Tag Archives: Guernica Editions

From New York: American Poets Gil Fagiani and Maria Lisella

“When I told my mother in 1968 – a few weeks before my 23rd birthday – that I had a heroin problem, she wept in despair. She grew up in New York City’s West Village and knew heroin addicts. And what she knew about them was that, except for imprisonment or death, they could never stop using.” –Gil Fagiani*

 There’s a gritty and multi-cultural side to large metropolises like Toronto and New York City that I’ve never seen nor experienced. Yes, I’m familiar with the famous “I (heart) New York” t-shirts and the 9/11 destruction of the twin towers in Lower Manhatten’s World Trade Centre. Television and the internet paint a vivid, perhaps distorted view of the urban streetscape.

 

Supernova Book Launch with Guernica Editions poet Gil Fagiani November 29, 2015 at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar in Toronto

Supernova Book Launch with Gil Fagiana, November 29 at the Supermarket Restaurant and Bar in Toronto. Photo by Elana Wolff, courtesy of Guernica Editions.

“Write what you know” screams the creative writing textbooks. As a rural writer, I’m like the country mouse rooting around my grandfather’s potato fields or the crow swooping over my neighbour’s seed corn. One of the best ways to learn about the city is to venture out and to become immersed in the surroundings. However, when travelling isn’t an option, attending local readings by out-of-town guests helps to broaden my outlook. Also, some challenging or dangerous experiences are best avoided and left for the more experienced to record.

Gil Figiani with his book Logos

Gil Fagiani with his new book Logos (Guernica Editions, 2015)

In late November, Gil Fagiani and Maria Lisella—a New York couple who are also well-known Italian American poets—ventured to Sarnia-Lambton to visit with friends and to share their literary journey and stories with local writers.

Fagiani’s spontaneous reading in Lambton County was particularly riveting. His new poetry collection Logos, published by Canadian publisher Guernica Editions, “tells the story of Logos, a heroin treatment center in South Bronx – not as an outsider but as one of the residents seeking to overcome his own addiction**.”  The 166-page book is divided into four sections: “Shooting Dope With Trotsky”, “White Uncle Tom”, “Siding With the Enemy”, and “A Single Spark” and includes a glossary of slang terms.

“Aside from my physical survival, Logos helped me gain crucial insights into myself and my family*,” wrote Fagiani in his introduction to the book.

A sample of Gil Fagiani's books

A sample of Gil Fagiani’s books.

His own story is compelling, painful but also inspirational. Not only is he the author of eight books but he worked hard to become a social worker and addiction specialist. For 21 years, he directed a residential program for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics in Downtown Brooklyn. His raw and descriptive poems and characters in this book may shock the readers; lead them into dark corners to reflect on what it means to be an addict overcoming an addiction.

Supernova Book Launch with Guernica Editions authors in Toronto

Supernova Book Launch, November 29 in Toronto.

Fagiani was in Canada for the Supernova Book Launch where he officially launched Logos with books by other Guernica Edition authors, November 29, 2015 at the Supermarket Restaurant and Bar in Toronto. His other books include: Crossing 116th Street (Skidrow Penthouse, 2004), Rooks (Rain Mountain Press, 2007), Grandpa’s Wine (Poets Wear Prada, 2008), A Blanquito in El Barrio (Rain Mountain Press, 2009), Chianti in Connecticut (Bordighera Press, 2010), Serfs of Psychiatry (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Stone Walls (Bordighera Press, 2014).

During his Canadian tour, he was accompanied by his partner Maria Lisella. Lisella is an accomplished travel writer and poet and was recently named the Queens Poet Laureate (2015-2018). Her third book of poetry Thieves in the Family (NYQ Books, 2014) is described as “poetic vignettes…captured with a cinematographer’s eyes, laced with a love of dialogue, and an endless fascination with stories heard on subways, planes, in kitchens, and in foreign countries.***”

Maria Lisella has three published books

Maria Lisella is the new Queens Poet Laureate (2015-2018). She has three published books.

Her other two books are: Two Naked Feet (Poets Wear Prada, 2009) and Amore on Hope Street (Finishing Line Press, 2009).

Additional information about Fagiani and his new book can be found here.

Additional information about Maria Lisella and her books and her role as the newest Queens Poet Laureate can be found here and here.

I look forward to reading their work.

*Quotes pulled from the introduction to Logos (Guernica Editions, 2015) by Gil Fagiani. Reprinted here with permission from both the author and publisher.

**This quote appears on the back cover of Logos (Guernica Editions, 2015) by Gil Fagiani.

***This quote appears on the back cover of Thieves in the Family (NYQ Books, 2014) by Maria Lisella. 

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Every Poet Should Try Reading in Stratford

Imagine travelling to Stratford, Ontario: home of the Stratford Festival, considered to be “North America’s largest classical repertory theatre, presenting the works of William Shakespeare and other great writers”.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”        William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

To be or not to be…a poet on stage?

John B Lee in Stratford Aug 24, 2014That is a good question. Another thought: must poetry be read or performed in front of an audience to be fully appreciated? Of course! Poetry is more than words on a page. It is rhythm and sound and needs to be heard aloud.

Last Sunday, thanks to a suggestion from Canadian poet John Ambury, The Ontario Poetry Society teamed up with Poetry Stratford to present “BARDIC COLLAGE”, a members’ reading and open mic at Cafe Ten, a local restaurant in the heart of Stratford. Despite the absence of stage and microphone, 24 poets as well as three spotlight readers demonstrated the theatrical power of poetry.

Ellen  S Jaffe in Stratford Aug 24, 2014This is what I learned:

*Every poet should try reading in Stratford. (Trust me: Shakespeare’s poetic muse still lives and breathes on the stage and in the streets. You can feel it.)

*Meeting in a central location encourages more sharing and networking with other poets. (Poets ranged in age from the youngest being in his early 20s to the oldest being an amazing 91 years old. Local poets from Stratford met out-of-town writers from Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Markham, Port Dover, Sarnia, Toronto and more. Emerging poets equally shared the spotlight with experienced award-winning scribes.)

*Memorizing words and verses can enhance the audience’s enjoyment. (Poets who use eye-to-eye contact have a stronger connection with the audience.)

Muhammad Javid Akhtar in Stratford Aug 24, 2014*Dramatic gestures as well as the projection and varying of one’s voice will hold the audience’s attention. (The Stratford poets were clearly influenced by their love of the theatre.)

*Daring performances with sound effects are unforgettable. (No one will forget Poet Laureate John B. Lee’s “moooooooo-ving” performance of his poem “Jimi Hendrix in the Company of Cows”. Now that took courage.)

*The Stratford Reading experience is worth repeating. (Based on participant and audience feedback, The Ontario Poetry Society hopes to organize another Stratford event for next year.)

Enjoy the pictorial highlights of the afternoon.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The next members’ reading and open mic for The Ontario Poetry Society will be held Sunday, October 5 in Ottawa. More details here..

Stratford Readers 1 of 3 August 24, 2014

Stratford Readers 2 of 3 August 24, 2014

Stratford Readers 3 of 3 August 24, 2014

 

International Celebrity John Wing Kicks-Off Sarnia’s National Poetry Month Celebration April 5

Back in his hometown to introduce his new poetry book, Why-Shaped Scars, Los Angeles resident and internationally-known comedian John Wing Jr. will officially kick-start Sarnia’s National Poetry Month Celebration Saturday, April 5 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line on the outskirts of the city.

From Los Angeles: John Wing

From Los Angeles: John Wing

Spotlight readers also include League of Canadian Poets members Allan Briesmaster (Thornhill, Ontario), Clara Blackwood (Toronto) and Sarnia’s Lynn Tait.

Organized by the Bluewater Reading Series, this free inaugural event aims to introduce professional out-of-town poets and their work to the general public and will reflect the League’s Poetry Month 2014 theme: “Poetry City”. Several poetry books will be highlighted including work produced by three well-known traditional publishers Black Moss Press (Windsor), Guernica Editions (Oakville/Montreal) and Quattro Books (Toronto).

“Poetry has always been a “spoken word” art, not a “book page” art,” said James Deahl, committee spokesperson for the new Series. “It is difficult for poetry to truly live and breathe in a city without a reading series. Fortunately, the Canada Council and the League of Canadian Poets understand the true nature of poetry. Through National Poetry Month, poets are able to travel all over Canada and present live readings. We are extremely pleased to present three important out-of-town poets — two of them reading for their first time in Sarnia — along with Sarnia’s own Lynn Tait for our NPM debut presentation.”

Tait, an award-winning photographer/poet will be reading work from her two manuscripts Chatter Marks and Broken Days. According to Canadian poet George Elliott Clarke “Lynn has a gift for startling and stunning metaphor, for juxtaposition of casual conversational style and sudden, arresting, poetic language and for irony that moves often toward allegory.”

Why-shaped Scars by John Wing Jr. published by Black Moss Press 2014

Why-shaped Scars (Black Moss Press) by John Wing Jr.

Wing who was a semi-finalist on last season’s America’s Got Talent will perform a half-hour reading based on his latest Black Moss Press book which according to poet reviewer Bruce Meyer “captures those moments that leave their enigmatic scars on our souls…he does so with craft, power, and poetic precision.”

Against the Flight of Spring (Quattro Books) by Allan Briesmaster

Against the Flight of Spring (Quattro Books) by Allan Briesmaster

Briesmaster, a freelance editor and one of the Quattro Books’ founding partners, will read from his recent and sixth full-length poetry collection Against the Flight of Spring. The back cover states that the book “explores such themes as identity, personal growth, love and friendship, Canadian landscape, climate change, visual art, and the roots of poetry itself, in moods of anxious questioning, deep affection, dread, awe, and grateful praise.”

Forecast (Guernica Editions) by Clara Blackwood

Forecast (Guernica Editions) by Clara Blackwood

Toronto poet, visual artist and tarot reader Blackwood will read from Forecast, her latest and second book published by Guernica Editions. The publisher’s website states “this collection of sometimes sombre, sometimes whimsical poems takes the reader on an odyssey whereby things bizarre, miraculous and bewildering can and often do happen.”

The Bluewater Reading Series is a new literary offering organized by Sarnia writers : James Deahl, Venero Fazio, Debbie Okun Hill, and Lynn Tait. This inaugural reading is made possible with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets’ National Poetry Month program.

Additional national poetry month readings include: a poetry themed Spoken Word open mic where members of the general public may share their work Friday, April 25 from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, Sarnia and a Raymond Souster Legacy Reading to celebrate the publication of Under the Mulberry Tree (Quattro Books) to be held Sunday, April 27 at the Book Keeper in Sarnia.

SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

From Toronto: Clara Blackwood

Clara Blackwood is a poet, visual artist and tarot reader. Her first poetry collection, Subway Medusa (2007), was the inaugural book in Guernica Editions’ First Poets Series, which features first books by poets thirty-five and under. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian and International journals. Forecast, her second book of poetry, was published by Guernica Editions in 2014. She lives in Toronto.

Allan Briesmaster from Thornhill

From Thornhill: Allan Briesmaster

Allan Briesmaster is a freelance editor, micro publisher, and one of the founding partners of Quattro Books. He is the author of six full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is Against the Flight of Spring (April, 2013), and seven shorter books, and he has been active on the Toronto poetry scene for many years as a readings organizer, workshop leader, and mentor. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and he has given readings, and talks at venues from Victoria to St. John’s. He lives in Thornhill, just north of Toronto.

From Sarnia: Lynn Tait

From Sarnia: Lynn Tait

Lynn Tait, originally from Toronto, is an awarding winning poet/photographer, who has lived in Sarnia for 40 years. Her photography has graced the covers of poetry books and literary magazines, and been exhibited in Gallery Lambton, Gallery in the Grove, Cheeky Monkey and The Lawrence House. She has been a nominee, in various categories, for the International Black & White Spider Awards for Photography, 4 years in a row. She is a member of the Sarnia Photographic Club, The Ontario Poetry Society and the League of Canadian Poets. Her poetry has been published in numerous literary magazines in Canada and the U.S., including the Windsor Review, Quills, Contemporary Verse 2, and in over 70 anthologies including Under the Mulberry Tree, published by Quattro Books and edited by James Deahl. She published a chapbook “Breaking Away” in 2002, a book: Encompass I in 2013, with four other poets, and has currently completed two full-length poetry manuscripts.

From Los Angeles: John Wing

From Los Angeles: John Wing

John Wing Jr., born in Sarnia, has lived in Los Angeles for the last 25 years, while maintaining his Canadian citizenship. Along with six appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Johnny Carson, ten appearances at The Montreal Comedy Festival Just For Laughs, and a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent last season, John has also published eight books of poetry, A Cup Of Nevermind, …And The Fear Makes Us Special, None Of This is Probably True, Excuses, The Winter Palace, So Recently Ancient, Almost Somewhere Else, and the new book from Black Moss Press, Why-Shaped Scars. His memoir of his early years as a comedian is When You See The Red Light, Get Off, also from Black Moss Press. John is a regular contributor to CBC Radio’s Definitely Not The Opera, and The Debaters.

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Internationally-known comedian and Black Moss Press author John Wing, Toronto area editor and a founding partner of Quattro Books Allan Briesmaster, Guernia Editions/Toronto poet Clara Blackwood and Sarnia’s award-winning photographer /poet Lynn Tait will introduce new books/work as part of Sarnia’s National Poetry Month celebrations. Open to the public. Organized by the Bluewater Reading Series, this inaugural event is made possible by the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets. Follow this blog for additional information.