Tag Archives: Black Moss Press

Chatting with Canadian Poet Bernice Lever

Gonna kick up these old heels/Swing on that shiny pine floor/Stamp feet to that drum beat./Oh, find some lovin’ galore* – Bernice Lever

 You won’t find Canadian poet Bernice Lever resting on her laurels in an easy chair. Even at the golden age of 80 plus years, she’s much too busy for that.

Berrnice Lever at World Peace Poets 6th Read-In October 6, 2018 in Bellingham, Washington Photo courtesy Ashok K. Bhargava

Canadian Poet Bernice Lever reads at World Peace Poets 6th Read-In, October 6, 2018 in Bellingham, Washington. Photo courtesy of Ashok K. Bhargava

In addition to working on her 11th book of poetry expected to be published in 2019, she is still giving readings and workshops. Earlier this month, she was one of six Canadian and 31 American poets to read at the World Peace Poets 6th Read-In in Bellingham, Washington.  Two of her poems featured at that event will be published in a December chapbook.

Tamaracks - Lummox Press 2018 - front cover

Lever is one of 113 Canadian poets from Halifax to Vancouver published in TAMARACKS: Canadian Poets for the 21st Century (Lummox Press 2018)

Additional work recently appeared in two anthologies published by Lummox Press in San Pedro, California: LUMMOX Number 7 and TAMARACKS: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century. She also had four poems featured in Delicate Impact, an anthology released by Beret Days Press in the summer

In April, the League of Canadian Poets highlighted her poem “Not Just My Bunions” for Poem In Your Pocket Day. (Read more here.) Plus one of her poems was selected for Poetry Pause the League’s new on-line showcase to be launched this November.

Recently, she was welcomed to share her praise of her multi-talented publisher, Marty Gervais and of his five decades of leading Black Moss Press and his national prize winning literary magazine. This coming book is edited by well-known writer Bruce Meyer.

Bernice Lever has made such an extensive contribution to the literary community that several organizations including the League, the Canadian Authors Association, and The Ontario Poetry Society have honoured her with Life Memberships.

I recently chatted with Bernice about her literary life, philosophy, and future goals.

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Introducing Kara Ghobhainn Smith and “The Artists of Crow County”

I’m handing in this apron/of silence, so/Tuck your tanks under these skirts/because this is mystory [sic] now. – Kara Ghobhainn Smith*

Poetry like art is open to different interpretations. That’s my viewpoint and I’ve been wrong before.

When I asked Chatham-Kent’s Kara Smith (poet Ghobhainn) about The Artists of Crow County, her first book of Ekphrastic poetry (poems inspired by visual art), she honed in on strong matriarchal images, the woman’s voice, and the elders who paved a path for her.

Kara Ghobhainn Smith, author The Artists of Crow County

Kara Ghobhainn Smith was Chatham-Kent’s 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence.

As an art lover, I was drawn to her “brushstrokes of poetic colour” and how her words were shaped by viewing tangible art work. Is it possible to have two different meanings rising from a single manuscript? Ultimately, this was her book and herstory [sic] so I opted to listen carefully to her literary perspective and then sought out the opinions of others.

Here’s what I’ve discovered** so far:

Similar to the take-charge Nancy in her poem “New Sheriff in Town”, Ghobhainn is that NEW poet confidently storming into Canada’s vast literary frontier. Already she has forged a poetic name with her poem “Splitting Worlds”, shortlisted for the 2016 Walrus Poetry Prize, a prestigious honour for an emerging poet competing against established writers. Both of these poems incorporate strong elements of sound and were inspired by women artists and characters.

Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields gives Ghobhainn a ‘thumbs up’. In her endorsement, Shields declares that The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press 2017) is “a murderous convergence of art and poetry masterfully written by poet Kara Smith, Ghobhainn. This collection is a song to mother earth, turtle island, at times pensive and natural and also fluttering a sassy, clever spirit.”

Sharon Berg, founder/publisher/editor of the micro press Big Pond Rumours and a Canadian reviewer states, “Smith is to be admired for what she has done, working in multiple languages, exploring history and culture in North America and Europe. Her work ‘in the real world’ seems to invade her writing appropriately. She appreciates art as a human expression. She writes involved poetry.”  Berg’s full review can be found here.

Kara Smith book

The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press 2017) is Kara Ghobhainn Smith’s first poetry book.

For me, Ghobhainn’s work is indeed a cultural and spirited montage of words and images. Heavily influenced by her role as Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre’s 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence, Ghobhainn immersed herself in the fine arts community and wrote about the art that inspired her.

What I love is that her Ekphrastic poetry collection reminds me of strolling through an art gallery or museum. Each piece is eclectic and unique based on a specific concrete image that the reader can also see. I give Windsor publisher Black Moss Press credit for including 17 full-colour photographs of artwork, something rarely seen in poetry books. However, I will be ‘biting the hand that feeds me’ when I state that the cream textured paper distorts the colour of the images. Reproduction on a glossy white paper would have been more suitable, although it would certainly add a significant production cost to the publication. I must remind myself that this is NOT a gallery catalogue but a poetry collection.

In contrast to the muted photographs inside, the striking minimalist-inspired cover depicts a black silhouette of a crow. The tips of its wings paint vibrant blue, orange, green, yellow, and red strokes on a cloudy-grey canvas: a strong introduction for the book’s content.

This palette emphasizing Ghobhainn’s use of poetic colour, both figuratively and metaphorically, is what I first noticed (and most enjoyed) while reading an advanced copy of her book. Phrases such as “wash the canvas in soapy waves of/white”, “I was born blue”, “a bright, yellow short life/begins”, and “your red, burnt rubber face”.

Like an artist, Ghobhainn brushes lines of light and shadows of dark into her work. For example, in one poem she writes “She grows straight to the sun”; in another “let them sink to/the dark sands of Poseidan’s [sic]

One of my favourite poems is “The Sunflower” where she writes “I knew the moment I saw her:/tall, defiant, green/in a dry/Crack/of hot black asphalt;/that something was different here.”

Ghobhainn is different and her voice has unique qualities. Stretching her creativity, she even experiments with concrete poetry with the poem “Welcome to the University!” At times she uses non-traditional line breaks and I want to take an old-fashioned ‘blue’ editing pencil and make some minor changes. However, this is herstory and her interest in strong matriarchal figures is what she wishes to emphasize. A poet to watch!

Kara Smith reads during the All Four Love event February 11, 2017 at the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario

Kara Ghobhainn Smith performs at the All For Love celebration, February 11, 2017 at the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Photo provided by Ghobhainn.

A few weeks ago, I asked Kara to share her thoughts about her writing process. Below are her responses:

In 2015-2016, you were the Writer-in-Residence for the Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre. What was your role and what types of projects did you work on during that period?

That year I worked with artists in two centres: the Thames Art Gallery collective in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, and La Roche D’Hys Arts Centre in France. It was fascinating to see how visual artists approach their work. The process is very similar to a poet’s. While the artist is looking to connect the visual threads of colours and lines emerging from the canvas in front of them, poets are often engaged by the musical, or even visual, link words provoke. I tried to capture each artist’s narrative in Ekphrastic verse to open their exhibit during the year.

You’re a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and have a number of books to your credit. The Artists of Crow County published by Black Moss Press earlier this year is your first trade poetry collection. Describe your new book in a few sentences.

The Artists of Crow County is a truly beautiful book simply because each poem evolved out of the art work of one of Canada’s visual artists, and those national artists each lent images of their paintings to the text. What the reader experiences is a rich meal of words, art, and graphics throughout the pages.

Which of your poems in this book is your most favourite and why is it important to you?

Now you are asking me to choose ‘who is my favourite child’, and that’s impossible! But I have to say that I am always drawn to models of strong women ‘taking on the world’. “New Sheriff in Town” (pp.20-21), and found-object artist Laurie Langford’s work, really evokes that matriarchal strength for me, “Tuck your tanks under these skirts…and crown this Queendom already!” Her exhibit, “Four Housewives of the Apocalypse” will be in Leamington this July.

How does your work differ from others in this poetic genre?  

The voice. The persona in each poem is consistently that of a woman looking back on her lives, her pathways through history as a girl, lover, mother, thinker, and free spirit. It’s a pronoun that’s hard to place at first, but that is the one distinguishing thread.

Your poem “Splitting Words” was short-listed for the prestigious Walrus Poetry Prize! How did it feel to receive this honour? Is it important for writers to enter their work into contests? Why or why not? 

Yes, and again, I often feel that the verse simply shares the story of all women. In this case, renown Anishnaabe artist Darla Fisher-Odjig’s moving Truth & Reconciliation (TRC) exhibit, “Cowboys and Indians” (pp. 34-36). Her [self]portraits are of girls with this strong outline, a solid shell, and an empty centre. It’s very moving. And yes, sharing and honouring our stories as women is the reason to enter contests, “…to reawaken her distinct identity in this world”.

Kara Smith reads during the open mic at Sarnia's 2016 National Poetry Month Celebration April 3, 2016 Photo by Melissa Upfold for Calculated Colour Co.

Last year Kara Ghobhainn Smith was an open mic reader at Sarnia’s 2016 National Poetry Month celebration. This year, she returns as one of two featured readers for the 2017 celebration.  The other featured guest will be Sharon Berg. We acknowledge the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada. Photo courtesy of Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour Co.

What inspires you and who are your mentors?

Waterloo coders; artists persisting with their work despite 21st-century industry struggles; the organic metaphors in our world; and my grandmothers, elders who have paved this path for me: they are the living synapses between the parts we segregate.

Describe your writing process.

I am drawn to poetry and short story because I have a busy family life. The form is manageable, in its whole, during the time of the day I have to myself. After the meals, dishes, cleaning, and children are gone, I usually have an hour or two to sit, have a coffee, and write. Then I go to work, answer on-average 170 emails later in the day, and the domestic work begins again in the evening. I try to keep to this schedule Monday to Friday, like a job, and before bed each evening I read. Reading is critical for language building; I don’t believe one can write without it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of a post-apocalyptic short story entitled, ‘The Tryout’, and it has me on the end of my nerves!

What are your future plans?

Write something, just for me, in the quiet of each morning. Laugh, as a child, each afternoon.

Thanks Kara. It’s been fun chatting. I look forward to hearing you read in Sarnia next week.

Ghobhainn will be one of two featured readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 National Poetry Month Celebration, Tuesday, April 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at John’s Restaurant’s “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Her reading is made possible with financial assistance from the Canadian Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada. More information here.

She will also be reading at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on August 4, 2017.

In addition to her poetry book, Ghobhainn is the co-author of Next to the Ice: Exploring the Culture and Community of Hockey in Canada (Mosaic Press, 2016), Teaching, Learning, Assessing (Mosaic Press, 2007), and the author of the blogspot poetry series, ‘The Travelling Professor’. She is also the Editor of the Journal of Teaching and Learning (JTL), as well as the books’ editor for the Canadian Journal of Education (CTL). Additional bio information is located on The Writers’ Union of Canada website. Additional information about Ghobhainn and The Artists of Crow County is located on the Black Moss Press website.

*from the poem “New Sheriff in Town” published in the book The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017) page 20. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Kara Smith, 2017.
**Please note: I must disclose that I’ve met and read with Globhainn on several occasions and that my opinions may be perceived as a conflict of interest since we are both published by the same publisher. Therefore, I strongly suggest that readers make their own judgments about her 57-poem, 96-page collection and feel free to add your opinions. Comments that are spam or do not pertain to this topic will be eliminated.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.                 

Filling Your Heart with Love Poems

“All You Need Is Love,” wrote John Lennon. The lyrics to this 1967 Beatles single holds me captive and warms my mood like a lit fireplace on a snowy evening.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if love could soften some of the hatred in this world? Call me an optimist! I’d sooner be hypnotized by cupid’s arrow than lambasted by hurtful words. Are you feeling drained by all the negative news? I know I am.

tag_all_for_love_feb_11_myck

Mark your calendars for this special Red Valentine event in Chatham, Ontario.

In just eight days (Saturday, February 11), the Thames Art Gallery presents “All Four Love”, a special Red Valentine themed event featuring Black Moss Press* poets Cornelia Hoogland, Vanessa Shields, Kara Ghobhainn Smith, and Debbie Okun Hill (that’s me) plus special musical guest celebrity sing-songwriter Crissi Cochrane. If you’ve never heard Crissi perform, here’s your chance. She has a beautiful voice.

all-four-love-february-11-2017-event-guest-performers

If the idea of poetry frightens you, attend anyway. I dare you. We all have different styles and voices to reach a wide audience. Expect your heart to be filled with poetic words from the sentimental to the sexy to the humourous.

For example:

“What’s your hurry? Don’t be such a schoolgirl.” – from the poem “Red Meets the Wolf in the Woods” by Cornelia Hoogland.

“These days I choose sleep over sex/Fiction over poetry/Movies over dancing” – from the poem “Where Is the Love?” By Vanessa Shields.

“She thought he was/boring, arrogant/even full of it/but he showed her” – from the poem “The night the music ended” by Kara Ghobhainn Smith.

“Remember when…/I first kissed you,” –from the poem “Gentle Devotion” by Debbie Okun Hill

Yes poetry CAN be entertaining! For additional information and performers’ bios, stop by the Thames Art Gallery website. Crissi also has a website.

Will there be food? Of course!

menu-for-all-four-love-poetry-event-february-11-2017-in-chatham

A seven-course fully red tapas menu by William Street Café is included. Expect gazpacho shooters, beet hummus with vegi chips, red pepper bruschetta, phyllo cups with goat cheese pomegranate syrup & pistachios, cranberry glazed chicken wings, tortellini in tomato sauce, and mascarpone tart with raspberries.

Mmmmmm….is your mouth watering yet?

What are you waiting for? Forget your troubles. Bring a date, a friend, a group of friends. Wear something red. And yes, tickets are available here.

Still not convinced!

Below is a short section from my longer poem “Taped Together”.**

  1. iv) Two-sided Tape

They say there are two sides

To a coin, to a story

Sometimes two sides to love

His and her sides of a bed

Two sides to an argument

And two sides to mend.

Love, love, love! May love heal our world, today, tomorrow, and always. Hope to see you in Chatham at the Thames Art Gallery/Chatham Cultural Centre.

Can’t attend? Perhaps you’d prefer to share your own love poems. Check my Ontario 2017 event page for additional love themed readings and open mics such as the Poetry and Roses reading in London on February 9, The Ontario Poetry Society’s The Love of Poetry Gathering in Toronto on February 12, and/or the Art Bar’s Cupid Wins & Wounds All Open Mic Night in Toronto on February 14.

Happy Valentine’s Month Everyone!!!

*Additional information about Black Moss Press can be found on this website.
**The poem ‘Taped Together’ received an Honourable Mention Award from The Ontario Poetry Society’s (TOPS) The Open Heart 10 poetry competition 2015 and was first published in Open Heart 10: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry, Beret Days Press, 2016. Copyright © Debbie Okun Hill

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.

poetry-at-the-manor-october-27-2016

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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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.

i-wont-be-afraid-says-vanessa-shields-photo-by-eveline-csomor

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.” 

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Mississauga’s Poet Laureate Anna Yin Brings Eastern and Western Cultures Together

Languages have colours.* – Anna Yin

            “The Year of the Monkey” has officially arrived and Chinese-Canadian poet Anna Yin continues to celebrate with her public readings and writing of poetry. Her work is simple yet complex: colourful like haiku lines extended with silk ribbon metaphors, often lyrical with wind-sock blown, water-painted words flowing from each page. Her writing is exotic like an Asiatic lily but ‘down-to-Earth’ grounded with the strength and vulnerabilities of bamboo. Her mastery of English, her second language, amazes me.

As a writer, she has travelled far.

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Anna Yin, Poet Laureate for the City of Mississauga (2015-2017)

Born in China, she immigrated to Canada in 1999. Since that time, her literary career has soared. Today, she is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Mississauga (2015-2017) and has authored five poetry collections. Yin attributes much of her success to “luck” but many of her admirers feel she’s a natural literary ambassador with a unique poetic voice. In person, she is kind and warm: ambitious with her dreams but keen in helping others excel.

Follow her literary career on social media and you will see her positive and enthusiastic nature captured in promotional and celebratory photographs. Note the huge smile on her face and on the people around her.

Over the years, her poetry and translations have helped to bridge the language barriers between Eastern and Western cultures. She is a strong supporter and promoter of literary events.

On Sunday, February 21, she will participate in the 2016-RBC-Toronto Quinhuai Lantern Festival Lights Up where Chinese and Canadian poets from the League of Canadian Poets and more will read and perform poetry. The event is organized by Ontario-Jiangsu Friendship Association and Jiangsu Overseas Exchanges Association. More information can be found here.

 

LCP Members Anna Yin and Alice Munroe

Anna Yin with Alice Major, the first Poet Laureate for Edmonton. Yin will participate at the 2016 Edmonton Poetry Festival as part of the National Poetry Month Celebrations.

In addition to her functions as poet laureate, she continues to tour with her most current book Seven Nights With the Chinese Zodiac (Black Moss Press, 2015).  According to George Elliott Clarke, the Poet Laureate of Toronto ( 2012-2015) and Canada’s newest Poet Laureate, “Yin’s bravura poems—so exquisite and extraordinary—merit bravo over bravo.”

Below is my book review scheduled to appear in the next issue of Verse Afire, the membership newsletter of The Ontario Poetry Society:

Hypnotic and surreal! Reading Anna Yin’s latest book, Seven Nights With The Chinese Zodiac, is like drifting into a series of dreams and “moon-watered” poems.

A breath-taking collection! Hold onto your night caps! Her culturally-rich imagination surprises the reader with appearances of floating cities, a dragon that “thunders behind hefty clouds”, “winged horses pulling/a chariot”, a snake that “swallows the sky” and so much more.

SevenNights_COVER_FINAL

Seven Nights With the Chinese Zodiac (Black Moss Press, 2015) is Anna Yin’s 5th poetry book.

In the poem, “Night Waves”, the reader encounters “Wave upon wave…/inhaling”. Sometimes the images depict sadness, like a fish “desperate for air” or adversity when “shivering in storms/our bed is a fragile boat”. Other times, hope prevails when: “light is the anchor”… “You open your eyes/moonlight pours in”. This Asian moon symbol with its cyclical phases, its ebb and flow, its association with Yin’s versus Yang’s attributes is like an astrological thread or tributary that skillfully connects the poems together. 

Her poetic words are often water brushed with rain and snow petals, love lost and faith found, the change in seasons, mirrors and reflections, the scent of dried roses and the inhaling of silence.

In one poem, she pens: “My path is illuminated by the moon–/the same moon walked with Basho”. This reference to the Japanese haiku master as well as prominent Canadian poets Dorothy Livesay, John B. Lee, Margaret Atwood and others shows a deep respect and appreciation for her mentors. By mixing the more traditional haiku with her more layered and longer free verse poems, Yin blurs the lines between Eastern and Western cultures.

 Anna Yin is a writer who works diligently to make poetry more accessible and appreciated at home and abroad. As she states: “I long to tie a golden thread/in this labyrinth of dreams”. Anna Yin’s book awakens the poetic night: splits open the reader’s mind with each gentle or evocative line.

Additional information about Anna Yin and her books can be found on her author website, on the Black Moss Press website and in an on-line interview published by The Medium, The Voice of the University of Toronto Mississauga.

A YouTube video about Yin’s poetic journey leading up to her appointment as the first Poet Laureate of Mississauga can be found here.

*Quote is from the poem “My Accent” Anna Yin, first published in ARC Poetry Magazine and reprinted in Seven Nights With the Chinese Zodiac (Black Moss Press, 2015).

It’s Still Snowing Poetry – Windsor, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, Gimli…

“Each safe landing/on snow-dusted stage/whistled, applauded” –Debbie Okun Hill* 

Here on Canada’s southern edge, Ms. Frosty has curled her toes and postponed her arrival. I yearn to be outdoors in this oven-warm weather planting bulbs in my neglected word gardens. Instead, I pace inside my office where I can bear-ly, barely see the bottom of my desk. Event posters, poetic notes accumulate like paper snowflakes! Half-finished manuscripts and projects remain buried beneath more white clutter. I used to be so organized, well, before the birth of my first book, before I started blogging, before social media took over.

Only in Canada! A snowstorm outside Jasper, Alberta during the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour's 2015 April is Poetry Month Celebration!

Only in Canada! A snowstorm outside Jasper, Alberta during the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour’s National Poetry Month Celebration, April 2015!

Today, a snatched photo (an image of a bear) captured during a freak snowstorm last April outside Jasper, Alberta reminds me of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour and other travel stories that could be told if I wasn’t still travelling, if I wasn’t juggling other writing projects, if I wasn’t eating or sleeping.

 IN WINDSOR:

Thursday, November 12, 2015 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Often, a writer’s journey takes many detours and like the weather, you can either fight it or have fun and roll like a snowball. Tomorrow I’m off on another adventure. Hope to lasso the sun but will bring an umbrella just in case. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, below are some notices and posters that friends have shared with me. More blogs, more stories, and more poems I’d like to write. Mark your calendars and if you are a poetry fan wandering through Canada, I hope you will support some of these poetic events.

Safe travels everyone!!

IN WINNIPEG, MANITOBA:

The Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group (LWWG) will launch Voices, Volume 15 Number 2, Sunday, November 15, 2 pm at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Winnipeg. Launch details here and LWWG info here.

IN LONDON, CANADA:

POETRY LONDON presents Victoria’s Karen Enns and Nick Thran from Calgary. Wednesday, November 18, 167 Wortley Rd., London, ON Pre-reading workshop at 6:30pm The reading begins at 7:30pm  Admission is free. Addition info here.

Workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. Reading begins at 7:30 p.m.

Workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. Reading begins at 7:30 p.m.

IN TORONTO:

Sarnia poet James Deahl will be in Toronto Wednesday, November 18, 2015 to launch his latest book

Sarnia poet James Deahl will be in Toronto Wednesday, November 18, 2015 to launch his latest book

IN GIMLI, MANITOBA:

November 18, 2015 in Gimli, Manitoba

November 18, 2015 in Gimli, Manitoba

*Quote from a new manuscript in progress. Used with permission by the author ©Debbie Okun Hill, 2015

NOTE: Poetry London event poster was added on November 13, 2015 after the original posting.

 

 

 

 

Winnipeg Launch – Tarnished Trophies – May 25 with Special Guest Readers

You are invited

 Winnipeg launch/celebration Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press) featured poet Debbie Okun Hill with special guests Brenda Hasiuk, Carmelo Militano, and Brenda Sciberras

McNally Robinson Featured Readers May 25, 2015

To all my family, friends, former co-workers and relatives who are still living near the Winnipeg area, please stop by and say hello. Treat this as a reunion. Feel free to invite those I may have lost touch with. This is a public event.

You do not have to love poetry or be a book worm. I will not be twisting your arm to purchase books unless you want me to. I want this to be fun! If you know my private e-mail, let me know you are coming so we can ensure we have enough chairs set up. If you come without notifying me know, that is fine too.

This is also a great opportunity to hear and support the work of three local writers. I can’t wait to meet Brenda H. and Brenda S. Both were recently shortlisted for a Manitoba Book Award.* More details will be available following the awards dinner on April 25. Carmelo is also active in the community and hosts P.I. New Poetry, a half-hour poetry-themed radio show aired live every Sunday from 4:30 to 5 p.m.I look forward to meeting him too!

*NOTE added on May 6, 2015: Special congratulations to Brenda Hasiuk shortlisted for the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher and to Brenda Sciberras shortlisted for the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer and the recipient of the 2015 Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book.

Special thanks to McNally Robinson Booksellers for all their help and suggestions and to the three listed traditional publishers who made these books possible.

Hope to see you there!

–Debbie

FEATURED READERS (in alphabetical order):

Brenda Hasiuk Photo credit: Ian McCausland

Brenda Hasiuk Photo by Ian McCausland

Brenda Hasiuk’s short stories have appeared in some of Canada’s top literary journals, including The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly, and Prism International. Her previous two novels have received much critical acclaim. Boy Lost in Wild is Brenda’s first collection of short stories. Brenda lives in Winnipeg, the coldest major city on earth, with her husband and two children.

Debbie Okun Hill Photo courtesy of Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour

Debbie Okun Hill Photo by Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour

Debbie Okun Hill is a former Manitoba resident: a CreComm graduate from Red River College and a former employee with The Regional News (Selkirk) and The Winnipeg Art Gallery. Her interest in poetry developed after moving to Ontario to pursue a public relations career. Today, her poems appear in over 100 Canadian and U.S. publications including Descant, Existere, The Binnacle, The Literary Review of Canada, The Windsor Review and Vallum. Tarnished Trophies is her first book. Visit her blog.

Carmelo Militano Photo by Vera Palette.

Carmelo Militano Photo by Vera Palette

Carmelo Militano is a Winnipeg writer and poet. He is the author of three poetry chapbooks and four books including the novel Sebastiano’s Vine and a memoir/travelogue. In 2004, he won the 2004 F.G. Bressani award for poetry. Morning After You is his most recent publication.

Brenda Sciberras Photo by Kate Robinson

Brenda Sciberras Photo by Kate Robinson

Brenda Sciberras is a Winnipeg writer whose poetry has appeared in several Canadian literary magazines and anthologies. She holds a BA from the University of Manitoba and divides her time between working fulltime in a library, singing in the Spirit’s Call Choir, writing, and her family. Magpie Days is her first book.

THE BOOKS (in alphabetical order):

McNally Robinson Featured Books May 25, 2015

Boy Lost in Wild (Turnstone Press) by Brenda Hasiuk

BLIW_700We may be lost but we are never alone. That is the message to be found in Brenda Hasiuk’s new collection of short stories, Boy Lost in Wild. Adrift in unfamiliar surroundings, strangers to the strangers around them, the characters in each story feel lost even though they are inextricably tied to one another. A foreign student, mugged on the streets of Winnipeg, befriends his landlord. A young man bursting with rage shares a quiet moment with a sibling. The tears of a child who cannot find his way home are soothed by the voice of an elderly woman. Through sparkling prose, Hasiuk’s stories ring true, cutting through the alienation of urban life and lighting the threads that bind us to one another.

Magpie Days (Turnstone Press) by Brenda Sciberras
MagpieFRTCVR_700pxClever and persistent, Magpie Days, the debut poetry collection from Brenda Sciberras, picks through the baubles and trinkets of the everyday. And like the black and white plumage of the magpie, Sciberras’s poems balance the exquisite tension between joy and misery. Evoking life-defining events from the remembrance of a first bicycle to the loss of a close friend, these poems acknowledge pleasure and pain as necessary to life.

Morning After You (Ekstasis Editions) by Carmelo Militano

morning after you coverMorning After You is an articulate and deeply human new poetry collection by novelist and poet Carmelo Militano. Militano writes in a variety of styles: confessional, free verse, lyric, personal monologue, long poem, and prose poem. Each style is dense with sensual and evocative detail regardless of whether he is describing a city landscape, the sky, or the body of a woman. Militano’s poems also celebrate and mediate and seek to capture the complicated dual reality of being and seeing from two cultural perspectives. Militano’s use of direct language, image, and subtle ironic tone combine to create a unique and fresh voice in Canadian letters.

Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press) by Debbie Okun Hill

TarnishedTrophies_CoverIn her first book of poetry, Debbie Okun Hill leaps from the bleachers into the light and shadow of the sports world. Mixed with the poetic portraits of sweat…the thirst for first…and the juicy taste of orange victory are the metaphorical snapshots of tarnished men and women, the unrewarded failures, and the need to reflect. Tarnished Trophies wrestles the athletic soul: this essence of winning and losing, loving and changing, growing and shaping.

THE PUBLISHERS (in alphabetical order):

Black Moss Press

Author of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014)

Since it was founded in 1969, Black Moss Press has built a national reputation for its contribution to Canadian literature. Black Moss has published more than 400 first editions and introduced more than 100 new authors to the Canadian literary scene.

Ekstasis EditionsEkstasis Editions

Ekstasis Editions is a Canadian literary publisher, with emphasis on poetry, fiction and criticism. Since its founding in 1982, Ekstasis Editions has published over 200 titles.

Turnstone Press

TP_IDB_INVRTFounded in a Winnipeg pub in 1976 to publish chapbooks by Manitoba poets, Turnstone Press has become one of the most highly regarded book publishers in western Canada, publishing not only poetry but also fiction, literary criticism and non-fiction.

Additional Manitoba events have been scheduled for May. See my 2015 tour schedule here.

Watch this blog for information about the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour! A Winnipeg stopover has been recently added for Sunday, April 19. See you there!Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser Winnipeg Event poster

 

A Canadian Poet Profile: Keith Inman and The War Poems

 

and we fell

to the creeks
and blowing grass
of hillsides riddled red
with flowers
blooming from the bones
we planted
-Keith Inman*
 
Today is Remembrance Day! Red poppies! Red poppies everywhere!

Someone somewhere will recite John McRae’s “In Flanders Field”. Perhaps, a grade school child (with a blonde lock of hair over her eyes and a shoelace untied) will rustle a paper sheet before uttering the poem’s title. Her classmates may sit-wiggle-squirm cross-legged on a gymnasium floor. Outdoors, across town in the cold damp November air, a uniformed solider may place a wreath at a cenotaph. Silence observed. We try to remember.

PHOTO CUTLINE: The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) features 67 poems by Canadian award-winning poet Keith Inman. It is Book #11 in the First Line Poetry Series which focuses on writers who are publishing their first book of poetry.

PHOTO CUTLINE: The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) features 67 poems by Canadian award-winning poet Keith Inman. It is Book #11 in the First Line Poetry Series which focuses on writers who are publishing their first book of poetry.

Thanks to poets and storytellers, the scars of war remain etched on our minds. However, John McRae isn’t the only Canadian poet to write about the atrocities of conflict. This fall, contemporary poet Keith Inman added a fresh viewpoint of history with his first trade book The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven. Published by Black Moss Press, this 104-page collection includes 67 poems categorized into three sections: Wars of Dependence: 1812 to 1887, A Republic Monarchy: 1889 to 1953, and Armed Peace: 1954 to Present.

If it sounds dry, it isn’t. Inman’s work is enriched by strong characters and setting. He often includes dialogue and draws unusual but memorial stories from ordinary men and women living and working in what appears to be ordinary situations.

It’s a winning combination. Several of his poems included in this collection have been previously published in literary journals such as Descant or CV2. Others have placed in contests.

According to his book bio: he has published two chapbooks: Tactile Hunters (Cubicle Press, 2005) and A Stone with Sails, part of Sigil Press’s trilogy of Niagara Poets: Hanging on a Nail (2009).

Last week, I asked Inman to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:      

Describe your book. Why did you write it?

War Poems represents the years Canada was at war. However, instead of a traditional war front, I wanted to look at what was going on in the lives of the people who were, basically, funding the war through family and taxes. I also believe that people, generally, rely on reason to form and inform their lives. I also like to delve into what happens when time and circumstance get in their way?

What are you working on?

World peace.

Canadian Poet Keith Inman

Canadian Poet Keith Inman

How does your work differ from others?

I started out as a short story writer, loved developing characters, rather than the internal ‘I’, or, testimonial point of view which is standard fare for poetry. I find it more rewarding creating from, let’s say, ‘what happened on the way to the forum’: a drunk crosses the road. His name is Fred. A war vet. Air force. Trainer, maybe.

Posted east, to train land- loving colonials how to fly above their gods. A separation of religions. Mutilation begets mutilation. Bodies of whole families in the ditch. Their sandals stolen. A drunk crosses the street.

Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?

There comes a point when all the learning and lessons that you’ve absorbed over years becomes automatic – something triggers a thought, you sit down, and write. Editing comes later, although I find much of the process now happens as I am writing. Not sure that’s good or bad, it just is. Also, against most recommendations, I do not write every day. That is not my personality. That does not work for me. I don’t force it.

I remember reading about Nikola Tesla building a machine in his head, ‘then let it run for a few months.’ Later, he’d think about where the bearings showed signs of wear. What wasn’t working, etc… I think of it as periphery intelligence, or periphery sequencing. For me, I allow ideas to work in my brain for a period, see what imagery attaches to the machinery of it, let the gears mesh for a while, let the pressure build in the pipes, then write. It usually works.

Thanks Keith for the interview.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Poet Profiles.

*from the poem “The Flute and the Rifle” The War Poems: Screaming from Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) Reprinted with permission from the author. Copyright ©2014 Keith Inman

Every Poet Should Try Reading in Stratford

Imagine travelling to Stratford, Ontario: home of the Stratford Festival, considered to be “North America’s largest classical repertory theatre, presenting the works of William Shakespeare and other great writers”.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”        William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

To be or not to be…a poet on stage?

John B Lee in Stratford Aug 24, 2014That is a good question. Another thought: must poetry be read or performed in front of an audience to be fully appreciated? Of course! Poetry is more than words on a page. It is rhythm and sound and needs to be heard aloud.

Last Sunday, thanks to a suggestion from Canadian poet John Ambury, The Ontario Poetry Society teamed up with Poetry Stratford to present “BARDIC COLLAGE”, a members’ reading and open mic at Cafe Ten, a local restaurant in the heart of Stratford. Despite the absence of stage and microphone, 24 poets as well as three spotlight readers demonstrated the theatrical power of poetry.

Ellen  S Jaffe in Stratford Aug 24, 2014This is what I learned:

*Every poet should try reading in Stratford. (Trust me: Shakespeare’s poetic muse still lives and breathes on the stage and in the streets. You can feel it.)

*Meeting in a central location encourages more sharing and networking with other poets. (Poets ranged in age from the youngest being in his early 20s to the oldest being an amazing 91 years old. Local poets from Stratford met out-of-town writers from Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Markham, Port Dover, Sarnia, Toronto and more. Emerging poets equally shared the spotlight with experienced award-winning scribes.)

*Memorizing words and verses can enhance the audience’s enjoyment. (Poets who use eye-to-eye contact have a stronger connection with the audience.)

Muhammad Javid Akhtar in Stratford Aug 24, 2014*Dramatic gestures as well as the projection and varying of one’s voice will hold the audience’s attention. (The Stratford poets were clearly influenced by their love of the theatre.)

*Daring performances with sound effects are unforgettable. (No one will forget Poet Laureate John B. Lee’s “moooooooo-ving” performance of his poem “Jimi Hendrix in the Company of Cows”. Now that took courage.)

*The Stratford Reading experience is worth repeating. (Based on participant and audience feedback, The Ontario Poetry Society hopes to organize another Stratford event for next year.)

Enjoy the pictorial highlights of the afternoon.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The next members’ reading and open mic for The Ontario Poetry Society will be held Sunday, October 5 in Ottawa. More details here..

Stratford Readers 1 of 3 August 24, 2014

Stratford Readers 2 of 3 August 24, 2014

Stratford Readers 3 of 3 August 24, 2014