Tag Archives: Canadian Poetry

Ten Cities with Wayne Johnston – May 23 in London, Ontario, Canada

“Wayne Johnston has the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat with his tales of urban scenes.”* – Jim Chan, New York City videographer

 I’m sitting on the edge of my chair,

staring at all the accolades for Ten Cities: The Past Is Present, a free literary performance by Wayne Johnston to be held Wednesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. at the Arts Project Theatre, 203 Dundas Street in London, Ontario, Canada.

Ten Cities illustration by Wayne Johnston 2015

“Ten Cities: The Past Is Present” is a literary performance by Wayne Johnston. Illustration copyright © 2015 by Wayne Johnston. Used with permission from the artist.

“It’s brilliant! It’s funny, and sad, and unsettling and surprising.”* This quote is attributed to Guelph librarian Robin Bergart.

I’m intrigued!

Promotional material for the show explains that Johnston is visiting “ten sites in each of ten cities that have had a formative impact on his life.”

Wayne Johnston at Dixon Place in New York City

Johnston performs “Ten Cities” at the Dixon Place in New York City. Still image pulled from a video taken by Jim Chan. Used with permission from the videographer. Check out Chan’s website here.

He has already performed in New York City, Toronto, Accra (Ghana), Geneva (Switzerland), and Zagreb (Croatia). London represents his sixth stop with future performances scheduled for June 7 at the Arts Court in Ottawa and July 28 at Quixote’s Cove in Kathmandu (Nepal).

Events in Iqaluit and La Paz will also be planned but dates have not been confirmed at the moment. Each of the literary performances will feature Johnston’s drawings as well as his writing which mimics prose poetry, creative nonfiction or postcard stories.

 I’m still sitting on the edge.

In his tale entitled “London: Lord Nelson Public School”, he writes: “We hatch a plan to sneak out into the night. He leaves a note on his bedroom window. I sleep through the night and the note is found by his father the next day.”

Do I dare to read more?

In an artist statement e-mailed to Poetry London organizers, Johnston stated he wanted to “formalize a process for saying goodbye to the places where so many of [his] memories were born.”

Wayne Johnston - Self-portrait Painting

Johnston is a painter, performance artist, writer, and librarian from Guelph, Ontario.   Self-portrait painting copyright © 2015 by Wayne Johnston Used with permission from the artist.

In London, he focused on his experiences at Beaver Lumber, the Richmond Hotel, Clarke Road Secondary School, Victoria Hospital and six more locations.

“At each site I allow the sights, sounds and smells of the place to awaken my memories,” explained Johnston. “I write about those memories but I also write about the current experience visiting the site. I look for common threads between the past experiences and the current visit. I also do a drawing. The end result is a bit of a collage where multiple stories and an image emerge. I look for common motifs or structuring elements that tie the various elements together, sometimes in very subtle ways. Sometimes those connections may be apparent to the reader/listener. Other times there may be disparities and contrasts that are hopefully evocative without being necessarily coherent.”

“One of the strategies I’ve employed is to write always in the present tense. That can be confusing when elements clearly come from very different points in time. What I’m trying to suggest is that the past is not something fixed in a point in time. The past as it exists in memory is alive, impacting the present, being impacted by the present. To quote Slaughterhouse Five again, it’s like being unstuck in time.”

To say Johnston’s work is edgy is an understatement.

In some cases, his words will push you over. He warns, “I know the piece won’t connect with everyone who attends but some people have told me that this exploration of the relationship between place and memory has been very meaningful to them, that it left them thinking about similar dynamics in their own experience.”

Wayne Johnston is a painter, performance artist, writer and librarian from Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

His writing accomplishments include publication of an oral history on a tavern that had historic impact on Canada’s art community in the sixties. Making a living as a librarian has taken him to places such places as Geneva, Zagreb, Accra, Kathmandu, La Paz, Manhattan, Ottawa and Iqaluit.

*Additional praise for Johnston’s performances is posted on The Arts Project website (which was recently re-branded as TAP: centre for creativity).

His London appearance is being hosted by Poetry London and will also include a regional poets’ showcase featuring Frank Beltrano, Stan Burfield, Debbie Okun Hill, and Ron Stewart who will read approximately 5 to 7 minutes each.

Poetry London Presents - Wayne Johnston - Regional Poet Showcase - May 23, 2018 in London - Revised location

Poetry London is hosting a special literary event featuring Wayne Johnston and regional poets Frank Beltrano, Stan, Burfield, Debbie Okun Hill, and Ron Stewart, Wednesday, May 23 starting at 7 p.m. at The TAP Centre for Creativity, 203 Dundas Street in London, Ontario.

Admission is free. Hope to see you there!

Poetry London logo

Poetry London’s regular reading series runs from September to April of each year. Logo used with permission from Poetry London.

The website in partnership with the London Public Library, hosts monthly readings and poetry workshops in London, Ontario. Johnston’s performance is a special event to be held outside the regular reading season. For the latest news from Poetry London, follow their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Follow this blog for future event highlights as well as poet and author profiles.

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The Spring into Poetry Party – May 5, 2018 in Cobourg

“My life is like the lotus/swelling in copper light of morning/undisturbed by torrents of falling water”* – Joan Sutcliffe

 I could listen to the voice of Canadian poet Joan Sutcliffe all day! Originally from Yorkshire, Sutcliffe captivates the audience and her accent adds another dimension to her casual reading style. On Sunday, she launched her poetry book From Time to Time during The Ontario Poetry Society’s The Spring into Poetry Party at Meet at 66 King East in Cobourg, Ontario.

One of the beauties of spring and the ease of safely travelling to out-of-town launches and poetry readings is that one often collects precious memories to take home to treasure. Sutcliffe’s reading was one of those memories. The other was the featured reading by Life Member Allan Briesmaster who has been spotlighted on this blog before. I also enjoyed meeting for the first time Greer Roberts, a Durham region resident who launched his self-published chapbook The Slaughters.

 

TOPS The Spring into Poetry Party - Featured Readers and Books Launched

Featured guest reader and TOPS life member Allan Briesmaster read from his recent books while Joan Sutcliffe launched her second book and Greer Roberts introduced his self-published chapbook during The Spring into Poetry Party in Cobourg.

Of course, it was nice to be in a room filled with other writers: from first time readers to veteran performers. All of the members, the open mic readers, and the appreciative audience made the afternoon special.

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The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic on May 5, 2018 at Meet at 66 King East in Cobourg, Ontario.

Below is a report by Joan Sutcliffe that will appear in the next issue of Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter. It is printed here with permission from the author and The Ontario Poetry Society:

Reported by Joan Sutcliffe:

With first blossoms of May, members and friends of The Ontario Poetry Society enjoyed the bohemian charm of our favourite tea house in Cobourg, with its exquisite décor and china tea cups.

T.O.P.S. ever-active creator and organizer, Bunny Iskov, opened the afternoon with a warm welcome drawing attention to the attractive packages of book prizes, donated by our sponsors and  raffled off throughout the event.

First to read was Glenna Hall with an intriguing piece called Looking Glass which conjured up ethereal personifications of starlight and the dream weaver posing mystical questions. Then John Ambury paid tribute to the intuitive insight of women as the shamanic holders of the fabric of civilization in an interesting poem on the roles of men and women in traditional societies. President Fran Figge, using the metaphor of the juicy apple and the slithering serpentine male seduced by white innocence of the female, gave us a poem rich in sensual imagery, and followed with an ekphrastic poem on a painting titled Panspermia. Acknowledging his technical skill in setting up T.O.P.S. publications & webmaster skills, Bunny introduced Mark Clement, whose first reading brought to life old experiences at the high school dance, with following pieces depicting the throaty croak of the crow and fallen leaves.

TOPS The Spring into Poetry Party - members featured May 5, 2018 in Cobourg

Members’ reading with Glenna Hall, John Ambury, Fran Figge, Mark Clement, Debbie Okun Hill, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, and Joanna Gale.

Next came a book launch by Joan Sutcliffe, presenting her new book From Time to Time (In Our Words, 2017), in which she followed the cycle from Beltane to Gemini, then touched on long-lost memories, finishing with a poem on Impermanence which suggests it is the briefness of all passing things that makes life so precious.

TOPS in Cobourg with Allan Briesmaster - May 5, 2018

Featured reader and TOPS Life member Allan Briesmaster launched his chapbook Pod and Berry (Aeolus House, 2017).

During the break, poets and audience mingled and got to know each other. To start the second half of the readings, feature poet, Allan Briesmaster began with a poem from the latest Verse Afire which had previously enjoyed its initial reading at Cobourg. This was followed by the launch of his new book Pod and Berry which is the product of a writers’ retreat in Bermuda and contains art by his wife, Holly. One of the poems came into being through a workshop on dreams, and after amusing us with dreaming experiences he gave us an Office Dream. Then came a descriptive piece suggestive of a parkland’s healing quality, where images of goldfinches and red cardinals emerged life-like from the lines. A moving poem on trees plummeted the depths of ideas from the book The Hidden Life of Trees. His final offering portrayed the poignant sweetness of the last day in Bermuda.

Debbie Okun Hill then presented her two prize winning chapbooks, where in one poem from Drawing from Experience she describes the touching joy of drawing with her father-in-law in the nursing home. From her other chapbook, in her poem Pencil Crayons: Sharpened a companion theme with her father-in-law demonstrates the power of crayons as a medium of expression. Then, from an unpublished manuscript, her poem Turning a Corner was inspired by the loss of four ash trees in her garden which captures in similar vein the loss of some of the Sarnia writers.

Greer Roberts read from his new chapbook, and began with the light shining in the forest and blue moon bliss, before masterfully depicting the buildup of terror approaching a school massacre.

TOPS The Spring into Poetry Party - Open Mic Readers

Open mic readers Donna Wooton, Liz Hammond, and Walley Keller.

Bunny Iskov, first read her poem, Air Show, in which a host of starlings dazzled everyone with acrobatic flights of fancy over the corner of Finch and Yonge. In a stark contrast to this, she informed us poetically as a near witness, of Toronto’s recent van attack at Mel Lastman Square, and then changed to a lighter mode with a rhyming poem on Ontario in the Spring. Last T.O.P.S. member to read was Joanna Gale, first winding her way through a disappointment by a walk near the water’s edge and the exhilaration of sun-blown kisses through clouds. Her final poem, a lyrical evocation of spring, introduced a delightful vocabulary of willow-bough-willow complex words.

The afternoon culminated in readings at the open mike by three talented poets from the Cobourg area. Lots of poems and lots of prizes were acquired by all.

Thank you Joan for sharing your observations!

The Ontario Poetry Society’s next members’ reading and open mic will be held this August in London, Ontario. For more information about this and other literary events taking place in Ontario, check out the 2018 Event Section of this blog.

*Quote is from the poem “Impermanence” printed in the book From Time to Time (In Our Words Inc, 2017). Page 39. Copyright © 2017 Joan Sutcliffe. Used with permission.

Follow this blog for future event highlights as well as poet and author profiles.

Couplets – London’s Collaborative Poetry Series Returns for Third Season

“A unique blend of collaborative writing, collaborative performance, and live dialogue.” – Andy Verboom, organizer/host of COUPLETS: a collaborative poetry series

Spring rain collected in grey puddles on the parking lot, on the cracked sidewalk, and on Dundas Street in front of The ARTS Project in downtown London, Ontario, Canada.

Couplets - small log

Inside the Main Gallery, away from the splash and splatter of running water, I noted the empty chairs and checked my cellphone. Thursday, March 29. Did I have the wrong date? Was the inclement weather a problem?

COUPLETS host Andy Verboom noted my perplexed look and assured me with a smile. “We changed the start time. Did you see our Facebook post?” (I hadn’t.)

verboom-author-photo-3

For the 2018 season, COUPLETS host Andy Verboom is expecting to bring in more out-of-town and inter-art collaborators to London, Ontario.

He explained the featured poets travelling from Toronto were late! Not their fault! Something about a bus breaking down! No worries because they were on their way. No worries because in the interim, a table was set up for the audience to create collage poems using words found in a book about an unpopular politician. A few poets had already gathered with scissors in hand. Other people just chatted.

An hour later, the third season of COUPLETS officially launched without too much fanfare but with a relaxed host welcoming both the guest readers and a large audience that filled those empty chairs.

On that evening, former Detroit resident and Puritan Interviews Editor E. Martin Nolan and former Victoria, B.C. resident and Pivot Reading Series committee member Michelle Brown shared work from their new books Still Point (Invisible Publishing, 2017) and Safe Words (Palimpsest Press, 2018).

E Martin Nolan and Michelle Brown at Couplets Photo 6 March 29, 2018

Former Detroit resident and Puritan Interviews Editor E. Martin Nolan and former Victoria, B.C. resident and Pivot Reading Series committee member Michelle Brown shared work from their new books Still Point (Invisible Publishing, 2017) and Safe Words (Palimpsest Press, 2018), during COUPLETS Episode #16 on March 29, 2018.

The poignant poems of Martin and the exuberance of Brown reminded me of the multi-faceted sides of rain: how a water droplet can either destroy or soothe with a twist of the wind; how one’s perspective of work or play can vary; how even an incident on a bus on a rain-clad ride can turn into a gift like the collaborative poem presented by the featured couple towards the end of the evening.

It’s that exquisite and organic nature of the one hour COUPLETS events that make the drive into London worthwhile. Expect the unexpected! No two events are alike!

Originally advertised in May 2016 as ‘COUPLETS: Poets in Dialogue’, London Ontario’s newest poetry series now boasts the name ‘COUPLETS: A Collaborative Poetry Series’. With 16 episodes behind them, the series is definitely evolutionary: the subtle result of continuously blending two poetic and creative minds in an artistic setting. If you’re looking for the traditional rhyming and metered expressions of the couplet form, you may need to look elsewhere. This is more innovative than that.

Couplets 9 - Andy McGuire in front of collaborator Angie Quick's painting

COUPLETS #9 featured guest Andy McGuire in front of collaborator Angie Quick’s painting.

This week, I chatted with COUPLETS host Andy Verboom about some of his personal goals and his future plans for this unique event.

Andy, you’ve done something amazing here with your poetry series. As the new kid on the block, you immediately differentiated the series from the more established literary offerings in London.

For example Poetry London offers a pre-reading workshop followed by the readings by one or two high-profiled and established poets.

The London Open Mic Poetry series presents a featured local poet followed by an open mic in which anyone (even first time readers) can share their poems.

Couplets offers an unstructured yet structured presentation style whereby an experienced poet is paired with an emerging poet to create a unique collaboration. For those who are unfamiliar with this series, please take us behind the scenes. Where did the idea for the series come from and why did you decide to organize it?

Thanks, Debbie! In general, because the collaborators do so much more work than I do, I try to accept no credit for a good Couplets event and as little blame as possible for a not-as-good one. The same holds true for the series, which has been deemed ‘good’ by a number of encouraging folks.

That said, the series that would become Couplets was initially slated to be an ‘offshoot’ of London Open Mic, a simple recycling of former featured readers in a new venue. I accepted an invitation to helm it at a time when the scope of my own writing had suddenly widened from the single poem to the suite or project. And from that perspective—where form and structure become essentially generative—the journal that publishes ‘the best’ lit, the first collection that’s also a ‘collected works of,’ and the generalist reading series were all just plastic bags for stuffing poems into. I supposed I wanted a container that was more rigid, more demanding in terms of performance, but also less self-serious. The encyclopedia salesman’s briefcase, maybe?

Couplets logo

In any case, I wanted each Couplets to be generative rather than iterative, surprising both for audiences and for readers. This eventually required finding the series a better home than the original venue and disaffiliating it from other series. Couplets has shifted and matured so quickly, thanks to the support of many others, that I can’t take any credit for “deciding” to organize what it is now. Happy to be here, though!

Two weeks ago, you launched your third season with two young and vibrant poets E. Martin Nolan and Michelle Brown. What can the audience expect for the upcoming episodes?

Couplets 16 Banner

Expect the unexpected! Each COUPLETS episode like the one with E. Martin Nolan and Michelle Brown will inspire you!

Expect a departure from the foundational established/emerging dichotomy. With several collaborators playing ‘emerging poet’ in one episode when they could’ve played ‘established poet’ in another, the distinction was always just a numbers game. Also, I worry that ‘emerging poet’ reads like a euphemism for “don’t expect (as) much from.” And that both terms are fraught with ageism. As I get deeper into that uncanny terrain where I’m post-30 without a book of my own in sight—or ‘uggghh, still emerging, I guess’—I’m focusing more on scheduling collaborators whose work I can candidly and enthusiastically promote regardless of their publication credits.

Expect more inter-art collaborations. London isn’t hurting when it comes to collaborations across artistic disciplines (e.g., Tom Cull’s curations as Poet Laureate and The ARTS Project’s upcoming LDN Convergence), so a Couplets restricted to poetry threatens to get stale.

And expect more out-of-town collaborators. This season, for instance, will draw eight or nine collaborators from Toronto. Subsequent seasons might draw from other cities.

For the past two years, you’ve featured an eclectic mix of readers with veterans John B. Lee and Laurie Graham to emerging yet award-winning scribes such as David Hubert. How does one get involved with this reading series and what criteria do you use to not only select your featured guests but to create partners for each episode?

I can’t reveal my proprietary formula for matchmaking, but I’ll say that the robustness of the collaborative format has surprised me: it serves seriousness just as well as lampoon, and it can bear three months of overwrought collaboration or float atop a renga written on a bus on the way to the venue. So each performer’s fit with the series—their willingness to be (stealing from Dan Savage) good, giving, and game for anything—has proven more important than their fit with their collaborator. (Almost always. I did make a not-so-good match once.)

Couplets 12 - Ryan Gibbs & David Stones

Collaborators Ryan Gibbs and David Stones in COUPLETS #12.

If you want to read at Couplets, you can make your chances very good indeed simply by getting in touch. Or, maybe even better, email me with a recommendation for someone else who would make a great Couplets collaborator.

Why is a reading series (like the one you are organizing) so important to a community?

There might be two separate questions here. If you’re asking why a reading series might be valued by a community, I’d say the events provide social validation and comfort by actually putting that community in a room. If you’re asking how an unconventional reading series might be good for a community, I’d say it can challenge that community by exposing fractures in taste that are indicative of political disagreement. This might invalidate easy assumptions about unity and push community members to question their political positions.

What are your long term plans for the series?

In the medium term, I’d like to bring a second organizer aboard so that Couplets is eligible to apply for funding that could pay collaborators not only for their performance time but for their collaborative labour. Also to resolve the irony of a collaborative reading series being run by a single person.

In the long term, t-shirts. In the longer term, world domination via app development.

For those who haven’t met you, who is Andy Verboom and why are you so passionate about promoting poetry within the London community and beyond?

The Wide Skirt a

Andy Verboom wants the audience to be surprised!

The fact that this is my least favourite type of question probably says all you need to know about me. I’m not sure “passion” is the right term. I’ll stop doing Couplets, for instance, when it stops producing interesting and entertaining results.

Before we go, please tell us about your own writing! I understand you have a chapbook with Baseline Press, a London-based publisher and a few other projects plus you worked on a joint project with David Hubert, one of the first poets showcased in this series.

Orthric Sonnets came out with Baseline in October, 2017, and Tower (Anstruther) and Full Mondegreens (Frog Hollow) the year before—the latter being the joint chapbook with David Huebert. More generally, for someone who crams the gospel of collaboration down everyone’s throats, I haven’t collaborated very much. Who has the time unless some crazed reading series organizer extorts you, right?

Chapbooks_2017_Verboom3 - photo courtesy Baseline Press

Snatched up quicky!! The limited edition of Orthric Sonnets (Baseline Press, 2017) by Andy Verboom is now sold out. Photo courtesy: Baseline Press website.

What are your future writing goals?

Convince an editor at a big-name small press that my poetry is emotionless on purpose.

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

One of my cats micro-reviews books on Instagram: @one.eyed.jack.reads

*Sounds like a talented cat! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I wish you much success with COUPLETS  and your writing career.

Mark your calendars for future COUPLETS events:

April 26th with Palimpsest Poetry Editor Jim Johnstone and multi-faceted human and cartoonist Megan Arnold. More details here.

Couplets 17 in London

Couplets Episode #17 will feature Jim Johnstone and Megan Arnold on Thursday, April 26 from 6 to 7 p.m., Main Gallery, The Arts Project, 203 Dundas Street in London, Ontario.

The third season also includes six more episodes to be held on the last Thursday of each month! Coming soon: Julie Cameron Gray, Vincent Colistro, Stevie Howell, Jess Taylor, Aaron Kreuter, and others.

Follow COUPLETS on Facebook  and on twitter or check their  website/blog.

Andy Verboom’s author website appears here.  

 FOLLOW THIS BLOG FOR FUTURE PROFILES AND OTHER LITERARY HAPPENINGS.

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

 

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

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

April 2018 - NPM2018_Poster-665x1024

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

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

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

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

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

April 28, 2018 in Sarnia - revised guest

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

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

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

Big Pond Rumours chapbook winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy National Poetry Month Everyone!

Wherever you may be, let the celebrations begin!

 

 

Memories – The Love of Poetry Gathering

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

If only Cupid had warmed the Earth a little sooner.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering in North York invite

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

 

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

Symposium Restaurant North York Feb 11, 2018 Photo Larry Iskov

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

May you have a warm and wonderful week!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Poet Profile – Penn Kemp and Barbaric Cultural Practice

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

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

BLOG IMAGE Barbaric-Cultural-Practice_front-cover

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

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

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

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

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review:

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

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

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

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

BLOG IMAGE From the poem In Light by Penn Kemp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kemp was the inaugural poet laureate for London, Ontario.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a promo blurb about Local Heroes:

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

 

BLOG IMAGE Brighid painting by James Kemp

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re welcome!

BLOG IMAGE Penn Kemp Photo by Mary McDonald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow this blog for additional Canadian author and poet profiles.

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

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

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

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

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering in North York invite

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

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

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

March 3, 2018 in Hamilton, Ontario

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

THROWBACK THURSDAY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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