Tag Archives: Debbie Okun Hill

Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours Organizes Regional Tour of Prize-Winning Poet

“This morning, my stomach is a helicopter,/on top and in the rear, thrum, rumble, flutter/look how I run; will I need a mop?” – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

A southwestern Ontario poetry tour** featuring headliners Toronto poet and musician Tom Gannon Hamilton and Sarnia author and micro-press owner Sharon Berg will demonstrate how poetry can tell a story, be entertaining, serious and/or humorous based on such subjects as the war in El Salvador, dysfunctional relationships, art, suicide, cannibalism, nature, and more.

Tom Gannon Hamilton

Prize-winning poet Tom Gannon Hamilton will headline Big Pond Rumours Southwestern Ontario Tour with events in London, Sarnia, Petrolia, and Windsor  between August 19 to 28, 2018.

Organized by Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours (BPR), the five readings will take place in four urban settings (London, Petrolia, Sarnia, and Windsor) between August 19 and 28, 2018. The tour also features a variety of other authors (Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby, London author and visual artist Sile Englert, Lambton poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill, Lambton author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby, and Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith) who will read on specified dates and in different locations.

“My goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this form of writing can accomplish,” said Berg who is also the tour organizer. “Poetry was once revered by kings and practised by people of the highest intellect. But in Canada, poetry has been celebrated as an art form for the people, which led to the appointment of poet laureates in tens of cities across the country. Every poem tells a story, and on this tour, with these authors, you are sure to receive a variety of stories.”

Sharoon Berg

Featured reader and tour organizer Sharon Berg says “my goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this art form can accomplish.”

Headliner Hamilton has a unique story to share. In addition to being the founder, curator, and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon (in partnership with the Toronto Public Libraries), he was also an aid worker during the war in El Salvador. His chapbook manuscript El Marillo, which won 1st place in an annual contest organized by Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Press, focuses on the havoc of events taking place in the 1980s during the extreme violence of the 12-year Civil War in El Salvador.

He has also just released Panoptic, a full-sized book, with Aeolus House, a micro-press owned by Canadian poet/editor Allan Briesmaster.

“This means that he has two books of stunning poetry to promote on this tour,” said Berg. “Hamilton is also an accomplished musician who makes his daily living performing music. He is likely to share a tune or two at each of the readings.”

Headliner Berg is returning to active participation in the Canadian poetry scene after a long hiatus while she worked as a teacher. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine & Press in 2006.

“The existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant,” said Berg. “Indeed, both the international literary magazine and the press have gradually gained attention across the country for the work they are doing in promoting Canadian authors and providing an international forum for literary work.”

The press has already published chapbooks featuring Nelson Ball, Sharon Berg, Harold Feddersen, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, John Oughton, Brian Purdy, and Bob Wakulich. Plus, in 2016, Big Pond Rumours also released Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix A Poet’s Workshop (1976 to 1986) which includes authors like: Heather Roberts Cadsby, Richard Harrison, Stuart Ross, and Libby Scheier.

THE TOUR SCHEDULE

August 19 in London: Hamilton launches his chapbook at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Summer Sultry Poetry Gathering, 1 p.m. at Mykanos Restaurant.

August 23 in London: London author and visual artist Síle Englert reads with Hamilton and Berg, 7 p.m. at Brown and Dickson Bookstore.

August 25 in Sarnia: Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby and Lambton County author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby will read with Hamilton 1 p.m. at the Sarnia Public Library on Christina Street.

August 26 in Windsor: Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith will read with Hamilton and Berg 1 p.m. at Storyteller Bookstore.

August 28 in Petrolia: Lambton Country poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill will read with Hamilton and Berg 6 p.m. at The Cottage Petrolia on Petrolia Line.

Each event is open to the general public. Admission is free.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT BIG POND RUMOURS PRESS?

As the owner of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press (BPR) and a recent retiree, Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia and a new home in August 2016. “I moved here, in part, because Sarnia has a small but vital community of authors,” she said. Her work on the magazine and as a publisher had gone on for years as a sideline while she worked, but both the E-Zine and her press were “small potatoes back then. Indeed, I refer to the press as a micro press because it publishes just four chapbooks (30 pages or less) for Canadian authors a year, the press runs being limited to 100 copies. Still, most Canadian poets and first time novelists have press runs of 500 copies with larger presses, so the existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant.”

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours Press can be found here and on its website.

MORE INFO ON THE SPOTLIGHT READERS AND THEIR WORK

 TOM GANNON HAMILTON:

El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton

In March 2018, Tom Gannon Hamilton won 1st place in an annual Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press. Hamilton’s poetry in El Marillo, is of a different character than most authors in Canada present to their readers. It is literary, but it also reveals the effect of being an eye witness to atrocities through lines of poetry that bring readers right into the scene as a witness. Hamilton was a relief worker with Salvaide, an organization promoting social justice, during his time in El Salvador. He worked to provide medical supplies and other aid to the low income civilians in El Marillo. While thousand of people were being disappeared, the UN reports that the war killed at least 75,000 people between 1980 and 1992.

Hamilton has turned those tragic events into moving poetry. His award-winning chapbook is a dramatic and startling piece of work filled with every human emotion: from horror to terror, from grief and misery to sweet remembrance of others who joined him on that project in El Salvador. As one reviewer wrote of his work, “a lesser man would have had a nervous breakdown rather than turning those events into poetry”. Hamilton put his chapbook together as a way of making a public record about what he witnessed and of celebrating the work Salvaide did to save thousands of lives. It is also a text with special meaning for him as his wife died due to drowning under suspicious circumstances while she was in El Salvador. The pain he deals with related to this loss, is transformed into a celebration of her efforts to gain justice for the people she had devoted her life to.

Quattro Books Presents

As for his book Panoptic recently released by Aleous House, Canadian poet Donna Langevin wrote “Maestro Hamilton composes poems with the same musicality, virtuosity and fidelity that he brings to the violin he feels wed to.” This full-length collection will be officially launched in Ottawa on September 9 and in Toronto on September 12. 

SHARON BERG:

Odyssey and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg is founder of Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine & Press in Sarnia. Her first book was published in 1979 and her work includes: The Body Labyrinth, Coach House (1984), Black Moths, Big Pond Rumours (2006), The Great Hoop Dance, Big Pond Rumours Press (2016), Odyssey & Other Poems, Big Pond Rumours (2017) and two audio cassette tapes (Tape 5, Gallery 101 Productions and Black Moths, Public Energies, 1986). She also publishes academic work on the history of First Nations education.

Referring to her first poetry book with Borealis Press, John Robert Colombo said “love becomes lyric in your hands, and poem after poem I am moved from delight to delicious delight.” With the release of her second book from Coach House Press in 1984, Dennis Lee said, “She is one of the younger poets to watch,” while a book review in Malahat Review said, “These are vigorous, quick moving poems with a surprising tension and strength.” After more than 30 years, she will read from her long anticipated third poetry manuscript on this tour.

 ADDITIONAL GUEST READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

 Heather Roberts Cadsby: In the 1980s, Cadsby co-produced Poetry Toronto and co-founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and the Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she served as the director of the ArtBar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections (Brick Books 2018) is her fifth poetry collection. More info here.

Sile Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her stories have shortlisted in contests for Room Magazine and longlisted in Prism International. Her poetry placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and featured in Room Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology, The Canadian Authors Association’s Saving Bannister Anthology, Misunderstanding Magazine, and Crannog Magazine (Ireland). Read her Contemporary Verse 2 poem here.

Debbie Okun Hill is a Lambton County poet/blogger with over 30 years of writing and promotional experience. Drawing from Experience is a collection of ekphrastic poems that present her impression of various works of art. Her books are: Tarnished Trophies, Black Moss (2014), Chalk Dust Clouds, Beret Day Press (2017) and Drawing from Experience, Big Pond Rumours (2017). More info here.

Phyllis Humby lives in Lambton and is a well-known blogger at The Write Break, a columnist at First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors. More info here.

Laurie Smith, is a poet, editor, and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario. She is also an award-winning poet and author of short fiction. Among her collections are Said the Cannibal, Gallstones, One Ninth of a Cat’s Life, Menagerie, and an upcoming collection of poetry inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Read about Smith’s humorous 2018 National Poetry Month reading in Sarnia here.

* From the poem “Running of a Country” from the prize-winning chapbook El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Tom Gannon Hamilton, 2018

**Written from the files of Big Pond Rumours Press and Sharon Berg.

Additional information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found in the event section of this blog.

 

 

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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

Officially Launched – Drawing From Experience

“We sat on the ledge/weathered edge of life’s dock/…celebrating the ascent of friendship.”    -Debbie Okun Hill*

New books remind me of paper boats launched into a river. Some will float near the dock and amuse the locals who are fishing along the shoreline. Some may crash into a wave and sink like the Titanic to annoy the pickerel and bass. Others may venture beyond the sunset and entertain strangers in foreign ports.

Drawing from Experience - Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017 - by Debbie Okun Hill

I hope my poems reach you like a friend with an outstretched hand.

Unlike novels, a poetry chapbook can be fragile like origami and calligraphy mixed together. It is the watercolour of the literary arts and sometimes misunderstood like the mysteries of life.

The passage of time is a mystery too…like a drifting boat.

Over two months ago, Big Pond Rumours Press officially launched my poetry chapbook. Drawing From Experience, at the Exmouth Street Coffee Lodge in Sarnia. For me, the afternoon was more than an event to introduce my art-themed poems to an audience. It was an opportunity to spotlight the literary arts as well as to applaud the support of friends, family and other writers. What a celebration it was!

Drawing from Experience Launch Featured Readers and more November 11, 2018

An entertaining afternoon with featured readers Anne Kavanagh Beachey and Ryan Gibbs, the chapbook launch of Drawing From Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Debbie Okun Hill, emcee Bob McCarthy, and Big Pond Rumours Press founder Sharon Berg.

Special thanks to featured guest readers and former Lambton County residents and writers Anne Kavanagh Beachey and Ryan Gibbs who returned to Sarnia to share their stories and poems. Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy was the emcee and his humour warmed up the audience. (Bios on these authors can be found in an earlier blog post.)

Drawing from Experience Open Mic Readers November 11, 2018

Open Mic Readers: Top Row (left to right) – David D Plain, Lynn Tait, Norma West Linder, Bob McCarthy. Bottom Row (left to right) – Gloria Pearson-Vasey, Bob Boulton, Carmen Ziolkowski.

Belated thanks to the ‘collage of open mic performers” (in alphabetical order): Sharon Berg, Bob Boulton, Norma West Linder, Bob McCarthy, David D Plain, Lynn Tait, Gloria Pearson-Vasey, and Carmen Ziolkowski.

Plus a round of applause to Sharon Berg, publisher of Big Pond Rumours Press who worked hard to not only publish my chapbook but the work of three other poets: Bob Wakulich, Nelson Ball, and Harold Fedderson.

Additional information and earlier reviews focusing on my chapbook Drawing From Experience can be found here.

Big Pond Rumours Press 2nd Annual Chapbook Contest

Big Pond Rumours Press is currently seeking poetry, flash or short fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts for its next chapbook contest. Deadline is February 28, 2018.

Big Pond Rumours Press is a micro-press based out of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Submissions for its second annual chapbook manuscript contest is now open until February 28, 2018. Additional information about the press and the contest can be found on its website.

*From the poem “Starting a New Tradition” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 5 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017

 

 

More Than a Book Launch – An Invitation to Share – November 11, 2017

“She runs barefoot over river beds/holding hands now with Emily Carr/slipping her childlike fingers/through scenic waterfalls,/toting pots of iridescent paint,/an easel, and a brush or two.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

Call it a ‘collage of performances’ or a ‘painting with words’ celebration! When Big Pond Rumours Press officially launches my chapbook Drawing From Experience, this Saturday afternoon at the Coffee Lodge in Sarnia, please come prepared to share something you’ve created. Take your pick: two short poems, a couple of jokes, flash fiction, a song, or even a painting, a dance or a theatrical skit. Yes, I want to hear you during the open mic.

November 11, 2017 event in Sarnia with correct spelling

Stop by and read during the open mic portion of this event. Sign-up for readers will be at the door. This is a public event. Admission is free.

I plan to read several ekphrastic and art-themed poems including “Spirit of Peggy” from my new 30-page chapbook. This tribute poem to the late Peggy Fletcher was written over 5 years ago, following the passing of this local prolific writer and artist. During her life, she had a gift for meshing the literary and visual arts together: the way she penned her words and layered them over a sketch, a computer-altered photograph or a scenic watercolour she had produced. She supported all the arts. I think of her often and hope that she will be there in spirit.

Additional highlights: featured guest readers and former Sarnia-Lambton residents Ryan Gibbs and Anne Kavanagh Beachey will also read for about 10 to 15 minutes each. I have admired and followed the work of these two writers for years and I look forward to their performances. Ryan will read poetry inspired by his recent travels and experiences while Anne will share a humourous short story. Special thanks to historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy who will emcee the event. See their bios below.

Anne Kavanagh Beachey November 6, 2017

Guest reader Anne Kavanagh Beachey, a humourist, former columnist with The Observer, and fiction writer.

The rest of the afternoon will be devoted to the open mic stage where anyone may share his/her creative work. Sign-up for readers/performers will be at the door but please arrive no later than 10 minutes prior to the chapbook launch so that a schedule can be finalized. For those interested in reading, plan for approximately five minutes per person, keeping in mind, the estimated length of each performance will depend on the number of people signed-up. First time and/or experienced performers are welcome. The event is open to the public. Admission is free.

What are you waiting for? Grab your imagination and run wild like the geese preparing to take flight on an autumn day. If you prefer to stop by and just listen. That’s fine too.

Mark it on your calendar: Drawing From Experience launch – Saturday, November 11, 2017 – 2 to 4 p.m. at the Coffee Lodge – 400 Exmouth Street in Sarnia – Ontario  –  Canada.

Hope to see you there!

FEATURED GUESTS

Ryan Gibbs Profile Photo

Guest reader Ryan Gibbs, a former co-host of Spoken Word at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. Photo courtesy: Lois Nantais

Ryan Gibbs lives in London and is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario. He works as an English professor and coordinator at Lambton College in nearby Sarnia, where he is a member of the After-Hours Poets and has read his poetry in the City Council as part of the nation-wide Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge. His poems have appeared in Tower PoetryThe Windsor Review, and the anthologies Under the Mulberry Tree and Whisky Sour City. His children’s poetry has been included in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. An earlier interview with Ryan appears here.

Anne Kavanagh Beachey was born in Wales, emigrated to Canada, and was involved in Sarnia-Lambton’s writing community for decades before moving to London. Her short stories and humorous verse have been published in numerous magazines; some of these stories won prizes in Angles magazine and Writers’ Digest Competition. She wrote a monthly column about Lambton County for The Observer, including a column about Dudley George, who died at Ipperwash during a tragic confrontation with the government. Her favourite form of writing is the novel.  She has written five (unpublished as yet).  Her latest one, Fresh Is The Rose is in three volumes. She hopes to publish the first of these in the near future.

THE EMCEE

Bob McCarthy 2016 Photo 2

Bob McCarthy, a historical fiction writer and author of the new memoir The Book of Bob (not shown) will be the emcee. Bob will launch his new book on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 1 p.m. at The Book Keeper in Sarnia.

Bob McCarthy lives in Sarnia and is a prolific writer. Since his retirement from teaching for the Lambton-Kent District School Board, he has been active in making the history of Lambton County available and interesting to students and others through his writing, radio talks and visual history projects. He has written three novels based on the lives of his ancestors and seven books about Lambton history. His memoir, The Book of Bob, will be launched Sunday, November 19, 2017 at The Book Keeper. Earlier articles about Bob and his work appears here and here.

Additional information about my chapbook Drawing From Experience, can be found here.

My updated bio is located here.

Big Pond Rumours Press is a micro-press based out of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Additional information about the press, can be found on its website.

*From the poem “Spirit of Peggy” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 6 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017

Introducing My Chapbook – Drawing From Experience

“If we had more breath, more time/we might have taken art lessons.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

It’s late, almost midnight.

A full moon zip-lines through the bow window and shines a flashlight on my copy of Drawing from Experience, a chapbook of 15 ekphrastic** and art-themed poems recently released by Big Pond Rumours Press.

Hold that image! Hold that spotlight on the ballerina sculpture immortalized on the book’s cover!

Tonight, I’m brainstorming promotional ideas, sketching prototypes, being silly, playing with words as if they were clay.

Drawing From Experience by Debbie Okun Hill -Big Pond Rumours Press 2017 Front Cover

HOT OFF THE PRESS…Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Debbie Okun Hill

I could try cartwheeling or breakdancing on the kitchen floor.

Hold that youth-inspired thought.

Perhaps I should celebrate my NEW 30-page chapbook with the release of white butterflies on the rooftop of The Winnipeg Art Gallery or in the foyer of a national museum.

That’s not my style either.

Promoting other writers energizes me. Marketing my own work exhausts me but tonight I persevere.

Who is my target audience? Male? Female? Artist? Poet? I should know this by now. What is the best message and medium to grab a reader’s attention?

Art lessons and painting parties pop into my mind. I read that Instagram is where it’s at. Imagine 700 million registered users as of April 2017! Would any of them be interested in poetry? My head spins as I stash more images inside my cluttered brain bank!

For a moment, an imaginary paint brush swirls ideas like the wind-twirled sky in Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Call it magical! Call it spiritual! Call it serendipity! I love this creative process where the visual and literary arts converge. I hope the reader will feel this too. Take my poetic words and allow them to be organic! Feed them with quiet reflection! Watch them transform, grow, and speak beyond the page!

Last winter when Big Pond Rumours, a newly-transported (now local) micro-press, announced a contest for chapbook manuscripts, I was consumed by my husband’s house renovations and his desire for me to de-clutter and re-organize our storage area.

My mind drifted to painting art for the walls which led me to dusting off several previously published art-themed poems written between 2006 and 2017. I had nothing to lose except time.

Tonight, the full moon keeps me focused. I pick up a copy of my printed book and read the last line on the back cover: “This chapbook was the third place winner in the 2017 Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours Press.”

Always a night owl - I found inspiration in my father-in-law and his closet filled with bird sketches

My artistic father-in-law inspired me with his bird sketches including this night owl “whoo-whoo” reminded me of my own nocturnal writing habits.

The tug and gap between the busy-ness of selling and the tranquility of creating increases. I glance at my cluttered desk, the remaining stacks of unread books on my vacation reading list, the blogs I had hoped to post. From my patio door, I stare into backyard shadows. I strain to see the Canadian thistle and milkweed co-existing in my flower gardens and to hear how the wind rustles the first fallen maple leaf.

Summer closes her eyes.

Tomorrow I’ll welcome a new chapter with a new publisher as this literary journey continues.

This Sunday, September 10, 2017, from noon to 5 p.m. Big Pond Rumours Press will be promoting its products and services at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. If you’re in the area, drop by and browse through the vast selection of chapbooks (including my own) that will be on display along Publishers’ Way. Can’t attend? A list of available titles and order information appears on the publisher’s website.

Additional information about my upcoming reading dates and locations will be posted on-line as soon as details are confirmed.

Special thanks to the early reviewers who have shared their thoughts about my chapbook:

From Kara Ghobhainn Smith, author of The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017):

‘Okun Hill “recoats our sandpapered arms/ with orchid leis and tropical oils”, breathing new energy into our old lives….[The poem] “Things We Might Have Done” really spoke to me. The voice fit my place in life like a glove; and I LOVED the line, “I could buy your coffin/stuff you in a boutique bag”.  

Ottawa Sightseeing October 2014 photo 2

All of the previously published poems in my third chapbook were inspired by my love for art, galleries, museums, and the creative process.

From Canadian visual artist/poet John Di Leonardo  who wrote this review*** for  Verse Afire, the official newsletter for The Ontario Poetry Society:

Phil Yorke’s photograph of a woman observing a Degas sculpture of a lithe ballerina on the cover is an apt image to set the stage for Debbie Okun Hill’s new collection of poems Drawing from Experience. Her words scumble a tender palette on which the poet lays and mixes images experienced through art, artists, and the poet’s keen power of observation. 

Debbie’s poems make clear she has the love and eye of an artist, her rich visual imagery whether observed from museum masterpieces, a dramatic tribute to Emily Carr, or from a tarantula framed in a gallery gift shop touch on the necessity for art and artists to enrich our lives.

Debbie Okun Hill at the Music Evoked Imagery Workshop held during the League of Canadian Poets conference June 6, 2014 in Toronto. Photographer unknown.

In this Music Evoked Imagery Workshop offered at the League of Canadian Poets 2014 conference in Toronto, poets explored the relationship between various creative forms.

There is a wonderful sense of surprise in reading this collection, as the poet presents many perspectives in framing our ekphrastic experience. From the very first poem “Shades of Grey,” we are guided through secret feelings of loss, and the visual pleasures art offers “…from light to shadow/white washed with air brushed pendulum/grey hues that make us human.”

Through minute details we feel the loneliness of a little girl, painted in a museum masterpiece (A Sunday Afternoon On The Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat.) where “Even her guardian-mother/turns, looks away…Even the four opened umbrellas/draw more attention/ than the sun and her blurry eyes.”

In the poem “Pinned by Your Image on the Web” the poet muses on a framed tarantula at a museum gift shop and offers a meditation on the fine line where life and art are interchangeable, “…stuff you in a boutique bag/ walk out the door/ and call you ART/ …And I try to calculate/ how long your body will last/…had you crawled quicker into hiding.”

Rich rhythms and visual imagery abound in these poems as when the poet reflects on the pain of a loved one, “you whisper your last words/ like pencil sketches, grey smeared/ a half-breath we strain to absorb/ lean close…” This collection contains excellent examples of ekphrastic poetry, and thoroughly satisfies the mind’s eye for readers who enjoy the pleasures of visual art.

Thank you Kara and John for your insights. Both reviewers are poets with full collections of work using the ekphrastic form. Additional information about Kara and John can be found on the links posted above their comments.

For those who are interested in exploring the relationship between various art forms, check out this earlier post “When Poets Heard Music They Painted”.

Follow this blog for more exciting news to be announced soon!

Hope to see you at some of the readings!

Night all…

*From the poem “Things We Might Have Done” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 20 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017
**Ekphrastic poetry is a poetic term referring to detailed poems written about specific works of art including paintings, photographs, sculpture, or anything else that is considered aesthetically pleasing.
***John Di Leonardo’s review will appear in the January 2018 issue of Verse Afire. Used with permission from John Di Leonardo and The Ontario Poetry Society.

Sarnia-Lambton Poets Prepare For #NPM17 Celebrations

Shift the colours on your page;/and softly coax your reds and purples,/that have concealed themselves/for years…” – Kara Ghobhainn Smith*

Close your eyes for a minute or two. Imagine what it would be like to be a poet. What does today’s poet even look like? Listen to the words melting into a new sound or image. What does a poet write about? Perhaps, you are a closet poet afraid to admit that you are moved by words.

Kara Ghobhainn Smith, author The Artists of Crow County

Kara Ghobhainn will be one of two spotlight readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 April is Poetry Month Celebration.

Today’s poetry, like colour, shifts on the world stage and April is one of the best times to not only explore this form of writing but to seek answers to your questions. All across Canada and the United States, poets are planning launches and readings for the big #NPM17 celebration.

According to The League of Canadian Poets’ website, this professional organization for established and emerging poets boasts over 700 members. The Ontario Poetry Society, a provincial grassroots not-for-profit organization has over 250 members.

The Sarnia-Lambton area houses poets from both organizations as well as The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW), and such local groups as AfterHours Poets, Lambton Writers Association, Writers Helping Writers (WHW), and Writers International Through Sarnia (WITS).

Every poet whether published or not, deserves to be applauded for his/her efforts. If you know a poet, take time to get to know him or her. Ask why writing is so important to them.

Below is an event featuring six area writers who wish to show the public what their poetry is all about and why poetry matters. Hope to see a few of you there!

National Poetry Month April 18, 2017 in Sarnia for distribution

Mark your calendars for this FREE public event – Tuesday evening – April 18, 2017

Six former and current members of The Writers’ Union of Canada will showcase their work during Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 National Poetry Month (#NPM17) celebration, Tuesday, April 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at John’s Restaurant’s Famous Room, 1643 London Line.

Featured poets Kara Ghobhainn Smith (from Chatham-Kent) and Sharon Berg (who recently moved to Sarnia) will share the spotlight thanks to the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada.

Ghobhainn was the Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre’s 2015-2016 Writer-In-Residence. She recently launched her book The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press) which includes the poem shortlisted for the 2016 Walrus Poetry Prize. Many of her poems (within this collection) were inspired by artists in the Chatham-Kent area as well as her trip to Mâlain, France.

Author Sharon Berg, founder-publisher-editor Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Micro-Press

Sharon Berg will be one of two spotlight readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 National Poetry Month Celebration.

Berg is the founder/publisher/editor of Big Pond Rumours (the literary e-zine and micro press) and former host of Sarnia’s Cadence Reading Series. Her third manuscript, The Book of Telling, reveals many secrets that wait on the other side of truth.

Four local poets (James Deahl, Debbie Okun Hill, Norma West Linder, and Carmen Ziolkowski) will also share the stage. Ziolkowski, who is in her nineties, is Sarnia’s oldest living poet. Her granddaughters will assist with her reading. 

“One of the exciting developments in recent years is how Sarnia has emerged as a poetry hot spot”, said James Deahl, one of the organizers and the emcee for the event. “Indeed, it can now be said that Sarnia is an important literary focal point in Ontario. Local poets commonly travel from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to present readings or participate in literary festivals, and several Sarnia poets have contributed to the sesquicentennial anthology celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. This is your chance to hear them.”

Sarnia-Lambton’s April 18th celebration is free and open to the public.

As part of National Poetry Month, several Sarnia-Lambton poets have also been invited to read at out-of-town and local events in April.

Both Okun Hill and Berg will be reading in Toronto at The Art Bar, considered to be “Canada’s longest running poetry-only weekly reading series”. Okun Hill will be the sharing the stage with poets Phlip Arima and Ian Burgham on Tuesday, April 4 while Berg will showcase with John Terpstra and Betsy Struthers on April 11. The Art Bar series is held at the Free Times Café, 320 College Street (College and Spadina). Featured readings begin at 8 p.m. followed by an open mic.

art-bar-reading-april-4-2017

The Art Bar in Toronto is considered to be “Canada’s longest running poetry-only weekly reading series”.

On Wednesday, April 5 in London, Deahl and Linder are the featured guests at the London Open Mic Poetry Night held at Mykonos Restaurant, 572 Adelaide Street North. Their readings begin at 7 p.m. followed by an open mic.

James Deahl

James Deahl, the author of 26 literary titles, will emcee the April 18th event as well as read at numerous events.

Deahl and Linder will also read in Hamilton with several other poets including Sarnia’s Lynn Tait, Thursday, April 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Staircase, 27 Dundurn Street North as well as in Toronto on Wednesday, April 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Main Branch of The Toronto Public Library, 137 Main Street.

On Saturday, April 29 in Sarnia, Okun Hill (who has a manuscript of over 60 poems about the ash trees and the emerald ash borer) will share the stage with artist Mary Abma and other performers during the special event Signposts & Traces: Ash Tree Memorial Trail Performance from 10 to 11 a.m. at Canatara Park.

In Chatham-Kent, Ghobhainn will participate in Poetry City, an annual poetry celebration that encourages mayors and city councils in Canada to declare April as National Poetry Month. She will open a council meeting with a poetry reading.

Additional information about these and other upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found here.

Additional information about The Writers’ Union of Canada can be found on the organization’s website .             

OUT-OF-TOWN SPOTLIGHT READER/PERFORMER

KARA GHOBHAINN SMITHis the author of The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017), co-author of Next to the Ice (Mosaic Press, 2016), Teaching, Learning, Assessing (Mosaic Press, 2007), and the author of the blogspot poetry series, ‘The Travelling Professor’. Ghobhainn is Chatham-Kent’s 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence, and Editor of the Journal of Teaching and Learning (JTL), as well as the books’ editor for the Canadian Journal of Education (CTL). Her poems have been shortlisted for the 2016 Walrus Poetry Prize and the Polar Expressions Prize.

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS

SHARON BERGis an author of fiction, poetry and educational history related to First Nations. She is also the founder and editor of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Micro Press. She published widely up until the 1980s, with her poetry appearing in periodicals across Canada, the USA, the UK, The Netherlands, and Australia. Then she pursued her teaching career. Since she retired from teaching in April 2016, she has returned to her writing and has new work appearing in several places in 2017. She has produced two full books, three chapbooks, two audio tapes, and a CD of her work. Additional information on her website. Follow her review blog here.

Norma West Linder

Norma West Linder is a prolific Sarnia writer (novelist, poet, and short story writer).

JAMES DEAHL – is the author of twenty-six literary titles, the four most recent being: To Be With A Woman, Landscapes (with Katherine L. Gordon), Unbroken Lines, and Two Paths Through The Seasons (with Norma West Linder). A cycle of his poems is the focus of a one-hour television documentary, Under the Watchful Eye. Currently, Deahl is writing a series of essays on ten Canadian poets of the Confederation Period for Canadian Stories magazine for their sesquicentennial issues.

NORMA WEST LINDERis a member of The Writers Union of Canada, The Ontario Poetry Society, and WITS. A novelist, poet, and short story writer, she spent her formative years on Manitoulin Island and now lives in Sarnia where she taught English at Lambton College for 24 years. Her latest publications are The Pastel Planet (children’s novel), Tall Stuff (adult), and Two Paths Through The Seasons (poetry with James Deahl) published by Swords & Cyclamens, Israel. Her poem Valediction has been performed by choirs in Toronto and Calgary, set to music by Jeffrey Ryan, a West Coast composer.

DEBBIE OKUN HILLis Past President of The Ontario Poetry Society and a current member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and The League of Canadian Poets. She has been writing poetry since 2004 and has over 350 poems published in literary journals across Canada and the United States. Windsor publisher Black Moss Press published her first trade book Tarnished Trophies in 2014. This July, Big Pond Rumours Press will publish her art-themed chapbook manuscript Drawing From Experience. Okun Hill enjoys promoting the work of other writers and blogs about her literary journey on this site: Kites Without Strings.

Carmen Ziolkowski

Carmen Ziolkowski, an amazing woman and poet who is still writing in her nineties.

CARMEN ZIOLKOWSKIwas born in Italy and following WWII, lived in England where she worked as a registered nurse and later a midwife. In 1955, she emigrated to Canada and enrolled in the Port Huron Junior College, where she studied Journalism, finishing the course at Wayne State University. She has won several prizes for her poetry and in 1988, Ziolkowski received a special award for her contribution to Canadian and Italian literature from the Italian Vice Consul to Canada. Her first book of poems, Roses Bloom at Dusk, was translated into Italian and Japanese. Carmen has taught creative writing at Lambton College. She is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Association of Italo-Canadian Writers, Pen International, Writers International Through Sarnia, and The Ontario Poetry Society. Ziolkowski’s first novel, House of Four Winds, was published in 1987, her 2nd book of poetry, World of Dreams, was published in 1995, her chapbook, Moments to Treasure, was published in 2008, and her latest work, The Moon Before the Sun, was published in 2009. Ziolkowski is currently working on her diary of life on La Monaca, where she was born, in Italy.

*from the poem “Change” published in The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017) page 19. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Kara Smith, 2017

 FOLLOW THIS BLOG FOR A FUTURE POET PROFILE ON KARA GHOBHAINN SMITH.

Poet James Deahl was profiled here and Norma West Linder was profiled here. Sharon Berg’s involvement in the Cadence Reading Series was featured here.

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH EVERYONE!!

A New Year’s Reflection – Celebrating Two Years as a Blogger

This is what I do. This is what I love. Perhaps you too will find the courage to take that road less travelled. –Debbie Okun Hill

Oh, what an exhilarating and bumpy ride! Two years ago, my publisher Black Moss Press and assigned editor Vanessa Shields nudged me to start this blog as a promotional experiment.

“You need a website,” they echoed as they prepared for the birth of Tarnished Trophies, my first poetry collection.

For me, answers reveal themselves in quiet places - Okun Hill

“For me, answers reveal themselves in quiet spaces.”

I felt like an untrained pilot in a thunder storm. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or how I was going to land but I welcomed the new challenge and hoped that Mary Poppins would wander over, work her magic on my keyboard, and clean my house at the same time. Mary never showed up. Perhaps she wasn’t a computer whiz either. Perhaps those lingering dust bunnies terrified her or maybe it was the world-wide spider’s web hovering over my desk that deterred her.

Determined to please my publisher, I paper clipped my eyes to the computer screen, read all the fine-printed instructions and opened a WORDPRESS account to create a blog. The learning curve proved steep, steeper than Mount Everest (I’m using poetic license here) but like with any new project, additional practice paved and streamlined my blogger’s path. The rust on my journalism skills gave way to a new literary adventure while my poetic muse sulked in the corner.

No one said being a writer would be easy. Before I realized it, my blogging addiction took hold and I couldn’t wait to hone my photographic skills and find newsworthy items to blog about. What a surprise to discover that I had created 67 blog posts in two years! (Yes, WORDPRESS keeps tabs.) Did I enjoy this literary romp more than touring, reading, and creating poetry?

Confusion set in. The analytical side of my brain arm wrestled my creativity and dragged in that dreaded Writer’s Ice Block onto my shoulder.

I froze, stared at my blank computer screen with 20 plus blog ideas propped onto my other shoulder. My snowflake-words swirled then flung themselves like frost on a windshield. I couldn’t even pry them off with an icepick. Behind me, dust and word wads remained tangled in Christmas tinsel. Was I having an identity or mid-life crisis? I wanted to do it all!

I paused in silence. For me, answers reveal themselves in quiet spaces. As the noise of the festive season faded, I could hear the rattle of sports equipment settling in my basement closet. Outside the rustle of leaves beneath snow blanket reminded me of patience and new beginnings.

If you are one of my 94 subscribed followers, thank you for joining me on my literary journey! If you are one of my 3173 visitors, thanks for stopping by. If I promised to write a blog about your book and/or event, it will happen but not always as quickly as I would like. Slip me a note just in case the request didn’t make it to my “to do” list. If this is your first visit, I hope you’ll return but only if it adds value to your life.

I’m a firm believer that people and challenges enter and leave our lives for a reason. Just like the muse, some days I need to chill, switch directions, try another route or go with the poetic flow on another day. Unless I can find a time-machine, I can never go back. Yes, I can retrace my steps; discover my errors, attempt to make amends and start over but ultimately time moves forward.

Life is still a journey - Okun Hill

Life is still a journey whether others embrace that concept or not.

Even when I’m standing or sitting still, life is still a literary journey, whether others embrace that concept or not. At least for today, that is how I feel and see the world. We all have voices, some quieter than others. Each deserves to be heard and respected despite the differences.

If I may quote from the last lines in my poem “Cutting Remarks*”: “we hibernate/wait for spring/when ice cubed differences unthaw/spilling rainwater/aqua therapy indoors”.

Health and happiness to you and your extended family in the New Year.

*The poem “Cutting Remarks” first appeared in Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) Copyright © Debbie Okun Hill 2014