“It reminded me of working on a jigsaw puzzle.” –Debbie Okun Hill, editor/compiler, MINDSHADOWS (Beret Days Press, 2015)
Something magical happens when poets work together, when their voices interconnect to reveal additional insights.
Below is a sneak peek at the foreword for MINDSHADOWS, a Beret Days Press anthology showcasing the best work of contributing members of The Ontario Poetry Society. The books have arrived from the printers. Contributors’ copies will be shipped by the end of August.
Imagine navigating through a haunted maze, crunching corn stalks (or is it brittle bones?) beneath your hiking boots as the sky bleeds into darkness. You grip a red plastic flashlight in your right hand. Your left hand shakes with a scavenger hunt list. You search for poetic themes.
An owl hoots or is it the howl of a stuttering ghost? The moon leaps like a popped button from Dracula’s cape. The Big Dipper collects neighbouring stars and hides them behind the clouds. Call it a nightmare. Call it a dream. Call it MINDSHADOWS!
Your mind starts swirling. A weeping willow bends, grabs your arm but your foot sinks into a word-mire. You taste something bitter or sour like chokecherries but you haven’t eaten in days. The faint thump of a drum mimics your heart beat. The smell of smoke startles you. Ravens scatter. You know you must run…run as fast as a masked bandit towards the dance hall where a jazz band’s trumpet blares, where a single light bulb illuminates the path, beyond your black coffin.
What a challenging yet magical adventure it has been to compile and edit MINDSHADOWS, the 2015 membership anthology for The Ontario Poetry Society. As a night owl, I was eager to read this year’s submissions with themes confronting those times and events which plague our thoughts.
Bravo to the 81 emerging and established poets who stretched their imagination to create and submit their best work. One by one, I read and re-read each poet’s folder to select the strongest pieces not only for the theme but also for placement within the anthology. It reminded me of working on a jigsaw puzzle where the photograph on the box lid was missing. I had to listen carefully to the words and trust the myriad of poetic voices to guide my decisions. What started off as individual poems eventually merged into a collection of interconnected lines and verses categorized into four sub-themes:
SWALLOWING CONFUSION begins with the question WHY? I was pleased so many members examined the five senses in his/her writing. Ellen Elizabeth Stout writes, “Thirst leads me to the deep sea”. In this section poets explore the mind, how it confuses, plays tricks, and leads us astray. Read poems about games, deceptions, lies, dreams, nightmares and regrets. Nan Williamson adds hope with the line “I dreamed/you saved me from the drowning waves.”
THE NIGHT’S NOT LONG ENOUGH continues with this quest for answers as K.V. Skene asks “What if?” Here the writers focus on night life: dancing, nocturnal careers, birds and creatures that wander in the gray-black hours.
CASTING SHADOWS is eclectic, evolving and drifting like fog through black and white settings interspersed with fans of landscaped colour. What appears to be serene may actually be disturbing with street people, addictions, Halloween hauntings, fear, the atrocities of this world, and personalized encounters with death lurking on several pages.
DRINKING THE LIGHT yanks the reader out of the dark and into a more positive space filled with fireworks, the moon, constellations, campfires and candles. Stroll through various seasons. Find love and sunshine. As Fran Figge, the president of The Ontario Poetry Society writes in the last poem of the book: “my heart/brightens/into dandelion fluff/waltzing on the breeze.”
A membership project like this cannot happen without the team efforts of so many people: I.B. Iskov, founder/treasurer of The Ontario Poetry Society who continues to keep the grassroots poetry community alive, the 2014-2015 TOPS Executive who created the MINDSHADOWS theme and invited me to edit/compile this project, Elana Wolff and Katerina Fretwell who provided illustrations for the cover and sub-themed sections, Mark Clement and his endless work on design and layout, Fran Figge for assisting with the Author Bio Answers, the contributing poets, and finally you, the reader.
Enjoy your exploration through this anthology. As John B. Lee wrote in his poem “Her Dark Secret”: “it drinks/the light/and shines”. May you continue to grow, learn more about our world, and see each poet’s inner gift as a beautiful light.
–Debbie Okun Hill
Each year, The Ontario Poetry Society produces a beautiful anthology for its members. It’s an “optional” group project funded by the contributors to showcase their best work. Additional information can be found here.
The 2016 ‘members’ only’ submission call for next year’s Latchkey Lyricality anthology is located here. Keith Inman, author of The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) is the 2016 editor/compiler. Kate Kitchen is the illustrator. Deadline is March 15, 2016.
DISCLAIMER: My comments on this blog post may be influenced by my involvement as a long-time member and former Executive Member of The Ontario Poetry Society. Of course, I wouldn’t belong to this organization if I didn’t believe in it.