Tag Archives: Canadian Poetry

In the Theatrical Spotlight – David Stones as The Poet

My whole life shining/charged and fused/with its wick of burning flesh. – David Stones*

Toronto bard David Stones is on fire! He may consider himself a “weekend writer or poet”, but his highly-successful poetry collection Infinite Sequels (Friesen Press 2013) and his poetic performances (based on the book) are certainly attracting attention.

With blazing spotlight performances at the Stratford SpringWorks 2015, the London Fringe 2018, and most recently at the Hamilton Fringe 2019, he and his work have been labelled as “dazzling,” “unforgettable,” and ‘utterly mesmerizing.”

July 19 to 28, 2019 in Hamilton

David Stones’ “dazzling” performances are inspired by his book Infinite Sequels (Friesen Press 2013).

I’m not surprised. As a successful businessperson, Stones is proficient in wooing an audience for a standing ovation.

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Booked for the Summer plus Fall 2019 Releases

 

“I will address all seasons in turn/and summer the memories” – Donna Allard, International Beat Poet Laureate*

As a child I welcomed summer, those endless memories reading yet another book in the comforts of my favourite tree. As an adult, I still enjoy being squirreled away to enjoy the summer tranquility that outdoor reading can bring.

However, while vacationing from social media last June, I missed the biggest literary news to hit the area: the great Canadian author Margaret Atwood would be touring with her latest book. One of her readings would be held at a local hotel in late November 2019. By the time I heard about the event, all the tickets were sold out.

November 27, 2019 in Sarnia

Each year Sarnia’s indie bookstore, the Book Keeper, hosts numerous visits by emerging and established authors. Canadian author Margaret Atwood will be in the area in November but event tickets are already sold out. Photo courtesy of The Book Keeper

Although I will miss one of my favourite authors read, bookstores, libraries, and other organizers of literary events are already gearing up for a busy fall season and I’m looking forward to hearing more updates as they become available. Some of those Ontario happenings appear on the event section of my blog.

What are you doing for the rest of the summer to feed your literary mind?

Below is my August/September “hoping to read soon” reading material as well as some of the Fall 2019 book releases and activities that I’ll be following.

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Sarnia’s 2019 National Poetry Month Celebration – A Poetic Marathon

So bright and full, it will incite lunatic talk,/bring the daredevil out in us and cause minor injury,/never again to be this big, within life’s tick-tock. – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

Every April, poets across Canada celebrate National Poetry Month (#NPM). Some travel to read and/or visit out-of-town events while others stay close to home to organize or attend festivities in their own regions. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, to share common interests, to hear other people’s work, and to grow as a poet.

April 6, 2019 in Sarnia revised

“Sarnia’s gone big celebrating National Poetry Month. Join us!” said organizer Sharon Berg on Facebook.

Call this year’s #NPM19 a literary celebration as big as an orange moon and expect rhythm, rhyme, similes, and metaphors to soar across the skies like UFOs. To the general public, poetry may sound like the language of aliens but for audiences willing to listen, a new and deeper understanding of the world may be discovered.

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Launching TAMARACKS – Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century

“Canadian literature has emerged as a world literature in the full sense of the term,” – James Deahl, editor of TAMARACKS*

It’s not every day that an American publisher takes an exclusive look at Canadian poetry but last autumn Lummox Press from San Pedro, California forged ahead and published TAMARACKS – Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century, a 240-page anthology edited by Sarnia, Ontario resident James Deahl and compiled for the United States market.

Tamaracks - Lummox Press 2018 - front and back cover

TAMARACKS: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century (Lummox Press 2018) was edited by Sarnia, Ontario resident James Deahl.

Now it’s time to celebrate!

In less than a month, over half of the 113 contributors of TAMARACKS will begin touring the province and sharing verses from this anthology filled with over 175 contemporary poems ranging in topics from World War I (Robert Acorn’s “Passchendaele”) to Canada’s Residential Schools tragedy (Rhonda Melanson’s “One Catholic’s Apology for Residential Schools”). As of today, eight celebration launches have been scheduled between late March and early May 2019 for such Ontario cities as Hamilton, Toronto, Welland, and Sarnia.

Another celebration, this one organized by the publisher, will be held in California in mid-April. Additional events in London and North Bay are being considered for the autumn.

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Artist John Di Leonardo Follows His Passion in Debut Poetry Book

Among cold things, I whisper your name/in the sweetness of morning jams, evening fruits/and the Atlantic that draws me towards you. – John Di Leonardo*

February perfumes the air with desire and passion fruit while the cover of John Di Leonardo’s debut poetry collection Conditions of Desire is scarlet like rose petals, like a daring shade of lipstick, like Cupid’s heart.

Launched in late October 2018 by The John B. Lee Signature Series imprint of Hidden Brook Press, this 74-page collection of 54 ekphrastic poems evolved from Di Leonardo’s visual art exhibition “The Contentious Nude in the History of Canadian Art.”

John Di Leonardo at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery Photo courtesy - Druworx Photography - for blog post

Before becoming a published poet, John Di Leonardo taught visual arts for 30 years. His latest exhibition of graphite drawings was at the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario. Photo courtesy: Druworx Photography

As Lee penned for the back cover, “John Di Leonardo’s masterful ekphrastic project involves the writing of a collection of fine poems each of which is inspired by an original work of art. Although he is working in the poetic tradition of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” Di Leonardo is first and foremost a painter who brings to bear the eye of a man whose primary art is visual.”

His transition–from an established artist and visual arts teacher to a poet who paints with his words–has been fascinating to watch.

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In Conversation with Edmonton Poet Kelly Shepherd

“We dream when we sleep; Magpies dream/when they fly in the rain. We might not always remember, /but every one of our dreams is about either leaves or feathers.” – Kelly Shepherd*

A few days ago, I posted a review of Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems (Thistledown Press, 2018). The author impressed me with his “mind-warping, playful, and clever” work but who was this western Canadian poet with such layered words woven with humour and twigs?  I decided to find out. Below is our conversation (edited slightly for length, order, and flow).

Edmonton poet Kelly Shepherd Photo by Randell Edwards Photography

Introducing Canadian poet Kelly Shepherd  Photo by Randall Edwards Photography

Hi Kelly! Before I received your book Insomnia Bird for review, I wasn’t familiar with your work. I had never seen a magpie, one of the star attractions in your second collection of poetry. Even my first-hand knowledge of Edmonton was limited despite short visits over the years. Initially, I wondered whether your book would speak to me, the outsider looking in. As it turned out, it held me captive.

At what point in your writing process did you decide to set the poems in Edmonton versus somewhere more generic? What local insights would the book offer to the residents versus the universal themes that would appeal to readers living outside the area, province, or even another country?

This was a concern when I was starting to compile these poems: how accessible is this book going to be, to people who aren’t familiar with Edmonton? Will it even make sense?

Because Insomnia Bird is all about Edmonton-specific places, happenings, and landmarks. Some of the references are quite obscure, but they’re not inaccessible. I’ve had several people comment on the pleasant surprise of finding one of these details that they recognize from their own experience of Edmonton.

But hopefully, in spite of this ‘specificity’, there’s still enough of the familiar in the descriptions of public transit, for example, or urban wildlife, that people who don’t know Edmonton will still recognize these things. On one level, Edmonton is very uniquely Edmonton in this book; on another level Edmonton can stand in for almost any city. It becomes everycity’.

Some of these poems celebrate Edmonton, but others are quite critical of the city and its culture, for example our destructive addictions to fossil fuels and big trucks, and our tendency toward urban sprawl, and the thinly-veiled colonialism inherent in many institutions. And so on. Insomnia Bird is a study in shadow geography, which means it looks at those aspects of a place which are hidden, or repressed. It looks for the details a city wouldn’t include in its tourist brochures.

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Cleverly-woven –Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird – Edmonton Poems

“Magpie: twilight bird–…//nest builder and robber of nests –//you hop and clatter on the road like hail.” – Kelly Shepherd*

Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems (Thistledown Press, 2018)** is not a clichéd-flighty-fly-by-night book about the black-billed magpies set against a northern Albertan cityscape. It’s mind-warping, playful, and clever: an a(musing)-gathering-of-facts-and-twigs-and-words, (by a trickster bird) architecturally structured and constructed and carefully woven into a literary nest inspired by Edmonton’s urban growth.

Insomnia Bird cover

Insomnia Bird: Edmonton Poems (Thistledown Press, 2018) by Kelly Shepherd ISBN 978-1-77187-169-3 (softcover)

CAUTION: Do not attempt to read this well-researched book in one sitting (especially at night). Each poem deserves a slow and careful read to fully appreciate the complexity and depth of the work. Reading the book several times is advised.

Layered with wit and dust and city noise, a cacophony of provocative sounds and images, some illuminated like LED billboards, some more subdued like sandblasted cement, this collection of 53 found and lyrical poems kept this country night owl awake: thinking and staring outside an imaginary bus window and into the hum of the glaring street lights.

Expect some travelling on highways littered with snake-skinned truck tires, and congested roads along homeless shelters, construction zones, city buildings, and trees that breathe with plastic bag lungs (p.97). I especially marveled at how the poems with couplets and tercets rhythmically reminded me of riding an early morning bus (or train), half-asleep like a zombie, void of emotion despite reading the daily paper and ripping out tidbits of information for future consumption.

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