Tag Archives: Canadian Poetry

Congratulations I. B. Iskov – More Applause for this Arts and Culture Leader

Some women are absolutely fabulous.

I. B. (Bunny) Iskov is one of them.

Last Sunday (March 5, 2017), Iskov was one of forty Greater Golden Horseshoe residents honoured during the 4th Annual Absolutely Fabulous Women – 40 over Forty Awards Gala. According to the organizers, “this prestigious annual award ceremony celebrates inspirational individuals and recognizes their outstanding contributions to the community.” Iskov received her award for her long-standing service to the Arts and Culture community (more specifically for her dedication and leadership with The Ontario Poetry Society).

Photo 3 Bunny Iskov win her award March 5, 2017 Photo courtesy Anna Yin

Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov was recently honoured at the 4th Annual Absolutely Fabulous Women – 40 Over Forty Awards Gala held in Mississauga, Ontario. Photo Courtesy: Anna Yin

 

I’ve written about Bunny before. Back in 2015, I stated, “Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov reminds me of the Energizer® Bunny and the TV commercial where the batteries in the pink-plush, sunglasses wearing, hare “keep going and going and going”. Even the Oxford Dictionary’s description of the generic ‘energizer bunny’ phrase resonates with her character and enthusiasm. She is indeed a “persistent or indefatigable person or phenomenon.”  See the full blog post including a question and answer segment here.

Bunny was also featured in two blogs about her involvement as editor/compiler of the recent Memory and Loss fundraising anthology and tour where monies were raised for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. See those blogs here and here.

As I’ve mentioned before, Bunny is one of the hardest working individuals I know and is a crusader for all poets, especially those at the grassroots level who need a nudge and boost of confidence to keep writing.

Photo 1 Bunny Iskov at Absoluately Fabulous Women March 5, 2017 event photo courtesy Larry Iskov

For over 16 years, Bunny Iskov has inspired poets through The Ontario Poetry Society, a not-for-profit organization she founded and runs with the help of several volunteers. Photo Courtesy: Larry Iskov

 

With permission from the nominating committee (Fran Figge, Ronnie R. Brown, and me), below are some of the highlights of Bunny’s achievements that were shared with an independent panel of judges. I am thrilled that the judges accepted the nomination.

Toronto poet I. Bunny Iskov is the dynamic leader and Founder of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS). For over 16 years she has funneled her enthusiasm for words into the creation and ongoing development of this highly successful not-for-profit provincial literary arts organization which currently serves over 260 members.

Through Beret Days Press, Iskov has published over 150 books including member anthologies and private collections as well as a triannual newsletter Verse Afire.  Through her poetry initiatives, over $1500 has been donated to several non-profit charitable organizations.  She has also established a poor poet fund and the Make-A-Chapbook Foundation for poets in financial need.

As a volunteer and poetry promoter, Iskov helps launch the writing careers of emerging poets. She embraces writers from every ethnic and cultural background, from hobbyists to poet laureates. She creates, organizes and runs several contests, workshops, readings and open mic events each year.

In 2009, she was the recipient of the inaugural RAVE (Recognizing Arts Vaughan Excellence) Award for her work as Art Educator and Mentor in the Literary Arts Discipline.

Bunny Iskov is inspirational, irreplaceable and deserves recognition for her achievements.

Additional information about her personal literary credentials are posted on-line on The Ontario Poetry Society website.

Photo 2 Anna Yin and Bunny Iskov at award ceremony March 5, 2017 Photo Courtesy Larry Iskov

Anna Yin, Mississauga’s first poet laureate, congratulates Bunny Iskov on her award. Photo Courtesy: Larry Iskov

 

Bunny is indeed amazing. A few hours after winning her award, she was back at The Ontario Poetry Society headquarters sending e-mails and promoting other poets.

And there’s more….

Later this month, she’ll be releasing a new limited edition chapbook called Hold The Applause (Ink Bottle Press, 2017). The collection will include a sample of her poems that have either won poetry awards or have come close as Honourable Mentions and/or Judge’s Choice Awards.

She will also be preparing all the files for Transitory Tango, a poetry membership anthology to be edited and compiled by Ronnie R. Brown and released in late summer by Beret Days Press. Submissions for Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter must also be compiled. Several contests and members’ readings and open mic events have also been organized for 2017.

Like the Energizer® Bunny, she keeps “going and going and going”. She continues to make a difference in so many lives. Thank you for all that you do!

 

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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.

time-slip-guernica-editions-2010-by-john-oughton

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…

johnoughton1

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…

johnoughton2

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:

mata-haris-lost-words-neopoiesis-press-2017-by-john-oughton

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:

kate-rogers-reviewer

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.

Poet Profile: Marsha Barber Reflects on All The Lovely Broken People

This is a poem/for when you are broken…Marsha Barber*

The front cover of Marsha Barber’s latest book includes a snapshot of a rag doll with its head tilted and severed at the neck. Symbolically, it reminds me of childhood innocence and how easily it is lost.

book launch photo 2 for invitation with shadow

All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) is the latest poetry collection by Ryerson journalism faculty member Marsha Barber.

At some point we all break and need to find a way to ease the pain.

As an award-winning Canadian poet, Barber cradles this universal theme of family ties, loss, brokenness, and grief and through poetry tries to make sense of it all.

For example, in her first poetry collection What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling (Borealis Press, 2011) she introduces the reader to the joys and tragedies of life and death. As she writes in her introduction, the book “begins with the suicide of someone else’s father and ends with the death of my own father.” It is her way of “trying to understand both the small and enormous losses that make up all our lives.” Her 62 poems are divided into three sections: Remembrance, Graveyard in Summer, and Watching My Father Rest.

This unravelling of emotions continues with her second book All The Lovely Broken People released by Borealis Press in 2015. The 98-page collection includes 64 poems divided into five sections: Inside the House, Difficult Journey, Swimming for My Father, Guided Tour, and Small Joys.

As a journalist and a documentarian, Barber hones in close to her subject matter and writes in a clear and accessible manner. In her poem, “Photo of the Doomed Man”, she examines the struggle between the journalist’s need to share the news and to protect the victims. At one point, she writes: “We’re inured/to gutting open/the fragile moments between/life and/death/like a Halloween pumpkin.”**

Marsha Barber photo from Ryerson website

Canadian Poet Marsha Barber writes about grief and healing in her two poetry collections published by Borealis Press. Photo Credit: Gary Gould

Her work is deep: both analytical and close to the heart. Of particular note is her use of the five senses, especially the sense of smell: “Inhale the smell of coffee and damp coats/still flecked with snow, like white icing.”***

In a Verse Afire review****, Canadian poet John B. Lee wrote: “Marsha Barber’s poems are consoling in their beauty and fortifying in their faith in the quality of a good life well lived and also in the purposefulness of dying well. She writes of loss and of the pain resulting from the terrifying awful things we humans are capable of inflicting at our worst reminding this particular reader of Yeats’ line “…the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” And she confesses more than once in these poems that she does not always understand. And it is that lack of understanding that renders her insights all the more luminous. Her poems are more than an anodyne to soothe the troubled mind. They often kick sideways into the dark realm of true experience.”

By the end of the book, Barber offers the reader hope: “This is a poem to sew those torn pieces/into ribbons//and eventually/into kites.”*

A few weeks ago, I asked Barber about her writing process. Below is her response:

Congratulations Marsha on your latest work. Describe your new book. What inspired you to write it?

I write about what’s important to me and this book was inspired by needing to write about themes that range from the intimate and personal, to events unfolding in the wider world. The poems are my attempt to make sense of those worlds.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Perhaps they’re more accessible than some. I love words and form, and have written experimental poems, but for me the real test of a poem is whether it will move readers. Will they relate to it? Will they laugh, or cry, or pause to think? Perhaps that comes from a deep desire to communicate with each person who is reading my book or hearing my words.

 

poems book cover McNally Robinson

What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling (Borealis Press, 2011) was Marsha Barber’s debut poetry collection.

 

You were a journalist first. How has your documentary experience influenced your poetry writing?

As a journalist, my goal is to tell an interesting story to an audience. That’s made me very aware of the power of narrative and storytelling. Just as journalism uncovers truth, I aim to get to the heart and inner truth of what I write about. Also, I’ve been told my work appeals to the senses, including the visual. Perhaps that stems from my work as a documentary maker. And finally, the best broadcast writing is clear and concise and words are chosen carefully. I’ve learned from that, I think.

 What inspires you and who are your mentors?

Good poetry inspires me. I’m a traditionalist in my tastes, so books of poetry by Keats and Yeats are never far from my bedside. I love the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and Jane Kenyon and Dorothy Livesay, among many others. The Canadian poetry community, which is wonderfully generous, is full of people who have been inspirations and mentors.

Describe your writing process.

I write my first drafts late at night. Usually I sit on the bed with my Hilroy notebook and start to write. I always complete my first draft in long hand and I write fast. Revisions are a different matter. Usually I type out the draft and revise as soon as I wake up in the morning. Reading the poem aloud helps with that. Then I let time pass before I return to the poem so I can see it with a fresh eye before I do additional revising.

 What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my third poetry book. This spring I was in Europe on sabbatical and some of the poems were written overseas. It was inspiring to write in a new setting in the middle of intense new sensory experiences.

What are your future plans?

More writing. I’ve written since I could hold a pencil so I imagine I’ll continue until I can’t hold a pen anymore. I think the impulse to create is as powerful as the impulse to draw breath. For me, it’s largely what makes life worthwhile.

Thanks Marsha for the interview and for allowing me to share a reprint of one of your poems. I look forward to reading your future work.

The Condolence Call

By Marsha Barber*****

I cradle the phone gently.
You are so far away.

Your grief surrounds you now
like a moat full
of dark water.

I cannot reach
far enough to comfort you.

My words flit around, useless
as flies.
What, after all, can be said?

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, you say.

I imagine I would have howled.
I imagine I would have rolled on the floor.
But in the end, I cannot begin to imagine.

I’ll be okay, you say,

but your voice is so remote as if
you’ve left us all
behind,
for a bleaker planet

where the air is charred,
and you cannot find the path
that leads
back home.

Marsha Barber’s next reading will be at the 100,000 Poets for Change event, Saturday, September 17, 2016, 5 to 8 p.m. at Mây Restaurant, 876 Dundas Street West in Toronto, Ontario. Hosted by Pat Connors and Steve O’Brien, the event will also include readings by Mahlikah Awe:ri, Sharon Berg, Luciano Iacobelli, Donna Langevin, Max Layton, Jeannine Pitas, Robert Priest, Dane Swan, and Anna Yin. More information here.

Marsha reading on train

Barber shares her work during the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour.

Additional information about Marsha Barber can be found on The Ontario Poetry Society website.

Descriptions about her books are located on the Borealis Press website.

*from the poem “All the Lovely Broken People” published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) pages 94 and 95. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © by Marsha Barber, 2015

**from the poem “Photo of the Doomed Man” published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) page 69. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © by Marsha Barber, 2015

***from the poem “Writing in Cafés” published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) page 82. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © by Marsha Barber, 2015

****The full book review by John B. Lee appears in Verse Afire, A Tri-Annual Publication of The Ontario Poetry Society, Jan. to Apr. 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.

*****“The Condolence Call” originally published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) page 26. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Marsha Barber, 2015  Please note due to formatting limitations of this blog, the phrase “as flies” in the fourth verse could not be indented as it should be. My apologies to the author and Borealis Press.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles. 

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Poet Kate Marshall Flaherty’s Healing Ingredients – Yoga, Poetry, and Stone Soup

What a big iron pot/is mothering–cast wide/and heavy as a hippopotamus/smelling of grass and river. – Kate Marshall Flaherty*

Take a deep breath. Inhale her simmering ingredients. Allow the silver-bell-tinkle of spoon and other trickling sounds and taste of vegetable broth to soothe what ails you.

Toronto poet Kate Marshall Flaherty calms and charms her readers as she ladles poetic murmurings from her latest poetry collection Stone Soup (Quattro Books, 2014).

Stone-Soup-FC-220x357

Stone Soup by Kate Marshall Flaherty was published January 2015 by Quattro Press. Included is Flaherty’s poem “A Mouse’s Prayer” which was the inspiration for a YouTube and Vimeo video by Micro Films.

According to the publisher’s promotional literature, her book “is inspired by the poetic folktale in which three travelers enter a village and open the minds and hearts of the townspeople by inviting them to contribute whatever they can to a simple meal that begins with a stone: a gesture that dispels fear, forges connections and nourishes the entire community.”

As a certified creative writing guide in the AWA (Amherst Writers and Artists) Method and as an instructor of yoga and meditation, Flaherty blends her interest in diverse cultures, the natural world, and family relationships with a sprinkle of spiritual seasonings. Her child-like wonder, her mothering instinct, her aura of optimism rises like the bubbling communal stone soup simmering on the stove.

It’s a recipe she often shares.

For example, one of the five affirmations of the AWA method is Writing belongs to everyone – of all classes, faiths, sexual orientation, experience etc. – and writing knows no borders.”

In the poem “Zatoun” she writes “In this pale olive space/we meet,/softer than handshakes,/warmer than the wrap of scarf.”

Another AWA affirmation is “Each of us has a strong unique voice.”

For me, it was Flaherty’s soft voice and first person “accessible” narratives, both on paper and on stage, which first attracted me to her work in 2004. Since that time, she has been published in journals such as CV2, Descant, Grain, Malahat Review and Vallum, was Shortlisted for Descant’s Best Canadian Poem, the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize and Robert Frost Poetry Prizes. Hidden Brook Press published her first book Tilted Equilibrium in 2006 and in 2009 Piquant Press released where are we going. Her most recent books are Reaching V (Guernica Editions, 2014) and Stone Soup.

reaching v_oct29

Reaching V by Kate Marshall Flaherty features over 55 poems including “When the Kids are Fed”, a first prize winner in This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt, 2008.

In a recent review** of Stone Soup, Canadian poet Katherine L. Gordon stated, “Her (Flaherty’s) language can leap from literature lovely to playful patios, and is entertaining and delightful – quite a mix.”

I agree and strongly encourage readers to view the three video poems posted on Flaherty’s website, peaceworks. Her latest video, A Mouse’s Prayer, which also appears in Stone Soup, is spoken from a mouse’s perspective, “I will scurry my prayer/across the stone mantel/beneath the clock”. A beautiful mix of voice, visual and original music.

Not all the poems are laced with light. In the poem “Statue” she writes, “This stone angel is the colour of letdown/after the Christmas star, the colour of a snowman melting into pavement.”

One of my favourite lines is from the poem “Resentment”. The setting is inside a hoarder’s home and the narrator speaks, “the only space in this dank mansion/is the hope of air/through the keyhole”.

Flaherty is like that ‘hope of air’, that ‘ray of light’ that inspires and guides other writers around her. According to her website, poetry is her passion, yoga is her peace, and performance is her pleasure.

Earlier this week (Tuesday, July 5, 2016), Flaherty was one of four featured poets at the Quattro Books/Aeolus House reading held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Quattro Book launch poster July 5, 2016 with revised location

Flaherty was one of four featured readers at the Quattro Books-Aeolus House event, July 5, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

I asked Katie to share her thoughts about her writing process. Below are her responses:

1)      Describe your new book in a few sentences. Why did you decide to write it?

I wrote the poems in Stone Soup in response to over a decade of guiding Golden Rule Leadership retreats for young people, studying World Religions and working at an inter-faith centre. Most of the poems explore in some way our commonality, common ground and/or “Signs of One-ness,” which was almost the title.

2)      How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I think that my poems are more spiritual and metaphysical than many poets of this era who tend to be gritty, edgy and experimental. I can be experimental (see “Discovery of the God Particle”) but find these poems really delved into the mystical at times.

3)      What inspires you and who are your mentors?

 I feel Rumi, Hafiz, Derek Walcott, Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, Ellen Bass and many others have inspired and influenced me.

Kate Marshall Flaherty 1

Kate Marshall Flaherty is an award-winning poet from Toronto.

4)      Describe your writing process.

Usually, I see a connection or a paradox in life that excites me. I often scribble words, a web of ideas, associations, and then just play with the places where I feel energy. I usually write very fast and without any editing in a real flow. Then I edit on paper (I always write in pen first) and next type the poem into the computer, editing and polishing as I type. Finally I let some time elapse and return to the printed version for more polishing. At last I take this version to a workshop, if I can, to get the feedback of other poets.

5)      What are you currently working on?

 I am currently almost finished a work of fiction about a young girl in a foster home with special needs who runs away with her best friend. Something happens when they reach the train station that changes their lives forever.

 6)      Describe your writing workshops and when is your next intake.

My StillPoint Writing Workshops are in the AWA method, and are usually the first Monday of every month from 6-9 p.m. We begin with an entering meditation to get us into that liminal state where creativity can flow and the subconscious is accessed. Then I guide two writing prompts, then we share our raw writing in a safe, creative and constructive environment. Break and snacks. Then two more writing prompts, with lessons on craft, and one more sharing of this fresh writing. They are wonderful and I encourage people interested to visit my website.

7)      What are your future plans?

 I am guiding yoga and writing with Sue Reynolds and James Dewar of InkSlingers in Ireland this summer! I hope to guide more StillPoint Writing Workshops around Toronto and area, and to guide more yoga and writing retreats around the world. I also hope to get my novel out there into the world when it is done, and perhaps get back to play-writing. I am happiest when I am writing or sharing writing in some way. I have been performing poetry to music with musicians Mark Korven/Cathy Nosaty as well as musicians Anne Hurley/Jim Video … I think the fusion of music and poetry is a wonderful way to deepen and enhance poetry.

LCP Toronto rep Kate Marshall Flaherty

Flaherty teaches StillPoint Writing Workshops.

Thanks Katie for the interview. I wish you continued success with all your literary projects.

Additional information about Flaherty appears on the “Members page” section of The Ontario Poetry Society website.

Information about her books can be found at Quattro Books, Guernica Editions, peaceworks, and Amazon.

*from the poem “Stone Soup” published in the book Stone Soup (Quattro Books, 2014) page 39. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2014 Kate Marshall Flaherty and Quattro Books Inc.

**See the complete review by Katherine L. Gordon in the Sept. to Dec. 2015 issue of Verse Afire or posted on-line on the Quattro Press website.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.                                           

Canadian Profile: Introducing Saskatchewan Poet Jan Wood

There are parables/that shouldn’t be told/ because there is no way/to marginalize their truth

Jan Wood*

 Saskatchewan poet Jan Wood leaves me speechless. She offers me a favourite excerpt from her debut book Love is Not Anonymous (Thistledown Press, 2015) and I thirst for more. One sip from the chalice is not enough.

I could fill a whole notebook with her thought-provoking words. In one poem she pens: “On Sundays a week’s supply of holy/melts on her tongue like a snowflake”. In another, “they stab my eyes with sequins”. In her poem “Meditation”, she writes “silence/unzips/the back of truth/with the hands/of a can’t-say-no-to-lover”.

I pause to reflect.

Love is Not Anonymous cover

Love is Not Anonymous by Jan Wood is part of the Thistledown Press 12th New Leaf Editions Series devoted to first books by emerging writers.

According to a description on the back cover, Wood’s book “is a spiritual journey into the many realms of love, a meditation on finding meaning and order in relationships and faith.”

If you think you know all there is about love, think again! Her poems skip the common garden variety where roses turn red and rhyming poems prevail. Instead, her work digs deep into real women’s lives as Wood skirts along controversial fences and flirts with love’s rocky edges. Even the famous Garden of Eden is marred by “half-eaten apples” in a “compost bin”.

Her 64-page (55-poem) free verse pilgrimage exposes the grit-thorn-bruises. As the poem “Leaving Eden” states: “there is more to love than a fairy tale”. However, there is also hope and Wood’s presentation is well-balanced and divided equally into four sections: Particles that Matter, Secrets and Silences, Defying Gravity, and The Colour of Light.

Her writing style is down-to-earth, yet intellectually stimulating. It is confrontational but also peaceful.

In a Verse Afire review**, Canadian poet April Bulmer wrote: “Wood’s focus on women is fresh, though mythological and allusive: “the full moon/cradled her and rocked/the hope in her pelvic hammock/to an ancient lullaby.” And then: “I am a beautiful mansion/with many rooms for rent.””

Not everyone will recognize the biblical parables. Some may not appreciate the scientific inquiry. Yet, Wood’s strength increases in her exploration for truth. Definitely, an emerging poet to watch!

A few weeks ago, I asked Wood about her writing process. Below is her response:

Congratulations Jan on your first book Love is Not Anonymous published as part of the Thistledown Press 12th New Leaf Editions Series. How would you describe your book in a few sentences?

Jan Wood with her debut poetry book

Jan Wood with her debut poetry book.

 

The poems are predominantly feminine and document a life journey. They examine the allusions and illusions while seeking proof of the existence of love and faith and ironically find a wholeness in their fracturing.

Please explain why there is a different font for some of the poems in the collection?

I refer to these poems as my god-talks. They are all in first person singular and are reference points for some of the poems that follow or precede them. They usually originate as questions that I am either afraid to ask or feel very provoked about. They often are the roots of much writing as I try to untangle the threads of my faith and female viewpoint in each issue.

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

The collection has a spiritual nature and carries an interactive faith throughout that is genuine and searching rather than judgmental.

What inspires you? Who are your mentors?

Water always inspires me. I love it running wild and free in the lakes and rivers, in a warm bubble bath and in a tall cool glass. Its sound and energy, even in storms, is inviting and intoxicating to me.

Some of my favourite poets at the moment are: Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, Malcolm Guite, and Jan Zwicki.

Describe your writing process.

I write best in the morning and usually hand write everything in a journal for the first draft. The next step is a transferal to the computer where I edit and paste and cut and edit and edit again. I often store poems for a long time and then revisit them and edit again. I save all these draft copies and some of them become poems that speak in a different voice or take a different slant on the same theme. I find some poems fight me and I have to dissect them many times. When I am having difficulty with a poem it is invaluable to have someone in one of my poetry groups critique it or make suggestions.

What are you currently working on?

Jan Wood also makes handmade journals.

Jan Wood also makes handmade journals from up-cycled leathers. She says each one is unique and made in a small hand press.

 

I am working on a true account of my grandfather’s ice fishing camp on a Northern lake that tragically burned leaving its occupants injured. A First Nation’s dog sled and team rescued the men and transported them to an outpost hospital saving one of their lives. This has been an interesting project because I have sat with the Cree families that recall the event. Their oral stories differ with each retelling depending on audience and narrator and I am an invited participant only because this story is also about my people.  There is both a beauty and a frustration in the oral method of preserving history. I initially approached it in search of facts about the heroes, seeking times and dates and names. After many gatherings I am not much wiser in this department however, I have come to a much deeper understanding of the conditions and hardships faced by my grandfather and the people in the spring of 1923 and the sacrifice of giving aide when weakening your own life saving resources.

What are your future plans?

My husband and I are in the process of building a home along the river. We have visions of creating an Inspiration Centre, a quiet space close to nature for relaxing and refueling where individuals and groups striving to keep a spiritual element in their art forms can come and exchange ideas or have time for introspection.

Before you leave, please share another favourite excerpt from your book.

Prophecy***

By Jan Wood

somewhere inside her

beyond apprehension

what she is not

yet/or might never be

glistens under water

and does to her shoreline

what prophecy does

in jagged letters

to the anointed

Thanks Jan for the interview. I look forward to reading more of your work.

 Jan Wood continues to pursue her passion for writing and words by teaching and leading workshops. Her home in the Northern Saskatchewan boreal forest provides seasonal inspirations and space to ponder the political and emotional issues that provoke her responses.

Poet Jan Wood

“Silence/unzips/the back of truth” – Jan Wood

Additional information about Wood can be found on the Thistledown Press website.

 To purchase a copy of Jan Wood’s Love is Not Anonymous, please send a cheque for $16.00 (includes postage and tax) to: Out of Ink, Box 298; Big River, Saskatchewan, S0J 0E0

*from the poem “Fundamental States of Matter” published in the book Love is Not Anonymous (Thistledown Press, New Leaf Series, 2015) page 37. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Jan Wood

**The full book review by April Bulmer appears in Verse Afire, A Tri-Annual Publication of The Ontario Poetry Society, Jan. to Apr. 2016 issue. 

***“Prophecy” originally published in the book Love is Not Anonymous (Thistledown Press, New Leaf Series, 2015) page 23. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Jan Wood

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Canadian Poet James Deahl and His New Book Unbroken Lines

When dusk fell the luminous stones kept singing.—James Deahl* 

Canadian poet James Deahl is no stranger to this blog. News about his books and events often populate my posts. With over 20 poetry collections linked to his name, he’s currently one of the most prolific poets in Lambton County. He’s a busy guy. That’s an understatement.

Unbroken Lines - Collected Poetic Prose 1990 - 2015 (Lummox Press, 2015) by James Deahl

Unbroken Lines: Collected Poetic Prose 1990 – 2015 (LUMMOX Press, 2015) by James Deahl

His latest book Unbroken Lines: Collected Poetic Prose 1990-2015 was released last fall by LUMMOX Press and was officially launched in Toronto in November. On Saturday, January 16, he will share the spotlight with his literary wife Norma West Linder who will be launching her children’s novel The Pastel Planet. The event starts at 2 p.m. at The Book Keeper, Northgate Plaza, 500 Exmouth Street in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. (More details on Linder’s book will appear in a future blog post.)

So far, reviews on Deahl’s latest book have been favourable.

In a Canadian Stories review, Carol Malyon wrote: “These works are gentle, reflective, meditative, and the language is poetic. They have been created by a mature poet, in complete control of his craft, and of the life that feeds it.”

In a news4u review, Patrick Connors wrote: “he never writes the same piece twice. In content as well as form, he seeks to expand and diversify his body of work.”

One of my favourite Deahl poems from this new collection is “Theology of Stones”. In the poem, he poetically describes how pilgrims were so focused on their journeys that they failed to notice the small yellow flowers, the singing rocks, and “the forgotten beauty of innocent desire*.”

James Deahl

Canadian Poet James Deahl

Unlike the pilgrims in his poem, Deahl manages to capture (and share in his writings) those subtle details that are often missed. Many of the poems reflect his experiences as a traveller. As he states in the Author’s Preface, “The pieces in this collection were written over a quarter of a century: from May of 1990, while I was in England, to May of 2015, when Norma and I were in Connecticut.”

Similar to the rocks and other scenes and scenarios he writes about, his poems enlighten and keep singing long after they are read.

Last December, I asked Deahl to share his thoughts about his writing process. Below are his responses: 

1)      Describe your new book. What inspired you to write it?

Unbroken Lines is a collection of brief prose poems, micro fictions, and creative non-fiction. While I was on a government-funded reading tour of Britain in the spring of 1990, and upon my return to Canada, I wrote seven prose poems. They simply happened. Back then, as he remains today, my best-loved prose poet was Robert Bly, who has laboured hard to establish prose poetry as a major prosody in English.

2)      How does your work differ from other writers? What makes it unique and special?

Every writer approaches the universal topics from a unique point of view. The same is true of painters. That is what keeps art alive. It is made by interesting people who bring a perspective not our own. Through art we find a fresh appreciation of life. 

3)      What is your writing process? And why do you write the way that you do?

For me, writing and reading go together. I write and read as part of the same creative process. In all but a very, very few cases, my first draft is pen & paper. And most often my second draft, too. I delay typing poems up because, once typed, it seems to be more difficult to discover other possibilities, other directions the poem could take.

Author Talks and Lectures

James Deahl launched his latest book at the Main Street branch of the Toronto Public Library which is where he presented his first reading as a professional writer thirty years ago.

4)      What are your plans for promoting your book?

First off, I intend to present readings in the cities where I have lived and where I am well known within the writing community: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Hamilton, and now Sarnia. Next up is The Book Keeper. This will be on Saturday, January 16th at 2:00 p.m. Then I hope to do a West Coast tour: Los Angeles, Portland, Victoria and Vancouver, that sort of thing. The only way to sell books is in person. You want to sell books in New York, you go to New York. New York is a big goal.

5)      Who are/were your mentors and why did they inspire you?

Robert Bly for one. He has achieved the most in the field of prose poetry. Also Bly’s colleague James Wright. In Canada I mainly read Allan Cooper. And in French, the work of Francis Ponge should recommend itself to all readers. I like Bly’s romanticism, a quality not found in Ponge. But in Ponge I value his objectivity. Cooper is very fine, too. His description is excellent, really without equal, although his “leaps” are less smooth than Bly’s. In my view, Robert Bly is the master of the poetic leap.

6)      You are a prolific writer. What advice would you give to a young writer just starting his/her career as a writer?

One only becomes a writer by writing. One only becomes a better writer by writing. That is the only way to learn and develop. I do something in the way of writing or editing or translating every day except Thanksgiving.

James Deahl at the April 2014 Spoken Word event at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia

James Deahl shares his work at the April 2014 Spoken Word event at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

 

7)      What are some of the challenges facing today’s writers?

The two main ones are (1) the paucity of rigorous criticism, especially here in Canada, and (2) the strident limitations on monetizing what one has written. Criticism helps a writer become better, and we should all desire to be better. Being paid helps one survive. A third challenge would be having Canadian writing taken seriously in major nations like the United States and Britain. Now that Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize perhaps a few more doors will open. 

8)   What future writing project will you be working on following/during your tour?

This winter and spring (and maybe into the summer) I am working with Katherine L. Gordon on a joint book on Southwestern Ontario landscapes, a book to be published in Israel. I also have to get another lyric poetry collection, To Be With A Woman**, into print. Writing is pure joy; getting stuff published is hard work.

9)   Is there anything else you would like to add about your book, your writing, your past or future?

Nothing other than the pursuit of perfection. An elusive goal never to be attained. 

Thank you for sharing your comments. 

*epigraph and quote are from the poem “Theology of Stones”, Unbroken Lines: Collected Poetic Prose 1990-2015 (LUMMOX Press, 2015), page 77. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 James Deahl

**A few days following this interview, RD Armstrong of LUMMOX Press accepted James Deahl’s manuscript To Be With A Woman. It will be published in 2016. Congratulations!

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