Tag Archives: Laurie Smith

Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours Organizes Regional Tour of Prize-Winning Poet

“This morning, my stomach is a helicopter,/on top and in the rear, thrum, rumble, flutter/look how I run; will I need a mop?” – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

A southwestern Ontario poetry tour** featuring headliners Toronto poet and musician Tom Gannon Hamilton and Sarnia author and micro-press owner Sharon Berg will demonstrate how poetry can tell a story, be entertaining, serious and/or humorous based on such subjects as the war in El Salvador, dysfunctional relationships, art, suicide, cannibalism, nature, and more.

Tom Gannon Hamilton

Prize-winning poet Tom Gannon Hamilton will headline Big Pond Rumours Southwestern Ontario Tour with events in London, Sarnia, Petrolia, and Windsor  between August 19 to 28, 2018.

Organized by Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours (BPR), the five readings will take place in four urban settings (London, Petrolia, Sarnia, and Windsor) between August 19 and 28, 2018. The tour also features a variety of other authors (Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby, London author and visual artist Sile Englert, Lambton poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill, Lambton author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby, and Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith) who will read on specified dates and in different locations.

“My goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this form of writing can accomplish,” said Berg who is also the tour organizer. “Poetry was once revered by kings and practised by people of the highest intellect. But in Canada, poetry has been celebrated as an art form for the people, which led to the appointment of poet laureates in tens of cities across the country. Every poem tells a story, and on this tour, with these authors, you are sure to receive a variety of stories.”

Sharoon Berg

Featured reader and tour organizer Sharon Berg says “my goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this art form can accomplish.”

Headliner Hamilton has a unique story to share. In addition to being the founder, curator, and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon (in partnership with the Toronto Public Libraries), he was also an aid worker during the war in El Salvador. His chapbook manuscript El Marillo, which won 1st place in an annual contest organized by Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Press, focuses on the havoc of events taking place in the 1980s during the extreme violence of the 12-year Civil War in El Salvador.

He has also just released Panoptic, a full-sized book, with Aeolus House, a micro-press owned by Canadian poet/editor Allan Briesmaster.

“This means that he has two books of stunning poetry to promote on this tour,” said Berg. “Hamilton is also an accomplished musician who makes his daily living performing music. He is likely to share a tune or two at each of the readings.”

Headliner Berg is returning to active participation in the Canadian poetry scene after a long hiatus while she worked as a teacher. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine & Press in 2006.

“The existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant,” said Berg. “Indeed, both the international literary magazine and the press have gradually gained attention across the country for the work they are doing in promoting Canadian authors and providing an international forum for literary work.”

The press has already published chapbooks featuring Nelson Ball, Sharon Berg, Harold Feddersen, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, John Oughton, Brian Purdy, and Bob Wakulich. Plus, in 2016, Big Pond Rumours also released Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix A Poet’s Workshop (1976 to 1986) which includes authors like: Heather Roberts Cadsby, Richard Harrison, Stuart Ross, and Libby Scheier.

THE TOUR SCHEDULE

August 19 in London: Hamilton launches his chapbook at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Summer Sultry Poetry Gathering, 1 p.m. at Mykanos Restaurant.

August 23 in London: London author and visual artist Síle Englert reads with Hamilton and Berg, 7 p.m. at Brown and Dickson Bookstore.

August 25 in Sarnia: Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby and Lambton County author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby will read with Hamilton 1 p.m. at the Sarnia Public Library on Christina Street.

August 26 in Windsor: Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith will read with Hamilton and Berg 1 p.m. at Storyteller Bookstore.

August 28 in Petrolia: Lambton Country poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill will read with Hamilton and Berg 6 p.m. at The Cottage Petrolia on Petrolia Line.

Each event is open to the general public. Admission is free.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT BIG POND RUMOURS PRESS?

As the owner of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press (BPR) and a recent retiree, Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia and a new home in August 2016. “I moved here, in part, because Sarnia has a small but vital community of authors,” she said. Her work on the magazine and as a publisher had gone on for years as a sideline while she worked, but both the E-Zine and her press were “small potatoes back then. Indeed, I refer to the press as a micro press because it publishes just four chapbooks (30 pages or less) for Canadian authors a year, the press runs being limited to 100 copies. Still, most Canadian poets and first time novelists have press runs of 500 copies with larger presses, so the existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant.”

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours Press can be found here and on its website.

MORE INFO ON THE SPOTLIGHT READERS AND THEIR WORK

 TOM GANNON HAMILTON:

El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton

In March 2018, Tom Gannon Hamilton won 1st place in an annual Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press. Hamilton’s poetry in El Marillo, is of a different character than most authors in Canada present to their readers. It is literary, but it also reveals the effect of being an eye witness to atrocities through lines of poetry that bring readers right into the scene as a witness. Hamilton was a relief worker with Salvaide, an organization promoting social justice, during his time in El Salvador. He worked to provide medical supplies and other aid to the low income civilians in El Marillo. While thousand of people were being disappeared, the UN reports that the war killed at least 75,000 people between 1980 and 1992.

Hamilton has turned those tragic events into moving poetry. His award-winning chapbook is a dramatic and startling piece of work filled with every human emotion: from horror to terror, from grief and misery to sweet remembrance of others who joined him on that project in El Salvador. As one reviewer wrote of his work, “a lesser man would have had a nervous breakdown rather than turning those events into poetry”. Hamilton put his chapbook together as a way of making a public record about what he witnessed and of celebrating the work Salvaide did to save thousands of lives. It is also a text with special meaning for him as his wife died due to drowning under suspicious circumstances while she was in El Salvador. The pain he deals with related to this loss, is transformed into a celebration of her efforts to gain justice for the people she had devoted her life to.

Quattro Books Presents

As for his book Panoptic recently released by Aleous House, Canadian poet Donna Langevin wrote “Maestro Hamilton composes poems with the same musicality, virtuosity and fidelity that he brings to the violin he feels wed to.” This full-length collection will be officially launched in Ottawa on September 9 and in Toronto on September 12. 

SHARON BERG:

Odyssey and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg is founder of Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine & Press in Sarnia. Her first book was published in 1979 and her work includes: The Body Labyrinth, Coach House (1984), Black Moths, Big Pond Rumours (2006), The Great Hoop Dance, Big Pond Rumours Press (2016), Odyssey & Other Poems, Big Pond Rumours (2017) and two audio cassette tapes (Tape 5, Gallery 101 Productions and Black Moths, Public Energies, 1986). She also publishes academic work on the history of First Nations education.

Referring to her first poetry book with Borealis Press, John Robert Colombo said “love becomes lyric in your hands, and poem after poem I am moved from delight to delicious delight.” With the release of her second book from Coach House Press in 1984, Dennis Lee said, “She is one of the younger poets to watch,” while a book review in Malahat Review said, “These are vigorous, quick moving poems with a surprising tension and strength.” After more than 30 years, she will read from her long anticipated third poetry manuscript on this tour.

 ADDITIONAL GUEST READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

 Heather Roberts Cadsby: In the 1980s, Cadsby co-produced Poetry Toronto and co-founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and the Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she served as the director of the ArtBar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections (Brick Books 2018) is her fifth poetry collection. More info here.

Sile Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her stories have shortlisted in contests for Room Magazine and longlisted in Prism International. Her poetry placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and featured in Room Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology, The Canadian Authors Association’s Saving Bannister Anthology, Misunderstanding Magazine, and Crannog Magazine (Ireland). Read her Contemporary Verse 2 poem here.

Debbie Okun Hill is a Lambton County poet/blogger with over 30 years of writing and promotional experience. Drawing from Experience is a collection of ekphrastic poems that present her impression of various works of art. Her books are: Tarnished Trophies, Black Moss (2014), Chalk Dust Clouds, Beret Day Press (2017) and Drawing from Experience, Big Pond Rumours (2017). More info here.

Phyllis Humby lives in Lambton and is a well-known blogger at The Write Break, a columnist at First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors. More info here.

Laurie Smith, is a poet, editor, and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario. She is also an award-winning poet and author of short fiction. Among her collections are Said the Cannibal, Gallstones, One Ninth of a Cat’s Life, Menagerie, and an upcoming collection of poetry inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Read about Smith’s humorous 2018 National Poetry Month reading in Sarnia here.

* From the poem “Running of a Country” from the prize-winning chapbook El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Tom Gannon Hamilton, 2018

**Written from the files of Big Pond Rumours Press and Sharon Berg.

Additional information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found in the event section of this blog.

 

 

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Sarnia’s #NPM18 Celebration – Captivating and Hilarious

“Crocuses, you’re down there somewhere,/but sorry to say, I forgot you existed.”* – Kateri Lanthier

Laughter rolled onto the floor like a magic wand, like candy eyes, like snowdrops and crocuses sprouting and blooming in fast-forward-motion. What a finale for Sarnia’s National Poetry Month celebration held Saturday, April 28, 2018 at John’s Restaurant on the fringe of the city!

Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018 fb version

Sarnia’s 2018 National Poetry Month celebrations featured great performances by local and out-of-town guests. Back row from left to right: Grace Vermeer, Lois Nantais, Ryan Gibbs, Laurie Smith, and Kateri Lanthier. Front row: Marty Gervais.

Toronto poet Kateri Lanthier, who arrived in London, Ontario by train and then was chauffeured for an hour via car to Sarnia, has been praised for her highly original and witty poems. She was one of three out-of-town readers, joining Black Moss Press publisher Marty Gervais and Cranberry Tree Press co-publisher Laurie Smith, for the event.Guest Reader Kateri Lanthier photo 1 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

To see and hear this award-winning poet recite some of her work was like watching the famous Stratford swans glide across the Avon River. Her interest in Shakespeare rippled like fine wine through her work. Not only was she awarded the prestigious Walrus Poetry Prize in 2013 (the winning poem is included in this collection) but her second book Siren (Véhicule Press, 2017) is currently long-listed for The League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Memorial Award. (The short-list will be announced today on Monday, April 30.)

Her initial decision to establish eye contact with the audience versus reading from a book set the stage for her performance. Her repertoire from Siren included several of her modified ghazals (a historic Persian form) and a long poem “Haiku” which began with the traditional 5-7-5 form: “Plums from the icebox?/Was he kidding? My teeth hurt./Poets are liars.” Lanthier also read from her first book Reporting from Night (Iguana, 2011). Additional information about Siren can be found on the publisher’s website.

Gervais and Smith drove in from Windsor via the Canadian scenic route versus cutting through Detroit and Port Huron on the U.S. side. Gervais, who is no stranger to Sarnia, but hasn’t read in the city for at least a decade, is not only Windsor’s first poet laureate but the person behind the popular “Poet at the Manor” literary event held annually at the Willistead Manor, a former Hiram Walker family residence.

Guest Reader Marty Gervais photo 1 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

“At six, or eight, or nine, the concept of indulgences sounded a lot like the game of Monopoly and being handed a get-of-jail card,” quipped Gervais during his reading of the tale “Sin” from his book Afternoons With the Devil: Growing Up Catholic in a Border Town (Mosaic Press, 2010). “But you didn’t dare mention that to the nuns.”

A storyteller extraordinaire, Gervais has learned what it takes to capture an audience: warm them up with some humour, and continue to inject heart-warming tales as a preamble to his poetry. Yesterday, his off the cuff narratives about his storytelling grandson and his adventures with magic wands left the audience craving more. His poems are down-to-earth-accessible with a step back into history or a reflection of ordinary life during current times. Humour often reinforces his message. His accomplishments are too numerous to list in one article. Check his website here. Watch for his next book Table Manners: Selected and New Poems 2004-2018 to be released by Mosaic Press this fall.

Featured books Photo 2 Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018 fb version

Smith is a hidden gem in the rough or (if the cliché is removed), she’s the sturdy backbone in a graveyard of osteoporosis. She “likes her steak rare”. Like the other two readers, Smith is also an award-winning poet. She was the first recipient of the Adele Wiseman Poetry Prize and her accomplishments are too numerous to mention here.

Guest Reader Laurie Smith photo 2 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

Her performance on Saturday night (with all her theatrics and voice transformations) was either on the razor cutting-edge of entertainment or leaning close to the macabre. Bring out the celery and ‘Bloody Marys’! What could one expect with a new poetry book called Said the Cannibal (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2017)? Her ‘tongue in cheek’ dark humour left the audience rolling their eyeballs or releasing their inner laugh tracks or both.

For example in her poem “eye candy” she shared, “i used to collect/candy eyes,/the colourful little/embellishments on/easter bunnies./lambs, duckies, chicks….so pretty to look at.” Yuck!! But the audience ‘gobbled’ it up. As for her critics, Smith has her answer all ready and even ends her poetry collection with a simple “fork it”.

For those seeking less queasy poetry, Smith also read from her book The Truth About Roller Skating (Cranberry Tree Press, 2011). From the poem “breasts”, she teased “there were the kleenex years, after all.” Learn more about Cranberry Tree Press here.

Featured books Photo 1 Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018 fb version

Bravo to local organizers James Deahl and Sharon Berg (both established poets and experienced publishers) who invited the right mix of bards to showcase poetry as a form of entertainment.

Guest Reader Lois Nantais photo 1 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

In addition to the out-of-town readers, three local poets from Sarnia’s After Hours Poetry group also showcased their work. All three are serious and passionate about their writing and have had their work published in national publications. They manage to write despite their full-time work and other familial commitments; all three had unique presentation styles that kept the audience attentive.

A professed warrior for justice, Lois Nantais often reaches deep inside her emotions to write about loss, grief, and the healing process for herself and for those around her. Her quest for truth and understanding about complex matters such as religion was evident in her poem about her uncle. She also touched on the impact of the recent college strike. As a Lambton College psychology and philosophy professor, she has a deep concern for students’ needs and has a deep appreciation for the arts as evident by her former roles as a literary board rep for the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts and co-host of Sarnia’s Spoken Word event.  She has two poetry chapbooks published by Willow Path Press: of tender days: Poetic Reflections (2003) and The Heaviness of Rain (2008). Nantais is definitely a poet to watch.

Guest Reader Ryan Gibbs photo 1 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

Ryan Gibbs, another Lambton College professor and another former co-host of Sarnia’s Spoken Word event, is starting to get his name out into the literary community. He often writes about his travels and yesterday’s performance was no exception. For example, “Zealous travelling poets/recount their journey/along a path uprooted,” set the scene for his poem “The Buddha Room” published in the anthology Whisky Sour City (Black Moss Press, 2013). He also read a tribute poem for the late Sarnia writer Peggy Fletcher and another poem about Sarnia poets which was written in response to a comment made by an audience member during a reading in St. Catharines. Gibbs splits his time between Sarnia and London and can often be seen attending literary events in both locations. His poetry continues to grow in strength. Additional information about Gibbs appears here.

Guest Reader Grace Vermeer photo 2 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

Grace Vermeer shared several long and interconnected poems that were influenced by spiritual readings and in particular the Bible’s Book of Genesis. She credits Professor Cliff Johnson for fostering her love of poetry and encouraging her early efforts which won the Eleanor B. Mathews Award.  She attended Western where her poetry won the Lillian Kroll Prize in Creative Writing.  In 2014, she was awarded the Monica Ladell Prize as part of the Scarborough Arts Big Art Book 2014. Another poet to watch. Additional information about Vermeer appears here.

Prior to the readings, poets and members of the general public gathered in a private dining area to wine, dine, and chat about literary matters. Special thanks to the League of Canadian Poets for their support of the out-of-town readers.

Co-host Sharon Berg Photo 1 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

Co-host Sharon Berg

As co-host Sharon Berg applauded in Sunday’s Facebook post, “You really missed a good reading if you were not there to join in this event. The evening was filled with deep thoughts provoked by their words and peppered by roaring belly laughs.”

The out of town readers were pleased and responded positively on Facebook.

“Many thanks to Sharon Berg, James Deahl, and Deb Hill for a warm welcome and a wonderful evening,” wrote Lanthier. (Blogger’s note: Thanks Kateri but credit for all the hard work for this event should go to Sharon and James. My task was the unofficial blogger/photographer.)

“It was terrific,” wrote Gervais. “Thanks so much for the warm welcome!”

Co-host James Deahl Photo 1 at Sarnia's 2018 National Poetry Month Celebration April 28, 2018

Co-host James Deahl

“What a wonderful audience last night,” wrote Smith. “Thanks again for inviting me to be part of this.”

As the temperature rises and spring somersaults through the crocuses and daffodils, the 30-day poetic celebration winds down.

On Tuesday, May 1st, National Poetry Month officially ends for another year but hark…is that the sound and scent of new poetry books already lined up for future release? Some folks celebrate poetry all year!

For additional information about upcoming Ontario reading events, check the event section of this blog. Updates are made approximately once a week.

*Quote is from the poem “A Colder Spring” printed in the book Siren (Véhicule Press, 2017). Page 30. Copyright © Kateri Lanthier 2017