Tag Archives: Anthologies

Embracing Books About Trees

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

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

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

International Day of Forests March 21, 2021

International Day of Forests was celebrated March 21, 2021.

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


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

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

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Gardening Words – A Literary Spring Cleaning

“North wind yanks her long skirt./A hand-knit scarf covers/her tulip-shaped face.”  -Debbie Okun Hill*

Call it a brain freeze or an ice-cream headache: that sensation of eating or drinking an ice cold substance during a hot summer’s day! (Insert laughter here!) Last week, the temperatures soared above 30 degrees Celsius: much too hot for planting seeds!

Lost in Reality TV Snow - Okun Hill - January 9, 2018

This week, the wind off the lake numbs my fingers. Words pile up like snow, like unread books on a shelf, like autumn leaves clogging the eaves trough, like spring cleaning that never gets completed!

Quick, grab me a broom and a rake to smooth out this unruly tangle of rejection slips and word roots gnarled and snarled on my desk and in my yard.

I’m waiting for my garden-gloved fingers to unthaw.

In the meantime, browse through the good news gathered in my in-basket:

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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.


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.


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.


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.”


“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.

TOPS Membership Anthologies: Poetic Teamwork


“The rewards of participating in one of our anthologies are many.” – Fran Figge, President, The Ontario Poetry Society

Are you an emerging or professional poet who enjoys contributing to group projects? Being a member of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) has its perks. Each year the executive of this grassroots, poetry-friendly organization brainstorms ideas and book titles before finalizing the submission call themes for its upcoming annual membership anthology. Their goal is to stimulate creativity and to celebrate and showcase the poetic work of its members, no matter where each poet stands in his/her writing career.

The Ontario Poetry Society has published several membership anthologies showcasing both emerging and professional poets. Previous editors/compilers have included such Canadian poets as Norma West Linder, John B. Lee, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Ronnie R. Brown and more.

The Ontario Poetry Society (with the assistance of Beret Days Press) has published several membership anthologies showcasing both emerging and professional poets. Previous editors/compilers have included such Canadian poets as Norma West Linder, John B. Lee, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Ronnie R. Brown and more.

Last year’s SCARLET THISTLES anthology published by Beret Days Press, edited and compiled by Fran Figge with photography by Lynn Tait and layout/design by Mark Clement was a huge success thanks to the editorial/production team as well as the contributors. (Disclaimer: As a former executive member of TOPS, of course, I’m going to applaud the positive attributes of this book. TOPS is an organization I strongly believe in. However, my comments are also based on statistic facts.)

Fran Figge, editor/compiler of SCARLET THISTLES, the largest TOPS membership anthology produced to date.

Fran Figge, editor/compiler of SCARLET THISTLES, the largest TOPS membership anthology produced to date.

According to Figge’s foreword, the 2014 anthology contained “the most contributors of any of our anthologies so far.” Eighty-nine members submitted over 650 poems, with 250 poems eventually selected for the final project. (A list of contributors appears here. ) Poems were divided into five sections: Blood Soaked Grounds, Slash and Burn, Cruel Cuts, Lighting the Dark, and Healing Hurts.

Figge stresses that “good writing brings the reader back again and again.” Those were the poems she was drawn to and those are the poems she recommends poets should submit for future projects like the upcoming MINDSHADOWS membership anthology.

As this year’s editor/compiler, I agree with Figge and would encourage contributors to submit their best work such as award-winning poems or work previously published and accepted by other magazines. Please double check and ensure you own the copyright and reprint rights, Such poems showcase what TOPS members are capable of achieving.

If you’re a new poet hesitating with submitting work for the first time, you’re not alone. Many poets started their writing careers with these anthology projects. Feel free to ask for editorial help from a fellow poet or attend a local writer’s group for constructive advice.

Sometimes it’s fun to create new work specifically for the theme. For example, this 2015 collection will explore the times and events which plague our thoughts. Consider topics associated with Mind Games, Night Life, Shadows & Hauntings and Lighting the Dark but don’t wait too long.

Working hard behind the scenes: Mark Clement, TOPS layout designer/webmaster.

Working hard behind the scenes: Mark Clement, TOPS layout designer/webmaster.

The March 15, 2015 deadline is fast approaching. Submission guidelines can be found here. Remember the call is only open to members of The Ontario Poetry Society. Members do not need to be Ontario residents. Special thanks to Canadian poets Elana Wolff and Katerina Fretwell who will provide illustrations for the book and Mark Clement who will be responsible for the design and layout.

Below are additional insights shared by Figge in an e-mail interview.

In your role as President and as the editor of SCARLET THISTLES what do you feel are the benefits of submitting work and participating in the membership anthology?

The rewards of participating in one of our anthologies are many. Not only do you have an incentive, a focus to write poems for a specific topic, but there is not the same pressure or uncertainty as when entering a contest. You are guaranteed to have at least two poems published in the anthology and get a copy of a beautifully designed book for less than the cost that it takes to enter most contests.

TOPS founder I. B. Iskov with a shipment of SCARLET THISTLES to be sent to participating poets.

TOPS founder Bunny Iskov with a shipment of SCARLET THISTLES membership anthologies sent to participating poets last autumn.

There is the satisfaction of knowing that your work will be seen, which is what most poets want, to share their work with others. You get exposure. You have a chance to be recognized by your peers. It’s also an opportunity to see how your work fits in with other peoples’ ideas and styles as well as lets you see other types of poetry writing that might inspire you in the future.

Submitting to an anthology can be a valuable learning tool as well. It’s a chance to analyze why certain poems were chosen over others.

What techniques were successfully used in the chosen poems? Were editing suggestions made? What did they entail?  Can you figure out why those edits were made? Were the poems that were not chosen too wordy, prosy, or abstract? Were there spelling errors, improper verb tenses, too much repetition? What can you add to your routine of self-checking that addresses these issues?

By taking the time to think about these questions, you are sure to improve your writing.

Based on your experience with editing last year’s anthology, what advice would you give to a poet who wants to participate in this year’s anthology? For example, what should they do and what should they avoid?

Good writing brings the reader back again and again. In order to do that, it must be new, fresh, stand out from other pieces. How is that accomplished?

The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

Poetry requires an economy of words that necessitates the writer be concise. Use of a dictionary and thesaurus makes it easier to avoid repetition and correct spelling.

There must be a depth of meaning that will be rewarding on second or third reading. Present something in a new way, have a thought-provoking take on a subject, use interesting language and a fresh use of words, avoid clichés: all good practices for accomplishing this.

The photos of award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait have graced the covers of several TOPS books including the most recent membership anthology SCARLET THISTLES (Beret Days Press, 2014).

The photos of award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait have graced the covers of several TOPS books including the most recent membership anthology SCARLET THISTLES (Beret Days Press, 2014). Tait also co-edited (with the late Adele Kearns Thomas) TOPS Sounding the Seconds membership anthology in 2008. Photo courtesy: Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co. 2014.

Use concrete examples instead of abstract ideas as an effective way to keep up interest. Show the reader rather than tell. All of these techniques can only improve on the effectiveness of the work.

Make sure your work is polished. After writing your poem, let it sit for a few days then go back and read it again. Is there anything that stands out that you might change? Do this several times until no revisions come to mind and you should be very happy with the results.

Thanks Fran for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat!

If you are an experienced poet and/or illustrator and would like to be considered for a volunteer editor/compiler, illustrator or contest judge for future projects, please sent a brief resume outlining your qualifications and your interest in volunteering to Bunny Iskov, founding member of The Ontario Poetry Society. Additional information about the organization can be found here.