Tag Archives: Kent Bowman

A Canadian Poet’s Fascination for Trains

Canadian poet David Brydges was the motivating force behind The Original PoeTrain Express Toronto-Cobalt-Toronto May 2012

Canadian poet David Brydges was the motivating force behind the original PoeTrain Express that transported poets, bloggers, and a film crew from Toronto-Cobalt-Toronto in May 2012

David Brydges likes to talk. Some days, he’s like a runaway train that never stops. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration. Pardon the pun, but he does have a multi-tracked mind when it comes to his love for trains and rail travel.

David Brydges with Cobalt's Poet Laureate Ann Margetson May 11, 2012

David Brydges with Cobalt’s Poet Laureate Ann Margetson May 11, 2012

When I first met Brydges over the phone, he was pitching an idea for what he considered to be a new and exciting poetry event: the 2012 PoeTrain Express.  His vision included a poetry festival on a train where poets, musicians, bloggers, and a film crew would climb aboard a passenger train at Union Station in Toronto and then be transported 8 to 9 hours to Cobalt, a small northern Ontario community. Would I go? His enthusiasm kept me on the phone for close to three hours; a conversation that may have lasted longer if the battery in his cell phone hadn’t died. Yes, he signed me up. Yes, the experience left a deep impression on me and yes, I would highly recommend train travel to others.

Not only is David Brydges a great salesman but he’s also a man of action. Once he gets an idea, he becomes that optimistic and determined train character in the childhood story The Little Engine that Could. However, instead of chanting “I think I can, I think I can”, Brydges has no doubts when stating “I know I can do this.” As the organizer behind seven Spring Pulse Poetry Festivals and the first PoeTrain Express to Cobalt, Ontario, he has already proven that dreams and ideas can become a reality.

The Original PoeTrain Express and 2012 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival participants May 12, 2012

The Original PoeTrain Express and 2012 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival participants May 12, 2012

Kent Bowman at the 2014 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival May 30, 2014

Kent Bowman at the 2014 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival May 30, 2014

This year, his dream turned national. He is the current engine behind the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour a special “Poetry in Motion” event being planned for the 2015 April is National Poetry month celebrations. The tour which will begin Wednesday, April 15 in Ottawa and end 10 days later on April 25 in Vancouver will include a variety of poetry events both on and off the train. Registrations are now being accepted by original PoeTrain participant Kent Bowman. (NOTE: Registration now closed and link was removed March 8, 2017).

Will Brydges and his crew succeed in this project? I know they can and will.

If you wish to be part of this historical event, below is additional information being distributed by the organizing committee!

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Banner


On The Great Canadian POETrain Tour

An Historic, Once In A Lifetime

ViaRail Poetry Trip

Across Canada

The Original PoeTrain Express left Toronto May 10, 2012

The Original PoeTrain Express left Toronto May 10, 2012

Because we’re poets, we create. Because we’re poets, we seek out other poets.

Because there’s a POETrain, we can now take our poems, our thoughts, and our passions across Canada, writing, speaking, singing, listening to, and rolling in  – you got it – poetry.

Along the way, the gorgeous scenery and personal interactions matched with our own mighty creativity will help us write the world’s longest train poem.

The POETrain is a once in a lifetime chance to celebrate National Poetry Month 2015, while traveling across Canada with a group of other poets of all ages and backgrounds.

This is an historic venture – a poetic `Last Spike.’

Spaces are limited and discounts are only available up to December 1, 2014.

The original PoeTrain Express left Cobalt on May 13, 2012

The original PoeTrain Express left Cobalt on May 13, 2012



OTTAWA: Opening Ceremony, Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TORONTO:   Poetry Events from Thursday, April 16 through Saturday April 18 (VIA RAIL Canadian leaves for Edmonton on Saturday evening, April 18, arriving on Tuesday, April 21st)

EDMONTON:  From Tuesday, April 21 through Thursday, April 23, we will participate in the fabulous Edmonton Poetry Festival (leaving for Vancouver on April 24).

VANCOUVER:  Arriving early on Friday, April 25, we will be participating in the closing evening ceremony – a fitting end to National Poetry Month and an incredible journey.

On the PoeTrain Express May 10, 2012

On the PoeTrain Express May 10, 2012

Not only will Poetrainers on this journey experience an amazing literary adventure of writing and reading their work, attending poetry workshops to learn about their passion, hearing others read as well as participate in new book launches and in writing the world’s longest train poem as well as attending the famous Edmonton Poetry Festival as invited guests, but you will also be a part of a remarkable voyage through the incredibly beautiful Canadian Rockies as seen through the vista of the Skyline cars; truly one of the miracles of our marvelous country. This historic tour is a unique destination vacation for those who truly love the art of poetry and the beauty of Canada.

Important deadlines:

December 15, 2014: Deadline for submitting your registration form and $50 registration fee. Also the deadline if you wish to take advantage of the one Via Rail on board entertainment poet-musician position, Canada Reading Tour Grants (if you are a full member of The League of Canadian Poets) or the PoeTrain laureate  position. (Ask for details.)

January 31, 2015: Deadline for obtaining discounted train tickets for travel April 11 to 25, 2014.



Why I’ll Never Share a Beer with Canadian Poets Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster

Did you choke over my words, spit out gasps into a brown paper bag? Were you startled or just amused? A headline like a poem title needs to grab the reader by the throat and I hope this one does. Still it’s not intended to be disrespectful of two literary giants.  My rationale easily rolls like water from my tongue: I hate the taste of beer and wouldn’t share a bottle or glass of lager or ale with anyone no matter how famous he/she might be.

Learn more about Canadian poets Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster.

Learn more about Canadian poets Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during this free reading in Sarnia, Ontario.

Also it’s too late to cry over any type of beverage including a tipped over bottle of poetic spirits. Imagine the suds sliding across the wooden table and along the pub floor. Okay, that’s moving away from the topic. Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster are both dearly departed and unless their apparitions appear before us, no one will have the privilege of speaking to them again. Sad news indeed! Acorn passed away in August 1986 due to complications of a heart condition and diabetes. Souster died in October 2012. He was 91 years old.

I wish I had met them or at least heard them read.

Celebrating Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during National Poetry Month

Celebrating Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during National Poetry Month

Both are considered legends in the poetry world. Acorn received a Governor General Award in 1976 for his poetry collection The Island Means Minago. Souster received the same award in 1964 for his work The Colour of the Times. Both would have been great mentors. Unfortunately I was a late poetic bloomer; Acorn and Souster escaped my radar before I knew who they were.

Even today, my knowledge of these two poets is limited, gleamed from second hand sources. My goal is to read all their work cover to cover! I wish I had the luxury of time but this is what I’ve learned so far.

Souster’s legacy reminds me that poetry does not make one famous or financially wealthy. All his life, he was considered shy and despite being prolific and leaving behind more than 50 volumes of his work, he remained a banker to pay his bills. According to Canadian poet James Deahl, Souster wrote about “love, nature, war, social, injustice jazz, religion, and beauty. He was also the first president/chairman of the League of Canadian Poets and was a kind and gentle man. As I wrote in my tribute poem “Won’t see his poetic face/plastered on a Canadian bill.” Societies in general scratch their heads when it comes to respecting and understanding poets.

James Deahl has edited several books to celebrate the legacy of his friends Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster.

James Deahl has edited several books to celebrate the legacy of his friends Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster.

Acorn’s legacy of work taught me that there are different types of poets, just like there are different types of musicians or artists to suit different markets. Acorn was a “people’s poet” who wrote about everyday concerns for the common folks and employed wit, politics and strong emotion in his work. He produced more than 15 books and like Souster, he enjoyed helping younger and more inexperienced writers.

James Deahl is one of those poets who knew and spent time with both Souster and Acorn. He has studied their work and has written extensively about their lives. In 1987, he edited and compiled The Northern Red Oak, a tribute to Milton Acorn published by Unfinished Monument.

More recently he edited In a Springtime Instant: Selected Poems by Milton Acorn published as part of the Mosiac Press Canadian Literature ‘Icon” series.

Reading during the Under the Mulberry Tree (Quattro Books) launch in Toronto, January 15, 2014

David Eso


Michael Fraser enjoyed meeting Raymond Souster.

Michael Fraser

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Joe Fiorito


Laurence Hutchman

Laurence Hutchman

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Carleton Wilson







Anna Yin

Anna Yin

Earlier this year in Toronto, he edited and launched Under the Mulberry Tree: Poems For & About Raymond Souster. Published by Quattro Books, this anthology features tribute poems by those who knew the poet well and those who are just learning about his work. The contributors include: Steven Michael Berzensky, Kent Bowman, Ronnie R. Brown, Terry Ann Carter, John Robert Columbo, Allan Cooper, Robert Currie, James Deahl, David Donnell, G. W. Down, Margaret Patricia Eaton, David Eso, Chris Faiers, George Fethering, Joe Fiorito, Michael Fraser, Ryan Gibbs, Katherine Gordon, Andreas Gripp, Debbie Okun Hill, Laurence Hutchman, Karl Jirgens, Laurie Kruk, Dennis Lee, Norma West Linder, Bruce Meyer, Brian Purdy, Bernadette Rule, Simcha Simchovitch, Glen Sorestad, Lynn Tait, S. J. White, Carleton Wilson, Michael Wurster, and Anna Yin.

Norma West Linder

Norma West Linder

 On Sunday, April 27 starting at 1 p.m. at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, seven of these contributors: Berzensky, Bowman, Deahl, Gibbs, Okun Hill, West Linder, and Tait will be reading and celebrating the legacy of Acorn and Souster. Additional readings are also planned for Ottawa and North Bay in June.

As Deahl wrote in his introduction to Under the Mulberry Tree: “No poet learns the craft without the help and sage advice from those who have already achieved a higher level of writing.”

Steven Micheal Berzensky

Steven Michael Berzensky

Kent Bowman

Kent Bowman

Three cheers to all the poets including Acorn and Souster who believed in the power of the written word and who will continue to leave their mark on the next generation of writers. As an emerging poet, I still have so much to learn. Maybe one day, I’ll acquire a taste for beer or maybe not.

Ryan Gibbs

Ryan Gibbs

Lynn Tait

Lynn Tait

Debbie Okun Hill

Debbie Okun Hill


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!


Spotlight reader Honey Novick performed work from her CD.


Incoming President Fran Figge as emcee!


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.


Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar showcased their new books.


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.