Tag Archives: Fran Figge

Throwback Thursday – Sarnia’s #NPM16 Celebration

Every April, poets across Canada celebrate National Poetry Month. 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.

Last April, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travelled to Sarnia, Ontario to host “The Pathways of Poetry Gathering” and to showcase some of its recent anthology editors and contributors. Non-members were encouraged to share their poems during an open mic.

 

Keith Inman reads at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo- Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co.

Latchkey Lyricality Anthology editor/compiler Keith Inman travelled to Sarnia last April thanks to support of the Canada Poetry Tours program.

 

Special thanks to The League of Canadian Poets Canada/Canada Council for the Arts “Canada Poetry Tours” program for sponsoring Thorold poet Keith Inman’s visit and reading. (Note: the Canada Poetry Tour funding deadline for the October 2015 to March 2016 period is the end of July. The host is responsibility for submitting the application. More information here.)

 

Fran Figge reads at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co.

Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society and Scarlet Thistles anthology editor/compiler.

 

Special thanks to TOPS Founder/Treasurer Bunny Iskov and TOPS President Fran Figge for supporting Sarnia’s #NPM2016 celebration. (Note: check the TOPS website for additional ways in which this organization supports poets.)

Norma West Linder reads at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co.

Norma West Linder, editor/compiler of Enchanted Crossroads.

Three cheers for all the featured poets  (Keith Inman, Fran Figge, Rhonda Melanson, Venera Fazio, Norma West Linder, and Carmen Ziolkowski) open mic readers (Alanna McGraw, Alexandra Ziolkowski, Bill Ansell, Don Gillatly, Kamal Parmar, Paul Ritchie, Melissa Upfold, Kara Smith, Heather Dunlop, Robert Hall, James Deahl, and Colin Graf) and members of the audience who braved the inclement weather to attend the celebration.

 

Enjoy the event photos taken by Melissa Upfold for The Calculated Colour Co. (Watch for a blog feature on Upfold this fall. Here’s her website.) 

Below is a report by Kamal Parmar, written for an upcoming issue of Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter. Parmar is the TOPS branch manager for the York Region. (News about her new poetry book will be announced soon.)

The Pathways of Poetry Gathering in Sarnia Report

By Kamal Parmar

The Sarnia poetry event emceed by Debbie Okun Hill, was held at the popular John’s Restaurant on April 3rd. There 50 poets/readers, including non-members and out-of-town poetry lovers in spite of the inclement weather and the forecast of an impending snowstorm.  Light snacks were graciously donated for this event. Everyone got to enjoy cheese and crackers, fruit, veggies and dip as well as a platter of butter tarts, brownies and carrot cake squares. It was a group effort.

Featured readers include Keith Inman from Thorold. He read poems from his War Poems collection, and Fran Figge, our President.  She read a few poems from The Poetrain Anthology as well as a few poems from her new chapbook, fall float fly.

 

Local and out-of-town guests at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co

Local and out-of-town featured readers and guests at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Pathways of Poetry Gathering in Sarnia, April 3, 2016.

 

Other featured poets were Venera Fazio whose poetry was read by her friend Delia De Santis, Norma West Linder, and Carmen Ziolkowski whose poetry was read by her granddaughter, Alexandra. Other T.O.P.S. members who read were Debbie Okun Hill and Kamal Parmar. Members David D. Plain and Grace Vermeer came to be an appreciative audience.  Lynn Tait was unable to attend, due to a bad cold.  Debbie introduced her and showcased her work. We had thirteen open mic poets. There were seven gift wrapped prizes of books won by lucky purchasers of the raffle tickets.  It was an event to be remembered.

 

TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia

Special thanks to Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co. for capturing all the memories. I wish I had space to share them all.

 

Detailed information about the featured readers, books, and anthologies can be found here.

Future TOPS events include “The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering, August 21 in London, Ontario; “The Autumn Harvest Poetry Gathering”, October 30 in Oakville; and “The Winter WarmUp Poetry Festival”, November 27 in Toronto. More details here.

Upcoming Sarnia and other Ontario literary events are posted on my Event page.

Mark your calendar for the official launch of Landscapes, a joint book featuring the work of James Deahl and Katherine L. Gordon on Monday, August 15, 2016 in Sarnia. Out-of-town poet Pat Connors will also be reading. Follow my blog for more details.

Windsor poet Vanessa Shields will also be launching her new Black Moss Press book in Sarnia this fall. More details to be announced soon. Follow her website/blog.

Approximately 50 people attended TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co.

Can’t find a literary event or reading in your area? Consider organizing one. Several reading series/open mic events have started from just an idea and the enthusiasm to just ‘do it’.

Anthology Editors to Kick-Off Sarnia’s #NPM16 Celebration April 3

Six Ontario anthology editors/contributors including Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and Keith Inman, an internationally published, award-winning poet will join local writers for “The Pathways of Poetry Gathering”, Sunday, April 3, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 poster for distribution jpg version

Hosted by TOPS, this year’s local National Poetry Month Celebration will include book launches, featured readings by the editors/TOPS anthology contributors and an open mic for all poets. Participants are encouraged to share “road or journey” themed verse in keeping with The League of Canadian Poets’ 2016 poetry month initiatives. Admission is free and is open to the public. Sign-up for open mic readers is at the door.

Travelling to and reading in Sarnia for the first time is Keith Inman (Thorold/St. Catharines), editor of Latchkey Lyricality, a TOPS membership anthology to be released this autumn. He is also the coordinator of this year’s Banister contest anthology to be published by the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association and is author of War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014). His spotlight reading is being sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets/Canada Council for the Arts “Canada Poetry Tours” program.

He will be joined by Fran Figge (Stoney Creek) who is also President of Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society, the oldest poetry workshop group in North America. Figge will launch her new chapbook fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) and will also showcase The PoeTrain Anthology, a selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrain projects, 2015).

Local editors/contributors Norma West Linder, Venera Fazio and Rhonda Melanson will launch two books from TOPS EnCompass anthology series. Sarnia editor/poet/photographer Lynn Tait will also be spotlighted. Lambton County poet Debbie Okun Hill will emcee.

“Over the last decade, Sarnia has lost several poetry mentors,” said I. B. Iskov, TOPS founding member. “Great poets including Peggy Fletcher, Hope Morritt, and Adele Kearns Thomas are deeply missed. Their passing has left a deep chasm in the poetry map of Sarnia. However, Sarnia poets continue to play a major role not only in this grassroots organization but also in the national poetry scene.”

The Ontario Poetry Society was founded in 2000 to create a democratic, not-for-profit, poetry-friendly organization for members to unite in camaraderie, friendship, emotional support and encouragement.

Future TOPS events include “The Spring into Poetry Party”, May 15 in Cobourg, Ontario and “The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering, August 21 in London, Ontario.

Additional information can be found on the TOPS website.

OUT-OF-TOWN SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 Out of Town FEATURED BOOKS poster for distribution

FRAN FIGGE – President of The Ontario Poetry Society, Editor/Compiler of several books: The PoeTrain Anthology, SCARLET THISTLES -TOPS 2014 Membership Anthology, ENCOMPASS III and V; and contributor to ENCOMPASS II. Figge is also the president of Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society and a member of the Canadian Authors Association. She has read her poetry and won contests across Ontario and west to Vancouver. fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) and hope and despair in the ark (lyricalmyrical, 2013) are her two poetry chapbooks. The escarpment in Stoney Creek Ontario is her calming breath, backyard refuge and inspiration. Additional information about SCARLET THISTLES can be found here.

KEITH INMAN – Editor/Compiler of LATCHKEY LYRICALITY – TOPS 2016 Membership Anthology. Inman is an internationally published, award winning poet. His book, The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press 2014), earned strong reviews for poetry about ‘the common experiences of people…touched by war’ (Canlit #223). Keith lives in an old stone home overlooking the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada. Additional information about Inman can be found here.

FEATURED BOOKS BY OUT-OF-TOWN READERS

fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) by Fran Figge. Figge’s second chapbook is a selection of many of her prize winning poems.

The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (PoeTrain Projects, 2015) Edited and compiled by Fran Figge This 56-page collection features the work of 23 participants in the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour held during last year’s National Poetry Month Celebrations. Additional information about this anthology can be found here.

 The War Poems: Screaming from Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) by Keith Inman. In this 67 poem collection, “Inman masterfully uses poetry to weave stories of lost or gained innocence, death, joy, hard work, and humour – and characterizes them to show that they are the traits that built Canada. Inman shows that we did not become a country via some specific battle or war – war being a set of circumstance gone wrong. Canada is much more than that. We are people who continually reason through change.”

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS

VENERA FAZIO –Contributor to ENCOMPASS IV. Fazio’s poetry book The Fabric of My Soul was recently published by Longbridge Books, 2015. Born in Italy, she has co-edited six anthologies relating to her culture of origin. Her poetry and prose have been published in literary magazines in Canada and abroad.

NORMA WEST LINDEREditor/Compiler of ENCHANTED CROSSROADS – TOPS 2006 Membership Anthology and contributor to ENCOMPASS V. Linder is a member of The Writers Union of Canada, The Ontario Poetry Society, and Writers International Through Sarnia. She’s a novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her latest poetry collection, Two Paths through the Seasons (with James Deahl) was published in Israel. A children’s book, The Pastel Planet has just been released by Hidden Brook Press.

RHONDA MELANSONContributor to ENCOMPASS IV. Melanson graduated from Queen’s University’s Artist In The Community Education program and is currently a Grade 8 teacher for the Lambton Kent District School Board.  She is the author of a chapbook called Gracenotes, published by Beret Days Press.  She has also been published in many print and online journals, including Boxcar Poetry Review, Quills and the Windsor Review.

LYNN TAIT – Co-Editor/Compiler (with the late Adele Kearns Thomas) for SOUNDING THE SECONDS – TOPS 2008 Membership Anthology, contributor to ENCOMPASS I, and cover art photographer for TOPS SOUNDING THE SECONDS and SCARLET THISTLES anthologies and for the ENCOMPASS series. Tait is an awarding winning poet/photographer who has published in various literary magazines and journals including Freefall, CV2, Vallum, Feathertale Review and in over 70 anthologies. She was shortlisted in Freefall’s 2014 Poetry Contest and Hamilton’s GritLIT’s 2015 Poetry Contest. Her chapbook “Breaking Away” was published by TOPS in 2002.

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 FEATURED BOOKS

EMCEE

DEBBIE OKUN HILL –Past President of The Ontario Poetry Society, Editor/Compiler of MINDSHADOWS –TOPS 2015 Membership Anthology and contributor to ENCOMPASS I. Okun Hill has been writing poetry full-time since 2004 and has over 325 poems published in literary journals across Canada and the United States. She enjoys promoting the work of other writers and often blogs about her literary journey on this Kites Without Strings website.

Additional “behind the scenes” information about editing/compiling MINDSHADOWS can be found here.

SPONSORS

Special thanks to The League of Canadian Poets/Canada Council for the Arts for their Canada Poetry Tours program. Additional sponsors can be found here.

 

 

 

Officially Launched -The PoeTrain Anthology

 

“The ghostly sway of the train remains/long after the journey completes.” –Kelsey Knight*

It’s Valentine’s Day 2016. Nine of the 23 PoeTrain anthology participants have stepped out of the unseasonal frigid temperatures into the warmth of the Orchard Bar, a dark and narrow meeting place in the heart of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

We are like family now! Not related by birth, but this poetic friendship reminds me of meeting distant cousins at a reunion and how strangers scattered across the country can easily bond like train cars resting on a track.

 

The PoeTrain Anthology final version

The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems (poetrain projects, 2015) was officially launched in Toronto, February 14, 2016 at The Ontario Poetry Society’s “The Love of Poetry Gathering”

 

Before settling down and finding a seat in the crowded room, the PoeTrainers greet each other with a warm hug and the reunion chatter begins. We are immediately reminded of our 2015 National Poetry Month memories and our shared moments on the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour. What an experience! All the photos I wanted to bring with me; all my thoughts from the trip remain un-blogged and at home. I promise to share these images when life is less busy.

Today, The Ontario Poetry Society hosts “The Love of Poetry Gathering” featuring members’ readings, an open mic and spotlight features including the launch of Songs of Exile by Bänoo Zan (a participant in the 2012 PoeTrain Express to Cobalt, Ontario) and The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets edited and compiled by Fran Figge.

David Brydges at TOPS Toronto Reading Feb 14, 2016

David Brydges, artistic director for the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is already planning for the next train adventure to be held in British Columbia in the Fall 2017.

David Brydges, artistic director for the PoeTrain 2015, can’t sit still. His excitement and enthusiasm for train travel lights the room. A stack of anthologies rests on a table beside him.

In his introduction, he describes the 56-page book as a “crafted collective spirit” and that the contents are “the combined contrarian treasures of an historic poetry tour that documented and detailed a shared poetic journey.”

And what a journey it was, with poets and musicians travelling the train from Ottawa to Toronto then Winnipeg to Edmonton to Vancouver with readings on and off the Via Rail “Canadian”.

Fran Figge, editor of The PoeTrain Anthology (2015) Final Version

Fran Figge, editor of The PoeTrain Anthology, will be reading again in Toronto, March 15 at The Art Bar Poetry Series and in Sarnia, April 3 during TOPS “Pathways of Poetry Gathering”.

Anthology editor and President of The Ontario Poetry Society Fran Figge states, “All of the poems will impart to you a piece of our adventure; the romance, nostalgia and hopes of the first Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour.”

The 23 anthology contributors (in alphabetical order) are: Rosa Arlotto, Marsha Barber, Kent Bowman, David C. Brydges, Margaret Code, Patrick Connors, Ian Ferrier, Fran Figge, Kathy Figueroa, Kathy Fisher, Debbie Okun Hill, Kelsey Knight, Joanne Lilley, Blaine Marchand, Laura Byrne Paquet, DC Reid, Quincy Russell, Paul Sanderson, Carrie Saxifrage, Michael Stacey, David Streitt, Judy Tate Barlow, and Ella Zeltserman.

Brydges expresses his thanks to the PoeTrain organizing team (Canadian poets Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, Patrick Connors and Kate Marshall Flaherty) for a job well done.

For those readers interested in obtaining a copy of The PoeTrain Anthology, please contact David Brydges for details at mybrydges (at) yahoo (dot) ca . Copies are limited so place your order early to avoid disappointment.

Brydges is also collecting pre-registration contact info for anyone interested in participating in the next PoeTrain adventure in September 2017.

“It’s called the Wild West Poetry Festival,” he announces, “and we will travel from Vancouver to Jasper, Prince George, and Prince Rupert by Via Rail train. Then we will take the BC ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island where we will travel by bus to Nanaimo for a final event.”

PoeTrain Anthology Readers at TOPS Toronto event Feb 14 2016

Several PoeTrain Anthology contributors met in Toronto to share their train poems.

Brydges has also joined forces with The Ontario Poetry Society and Ink Bottle Press to produce Memory and Loss: A Canadian Poetry Anthology. To be edited and compiled by I.B. Iskov, the book will be dedicated to the victims of Alzheimer’s. Poems on the themes of dementia and Alzheimer’s will be accepted until June 15, 2016. The call is open to all poets living in Canada. More information can be found here.

Additional information about the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour can be found here and here and on several other blog posts on this site.

As PoeTrain poet/musician Paul Sanderson shared in his musical tribute** “Train Song”…  “Gonna ride this train./Ride on, ride on, ride on, ride on…”

P.S. — INFORMATION ADDED ON MARCH 1, 2016:  Two videos of The PoeTrain Anthology launch in Toronto have now been posted on YouTube. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. Special thanks to global sync media productions – video by Marty Smith.

*quote from “Dancing Through Time” by Kelsey Knight, The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrain projects, 2015) edited and compiled by Fran Figge. ISBN 978-0-9813599-3-9 Used with permission from the author ©Kelsey Knight. Her website appears here.

**quote from “Train Song” by Paul Sanderson, The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrian projects, 2015) edited and compiled by Fran Figge. ISBN 978-0-9813599-3-9 Used with permission from the author ©Paul Sanderson. His website appears here.

TOPS Membership Anthologies: Poetic Teamwork

 

“The rewards of participating in one of our anthologies are many.” – Fran Figge, President, The Ontario Poetry Society

Are you an emerging or professional poet who enjoys contributing to group projects? Being a member of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) has its perks. Each year the executive of this grassroots, poetry-friendly organization brainstorms ideas and book titles before finalizing the submission call themes for its upcoming annual membership anthology. Their goal is to stimulate creativity and to celebrate and showcase the poetic work of its members, no matter where each poet stands in his/her writing career.

The Ontario Poetry Society has published several membership anthologies showcasing both emerging and professional poets. Previous editors/compilers have included such Canadian poets as Norma West Linder, John B. Lee, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Ronnie R. Brown and more.

The Ontario Poetry Society (with the assistance of Beret Days Press) has published several membership anthologies showcasing both emerging and professional poets. Previous editors/compilers have included such Canadian poets as Norma West Linder, John B. Lee, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Ronnie R. Brown and more.

Last year’s SCARLET THISTLES anthology published by Beret Days Press, edited and compiled by Fran Figge with photography by Lynn Tait and layout/design by Mark Clement was a huge success thanks to the editorial/production team as well as the contributors. (Disclaimer: As a former executive member of TOPS, of course, I’m going to applaud the positive attributes of this book. TOPS is an organization I strongly believe in. However, my comments are also based on statistic facts.)

Fran Figge, editor/compiler of SCARLET THISTLES, the largest TOPS membership anthology produced to date.

Fran Figge, editor/compiler of SCARLET THISTLES, the largest TOPS membership anthology produced to date.

According to Figge’s foreword, the 2014 anthology contained “the most contributors of any of our anthologies so far.” Eighty-nine members submitted over 650 poems, with 250 poems eventually selected for the final project. (A list of contributors appears here. ) Poems were divided into five sections: Blood Soaked Grounds, Slash and Burn, Cruel Cuts, Lighting the Dark, and Healing Hurts.

Figge stresses that “good writing brings the reader back again and again.” Those were the poems she was drawn to and those are the poems she recommends poets should submit for future projects like the upcoming MINDSHADOWS membership anthology.

As this year’s editor/compiler, I agree with Figge and would encourage contributors to submit their best work such as award-winning poems or work previously published and accepted by other magazines. Please double check and ensure you own the copyright and reprint rights, Such poems showcase what TOPS members are capable of achieving.

If you’re a new poet hesitating with submitting work for the first time, you’re not alone. Many poets started their writing careers with these anthology projects. Feel free to ask for editorial help from a fellow poet or attend a local writer’s group for constructive advice.

Sometimes it’s fun to create new work specifically for the theme. For example, this 2015 collection will explore the times and events which plague our thoughts. Consider topics associated with Mind Games, Night Life, Shadows & Hauntings and Lighting the Dark but don’t wait too long.

Working hard behind the scenes: Mark Clement, TOPS layout designer/webmaster.

Working hard behind the scenes: Mark Clement, TOPS layout designer/webmaster.

The March 15, 2015 deadline is fast approaching. Submission guidelines can be found here. Remember the call is only open to members of The Ontario Poetry Society. Members do not need to be Ontario residents. Special thanks to Canadian poets Elana Wolff and Katerina Fretwell who will provide illustrations for the book and Mark Clement who will be responsible for the design and layout.

Below are additional insights shared by Figge in an e-mail interview.

In your role as President and as the editor of SCARLET THISTLES what do you feel are the benefits of submitting work and participating in the membership anthology?

The rewards of participating in one of our anthologies are many. Not only do you have an incentive, a focus to write poems for a specific topic, but there is not the same pressure or uncertainty as when entering a contest. You are guaranteed to have at least two poems published in the anthology and get a copy of a beautifully designed book for less than the cost that it takes to enter most contests.

TOPS founder I. B. Iskov with a shipment of SCARLET THISTLES to be sent to participating poets.

TOPS founder Bunny Iskov with a shipment of SCARLET THISTLES membership anthologies sent to participating poets last autumn.

There is the satisfaction of knowing that your work will be seen, which is what most poets want, to share their work with others. You get exposure. You have a chance to be recognized by your peers. It’s also an opportunity to see how your work fits in with other peoples’ ideas and styles as well as lets you see other types of poetry writing that might inspire you in the future.

Submitting to an anthology can be a valuable learning tool as well. It’s a chance to analyze why certain poems were chosen over others.

What techniques were successfully used in the chosen poems? Were editing suggestions made? What did they entail?  Can you figure out why those edits were made? Were the poems that were not chosen too wordy, prosy, or abstract? Were there spelling errors, improper verb tenses, too much repetition? What can you add to your routine of self-checking that addresses these issues?

By taking the time to think about these questions, you are sure to improve your writing.

Based on your experience with editing last year’s anthology, what advice would you give to a poet who wants to participate in this year’s anthology? For example, what should they do and what should they avoid?

Good writing brings the reader back again and again. In order to do that, it must be new, fresh, stand out from other pieces. How is that accomplished?

The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

Poetry requires an economy of words that necessitates the writer be concise. Use of a dictionary and thesaurus makes it easier to avoid repetition and correct spelling.

There must be a depth of meaning that will be rewarding on second or third reading. Present something in a new way, have a thought-provoking take on a subject, use interesting language and a fresh use of words, avoid clichés: all good practices for accomplishing this.

The photos of award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait have graced the covers of several TOPS books including the most recent membership anthology SCARLET THISTLES (Beret Days Press, 2014).

The photos of award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait have graced the covers of several TOPS books including the most recent membership anthology SCARLET THISTLES (Beret Days Press, 2014). Tait also co-edited (with the late Adele Kearns Thomas) TOPS Sounding the Seconds membership anthology in 2008. Photo courtesy: Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co. 2014.

Use concrete examples instead of abstract ideas as an effective way to keep up interest. Show the reader rather than tell. All of these techniques can only improve on the effectiveness of the work.

Make sure your work is polished. After writing your poem, let it sit for a few days then go back and read it again. Is there anything that stands out that you might change? Do this several times until no revisions come to mind and you should be very happy with the results.

Thanks Fran for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat!

If you are an experienced poet and/or illustrator and would like to be considered for a volunteer editor/compiler, illustrator or contest judge for future projects, please sent a brief resume outlining your qualifications and your interest in volunteering to Bunny Iskov, founding member of The Ontario Poetry Society. Additional information about the organization can be found here.

In Oakville: The Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering

 

“We work diligently to help build and support the artistic community in the area.”   –statement from the Moonshine Café website, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

A poet friend from London once told me, “if you want to sell poetry books go to Oakville. The audience is very generous.”

Yes, studying the demographics of a community is crucial for marketing a book but sales can also depend on so many other factors. For example, the book’s content including topic and quality of writing is important. My friend writes beautiful poetry. I’m not surprised that his books sell well, no matter where he travels. The time of day or year can influence a buyer. For example, the holiday season often generates more gift sales yet sales figures can decrease if there are too many other books being sold at the same time.

The Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario was the location for the recent Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering hosted by The Ontario Poetry Society

The Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario was the location for the recent Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering hosted by The Ontario Poetry Society

I would agree that the people in Oakville are indeed generous and encouraging. John and Jean of the Moonshine Café on Kerr Avenue are examples of two people who openly support the artistic community. They have a reputation for welcoming both experienced and emerging artists and performers on their stage, In fact, if you walk to the back of their establishment, you’ll find several walls filled with photo collages: smiling images and creative expressions of past performances. A sign on the café front boasts that they’ve had “Live Entertainment Nightly Since 2006”.

Last month, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travelled to Oakville for their annual Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering. It wasn’t the best day for travelling. The November sky had cast a grey-white-snow-confetti-slush onto the highways and sidewalks but in the café, a small group of enthusiastic poets clustered around the stage and applauded loud in appreciation.

 

November 16, 2014 in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

November 16, 2014 in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Some members came to sell their books but most just wanted to read their work or to meet other poets. According to Bunny Iskov, TOPS founding member/treasurer, this grassroots poetry friendly organization has been meeting annually in Oakville for over a decade.

This year, Oakville Branch manager Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews debuted as emcee.

Yaquoob Ghaznavi at TOPS Oakville Event Nov 16, 2014

TOPS member yaqoob ghaznavi launched his book under the almond tree (Beret Days Press, 2014). The TOPS membership anthology Scarlet Thistles edited and compiled by Fran Figge with cover photo by Lynn Tait was also introduced. Watch for future blogs on these two books.

The afternoon included readings by both Oakville and out-of-town members: I. B. Iskov, George Arnold, Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews, John Corvese, Debbie Okun Hill, Ken Budnark, Susan Munro, Kent Bowman, Fran Figge, John Hastings, Ellen Stout and John Di Leonardo. Two guests Anne Cookson and Nancy Bertolotti shared work during the open mic portion of the afternoon. Music was shared by George Arnold and Kent Bowman.

Below are pictorial highlights of the November 16th event:

Oakville Readers 1 of 2 November 16, 2014

Oakville Readers 2 of 2 November 16, 2014The next members’ reading and open mic hosted by The Ontario Poetry Society will be held Sunday, February 15, 2015 starting at 12 noon at The Smiling Buddha, 961 College Street (near Dovercourt Road) Toronto, Ontario. Sign up for readers is at the door. More information can be found here.

 

 

Like a Compass, Poetry Anthologies are Great Travelling Buddies

Planning a winter escape? Try slipping a poetry anthology into your suitcase. I kid you not! Just because you became lost once or twice studying poetry in high school English class doesn’t mean the poetic journey is always a dense forest of words where your feet trip over meters and your eyes glaze over unfamiliar metaphors. Like with music, movies and novels, there are poetry books written to suit a variety of different tastes and styles. I must admit there was a time when I too didn’t quite understand poetry but now it consumes a large part of my life. The key is to find the poet and the poetic phrases that speak to you as an individual. An anthology helps to pull different voices together and then like a compass points you down different poetic paths. The reader is free to choose.

Below is my review of one of many Canadian anthologies available to the public to read. I must disclose that this particular series is dear to my heart because it spotlights and celebrates the work of many poets involved with The Ontario Poetry Society. In 2004, this grassroots organization grasped my unsteady literary hand and has since provided me with strength to not only write and share my poems but to create my own unique cobblestone road into the publishing jungle. I am forever thankful.

Edited and compiled by Fran Figge    Cover Art by Lynn Tait Spotlighting the work of Mark Clement, Norah Eastern, Silvana Sangiuliano, K.V. Skene and Ed Woods Beret Days Press 2013, 72 pages I.S.B.N. 978-1-897497-88-3

Edited and compiled by Fran Figge Cover Art by Lynn Tait
Spotlighting the work of Mark Clement, Norah Eastern, Silvana Sangiuliano, K.V. Skene and Ed Woods
Beret Days Press 2013, 72 pages
I.S.B.N. 978-1-897497-88-3

            Bravo to The Ontario Poetry Society for showcasing the work of five more Canadian poets in the third anthology in their EnCompass series.  Over 72 pages of eclectic work rolling onto the red carpet and stitched together in seamless fashion! Fran Figge sparkles in her debut as editor/compiler.

           

Mark Clement

Mark Clement

Mark Clement’s work starts off with a modified drum roll. His simple short lines mimic the rhythmic sound of drumbeats. He writes: “Beat/upon the empty drum/hear the hollow sound”. Best known for his tributes to nature, Mark uses sound words and haiku form to capture unique characteristics of autumn leaves, feathers, grass, water and “birds that sing in the dark”. His narrative people’s poet style often draws on humour to make the work stand out. His most memorable poems are Dear Dr. Leftover with a focus on “unemployed socks” and Grocery Store Man who shops for a poem in the food aisles.

          

Norah Eastern

Norah Eastern

  In contrast, Norah Eastern’s work startles the reader but in a benevolent way. Drawing from her experiences as dance instructor and visual artist, Norah makes excellent use of visuals and rhythm in her work. She plays with her words. “It will crunch your savoury/soul, spitting out gritty pieces of art-ery like bone”. She not only masters more traditional forms of couplets, tercets and rhymes but also experiments with humour and surreal images such as “dip the hands of Dali’s clock/in dripping chocolate”.  Her strength lies in injecting mundane subjects with thought provoking images. In Wildflowers, she writes “At twilight, rainbow hues of a/miniature snapdragon army/open their mouths and receive/the sacrament of raindrops”.

            Silvana Sangiuliano’s collection of 14 poems showcases heartwarming odes to the river and sunshine as well as intimate and family love. Her work is filled with such words as caress, breath and soul and in one poem she writes “light penetrates the core of my being”. Her close attention to details is evident in this description of a child who “springs out of bed like a carefree slinky”. However, it doesn’t take long for the hardships of life to wear one down. Drawing from her Italian ancestry, she describes a wedding gown in the attic where “weeping/beads/hit/stained/hardwood”. Later “chocolate eyes melt” and “rosary beads scatter upon the floor”.

           

K.V. Skene

K.V. Skene

Like the wind, K. V. Skene pushes her images away from the traditional and nudges the reader to think beyond the horizon. As a veteran and award-winning poet, K.V. is at ease taking risks with language and poetic forms. Six of her poems stretch the wind theme and includes the flight of starlings and strings cut from kites. In the poem Bliss, she sarcastically writes “Behind/you roars the bloody dawn/cheering you on.” In another poem “I will listen while I inhale/exhale with the wind”. Other poems focus on ageing and dying: “that last gasp as youth/fades with the wallpaper” and “you can calculate her years/in ripples”. As she describes the world in chaos she adds “we may find an odd relaxation, a heightening/an unquantifiable joy in the irrational insanities/of the human heart.”

           

Ed Woods

Ed Woods

Of all the poets, Ed Woods uses the most minimalist style to describe topics as love, family, illness, dying and city life. His work can be tender and sensual or gritty depending on his topic. In his poem Bliss when the main character wakes from a dream: “rain pelts a dirty window/of basement existence”. The poem Angel Softness describes the process of dying and compares angels to UFOs. He shares the view of city nightlife from the perspective of a snow plow operator and describes a problem in urban sprawl where the rich “basks in a better view/than a shingled sunset.”

            To read just one poem is not enough. While this anthology offers an assorted platter of rich-creamy voices, it also tempts the reader to seek out additional work by those poets they favour the most.

            For more information about the EnCompass anthology series, check out The Ontario Poetry Society website.

In Toronto “Roses Are More Than Valentine RED”

Writing poetry squeezes the Valentine red from your heart. It’s a calling (there I’ve said it) and Toronto, Ontario is one of those urban hubs that lives and breathes with a strong poetic rhythm. According to one source, this Canadian city’s literary calendar overflows with launches and readings scheduled for most days or evenings of the year.

In February, the public’s perception of poetry often bleeds with clichéd images of rose scented candles, cardboard cupids, silver-foiled kisses and gummy heart-shaped candies. Mix the words “poetry” and “romance” and what do you get? More sticky sentiments and tacky silk flowered thoughts? Think again!

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Spotlight reader Honey Novick performed work from her CD.

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Incoming President Fran Figge as emcee!

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Poet/musician Kent Bowman shares his talent during intermission.

For emerging and professional poets, a powerful and memorable poem represents more than a few cute sugar-cubed phrases on an annual Valentine card. It is literary art in a tuxedo or a poetic slam in a pair of worn-out work boots: a rhythmic or musical expression of oral and written thoughts and images. Think outside the heart-shaped chocolate box with poetic lines depicting topics as dark, deep and thick as blood or as light as a whiff of fragrance! Verse can be serious or humourous: entertaining as somersaulting sentences or thought-provoking as airborne word wads of crumpled paper smacked on the side of your head.

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Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar showcased their new books.

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Ontario Poetry Society members Pat Connors and Howard W. Isbenberg launched new work during the For the Love of Poetry Festival in Toronto, Sunday, February 2, 2014.

Last Sunday afternoon in the quaint darkened setting of Central (near Bloor and Bathurst), The Ontario Poetry Society extrapolated the “roses are red” theme and organized the For the Love of Poetry Festival. Guests were treated to a chocolate rose stem and yes, the curtains on stage were striking: a bright red sateen or brocade.

Several writers greeted each other with hugs as if they were family. Almost all of them were Toronto members of this provincial poetry-friendly grassroots organization but several out-of-town poets also managed to brave the snow and ice to attend. Most stopped by to share their work, to test a new poem, to practice their presentation skills, to network, to listen and to be inspired by others.

            As a long-time member, I immediately felt at ease. I had been here before, so I was familiar with the format, the casual meet and greet, the sign-up sheet, a chance to have lunch or a drink with friends followed by the actual readings. For most poets there is nothing more nerve-wracking or exhilarating than reading in front of a live audience.

On this particular afternoon, four poets Pat Connors, Howard W. Isenberg, Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar launched new books while poet/musician Honey Novick shared some songs from her CD.

Fran Figge, the new President of The Ontario Poetry Society kept the afternoon moving smoothly with her emcee skills. There were four sets of readers and poet/musician Kent Bowman entertained during the breaks. Anyone who wanted to read could and did read with longer readings reserved for members launching new work. The afternoon ended with an open mic where non-members could also share their work.

            Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I give it a thumbs up especially for new poets who are seeking a safe haven to break into Toronto’s poetry scene.

For upcoming members’ readings and/or open mics organized by The Ontario Poetry Society, check their website for updates. Two additional readings have already been scheduled: one in Cobourg in May, the other in Ottawa in October. Sign-up for readers is at the door.  Admission is free.