (and I use the word ‘able’ loosely) to come up with some sort of melody around some established words and reshape some lines as necessary. I can’t recall a time when I was strumming my guitar and a melody translated into a worthwhile phrase or a flash of inspiration. I know many other songwriters do it that way though. It’s all a mystery to me; the how and why of it all.

Early on, I only wrote when the mood struck me. Now, I attempt to write (or at least carry a notebook with me) as often as I can. Usually I find it more difficult to write some words and follow them down the rabbit hole. I need a broad idea/topic to generate the first couple lines….and maybe things will catch fire. But maybe one day the song I force myself to start may be my best song.

I was listening to CBC radio one morning and the program topic was serendipity and happy-accidents. A writer was promoting their book on the subject and one of the points made was that for those moments to happen, you have to be active and keep working to put yourself in that position. The example the writer gave was Fleming discovering penicillin. It doesn’t happen without him being a messy guy, the laboratory being in shambles and covered in petri-dishes. So the same logic can apply to song writing or anything. Stay engaged, don’t throw any of the scraps away, and something may come of it someday.

I can still recall the first few times you started performing at the Spoken Word events at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. There you were at the back of the room listening to all the poets, storytellers and non-fiction writers sharing their work. Many evenings you were the only musician in the room and yet you kept coming back. Now I understand you are a regular at the Lawrence House’s Open Stage event which is filled with musicians and musical performances and now the poets are in the minority. How have these local experiences helped you as a writer and performer?

Well, thanks for not only having me, but encouraging me, back at the Spoken Word events those years ago. I don’t see a big difference in poetry and song lyrics. Leonard Cohen has many fine examples where his words sit just as beautiful on the page as they do as a song. Kris Kristofferson studied English Literature at Oxford and is a Rhodes Scholar. His heroes are Johnny Cash and William Blake so that’s a pretty cool mix I’d say.

Along with attending these events for inspiration and being around other creative people, it is a great opportunity to play new material and try new things. The Open Stage is such a supportive and encouraging space. When you start out at anything, you should give yourself the best opportunity to succeed so an environment like the Open Stage, where everyone is encouraging and attentive, goes a long way to gaining that experience and logging some hours in front of an audience. In addition, the sound in the room itself is really great. At the end of the night you’ve gained some experience for yourself, heard some great material, and met some new people so it’s a pretty good deal all around!

What’s next for Gregger Botting?

Haha. What a question Debbie. I really don’t think it is up to me at all. I’ll keep plugging along I suppose. I enjoy writing and tinkering on a guitar so I’ll do them both whenever I can. I have kind of a “things happen for a reason” outlook with my music. Should some new opportunity come along and my intuition then gives me a nudge towards it, it’ll be what it’ll be.

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

I will be playing the Lawrence House this Sunday, January 21, 2018. It is an afternoon show that starts at 3 p.m. and will last for two hours.

A CD can be picked up at Cheeky Monkey in their “Local Artists” section as well as at The Book Keeper.

Or, visit my website www.greggerbotting.com to listen to samples or see music download options

Thank you Gregger for sharing your writing process and journey as a songwriter and musician. I like how the whole package came together for you. Can’t wait to hear more of your work!

Gregger Botting’s debut album Never Saw A Thing Coming was digitally released in January 2017 and officially launched in Petrolia and Chatham in April 2017.  He has performed in numerous public events including Sarnia’s Cadence Reading Series, the Lawrence House’s First Friday events, Sarnia’s Artwalk, and at Petrolia’s Art in the Park celebration. He is a frequent featured performer at the Coffee Lodge in Sarnia and at Sam’s Percolator in Chatham.

Gregger’s Sunday’s performance at the Lawrence House is part of its House Concerts series supported by the County of Lambton Creative County Fund and Leonard Segall and Marilyn Mason.

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*Quote is from the song “As Fast as You Come (You Disappear)” from the CD Never Saw A Thing Coming © Gregger Botting 2017 Used with permission from the singer-songwriter.