Tag Archives: John B. Lee

Behold the Characteristics of a Prize-Winning Poetry Chapbook

The life of those/who went before/their bodies take the shape of sheers/that breathe upon the window ledge – John B. Lee – author of My Sister Rides a Sorrow Mule, winner of The Ontario Poetry Society’s 2019 Golden Chapbook Poetry Prize.

If someone asked you to judge a poetry chapbook contest, what would you look for? The squish of rain beneath rubber boots? The whirl and clang of a pinball machine? Would you seek out manuscripts focusing on your favourite subjects or would you evaluate the work on originality or the strength of the writing? How does one evaluate and compare a collection of Shakespearian sonnets to a test tube of experimental poems? Can a bushel of McIntosh apples compete with a box of Mandarin oranges? Can the writing of a people’s poet battle with a scholar’s life’s work and vice versa?

How many of you have entered manuscripts into contests and upon release of the winner’s list have asked, where did I go wrong? How can I improve my chances for the next submission call? Where can I go for advice? Should I even bother to enter another contest?

Apples and Oranges Photo by Okun Hill

Judging a poetry contest is like comparing apples with oranges. Find a manuscript with hackneyed clichés and themes and it’s quickly eliminated from the competition.

Last May, a cardboard box filled with poetry chapbook manuscripts arrived at my door with the instructions to select a top winner and five honourable mentions by November 2019. My head spun like a flying saucer heading straight for a chain-link fence. I had judged poetry contests before but this was my first assignment judging a manuscript contest. Just reading through the poems once could take months. I finally understood the weight thrust upon publishers inundated with a year’s worth of manuscripts. This would be no easy task.

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Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration – A Literary Reflection

Some people stuff history into a closet. I can attest to that.

Any time I opened a history book in high school, all those dates/figures/names would cobweb my eyes and lull me to sleep at my desk. I’m surprised I even passed the course.

Sesquicentennial Reading Featured books photo 1 - August 22, 2017

History is all around us: a sample of featured books on display during Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration held August 22, 2017.

When all the neighbors pulled out their Canadian flags and other memorabilia to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary of its Confederation, I felt the urge to de-clutter my office and clear my mind of all the festive noise and streamers. Seriously, how does one erase the controversial rental cost ($120,000) and image of the world’s largest (six-storey, 30,000-ton) rubber duck that made its official Canadian debut at the Toronto harbour during the Canada Day weekend?

That’s when it hit me, as I tugged on a box of unsorted literary magazines, moved a pile of photo albums onto a shelf, and opened a small blue/white/gold cardboard box labelled “The Spirit of ’70: 1870 Manitoba Centennial 1970” .

Decluttering - 47-year-old box

De-cluttering can unearth some historic or memorable treasures.

 

History is someone’s memories. It doesn’t have to be about politics and war. It can be closer to home, even tucked in a drawer inside your own desk.

Why else was I saving this 47-year-old Souvenir Cake Box? I certainly don’t remember the taste or style of the miniature cake or the Centennial event in which I received it. Yet, for all these years, it housed approximately 30 little pencils from my childhood.

Sesquicentennial Reading - Group Photo - August 22, 2017

Featured readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration: (from left to right): Bob McCarthy, John B. Lee, Lynn Tait, Patrick Connors, Norma West Linder, and James Deahl.

Memories matter!

Last Tuesday, several writers gathered for Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration! The audience appeared smaller than normal but similar to the dwindling attendance at other literary events I’ve attended this summer. The emcee (Sarnia poet James Deahl) wondered whether the event would have attracted more people if it had been advertised as a literary versus an historic event. I wondered if people were just overwhelmed by busy summer schedules and are just taking a much needed break.

For those who missed this local August 22nd celebration below are some snapshots spotlighting the six featured readers!

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It’s Still Snowing Poetry – Windsor, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, Gimli…

“Each safe landing/on snow-dusted stage/whistled, applauded” –Debbie Okun Hill* 

Here on Canada’s southern edge, Ms. Frosty has curled her toes and postponed her arrival. I yearn to be outdoors in this oven-warm weather planting bulbs in my neglected word gardens. Instead, I pace inside my office where I can bear-ly, barely see the bottom of my desk. Event posters, poetic notes accumulate like paper snowflakes! Half-finished manuscripts and projects remain buried beneath more white clutter. I used to be so organized, well, before the birth of my first book, before I started blogging, before social media took over.

Only in Canada! A snowstorm outside Jasper, Alberta during the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour's 2015 April is Poetry Month Celebration!

Only in Canada! A snowstorm outside Jasper, Alberta during the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour’s National Poetry Month Celebration, April 2015!

Today, a snatched photo (an image of a bear) captured during a freak snowstorm last April outside Jasper, Alberta reminds me of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour and other travel stories that could be told if I wasn’t still travelling, if I wasn’t juggling other writing projects, if I wasn’t eating or sleeping.

 IN WINDSOR:

Thursday, November 12, 2015 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Often, a writer’s journey takes many detours and like the weather, you can either fight it or have fun and roll like a snowball. Tomorrow I’m off on another adventure. Hope to lasso the sun but will bring an umbrella just in case. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, below are some notices and posters that friends have shared with me. More blogs, more stories, and more poems I’d like to write. Mark your calendars and if you are a poetry fan wandering through Canada, I hope you will support some of these poetic events.

Safe travels everyone!!

IN WINNIPEG, MANITOBA:

The Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group (LWWG) will launch Voices, Volume 15 Number 2, Sunday, November 15, 2 pm at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Winnipeg. Launch details here and LWWG info here.

IN LONDON, CANADA:

POETRY LONDON presents Victoria’s Karen Enns and Nick Thran from Calgary. Wednesday, November 18, 167 Wortley Rd., London, ON Pre-reading workshop at 6:30pm The reading begins at 7:30pm  Admission is free. Addition info here.

Workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. Reading begins at 7:30 p.m.

Workshop starts at 6:30 p.m. Reading begins at 7:30 p.m.

IN TORONTO:

Sarnia poet James Deahl will be in Toronto Wednesday, November 18, 2015 to launch his latest book

Sarnia poet James Deahl will be in Toronto Wednesday, November 18, 2015 to launch his latest book

IN GIMLI, MANITOBA:

November 18, 2015 in Gimli, Manitoba

November 18, 2015 in Gimli, Manitoba

*Quote from a new manuscript in progress. Used with permission by the author ©Debbie Okun Hill, 2015

NOTE: Poetry London event poster was added on November 13, 2015 after the original posting.

 

 

 

 

In Sarnia – Feast on Two National Poetry Month Events – April 11 and 25

The Bluewater Reading Series presents a National Poetry Month Celebration of Food and Poetry.

The Bluewater Reading Series presents a National Poetry Month Celebration of Food and Poetry.

Poetry fans can feast on an eclectic mix of poetic voices by twelve local and award-winning out-of-town talent as well as the Canadian launch of a California-based anthology during Sarnia’s National Poetry Month Celebration, Saturday, April 11 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line on the outskirts of the city.

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Bluewater Reading Series Moves Forward With Events in April and May

Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading Series is gearing up for another great year.  As temperatures dip and nip fingertips, howling winds play havoc on icy and snow covered roads. Venturing outdoors can be a challenge; travelling great distances to participate in an out-of-town reading seems like such a gamble.

Speaking in front of a full audience: emcee Lynn Tait (Sarnia), fiction writer Diana Koch (Sarnia), Poet Laureate of Brantford John B. Lee (Port Dover), author of Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy Vanessa Shields (Windsor) and poet Grace Vermeer (Sarnia

Last November, speaking in front of a full audience: emcee Lynn Tait (Sarnia), fiction writer Diana Koch (Sarnia), Poet Laureate of Brantford John B. Lee (Port Dover), author of Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy Vanessa Shields (Windsor) and poet Grace Vermeer (Sarnia

However, despite the temptation to escape to a warmer climate or to hibernate in a snowbank, plans are indeed moving forward for the committee’s next two offerings: a special April is National Poetry Month event scheduled for Saturday, April 11, 2015 and a fiction/poetry reading set for Saturday, May 9, 2015. Both literary events will be held during the afternoon at John’s Restaurant on the outskirts of Sarnia, Ontario.

According to committee member and prolific Canadian poet James Deahl, “seven out of town guests have already agreed to participate in this spring’s program; five of whom have never visited or read in this area of Ontario before. We are working on posters and media releases. A formal announcement will be made soon.”

To date, the Bluewater Reading Series committee has already organized three successful readings. Previous out-town guest readers (in alphabetical order) included: Allan Briesmaster, Clara Blackwood, Andreas Gripp, John B. Lee, Carol Malyon, Vanessa Shields, and John Wing Jr.

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JOHN B. LEE AND VANESSA SHIELDS! COMING TO SARNIA THIS WEEKEND!

Window Fishing…Burning my Father….Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy…I Am That Woman. The poster says it all…If you’re in the Sarnia area this Saturday, November 8, check out the next offering in the Bluewater Reading Series. Admission is free. Open to the Public! More info here.

Saturday, November 8 in Sarnia

Saturday, November 8 in Sarnia

What Do The Words ‘Beatlemania’ and ‘Second Pregnancy’ Have In Common?

 If you guessed that ‘Beatlemania’ and ‘Second Pregnancy’ will be spotlighted in an upcoming literary event in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, then you are absolutely right!!!  Check out the media release that just crossed  my desk….

AWARD-WINNING POET JOHN B. LEE TO PRESENT NEW BOOK ON BEATLEMANIA

Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press) selected and compiled by John B. Lee.

Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press) selected and edited by John B. Lee.

John B. Lee, the Poet Laureate of Brantford and one of Canada’s most prolific poets will travel to Sarnia to join three other award-winning writers for this fall’s Bluewater Reading Series event Saturday, November 8 from 3 to 5 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line. His reading will focus on two new books Window Fishing: the night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press), a commemorative anthology on this British rock band’s invasion into North America and Burning My Father (Black Moss Press), a poetic reflection on Lee’s life as a farmer’s son.

Burning My Father (Black Moss Press, 2014) by John B. Lee

Burning My Father (Black Moss Press, 2014), a poetic reflection on John B. Lee’s life as a farmer’s son.

Lee will be joined by three other readers: League of Canadian Poets member and former Black Moss Press editor Vanessa Shields (Windsor, Ontario), and local award-winning writers Diana Koch and Grace Vermeer. Shields and Vermeer will be reading in Sarnia for the first time.

“We are excited about the calibre of authors reading for this free public event,” said Venera Fazio, committee spokesperson for the Series. “Not only will we be featuring professional out-of-town writers with emerging local talent but the afternoon will offer a varied program of fiction, poetry, memoir and humour.”

Lee, who is also the Poet Laureate of Norfolk County, is the author of seventy plus published books.  His work has appeared internationally in over 500 magazines, literary journals and anthologies.  A two-time recipient of the CBC Literary Award for poetry, he has won over eighty prestigious literary awards for his work.

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