Tag Archives: Denis Robillard

Denis Robillard, Winner of the Cranberry Tree Press 2015 Poetry Chapbook Contest

“Denis Robillard celebrates water…(His) poems fill the cup and the bowl. They slake the thirst of all who thirst for poetry…”

~ John B. Lee, Poet Laureate of the City of Brantford and of Norfolk County*

Early morning rain tap-dances against the window pane. This rhythmic thrum and translucent shower reminds me of Canadian poet Denis Robillard and the blue-gray drenched cover of his first poetry collection The History of Water. For me, water, on the surface, is light on its toes, refreshing, but dive deeper and a murkier metaphor lurks in the mud-lined puddles and swirling streams.

Denis Robillard - Photo by Joyce Robillard

Canadian Poet Denis Robillard**

This is where Robillard wades: into his haunting memories of a near-drowning, the loss of a parent, the destructive nature of not one but two flash floods. The result is a silver lining: a first place finish in the Cranberry Tree Press 2015 Poetry Chapbook Contest for his water-themed manuscript.

According to Bruce Meyer, past Poet Laureate of Barrie, Ontario and adjudicator for the contest, “There is a very interesting sense of narrative behind these poems that is at its best when it does what I love best in good poetry: it engages something larger than itself and its subject matter…”*

Last fall to celebrate Robillard’s award-winning work, Cranberry Tree Press published his water-themed book, The History of Water. A book-signing was held in Windsor in early December, however, the official launch party will take place on Tuesday, April 26 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Teutonia Club, 55 Edinborough Street in Windsor, Ontario.

The History of Water by Denis Robillard FRONT COVER

The History of Water by Denis Robillard was recently published by Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario.**

This National Poetry Month event will also include the launch of contest finalist Songs of Zambia by Rosalind Knight plus two other books: winner of the 2015 Cities of the Straits poetry contest smack in the middle of spotlit obvious (Farmhouse Press) by Laurie Smith and Curious Connections (Farmhouse Press), an award-winning short story collection by Karen Rockwell.

Robillard is no stranger to the Canadian literary scene. For the past 15 years, several hundred of his poems have appeared in the small presses and on line magazines across Canada, the USA, England and Scotland. Those include: Rattle, Rampike, Word Riot, Nashwaak Review, Algoma Ink, Cliff Soundings, Sidereality, Orange Room Review, Dusty Owl, Ditch, Windsor Review and many more. Robillard’s poems were also featured in An Unfinished War, a Black Moss Press anthology about the War of 1812. Born in Northern Ontario, he now teaches high school in Windsor, Ontario. He is also an avid photographer and traveler.

Several weeks ago, I asked Robillard to share his thoughts about his writing process. Below is his response:

  • Congratulations Denis on your award-winning manuscript. What inspired you to write a collection of poems based on a water theme?

Many of the poems in The History of Water touch upon my father’s death and my mom’s subsequent flood experience. (In the Fall of 2013, two flash floods in the same month virtually wiped away her home, belongings and dignity within days. It was like the final nail in a floating coffin.) Hence the idea of water rushing in and washing over our fragile lives. It seems like water has been the one true constant metaphor or archetype running through my poems. By the time I turned around I had written more than 40 “water based’ poems. Surely enough for a collection. I nearly drowned twice as a child, so again those images and experiences welled up to the surface and found their final form in these poems.

  • Not only did your water-themed poems win first place but I understand that your manuscript Little Read Writing Hood also placed third in the same contest. Some writers feel that entering contests is a waste of time. What motivated you to enter this contest organized by Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor?

After completing my manuscript, my next step was to shop them around. I sent these out to 3-4 publishers in 2013-2014. No dice. No movement. I stumbled across the Cranberry Tree Press manuscript contest in the spring of 2015 and quietly crossed my fingers and held my breath for results. I was not expecting anything big to happen. I was just exercising my poetic spirit by pushing a few poems out the door. Low and behold I won the contest and it was a real kick in the pants. It helped me formulate a game plan for the next chapter of my life. Once those poems had exorcised themselves, I started from scratch again. This is where today finds me.

  • How has your past influenced your writing?

I’ve always written, it seems. It started back in high school when I lived in Sault Ste Marie. I was part of the yearbook staff in high school so was able to slip in a couple of poems under the radar and get them published. In 1981 my parish priest caught wind that I had been writing “spiritual poems” so I offered up one of my journals to him to glean over. He read them through giving me high praise for my imagery and content.  He then published a few of those poems in the weekly church bulletin. Coupled with this love of writing was the instinctive love of reading. I was a voracious reader as a child, when in fact, my parents were scarcely ever seen with any books in hand. My interests flourished. From science to the supernatural, to spiritual and the panoply of biographies.  Again mostly poetry and biography were the mainstay.

  • Who are/were your mentors and how did they inspire you?

 I digested most of the Canadian pantheon by the time I left high school – Layton, Purdy, Waddington, Service, Atwood, Louis Dudek and many more. I got to meet Irving Layton at a school function in 1982 and his poems galvanized me.  At the tail end of high school, I wandered south with my cherry picking of books and took on some mild affectations with the Beats and Bukowski. More modern stuff entered the mix too.

Denis Robillard beside Archibald Lampman sign -  Photo by Joyce Robillard

Robillard feels “inspiration comes to the writer in various ways and incarnations.”**

In 2000 I moved to Windsor to pursue my teaching career. I would say that the motor city consciously or unconsciously got my poetry engine fired up on all fours. In Windsor I began to participate in the poetry community. I read at pub nights, was invited to read at university and took a more active role in the poetry community. I met some great people like Marty Gervais, Dan Wells, Gustave Morin, Vanessa Shields, Sal Ala, and many more who were a creative lot and very supportive. In 2002, I discovered Brantford poet John B. Lee and a vigorous correspondence ensued. An open line of communication was shunted open, one which still ensues to this day. He was another lightening rod or galvanizing point in my writing. My style changed of course over the years. Subjects matured and broadened. My reading tastes were also seasoned by more veteran writers. The Windsor Bookfest, opened my eyes to new and emerging writers on the scene like Steven Heighton, Stuart Ross, Jason Heroux and many more. I had essentially become hooked.

  • Describe your writing process and/or share some of your poetic insights.

Inspiration comes to the writer in various ways and incarnations. Mostly, unexpected, aleotoric ways. It could be something as simple as watching a cardboard box dipsey-doodle cavort and ballerina step its boxy self along a sidewalk or into oncoming traffic. Like seasoned rubberneckers we have an impulse to look and watch, to see what happens to the bouncing box in traffic. It seems to be propelled by some life force a benevolent poetic hand pushing it along.

A poem comes in the shape of a placid landscape imbued with morning light. The tender generator hum of cricket circuitry, the metronymic cicada rhythm of our breathing. Poetry is the shuffle of words caught in the act of remembering. Your thoughts rising above the smoke of the hills. The way you catch the sunburst in your loins, like a sugar maple swizzle stick. How sunlight floods through the cathedral of your bones. Insects making Morse sounds. Your eyes catching a bird’s stroboscopic shadow for the first time and you image to capture them onto paper.

It is the scrawl of a few tentative words on paper. Something seeking shape. A final varnish against fate. Damage control implemented across the universe with a sea of ghost faces parading in the Grand Abstract mode.

You sit by a pond soaking it all in. Write a few words then meditate upon them, sky, rain, earth, clock, eyes. Then looking through those false starts and aborted lines like a rag picker you re-examine those discarded pieces.

It comes in the guise of the skin of a building. Le Chien D’or. The castles of the Rhine, how they looked and felt under a prism of time. You seek to capture the one true essence, the zeitgeist of it and how it parades through the weathers of time.

  • Thanks Denis. I look forward to reading more of your award-winning work.

Follow Denis Robillard on Facebook.

Additional information about the April 26 launch appears here.

Additional information about Cranberry Tree Press as well as the shortlist of the 2015 Poetry Chapbook Contest finalists appear here.

*John B. Lee’s quote and Bruce Meyer’s statement appear on the back cover of The History of Water (Cranberry Tree Press, 2015) by Denis Robillard. Reprinted with permission from the publisher and creators.

**All photos courtesy of Denis and Joyce Robillard.

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Strong Southwestern Ontario Representation of Poets in California-based Anthology

“An amazing array of poetry from nearly every state in the union and five countries from around the world.” – RD Armstrong, Editor-in-Chief, LUMMOX Number Four

“Is it a bad thing if a Canadian poet is influenced by an American Poet?” and “What is a Canadian poem?” Those are two questions prolific Canadian poet James Deahl asked in his essay “A Canadian Poem, Eh?” published in LUMMOX, Number Four. Readers of the 224-page poetry anthology released last month by LUMMOX Press in San Pedro, California may soon find out.

LUMMOX Number Four features 160 poets . Over ten percent of the contributors are from Canada.

LUMMOX Number Four features 160 poets. Over ten percent of the contributors are from Canada.

Edited by American poet RD Armstrong, the book features the work of over 160 poets from 46 of the United States, Canada, the U.K., Albania, Denmark and Sweden. It includes three interviews, five essays and a few reviews plus the poetry of the 2015 Lummox Poetry Prize Winner, H. Marie Aragon and the runner ups Nancy Shiffrin and Cynthia Stewart. Thanks to Deahl and his efforts to promote Canadian poets to the American market and his national sharing of the LUMMOX anthology submission calls, a strong representation of southwestern Ontario writers are featured in both the LUMMOX Number Four and Number Three anthologies.

Over 160 poets from 46 of the United States, Canada, the U.K., Albania, Denmark and Sweden.

Features over 160 poets from 46 of the United States, Canada, the U.K., Albania, Denmark and Sweden.

To celebrate and promote this inclusion of Canadian poets in an American publication, Deahl has organized a special reading for this Saturday, September 26 from 2 to 5 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line on the outskirts of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Both local and out-of-town LUMMOX contributors will be sharing their work. Admission is FREE and open to the public. Additional readings throughout Ontario are also being planned.

LUMMOX Number Three was released in 2014 by Lummox Press in San Pedro, California.

LUMMOX Number Three was released in 2014 by Lummox Press in San Pedro, California.

Deahl is already encouraging poets to submit work for the LUMMOX Number Five anthology to be published in 2016. Submissions will open next year.

“Canadian poets are on a roll now,” he said. “Let’s keep it up.”

Below is additional information provided by James Deahl:

What I find exciting is that the LUMMOX anthology, which comes out of the Los Angeles area, has work by so many Canadian poets. Both the 2014 and the new 2015 editions have over ten percent Canadian poetry. Also, the city with the most contributors is Sarnia. And all of the local contributors to LUMMOX are members of After Hours Poets.

In a recent e-mail, RD Armstrong, Publisher of Lummox Press books, wrote that having so many keen Canadian poets would “make it that much easier when we do the Canadian Anthology!” So if Canadian poets keep submitting poetry to the annual LUMMOX anthology, Lummox Press could very well publish an anthology of Canadian poetry in the future. And that would introduce Canadian poetry to U.S. readers in a big way.

Canadian poet James Deahl is encouraging poets from across the country to submit their work for the next LUMMOX anthology planned for 2016.

Canadian poet James Deahl is encouraging poets from across the country to submit their work for the next LUMMOX anthology planned for 2016.

I read a lot of poetry books. In the past it was true that American poetry was, in general, better than Canadian poetry. But when I consider poets under the age of 70, I believe that Canadian poetry is now as fine as the poetry being written south of the border. American readers need to discover Canadian poets. Therefore, what Mr. Armstrong and his Lummox Press is doing should be celebrated. In Sarnia this means participating on Saturday, September 26 and in Hamilton it means Sunday, October 18. (And likely Toronto in November, but more on that later.)

These are exciting times for poetry in Canada!

The four out-of-town poets (for the Sarnia event) are Jennifer L. Foster (Hamilton), David Haskins (Grimsby), Michael Mirolla (Oakville), and Denis Robillard (Windsor).

The seven local readers are James Deahl, Joseph A. Farina, Venera Fazio, Debbie Okun Hill, Norma West Linder, Rhonda Melanson, and Lynn Tait.

Although the other poets are known to local audiences, this will be the first Sarnia reading for Jennifer L. Foster.

LUMMOX - Number Three features approximately 170 poets.

LUMMOX – Number Three features approximately 170 poets.

Previous local contributors include: Lois Nantais and Grace Vermeer. Other out-of-town Canadian LUMMOX Number Four and/or Number Three contributors are: Ronnie R. Brown, Fern G. Z. Carr, Katherine Gordon, Richard M Grove, Ellen S. Jaffe, Laurie Kruk, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever and Deborah Morrison.

Additional information about previous LUMMOX readings in Canada can be found here and here.

Additional information about LUMMOX PRESS can be found here.

LUMMOX OUT-OF-TOWN READERS (in alphabetical order):

Jennifer L. Foster, from Hamilton, is a graduate of Queen’s University with an Honours B.A. in English and a B.Ed. Her poems have appeared in the LUMMOX and Cats, Cats, Cats, and More Cats anthologies as well as magazines like Quills and Tower Poetry. Her short stories have appeared in Perspectives Magazine (online).

Michael Mirolla at the LUMMOX - Number Three Reading held during the Sarnia's 2014 National Poetry Month celebration.

Michael Mirolla at the LUMMOX – Number Three Reading held during the Sarnia’s 2015 National Poetry Month celebration.

David Haskins is published in over thirty literary journals, anthologies, and books, and has collected his earlier poems in the book Reclamation (Borealis Press, 1980). He has won first prizes from the CBC Literary Competition, the Canadian Authors Association, the Hamilton Literary Arts Council, and The Ontario Poetry Society. His most recent book This House is Condemned (Wolsak and Wynn, 2013) is a narrative collection of essays, stories, poems and anecdotes. He lives in Grimsby, Ontario.

The author of a clutch of novels, plays, and short story and poetry collections, Michael Mirolla describes his writing as a mix of magic realism, surrealism, speculative fiction and meta-fiction. Publications include the novel Berlin (a 2010 Bressani Prize winner); The Facility, which features among other things a string of cloned Mussolinis; and The Giulio Metaphysics III, a novel/linked short story collection wherein a character named “Giulio” battles for freedom from his own creator; the short story collection The Formal Logic of Emotion (translated into Italian); a punk novella, The Ballad of Martin B.; and two collections of poetry: Light and Time, and The House on 14th Avenue (2014 Bressani Prize). His short story collection, Lessons in Relationship Dyads, from Red Hen Press in California is coming this fall, while the novel Torp: The Landlord, The Husband, The Wife and The Lover, set in 1970 Vancouver, is scheduled for 2016. Born in Italy and raised in Montreal, Michael now makes his home in the Greater Toronto Area.

Denis Robillard reads from LUMMOX Number Three during Sarnia's 2015 National Poetry Month Celebrations.

Denis Robillard reads from LUMMOX Number Three during Sarnia’s 2015 National Poetry Month celebration.

Denis Robillard is the author of the soon to be published The History of Water by Cranberry Tree Press (2015). He hails from Windsor, Ontario and works as a high school teacher. In the past decade his poems have appeared in small presses and magazines across Canada, USA and England. Publications to date  include: LUMMOX, Rattle, Rampike, Ditch, Northern Cardinal Review, Great Lakes Review, Cactus Press, Nashwaak Review, Cliff Soundings (Michigan), and Dusty Owl. In 2011 he was published in The Windsor Review. In 2013 his poems were featured in a Black Moss Press War of 1812 Anthology called An Unfinished War. To date Robillard has had over 180 poems published nationwide.