Among cold things, I whisper your name/in the sweetness of morning jams, evening fruits/and the Atlantic that draws me towards you. – John Di Leonardo*
February perfumes the air with desire and passion fruit while the cover of John DiLeonardo’s debut poetry collection Conditions of Desire is scarlet like rose petals, like a daring shade of lipstick, like Cupid’s heart.
Launched in late October 2018 by The John B. Lee Signature Seriesimprint of Hidden Brook Press, this 74-page collection of 54 ekphrastic poems evolved from Di Leonardo’s visual art exhibition “The Contentious Nude in the History of Canadian Art.”
Before becoming a published poet, John Di Leonardo taught visual arts for 30 years. His latest exhibition of graphite drawings was at the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario. Photo courtesy: Druworx Photography
As Lee penned for the back cover, “John Di Leonardo’s masterful ekphrastic project involves the writing of a collection of fine poems each of which is inspired by an original work of art. Although he is working in the poetic tradition of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” Di Leonardo is first and foremost a painter who brings to bear the eye of a man whose primary art is visual.”
His transition–from an established artist and visual arts teacher to a poet who paints with his words–has been fascinating to watch.
“the snow is solitary/but not silent/there is the piercing /of the white-stained green” – David Stones*
Writing and reading may be solitary pursuits but like the snow mentioned in DavidStones’ poetic lines above, Canada’s vast literary community is not silent. It is a flurry of words, sometimes a blizzard of voices supported by a potpourri of literary activities and events.
Below is a small scoop of national, regional, or local voices, plus books, projects, and events vying for your attention. May you open your heart this season and welcome the gift of creativity. Several of the local events are free. Many of these books are available for reading from the library.
FOR THE READERS:
NEW ON MY SHELF (in alphabetical order, according to author):
Conditions of Desire (Hidden Brook Press, 2018) by John Di Leonardo. This imprint of the John B. Lee Signature Series is a 74-page debut collection of ekphrastic poems as well as six drawings by Brooklin artist/poet John Di Leonardo. Di Leonardo was recently accepted as a full-member of The League of Canadian Poets and will be the editor/compiler/illustrator for Dancing on Stones, the 2019 membership anthology for The Ontario Poetry Society. More information about this submission call is available here. Watch for a Q and A feature in early 2019.
New books on my shelf.
Out of Line: Daring to be an Artist Outside the Big City (Wolsak and Wynn, 2018) by Tanis MacDonald.What can I say? This book of essays collected no dust on my shelf. It spoke to me immediately and I highly recommend it to my rural (and urban) writing friends. As a former Manitoba resident, I recognized some of the issues MacDonald expressed. As a current writer in rural Ontario, I also found her words inspiring. “Remember that creating art is a Long Game; it will take your whole life to grow into the artist that you are.” (p. 61)
Copies of my first poetry book Tarnished Trophies arrived last Friday. The doorbell rang. I opened the door and on the step there they were: nicely stacked like flattened test tube babies in three boxes. Even the front cover image: Skater by Toronto artist Olena Kassian depicted a figure in a fetal position. Time for a celebration.
Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014)
I had been waiting so long for this delivery: over three and a half years of hard labour. The mid-wife-middle-man-delivery-truck-driver didn’t even want an autograph, I mean a signature. He left no instructions and there was no book tour manual in the boxes.
What does a first time author do? I grabbed my phone and made a few calls. Then I danced but not too long, preferring to conserve my energy for the days ahead.
Two days later, my book tour jitters began in Cobourg at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Springtime Poetry Soiree. Below are some of the photo highlights:
What a special family….all these poet friends reading and supporting each other during The Ontario Poetry Society’s Springtime Poetry Soiree, Sunday, May 18, 2014 in Cobourg.
John Di Leonardo
John Di Leonardo launches his chapbook “Book of Hours” (Beret Days Press, 2014)
Debbie Okun Hill
Debbie Okun Hill launches her book Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014)
Bob MacKenzie launches two books “Songrise” (Dark Matter Press, 2014) and “Spirit Creek” (Dark Matter Press, 2014)