Tag Archives: Books

Venera Fazio Weaves Five Generations into “The Fabric of My Soul”

my thoughts glide back and forth, back and forth/to the rhythm of my loom – Venera Fazio*

A snip of thread. A quilter’s knot. A running stitch. Canadian writer/editor/poet Venera Fazio uses her extraordinary patience and attention to detail to pull together her passions for fabric art and literature.

Attend a local writers’ workshop in Sarnia and you’ll find Fazio with her quilting supplies. As a quilter, she carefully threads the needle and hand-stitches all the fabric petals and leaves together while listening to her peers read. Step into her home and you’ll find quilts-in-progress on the kitchen island, across her dining room table and in her living room.  Several walls display her finished creations featuring vibrant and detailed patterns.

Using these same creative talents, she also meticulously works with words. As an editor, she has co-edited eight anthologies related to her Italian Canadian heritage including the bestselling Sweet Lemons I and Sweet Lemons II.

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The Fabric of My Soul (Longbridge Books, 2015) is Venera Fazio’s first solo trade publication.

More recently as a poet, she collected familial pieces (both past and present) and wove them together into her first solo trade book. The result was The Fabric of My Soul, a 64-page collection of poems, translations, photos, and short stories published by Montreal-based publisher Longbridge Books. The book resembles a family album, a memoir, and showcase of previously published work including poems from Philadelphia Poets and Italian Canadians at Table plus a short non-fiction piece from Accenti Magazine.

If you think the content of her book is all homespun goodness, it is and isn’t. Many of her peers were struck by her frankness. As Fazio reveals in her poem “Legacy”, “my mother wanted a daughter/to ribbon, stem and satin stitch/rather than me/my tangled French knots/inept fingers caressing books.” (p. 36)

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Venera Fazio is a Bright’s Grove editor/writer/poet known nationally for her work with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW).

Despite the tough childhood and recently revealed secrets, Fazio’s love for family, friends and her culture prevails. “The perfume of the blossoms/sweetened my thoughts/helped me forget.” (p. 50). In the last three lines of her last poem “My hope is/with time, my friends/will be granted the same resilience.” (p. 57)

Soft-spoken and diplomatic with a gentle demeanor, Fazio works diligently and possesses strong organizational skills as evident in her role as a past-president of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW). Locally, she helped to coordinate Sarnia’s Books and Biscotti literary events both at the Dante Club and in her home plus was a dedicated committee member of Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading series.

To present an objective view of her first poetry collection, (I’ve known Venera for over a decade), below is a review of her book written by John Di Leonardo, co-editor of The Ontario Poetry Society’s Verse Afire.**

A cover photo by Dwayne O’Neill of the lush Sicilian hilltop village of Bafia is an apt image to set the stage for Fazio’s new collection of poems The Fabric of My Soul. Her words weave a tender tapestry of family history and the Italian immigrant experience. Fazio’s poems are laid out between a prologue “My Biography According to the Number Three” and the epilogue “I’ve Got a Secret” both great sections as introduction and conclusion to her poetry. These two segments in the book resonate deeply for anyone new to Canada, the millions of post-war southern Europeans like myself and the author who journeyed by ship from Naples to Pier 21 in Halifax, then onward by train to the various destinations to a better life, where many immigrants as Fazio states “nourished the body//while neglecting the spirit.”

These clear-eyed and intimate poems rise and fall with a lyrical flow to express a wide range of emotions associated with memory, hardships and death.

From the very first poem “Broken” we are guided through secret feelings of loss, as a “shimmering Sicilian sun/stretches/across your tombstone”…we locked your name/in our family closet/sealed it shut with silence,” to family tragedies “I am ashamed//I never visited you/in the psychiatric ward:…you loved your dead son/more than a living daughter.” The hardships are juxtaposed with flavours of new Canadians, “fingers inflamed from pickle factory brine/…At noon she served penne//the colour of family blood.”

Glimpses of self-discovery appear in “Each day of my vacation/in the village of my birth//I drew elixir from the well.” Finally in the last poem, “The Unexpected” a new vision of hope merges. “My hope is/with time, my friends/will be granted the same resilience”.

In the epilogue Fazio writes, “For years, I felt I had two identities, a Canadian one and an Italian one”. This identity crisis is aptly resolved by the inclusion of Italian passages and full (traduzione) translations by Elettra Bedon, for poems such as “Nonna Marie”, “Lasciar andare”, “Tributo”, and “Le mani di mia madre”. Reading these poems in the original thoroughly satisfies the ear for many Italian-Canadian hearts.

Last May, Fazio’s poetry collection was officially launched with Exploring Voice: Italian Canadian Female Writers, another anthology she co-edited with Delia De Santis. Last week, I asked Venera to share her thoughts about her writing process. Below are her responses:

Venera, as past president of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, you worked so hard to launch the careers of other writers. I was thrilled when I heard that your latest book focuses exclusively on your own work. Describe your new poetry book in a few sentences.

The book connects me with my family that raised me in Dundas, Ontario and the relatives that I only saw about six times in my life.

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Sharing laughter at a Books and Biscotti event in Sarnia, Ontario.

Which of the poems is your most favourite and why is it important to you?

The poem “Broken” is my favourite because it was written in memory of Zio Carlo Fazio (1922-1969). My uncle Carlo and his family didn’t speak to us for 50 years. The poem pulled us together. It is about forgiveness and how we can only live fully with each other.

How does your work differ from others of its genre? For example, you included black and white photos throughout your book.

I include a lot of history in this book. Some poets concentrate on the family and some just on history. I have melted the two together. And yes, I’ve also included photographs in the book.

Through your editing and volunteer work, you have been a cheerleader for Italian Canadian writers! What motivates you to work so hard for this special group?

When I was growing up, the Italians were frowned upon because of the war. Also they had these stereotypes of Italians being dirty and loud. They also ate smelly food like salami and garlic bread. As an Italian Canadian, I was always conscious of the underclass and so I wanted to focus on Italian Canadian writing. I wanted to let readers know that we weren’t like that. We were intelligent writers and it was my hope that it gave our culture a boost.

What inspires you and who are your mentors?

Quality of writing inspires me. I admire novelist Nino Ricci, author of Lives of the Saints plus poets Gianna Patriarca author of Ciao, Baby and Mary di Michele author of Tenor of Love.

Fazio’s work recently appeared in these two anthologies.

Describe your writing process.

I start with an idea, work at it and then decide it’s wrong. It takes me about ten “go-throughs” to be satisfied with the final product. I also like to go for walks. That’s when I get my ideas and thoughts for revisions. I usually create and edit my drafts straight onto the computer. My favourite place to write is in my downstairs office where it is quiet.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a chapbook of poems focusing on my cancer journey. So far I’ve completed seven poems and hope to do a few more.

The news of your medical condition came as quite a shock to many of your close friends. It is inspiring to see you back at your writing and to hear some of your new poems. Do you have any other plans for the future?

Yes, I’m going to do lots of travelling. I have several trips already planned. It gives me something to look forward to.

Venera, I look forward to reading more of your work as well as hearing news about your adventures. Thank you for welcoming me into your home and sharing your thoughts with me.

According to the back cover of her book: Venera Fazio was born in Sicily and now lives in Bright’s Grove, Ontario. Before dedicating herself to writing and editing, she worked as a social worker (MSW)…Her poetry and prose has been published in literary magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United States.

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Exploring Voice: Italian Canadian Female Writers is the eighth anthology focusing on Italian Canadian culture that Venera has co-edited. Here, she and co-editor Delia De Santis are honoured for their contributions.

In April 2016, the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW) presented her and her writing/editing friend Delia De Santis with an award for their “extraordinary contributions to the Italian Canadian writing community and to Canadian literature.” See more info here.

An essay, “On Writing and Dreaming”, written by Fazio appears on the Gloria Pearson-Vasey website.

*from the poem “The Fabric of My Soul” published in the book The Fabric of My Soul (Longbridge Books, 2015) page 28. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Venera Fazio.
**John Di Leonardo’s review first appeared in the May to Sept. 2016 issue of Verse Afire. Reprinted with permission. Additional information about Di Leonardo can be found on his website.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.                                             

Poetry Review – Time Slip by John Oughton

Know the earth/through white toes/sail the earth/for all winter/and greet spring/forthcoming with soft/green applause – John Oughton

Seconds melt like snowflakes against a heated window. 2017 slips in. 2016 slips out. I yearn for the holidays to linger a few moments longer but time rests for no one. Another season of literary news unfolds but first…a glimpse back at John Oughton’s poetry collection Time Slip published by Guernica Editions in 2010.

Special thanks to Aeolus House poet Kate Rogers for gifting me this NEW review to kick start the New Year!

Time Slip                                               Reviewed by Kate Rogers

by John Oughton

Guernica Editions, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55071-302-2

About twenty years ago I sat with John Oughton under the leafy canopy of a Toronto backyard with other poets workshopping our pieces. At that time I knew that John was a Professor at Centennial College, and taught writing, but I was unaware of the life events John describes in the introduction to the collection reviewed here–Time Slip. The collection spans his travels in Iraq and Egypt and around Asia; six months spent in Japan; and significant personal losses.

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Time Slip (Guernica Editions, 2010) by John Oughton

In fact, Time Slip includes thirty years of poetry by John Oughton–from poems about his travels, to persona poems from the perspective of spy and courtesan, Mata Hari. As a Canadian poet who has been teaching literature, creative writing and other subjects in Asia for 17 years, I can appreciate his poetic responses to Asian aesthetics and spiritual places.

In “For Yuan Mei”, an 18th century Chinese poet, Oughton’s words flow like calligraphy strokes: As a brush/ sublimes stone/and water to song (p. 29).

I have been to Buddhist temples and shrines in Kyoto, Japan, like the one Oughton describes with both humor and awe in “Taizo-In Rock Garden, Kyoto” (p. 31), …a waterfall for each ear/…carp chorus/gold and silver below the mirror/of the still pond

In fact, there are many strong pieces on other subjects—especially love. They are distinguished by tight writing, original metaphor, and visceral feeling.

His love poems are sensual and deeply felt: two examples are “Back Again for Mary” (p.25) and “For Jan Apart” (p.26) where beautiful lines such as this from the latter poem evoke the loved one, …/I don’t /sense you swimming in dreams/green or flying the kite/of your bright art on/the images singing through/your brain thunder…

His poems inspired by nature are often as visceral, and as taut. A good example is “Trees Two” (p.17): Know the earth/through white toes/sail the earth/for all winter/and greet spring/forthcoming with soft/green applause

In “The Boulder” (p.75), Oughton introduces landscape with visceral intensity in this first stanza, Near Riviere-du-Loup/above the sweeping St.Lawrence/a granite heart/taller than a man…

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Poet John Oughton is the author of five poetry books, several chapbooks, and a mystery novel.

Sound and rhythm are powerfully evoked In “That Line”, (p.19), I turn my life upside down/nothing falls out. No change/in the pockets of this train/six sprockets the head’s projector/unreels, grinding land through…

In “Training” (p.21), a similar rhythm pulls the reader along, But sight tows a zipper that shuts/the gap of where we were

There is much to praise about the poetry in Time Slip, but the collection is not without weaknesses. Time Slip appears to be a volume of “collected poems”—“selections” is the word used by Oughton in his introduction (p. 13)—therefore some of the poems were not written by the mature poet who penned the introduction. I can’t say how many poems from early in his poetic career were revised for inclusion in Time Slip, but my impression is that they were not revisited before publication in this volume. If that’s the case, I think that was a mistake. As British poet Billy Mills reflects in a piece on collected works in The Guardian*, even poets such as W.B. Yeats often revised old poems for collected works.

One example of a poem which is not Oughton’s most sensitive work is “Foreign”, set in Japan, (p.30). The poem starts well with the narrator effectively mocking himself: Beard like a brush that quit/painting and eloped with the ink But a false note is struck when the narrator quips near the end, Almond eyes seek the nut I am.

It is hard to know whether the reference to “almond eyes” is part of the self-mockery in this context. This kind of description would be seen by some contemporary critics as objectifying and exoticizing the locals strolling through Kyoto’s Botany Gardens.

In some respects, John Oughton’s collection Time Slip reminds me of one assembled by Australian peripatetic lecturer- poet Dennis Haskell which I reviewed six months ago for the Malaysian literary journal ASIATIC .** Oughton’s collection, Time Slip like Haskell’s collected poems, What Are You Doing Here? ,***spans decades of travel and long periods spent by the poet in other cultures. Both collections raise a question for me, namely: Is it wise to include early travel poems in unrevised form in a “Selected Poems”?

In Time Slip, “Xmas Pageant, 1961” (p.85), the narrator reflects on his travels as a teenager as he also recalls a Christmas pageant. The narrator’s glib tone makes the poem more told than seen. One example can be found at the start of the third stanza: I had spent the Christmas before in Iraq/the hills bleached and biblical…

Some of the other poems which seem too told are Mata Hari poems, such as “Typhoid Fever” (p.56), and “Debut at the Musee Guimet, Paris” (p.60). I understand the challenges of creating context and sharing history for the reader of persona poetry. Yet in the latter poem, Mata Hari’s life events are reduced to a list, as in the first three lines of the third stanza below:

The truth of dance animates me/I take my past, my grief, my marriage/my failure as wife, artist’s model, circus rider…

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Oughton will be a featured reader during the January 24, 2017 Art Bar Reading Series event.

The Mata Hari poem, “Salome” (p. 62-63), could have begun half way through with these powerful lines: When I dance Salome I’ll take their heads off/while the music cracks and thumps/like a soul forced back into flesh

Instead of with the opening stanza which tells, rather than shows: What Carmen only hints at, this opera shrieks/Women murder as well as they conceive/using all the power of mistress/mother harpy

In addition to further editing, Time Slip would have flowed better with transitions between the poems selected from several collections—especially in the case of the Mata Hari poems. Sub-sections would have given those poems more opportunity to breathe.

A second edition of John Oughton’s poetry collection, Mata Hari’s Lost Words, will be released in 2017. I look forward to reading those persona poems, because I appreciate how challenging it can be to fully inhabit a character on the page. I will be interested to see whether any of the Mata Hari poems which appeared in Time Slip have been revised.

John Oughton’s collection, Time Slip showcases a lot of strong writing from his thirty plus years as a poet. This reviewer has not chosen to comment on his poems of loss, and I have barely touched on his sense of humor. The latter makes regular appearances as in the aforementioned, “Foreign”, set in Japan, (p.30), where the narrator starts off by effectively mocking himself.

In “Canadian Love Song” (p.99), the narrator jokes about that emotion which inspires so much poetry: yearning, I have an itch/ which is you/calamine pink/mosquito blue…

Oughton’s poetry in Time Slip is funny, and ironic—even in its moments of grief—but also at times, deeply felt.  His writing is often taut and original. I recommend slipping into his time machine, and taking a trip.

*July 2009:  The Guardian article appears here.
** Literary Journal of the International Islamic University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
***http://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/index.php/AJELL/article/viewFile/758/628

Additional information about featured poet John Oughton and his work:

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The second edition of John Oughton’s poetry collection, Mata Hari’s Lost Words, will be released by NeoPoiesis Press in 2017.

John Oughton lives in Toronto, Canada, and is about to retire as Professor Learning and Teaching at Centennial College. He attended York University and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. He is the author of five books of poetry, several chapbooks, a mystery novel titled Death by Triangulation, and close to 500 articles, blogs, reviews and interviews. Follow his website.

He is also a photographer. See his photography website.

Additional information about Time Slip (Guernica Editions, 2010) can be found here.

Additional information about his chapbook Vertex/Vertigo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2016) can be found here and the second edition of Mata Hari’s Lost Words, (NeoPoiesis Press, 2017) here.

The Toronto launch for this second edition will be held Wednesday, February 1, 2017 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Free Times Café, 320 College Street. The launch will also include a performance by belly dancer Anjelica Scannura, and guest readings by writers Heather Babcock, Brenda Clews, and Kath MacLean. Admission is free.

Meet John Oughton at the Art Bar Poetry Reading series, Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at 8 p.m. at Free Times Café, 320 College Street, Toronto. He will be a featured reader with Steve Venright and Stephen Humphrey. More information here.

On April 23, 2017 at 2 p.m., he will also be part of the 10th annual Arts and Poets Collaboration, an exhibition and reading which is at the Women’s Art Association of Canada, 23 Prince Arthur Avenue in Toronto.

About the reviewer:

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Special thanks to Kate Rogers for writing and sharing her review of John Oughton’s fifth poetry book Time Slip.

Kate Rogers’ new poetry collection, Out of Place will be published by Aeolus House in 2017. In the summer of 2016 Kate was a featured reader for the Toronto reading series, Hot Sauced Words, at the League of Canadian Poets new members reading, and at Artfest, in Kingston, Ontario. Kate’s poetry collection, Foreign Skin, debuted with Toronto’s Aeolus House Press in 2015.
Kate is co-editor of the OutLoud Too anthology (MCCM 2014), and the world poetry anthology, Not a Muse: the Inner Lives of Women (Haven 2009).
Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian; Quixotica; Eastlit; Asia Literary Review; Cha: an Asian Literary Journal; Morel; The Goose: a Journal of Arts, Environment and Culture; Kyoto Journal; ASIATIC: the Journal of the Islamic University of Malaysia; Many Mountains Moving; Orbis International and Contemporary Verse II.
Kate lectures in literature and media studies at the Community College of City University, Hong Kong.

Follow this blog for future book reviews and interviews with Canadian authors and poets.

Canadian Poet Allan Briesmaster Heightens Form in ‘River Neither’

“Or might I front, down steeper paths of thought,/some earthly light that verges on divine.” – Allan Briesmaster* 

The image of French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker pops into my mind while reading Canadian poet Allan Briesmaster’s book River Neither.

Perhaps it is the way Briesmaster uses a more classical yet varied form of metre and rhyme that pulls me into the 19th Century or maybe it’s his concentration on nature, deep reflection, and abstract reasoning that challenges me and provokes additional study.

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Canadian poet Allan Briesmaster is inspired by music, visual art, poetry and other writing from all historical periods and world literature, natural phenomena, and people who are close to him. Photo by Peter Rowe used with permission.

In his author’s notes, he states, “It is my cautious hope that, at a time when the creation, production and reading of poetry tends to be increasingly fragmented and over-specialized, and when in some quarters traditional form is deemed archaic or obsolete, a few discerning readers will set preconceptions aside and simply enjoy the journey along River Neither – one that will lead them to discoveries of their own.”

For me, the serendipitous moment arrives when I discover that Rodin originally called his famous sculpture, The Poet. It was also speculated that Rodin’s work was inspired by Dante Alighieri and his literary masterpiece The Divine Comedy, which outlines “a soul’s journey towards God or some spiritual realm.”

Similar to Dante’s complex quest, Briesmaster’s poetry dares the reader to slow down, pause, re-read passages, and reflect. I find it necessary to not only embrace the poem’s layered meaning but to examine the structure and other poetic elements that make the work strong.

I also love how Briesmaster takes me down a path and then when I get lost, his use of language challenges me to get up and seek the philosopher’s stone. It reminds me of hiking through a dense forest and how each trip reveals additional details and insights to reward the patient traveller.

This exploratory and poetic journey is the metaphorical river that follows through the collection.

For example, his 90-page book published by Aeolus House in 2015 begins with “Absence From An Eden”, a 14 poem section that drifts from paradise to a state of yearning, transitions, and uncertain familial relationships.

In the section “Greenrise”, nature takes the stage with seasonal spring and summer accounts such as “draw an inch more of green scent down your lungs./Maybe now see the tree-branch’s rungs/on an ascent that isn’t any steeper.”

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Allan Briesmaster’s newest book ‘River Neither’ (Aeolus House, 2015) is “a concentrated exploration of poetic form: traditional, modified, and invented”.

 

In the section “Onward Turnings” the journey continues through autumn and winter where reflections of ageing and death end with “Fine farewell glow, revert me to the dawn/of rapture at leaf-motion, on the fly,/tugging the heart afresh like that bird-wing/flashed from a bare branch in sun’s orange eye.”

The last section “Flight Home” is an inward reflection. In the poem “Age and Solitude”, Briesmaster makes reference to the Chinese poet Tu Fu and writes “A solitary gull is all I am,/borne off between earth and the heavens.”

In keeping with his philosophical viewpoint, he often asks questions, to challenge himself and the reader. For example, in his poem “A Sagittarian Tension”, he writes “Has he a compass-point by which to steer,/predefined mission, fore-cast destiny?” In his last poem “Not I” (a variation of a sonnet), he offers “Of its own will, I can become the vessel/bearing the fluent force that pours through me.”

Humble in his thoughts and actions, Briesmaster is a major force in the Canadian literary scene. He is the author of seven full-length books and eight chapbooks and shorter books. According to the League of Canadian Poets website: “In 1986-90 Allan led Phoenix, Toronto’s longest-running poetry workshop. He was one of the chief organizers of the weekly Art Bar Poetry Reading Series from 1991 until 2002: playing a central role as it grew into the largest series of its kind in Canada.”

Unfortunately, I missed his recent featured reading at the Art Bar series in Toronto. However, earlier in November, I asked him to share his thoughts about his new book and writing process. Below are his responses:

Your first collection of poetry was published in 1998. River Neither is your 7th full trade book. Describe this poetry collection in a few sentences and mention how it is similar to and different from your other books.

Yes, my first book of poetry, Weighted Light, came out some 18 years ago. Since then I’ve had six other full-length books and eight smaller ones published. River Neither differs from the previous books in consisting entirely of short poems, almost all in strict forms. Many are sonnets and variations on the sonnet, and the rest also use formal constraints like metre and rhyme. There were quite a few “formal” poems in the earlier books, coexisting with an equal or greater number in open forms.

In a sense, River Neither is a concentrated exploration of poetic form: traditional, modified, and invented. It is “about” form itself and what form can uniquely accomplish, while, of course, being about much else besides. The series of poems on my late parents is something new, as is the writing about the early and later stages of life’s journey in the first and last of the book’s four parts, though some of this was initiated in the book that preceded this one. The poems set outdoors that celebrate and reflect on nature, the seasons, and ecology have themes which will be familiar to readers of my other books.

In your author’s notes, you wrote, “form can actually serve to liberate and open up paths to new discoveries of all kinds.” When did you first start working with such formal principles as metre and rhyme and how difficult is it to focus on and market such traditional forms in a poetic community that appears to value more open and experimental work?

I have always enjoyed reading classic poems that had metre and rhyme. Formalist poetry was out of favour when I first began writing seriously, but I remained intrigued by it. There are quite a few formal poems in my first book. While I am well aware of literary fashions (and there has been a considerable revival of formalist poetry in some circles in the past 20 years), I don’t ever consciously fall in line with them. Although I want people to enjoy my writing style, and to understand and be moved by the content, I need to write in the ways that are given to me and that most deeply challenge and satisfy.

I do not actively “market” my books, partly because the audience for poetry is rather fragmented and diffuse, and also because I favour readings and occasional radio programs as the best way for people to discover my work. As well, I am a publisher and editor and much of my time is dedicated to helping promote the books with which I’m involved. Which is not to say that I don’t have any aspirations for my work to be more widely read, or that I don’t think it has lasting value.

In any case, I would insist that the poetry in River Neither is not merely traditional. It has an innovative dimension, and it aims to extend and refresh forms and formal principles that are by no means obsolescent but offer perennial possibilities. For instance, I have sonnets with 13 and 15 lines, and ones with four or six end-rhymes instead of the standard five or seven. It’s gratifying that, when I give readings, a wide range of listeners respond very favourably, even when their usual taste in poetry is for something different.

Many of your poems in this collection are philosophical, nature-based or relationship themed. There is often a depth, a richness of language and intrigue that forces the reader to either slow down and concentrate on the printed words or to re-read the work several times to grasp and appreciate both the structure and meaning. What do you feel is the role of poetry in today’s society?

Thank you for this very complimentary characterization of my writing. It is certainly important to me to create poems that make readers slow down and think. I’m convinced that much, if not all, of the poetry most worth reading – that is most fully rewarding and most durable – is itself a mode of thinking: one which invites and encourages reflection and cogitation on the reader’s part.

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Allan Briesmaster is a major force in the Canadian literary scene.

 

I believe that poetry’s social role can and should be much the same as it has always been, despite the encroachments on its old domain by the electronic media that tend to make it appear outmoded. That age-old role is multiple and manifold, and poetry’s protean nature is one of the most remarkable things about it. It means to be enjoyed, producing a certain, very special artistic pleasure, and at the same time it extends our emotional, intellectual and spiritual horizons. It does not necessarily do so comfortably and reassuringly, but works to deepen our understanding of who we are, whence we came, and in what directions we may be heading as individuals and as social beings. It had better not simply confirm our prejudices or preach to the converted. It should open eyes, minds and hearts to new perspectives and other avenues besides what we’re accustomed to. It should remind us of the delight and the power language holds for us if treated with artful care.

What inspires you and who are your mentors?

A list of all the sources of inspiration would be long. High on it would be music (classical, jazz, and contemporary in particular) and visual art, a mostly indirect but vital influence nonetheless. I don’t mean writing in response to specific artworks, although I have done some of that, but just being given hope and confidence that I could approach something equivalent in my own medium. Then I am challenged by and induced to respond to a very wide array of poetry and other writing from all historical periods and world literature, including some in translation. Natural phenomena I encounter near where I live in Thornhill and throughout Southern Ontario call to me for responses more compellingly than do domestic and urban scenes. People who are close to me or otherwise make a powerful impression also spur me to write, sometimes in response to their remarks, pointed or casual – more so than items in the news. I have constant concern about political and social justice issues, but have not yet found ways of writing about them to my satisfaction, though some of this awareness does inevitably seep into my work.

I never had what I would call a mentor. I suppose I got the equivalent of mentoring, when I was young, from reading literature for pleasure and from having closely studied the classics when I majored in English. I had some good teachers but they did not directly influence my early aspirations to write, which came straight out of what I was reading: the English Romantic poets, for instance. Later, my participation in poetry workshops was helpful in learning about “the craft,” but still there was no individual who took me under his or her wing.

Describe your writing process.

I produce poems in various ways. There is no predominant “method,” and I do not have a single place or regular time when I do my writing, though I spend at least a part of an hour on it almost every day, at home, on a park bench, in a café, even once in a while on the subway; and I devote much more time to revising than raw creating. A poem could arise through an abrupt recollection of an emotionally-charged experience; out of an on-the-spot observation (I always carry a notebook around); as a response to a text I have just read that excites or annoys me; or from an image, a phrase or even a rhythm that springs to mind spontaneously from no definite source. I might jot down a promising line or two and return to it later, or I might be able to persist and, within minutes, end up with a partial sketch or entire first draft. Only rarely is the poem finished when I reach the last line of the first version. The majority of poems need at least several drafts, with possibly a substantial rewrite or two, usually across a minimum of a few days, sometimes over a week or more. The first couple of drafts are hand-written, and revision almost always continues when I enter the text on my computer. Some poems take many weeks or even months before I feel ready to show them to anyone else.

There is no time when I do not have two or more poems under development in these ways. In the later stages, I often get useful feedback from friends and the writing groups I attend, which prompts me to do further fine-tuning and sometimes come up with still more revisions. Publication in a magazine or anthology does not necessarily mean a poem is finally finished either. And when I come to prepare a book, I call on multiple readers and/or an editor to advise me.

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Briesmaster’s first book of poetry, ‘Weighted Light’ was launched 18 years ago. To date, he has seven full-length books  and eight smaller ones published. Above is a small sample of his work.

In addition to being a poet, you are one of two Executive Directors for Quattro Books and the publisher of the micro-press Aeolus House. You were also the main literary editor of Seraphim Editions and since 1998 you have assisted with the production of over 200 books. What advice would you give to a poet who is currently seeking publication of his/her first trade book?

No matter how far along a writer thinks the manuscript has come, it is highly desirable to seek the input of trusted friends or perhaps even hire a qualified editor, so that its chances of favourably impressing a publisher are maximized. In choosing which publishers to submit to, be sure that the kind of poetry you have is suited to their particular aesthetics, and, of course, check their submissions guidelines.

What are you currently working on?

I am in the early stages of what will become my next book of poetry. As always, I also have several book-editing and freelance-editing projects underway, amidst my ongoing responsibilities with Quattro Books.

What are your future plans?

I would like to do more traveling in future years than I’ve managed in the past. I’ll have time next year, after the two books of poetry I’m editing for Quattro are published in March.

Is there anything else you would like to add or share?

My writing may appear to some readers to be cerebral and constrained, but to me it is passionate as well. It comes out of a mixture of anxiety, rage, awe, and gratitude. Also of fundamental importance for my poetry is musicality (the sound, rhythm, and architecture of the words together with the pauses between them); a rootedness in physical being and the senses, not just the mind; having a basic element of play; that it wants to be enjoyed, not merely admired; and that it is a thoroughly social art, created in a spirit of generosity: with the hope that any extra effort and attention given back to it will be well rewarded, and that many poems will retain their freshness and their strangeness on successive readings, with no “best before” date attached.

Thanks Allan for the interview and for taking time from your busy schedule to answer my questions. I wish you continued success.

Additional information about Briesmaster appears on the “Members page” section of The Ontario Poetry Society and The League of Canadian Poets websites.

Information about his books can be found at Aeolus House, Hidden Brook Press, Seraphim Editions, and Quattro Books.

*from the sonnet “Octobering” published in the book River Neither (Aeolus House, 2015) page 56. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Allan Briesmaster 2015.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

Memory and Loss Anthology Officially Launched

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks David for your detailed report.

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

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

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

Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.

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

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

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

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

Three City Tour for new Memory and Loss Poetry Anthology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memory and Loss

   For my Mother

By I. B. Iskov

She watches the light fade

while the front door of her mind

rehearses opening and closing.

 

 

Dead people resurface,

tenacious on empty days,

retreat into shine.

 

 

With a certain touch,

murmurs emerge like static.

The response is immediate.

 

 

Voices illuminate corners

where her mind wafts

what it cannot draft.

 

 

Now dignity wears a tattered dress,

white, then gray,

smothered in a coffin.

 

Her memory erodes to dust.

 

 

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

 

Paperwhite Sijo**  

By John B. Lee

 

The paperwhites are blooming for Christmas with a honeysweet

fragrance permeating the room

my elderly mother receives them with a bland and meaningless

smile gifting her face

the dying memory of that vanishing perfume goes into the

darkness like a second darkness not yet there

 

 

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

 

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

Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.

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

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

Meeting Poe in Dearborn, Michigan, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“If ghost trees could speak in tongues…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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