Tag Archives: League of Canadian Poets

Introducing Thimbles by Canadian Poet Vanessa Shields

“I saw the thimble on your finger but I didn’t know//you were our thimble.” – Vanessa Shields

I fell in love with Thimbles, the third and latest poetry collection by Canadian poet Vanessa Shields, while it was still an infant in PDF format.

thimbles - front cover

Published by Palimpsest Press, Thimbles is the third and latest poetry collection by Canadian Poet Vanessa Shields.

Wow, such a raw and honest ravelling and unravelling of emotions. Such a heart-wrenching tribute to the late Maria Giuditta Merlo Bison, her loving, seamstress grandmother (or as the Italians would say Nonna).

As I slipped inside Shields’ imaginary sewing basket and learned more about her personal inter-generational love story, my appreciation for the book grew stronger!

Thumbs up!

In my opinion, it’s Shields’ best poetry collection to date. Even CBC Books recently listed it as one of the “55 Canadian poetry collections to check out in spring 2021”.

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, her work not only explored a new maturity in subject matter but her use of the sewing and mountain themes and motifs beautifully stitched together the narrative thread of her 94 poems.

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Tree-Themed Books – Reviewed

“You speak to me whispering/tree-secrets in the language/of lush and leafy greens” – Kate Marshall Flaherty*

Looking for an escape during these recent pandemic lockdowns? Over the years, I’ve read numerous books about trees.  So far, these are my seven favourites reviewed on Goodreads. Each of the authors has inspired me!

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li (Penquin Life 2018) 320 pages

I first noticed the Japanese term Shinrin-Yoku on a Facebook post. After losing four large ash trees in my backyard due to the invasive emerald ash borer, I couldn’t believe how the loss permeated my existence. I felt compelled to learn more about the ash trees and in doing so the surviving trees taught me so much about the world around me.

Forest Bathing by Dr Qing Li and Heartwood edited by Lesley Strutt

What can trees teach us about the world? Pick up a book and discover what some researchers and poets have discovered?  Here are two books to get you started.

It didn’t surprise me that for Mother’s Day my family gifted me this book on forest bathing by Dr. Qing Li, chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine. However, what surprised me was that about a third of the way into the book, the author even discussed a study about the relationship between trees and human health as the result of the emerald ash borer’s destructive path through America. In bold letters, he wrote on page 113 “When trees die, people die.”

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Poet Roy J. Adams Proves Its Never Too Late to Start

Don’t fiddle with glitz, reject the quick-/go for the edge, the waltz, the weight.//Its where you’ve sizzled; what’s off your/list, whether or not you’ve felt the mist. – Roy J. Adams*

Using humour, Hamilton-based poet Roy J. Adams once described himself as a literary flop by the time he was 20. Now in his semi-retirement, he’s celebrating the publication of two debut poetry books. I admire this writer’s enthusiasm and the way he uses quick wit to overcome obstacles.

Adams headshot 2018

Poet Roy J. Adams began writing poetry during his semi-retirement as an industrial relations professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Marilyn Adams

Upon first glance, his roller-coaster life reminds me of Looney Tunes’ Wile E. Coyote, the animated character who always picked himself up despite all the challenging attempts to capture the Road Runner or in his case, his ongoing dreams.

For example, in his poem “High”, he refers to his Jump School training with the U.S. Army: “you tumble” out of a packed plane and “become a ragdoll whirling/in the blast” only to end up “Splat! You’re back, flat, a blacked-out/crash test dummy.”

The next day, he’s back on the plane with even more determination.

He also survived the rejection of his father and stepmother and transformed himself from an 18-year-old university drop-out to an industrial relations professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

In a more recent personal essay posted on a Bloom-site.com blog he wrote “In my seventies, I fell off a mountain into another dimension.”**

That dimension led him to a more serious full-time commitment to poetry and the release of two publications: Bebop From Beau’s Caboose (a 24-page chapbook described by The Ontario Poetry Society president Fran Figge as “a smorgasbord spiced with tasty bites of unusual and invented words”) plus Critical Mass (a 64-page collection that New Westminster Poet Laureate Emerita Candice James promoted as a “nostalgic walk down memory lane”.) Verse Afire Reviewer John Ambury wrote that “Adams is a natural story-teller: a vivid narrator with a talent for the much-abbreviated story arc, relating much but not over-explaining.”

two books by Roy J Adams

Adams is the author of one chapbook printed by Beret Days Press and one trade book published by Silver Bow Publishing.

A few days ago, I chatted with Roy (via e-mail) about his recent books, his writing space, and his plans for the future. Continue reading

#NPM19 – Poems In Your Pockets, Submission Calls, Events, etc.

i’m in the bus which is really just an old car/and it’s night and pouring rain and i’m/thirteen and the car is jammed with bodies… – Eleonore Shönmaier*

april 2019 - national poetry month 2019

Have you filled your pockets with poems yet? Have you dropped a poetic postcard in the mail? There’s still time to swirl in this whirlwind of poetic celebration. Below is a cluster of literary news items collected and raked up like paper leaves off my desk. Quick, line your calendar pockets with the words of poetry.

Tomorrow (Thursday, April 18 to be exact), The League of Canadian Poets will roll out nature’s leafy-green carpet to present Poem in Your Pocket Day, another initiative for its National Poetry Month 2019 (#NPM19) celebration. According to the League’s website, “you can carry a poem, share a poem, or even start your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event.”

Have you checked your mailbox lately? Look at what the League snail-mailed to me the other day! I’ve decided to share it a few hours early.

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#HeartwoodPoet – For the Love of Trees

“Poems fall like leaves until/wheelbarrows sag from collected rain.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

Yesterday’s e-mail from the League of Canadian Poets arrived unexpectedly like the popped cork from a champagne bottle.

“We are so excited that Heartwood is finally out in the world!” wrote Madison Stoner, Communications Coordinator for the League.

Heartwood - front cover image

Heartwood is published by The League of Canadian Poets, 2018. It includes 154 poems by League poets representing every province and territory in Canada.

I could feel the effervescence tingling in her words and the anticipated release of congratulatory balloons on a Facebook page. Bravo to editor Lesley Strutt and all the Canadian contributors and compilers and designers and more who worked behind the scenes on this important project. The League’s fundraising anthology Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees reinforced my own interest in nature and the importance of trees for our well-being. How wonderful to know that others felt the same way. I was pleased to tag along!

According to the Amazon posting, this collection published by the League “features poets from every province and territory celebrating the immeasurable value trees have for the environment and the soul.”

“Trees matter,” wrote Strutt on the back cover of the 288-page anthology, “and we have written about them with the windows of our hearts open, breathing in the good air that the forests provide.”

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From England to the Yukon: Joanna Lilley Infuses a Magical Dimension into her Poetry

What if the dotted line/of the Arctic Circle just above me//on the map is a perforation?/What if the piece of the world/I’m on tears off? Joanna Lilley*

In a quiet space called imagination, a magical trail of ink flows from Joanna Lilley’s words and seeps inside my head. It swirls and stirs like eddies in a remote stream and my admiration deepens for the lyrical work of this award-winning Yukon-based and UK-born poet.


Yukon-based poet Joanna Lilley’s second poetry collection will be published by Turnstone Press in the Spring 2017.

Not all poetry books speak to me, but Lilley’s debut collection, The Fleece Era, ranks high with my favourites: North End Love Songs (J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing, 2012) by Katherena Vermette and The Shunning (Turnstone Press, 1980) by Patrick Friesen.

Published by Brick Books in 2014, her 96-page book has garnered many positive reviews including one by the current Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke who wrote in The Chronicle Herald: “I’m reminded of Emily Dickinson’s semi-mystical, epigrammatic lyrics, but also Elizabeth Bishop’s pointillist portraiture—the exquisite image and restrained emotion.”

For me, it’s Lilley’s gripping first line: “They could look down/on me from Google Earth” that draws me into her narrative plus the way she describes the northern community of Whitehorse where “aspen shadows dress/the snow in long blue ribbons” that gently nets me like an Arctic Grayling.

I’m on the edge of her poetic wilderness, turning each page, discovering new (and sometimes surreal) ways of looking at everyday living. For example, she writes: “I’m climbing the clay/looking for the steel/that holds up the clouds”. I applaud her dry wit where “cows/are the shape of the United States”.

Divided into four sections (A Riddle, Emotional Expenditure, At Each Exhale, and Nobody Else Dies), this book of 64 poems explores such common themes as familial relationships, (“you were a white-bread brother/in a brown bread house”) childlessness, the breaking away, the wanderer, environmental concerns (“my brain was a net/of dripping dead fish”), regrets, grief, and her move to the Yukon where “A mezzanine of mountains/surround this basement town”. However, what makes the book outstanding and worthy of a five-star rating on Goodreads is the simple yet beautiful language she uses and the way these themes are infused with original and enthralling metaphors.


The Fleece Era by Joanna Lilley received rave reviews and a five-star ranking by this blogger on Goodreads.

In her favourite poem “Earth Twin”, she writes: “If anyone asks whether I believe/in life on other planets, I say yes/right away.”

I love how she stretches the boundaries of her imagination and leaves the reader holding another strong and magical image.

In anticipation of her new book to be released by Winnipeg’s Turnstone Press in the spring 2017, I asked Lilley about her writing process. Below is her response:

Congratulations Joanna on your first poetry book The Fleece Era published by Brick Books. Please describe your book in a few sentences.

The Fleece Era is my first collection of poems and so I think it has its origins in many different stages of my life. The common theme for me is the awkwardness and difficulty of everyday living. The poems are very personal, though not to say autobiographical. They wrestle with the guilt that so many of us feel, from the detrimental impact we’re having on the planet to the pain we cause our families and others we love. I’ve been told the theme of childlessness is rather strong too which for me is very much connected to environmental worries.

What is your favourite poem in the collection and why do you like it so much?

That’s a difficult question! It varies, I think, depending on what’s going on in the world and in my current writing. I seem to like including “Earth Twin” when I give readings. It’s the last poem in the book and I like sharing it because it came out of such an ordinary, everyday activity, namely doing the dishes and listening to the radio. I love how we can find poetry in absolutely everything. That’s why poetry is magical for me. I love how everything from doing the dusting to, say, designing a space ship is all part of the human experience.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

I don’t think my writing achieves anything special in terms of form or subject matter. I think it’s more about content. My poems emerge entirely out of my individual experience. I’m the only person who has led my life just as you’re the only person who has led yours. Each of our lives is a unique configuration of possibilities, probabilities and inevitabilities. Only I could have written the poems I write, just as other poets could only have written theirs.

I have introduced you as a Yukon-based poet but you were actually born in Newmarket, Suffolk [in England] and according to your bio, you lived in England, Wales and Scotland before you moved to Whitehorse, Yukon about ten years ago. How important is travelling and living in different cities and countries to a writer? Where do your loyalties live? Would you consider yourself a Canadian or European writer? Or does it matter whether you are associated with a certain locale?

I think for me personally, travelling and moving has been very important for my writing but that’s not to say it’s important for every writer. I think you could live in one place all your life as a writer and perhaps even be a better writer because of it, as you’re delving deeper and deeper into your subject matter and paying more and more attention to the same, familiar surroundings.

For me, moving to Canada helped my writing a great deal as it enabled me to step out from under at least some of the weight of being brought up in a country with a very glorious and yet intimidating literary history. Canada has a rich literary history too, of course, but it wasn’t telling me from my childhood onwards that it was ridiculous and presumptuous for me to even imagine I could be part of the literary world.


Joanna Lilley reads from The Fleece Era during the Edmonton Poetry Festival in April 2015.

I find that geography inspires me, which is why moving around and living in different places has always been important to me. I find it easier to be an observer when I’m in a new setting and I admit I enjoy that role, although I also use the same observer device when I’m in a place that’s very familiar to me as it helps me be mindful and present.

As for loyalties, well, they’re certainly split. I feel very privileged that I can consider myself a citizen of two countries. I’ll always be English but I hope I’m considered as a Canadian writer too, especially as my books have been published by Canadian presses. I’ve never really felt European because growing up in Britain, Europe was across the sea. Europe was Abroad. However, I was very saddened by the Brexit decision when Britain voted to leave the European Union. Thats a mistake as far as I’m concerned.

I also feel lucky that within Canada I’m considered a Yukon writer. The Whitehorse community has been very welcoming to me and I’m grateful for that. I’m always happy to chat to people who want to know more about life in the north.

I understand Brick Books encouraged and supported you on your first book tour. Can you provide some details in a couple of lines? What did you like best about the experience? What did you like the least?

Kitty Lewis at Brick Books had the amazing idea of four of their poets, including me, doing a trans-Canada reading tour. The four of us – me with Karen Enns, Jane Munro and Arleen Pare – read all across the country coast to coast from Victoria to Fredericton. Brick Books provided some of the funding and so did the Government of Yukon’s Touring Artist Fund and the League of Canadian Poets.

It was the most amazing experience. I’d been trying to get a book published for so long, it was a dream come true. What I enjoyed most was reading with such amazing authors in such a variety of cities. What did I like the least? Well, at the very first reading, in Victoria, where the four of us had only just met a few minutes earlier, I, as the rookie poet with just one book, had to stand up and read first. So I had to read in front of a hundred people without having heard any of the others read which was terrifying. Thankfully everyone was very supportive and kind and I got through it and even had fun.


The Birthday Books (Hagios Press, 2015) is Joanna Lilley’s first short story collection.

Brick Books published your poetry collection in 2014 and in 2015, your short story collection The Birthday Books was published by Hagios Press in their Strike Fire New Authors Collection. That’s quite an accomplishment to be proficient in two different literary disciplines. How do you juggle your writing schedule to accommodate the two different writing disciplines?

I’ve been writing for a long, long time and so I suppose over the years you build up quite a bit of work even if you’re writing in different disciplines. And then, if you’re lucky and a miracle happens, you get published. I’ve always worked full-time and fitted my writing around that in the evenings and weekends. I’m usually either focusing on poetry or fiction at any one time. It’s hard to do both on the same day because I seem to go to a different part of my brain for each one. I see poetry and fiction though as part of the same rainbow, as it were; they might be at different ends or they might be different colours, but they’re all the same thing really.

Describe your writing process.

When I write I need silence and I need to be relaxed. Writing when I first wake up is lovely if I can manage it because I’m in a dreamy state and my editing hat is hopefully where I left it in another room. I need to know I have time to write slotted into my schedule or I get jittery. I can’t just write for five minutes, although if that was all I had then I would because not writing at all wouldn’t be an option. I aim to write every day and I admit I get rather grumpy if I have to go more than a day without writing.

What inspires you? Who are your mentors?

As someone who didn’t have a book published until later in life, I’m always inspired by hearing about writers who persevere and write what’s true to their heart. My most recent mentor was Gail Anderson-Dargatz. I did a novel mentorship program with her earlier this year which was an enormous help. She asks such powerful, probing questions and is so encouraging and inspiring.


Joanna Lilley in Vancouver’s Stanley Park during the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Celebrations.

I’m also part of a small writing group in Whitehorse which really helps me keep going. The other writers in the group are incredibly inspiring and we support each other through the inevitable ups and downs.

Every time I read a novel or a poem that I love I feel inspired – and envious of course! It was because I loved reading so much that I dreamed of being a writer. I remember a time when I didn’t really know any writers and now I feel so fortunate that I have friendships and connections with quite a few. It’s not easy being a writer and dealing with the frustrations of the writing process and all the rejections but I also feel blessed that I love writing so much and that I’m in that world.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a collection, hopefully, of poems about extinct animals. I’m also working on a novel.

What are your future plans?

I’m keen to keep working on the animal poems and the novel. My second poetry collection is coming out with Turnstone Press in spring 2017 so I’m absolutely delighted about that.

Do you have any special events this month where readers may hear your work?

As it happens I’m reading at The Word on the Street in Saskatoon on 18 September. I’m reading and talking about short stories with Donna Besel. There are some details here. I also put details of my upcoming readings on my website so that’s a good place to check for future events.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

I’ve mentioned it already but I’m so grateful that I have writing in my life. It’s helped me so much through life’s difficulties. Just as there’s magic in reading, there’s magic in the process of writing itself and it brings me so much joy.

Thanks Joanna for the interview. I can’t wait to read your next book. Please keep in touch.

Find out more about Joanna at www.joannalilley.com

Information about The Fleece Era can be found on the Brick Books website.

Information about The Birthday Books can be found on the Hagios Press website.

*from the poem “Earth Crack” published in the book The Fleece Era (Brick Books, 2014) page 87. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2014 Joanna Lilley

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

Anthology Editors to Kick-Off Sarnia’s #NPM16 Celebration April 3

Six Ontario anthology editors/contributors including Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and Keith Inman, an internationally published, award-winning poet will join local writers for “The Pathways of Poetry Gathering”, Sunday, April 3, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 poster for distribution jpg version

Hosted by TOPS, this year’s local National Poetry Month Celebration will include book launches, featured readings by the editors/TOPS anthology contributors and an open mic for all poets. Participants are encouraged to share “road or journey” themed verse in keeping with The League of Canadian Poets’ 2016 poetry month initiatives. Admission is free and is open to the public. Sign-up for open mic readers is at the door.

Travelling to and reading in Sarnia for the first time is Keith Inman (Thorold/St. Catharines), editor of Latchkey Lyricality, a TOPS membership anthology to be released this autumn. He is also the coordinator of this year’s Banister contest anthology to be published by the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association and is author of War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014). His spotlight reading is being sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets/Canada Council for the Arts “Canada Poetry Tours” program.

He will be joined by Fran Figge (Stoney Creek) who is also President of Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society, the oldest poetry workshop group in North America. Figge will launch her new chapbook fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) and will also showcase The PoeTrain Anthology, a selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrain projects, 2015).

Local editors/contributors Norma West Linder, Venera Fazio and Rhonda Melanson will launch two books from TOPS EnCompass anthology series. Sarnia editor/poet/photographer Lynn Tait will also be spotlighted. Lambton County poet Debbie Okun Hill will emcee.

“Over the last decade, Sarnia has lost several poetry mentors,” said I. B. Iskov, TOPS founding member. “Great poets including Peggy Fletcher, Hope Morritt, and Adele Kearns Thomas are deeply missed. Their passing has left a deep chasm in the poetry map of Sarnia. However, Sarnia poets continue to play a major role not only in this grassroots organization but also in the national poetry scene.”

The Ontario Poetry Society was founded in 2000 to create a democratic, not-for-profit, poetry-friendly organization for members to unite in camaraderie, friendship, emotional support and encouragement.

Future TOPS events include “The Spring into Poetry Party”, May 15 in Cobourg, Ontario and “The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering, August 21 in London, Ontario.

Additional information can be found on the TOPS website.


TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 Out of Town FEATURED BOOKS poster for distribution

FRAN FIGGE – President of The Ontario Poetry Society, Editor/Compiler of several books: The PoeTrain Anthology, SCARLET THISTLES -TOPS 2014 Membership Anthology, ENCOMPASS III and V; and contributor to ENCOMPASS II. Figge is also the president of Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society and a member of the Canadian Authors Association. She has read her poetry and won contests across Ontario and west to Vancouver. fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) and hope and despair in the ark (lyricalmyrical, 2013) are her two poetry chapbooks. The escarpment in Stoney Creek Ontario is her calming breath, backyard refuge and inspiration. Additional information about SCARLET THISTLES can be found here.

KEITH INMAN – Editor/Compiler of LATCHKEY LYRICALITY – TOPS 2016 Membership Anthology. Inman is an internationally published, award winning poet. His book, The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press 2014), earned strong reviews for poetry about ‘the common experiences of people…touched by war’ (Canlit #223). Keith lives in an old stone home overlooking the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada. Additional information about Inman can be found here.


fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) by Fran Figge. Figge’s second chapbook is a selection of many of her prize winning poems.

The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (PoeTrain Projects, 2015) Edited and compiled by Fran Figge This 56-page collection features the work of 23 participants in the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour held during last year’s National Poetry Month Celebrations. Additional information about this anthology can be found here.

 The War Poems: Screaming from Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) by Keith Inman. In this 67 poem collection, “Inman masterfully uses poetry to weave stories of lost or gained innocence, death, joy, hard work, and humour – and characterizes them to show that they are the traits that built Canada. Inman shows that we did not become a country via some specific battle or war – war being a set of circumstance gone wrong. Canada is much more than that. We are people who continually reason through change.”


VENERA FAZIO –Contributor to ENCOMPASS IV. Fazio’s poetry book The Fabric of My Soul was recently published by Longbridge Books, 2015. Born in Italy, she has co-edited six anthologies relating to her culture of origin. Her poetry and prose have been published in literary magazines in Canada and abroad.

NORMA WEST LINDEREditor/Compiler of ENCHANTED CROSSROADS – TOPS 2006 Membership Anthology and contributor to ENCOMPASS V. Linder is a member of The Writers Union of Canada, The Ontario Poetry Society, and Writers International Through Sarnia. She’s a novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her latest poetry collection, Two Paths through the Seasons (with James Deahl) was published in Israel. A children’s book, The Pastel Planet has just been released by Hidden Brook Press.

RHONDA MELANSONContributor to ENCOMPASS IV. Melanson graduated from Queen’s University’s Artist In The Community Education program and is currently a Grade 8 teacher for the Lambton Kent District School Board.  She is the author of a chapbook called Gracenotes, published by Beret Days Press.  She has also been published in many print and online journals, including Boxcar Poetry Review, Quills and the Windsor Review.

LYNN TAIT – Co-Editor/Compiler (with the late Adele Kearns Thomas) for SOUNDING THE SECONDS – TOPS 2008 Membership Anthology, contributor to ENCOMPASS I, and cover art photographer for TOPS SOUNDING THE SECONDS and SCARLET THISTLES anthologies and for the ENCOMPASS series. Tait is an awarding winning poet/photographer who has published in various literary magazines and journals including Freefall, CV2, Vallum, Feathertale Review and in over 70 anthologies. She was shortlisted in Freefall’s 2014 Poetry Contest and Hamilton’s GritLIT’s 2015 Poetry Contest. Her chapbook “Breaking Away” was published by TOPS in 2002.

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 FEATURED BOOKS


DEBBIE OKUN HILL –Past President of The Ontario Poetry Society, Editor/Compiler of MINDSHADOWS –TOPS 2015 Membership Anthology and contributor to ENCOMPASS I. Okun Hill has been writing poetry full-time since 2004 and has over 325 poems published in literary journals across Canada and the United States. She enjoys promoting the work of other writers and often blogs about her literary journey on this Kites Without Strings website.

Additional “behind the scenes” information about editing/compiling MINDSHADOWS can be found here.


Special thanks to The League of Canadian Poets/Canada Council for the Arts for their Canada Poetry Tours program. Additional sponsors can be found here.




The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015 – A Retrospective by David Brydges

The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour (Ottawa to Vancouver – April 15 to 26, 2015) was a great success.

In spite of having to change our travel itinerary in being unable to travel by train to Winnipeg due to derailments and a backlog of freight trains, plus the late train arrivals in Winnipeg and Edmonton, the PoeTrainers adapted showing much patience and flexibility.

D.C. Reid was the PoeTrain Laureate for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015.

D.C. Reid was the PoeTrain Laureate for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015.

Our mission/mandate was to travel across Canada to support and stimulate the celebration and promotion of poetry for National Poetry Month.

A grand coalition of 22 poets, musicians, and train lovers co-created cultural festivities to engage the general public on and off the train. Key events were organized in Ottawa (Pressed Café), Toronto (Hot House Restaurant & Bar), Winnipeg (Fort Garry Hotel Salon A), Edmonton (Edmonton City Hall), and Vancouver (Café Deux Soleils).  These readings enthused local poetry communities along the route to revitalize Spring’s poetic pulse.

Joanna Lilley and Kelsey Knight during Marsha Barber's launch of her new book. DC Reid passes the talking feather.

Joanna Lilley and Kelsey Knight during Marsha Barber’s launch of her new book. (Four poets received Canada Poetry Tour grants thanks to the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts.) DC Reid passes the talking feather.

Four past and present Poet Laureates participated in our city stop events. George Elliott Clarke Toronto Poet Laureate, Alice Major Edmonton’s first Poet Laureate, Rachel Rose Vancouver Poet Laureate, and our Parliamentary Poet Laureate Michel Pleau attended our final show in Vancouver.

Alice Major, Edmonton's first poet laureate welcomes the PoeTrainers to the Edmonton Poetry Festival event at City Hall.

Alice Major, Edmonton’s first poet laureate welcomes the PoeTrainers to the Edmonton Poetry Festival event at City Hall.

We met a poet from Nova Scotia Quincy who joined us along with a Via Rail employee who has written every day for the past 10 years. Via’s David shared a couple of poems he wrote specifically for us.

Laura Byrne Paquet , an international travel writer who travelled with the group, also reawakened her poetic pulse. In a recent e-mail, she said, “Hi David, It’s taken me a few days to come back to earth after the amazing PoeTrain trip! Thank you SO much for inviting me along. It was one of the memorable trips of my life.” Laura also wrote a haiku saying she had not written poetry since she was sixteen.

A special thank you to the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts for providing seven grants including four Canada Reading Tour grants for Blaine Marchand, Marsha Barber, DC Reid, and Debbie Okun Hill to perform/workshop on the train. Also thanks for three food and poetry grants for Blaine Marchand Ottawa, Kathy Figueroa Toronto, and Rachel Rose Vancouver. The food and poetry theme was well integrated into six food inspired event dinners in a private home, cafes, and a final picnic in Stanley Park to honour Pauline Johnson.

Kent Bowman, one of the key organizers behind the tour, is seen with the talking feather.

Kent Bowman, one of the key organizers behind the tour, is seen with the talking feather.

DC Reid was our first Poetrain Laureate and carried the talking feather (a symbol of respect for the one who speaks their truth) to events on and off the train. We had Algonquin elder/poet Albert Dumont in Ottawa bless the talking feather before it embarked on its journey. The feather was gifted to hosts in Ottawa Lesley Strutt, Toronto Kate Marshall Flaherty, and Winnipeg Bruce Symaka for Speaking Crow reading series coordinator Chimwemwe Undi, and in Edmonton Alice Major. In Vancouver Bonnie Nish and Kathy Figueroa received the talking feather to take back to their poetry communities.

Via Rail Canada provided us with a skyline dome car for our performances, workshops, and music concerts. Much gratitude to League members Paul Sanderson and Ian Ferrier for performing for the Artist On Board program. Your great chemistry and musical magic was well enjoyed by all.

Kelsey Knight reflects in VIA's Skyline Dome Car.

Kelsey Knight reflects in VIA’s Skyline Dome Car.

Two publishers participated in providing  two League members for readings/book launches on the PoeTrain. Brick Books from Eastern Canada sponsored Joanna Lilley and Western Canada University of Alberta sponsored Ella Zeltserman.

Poets, passengers, and the public met the world’s first robot poet my kulturBOT 3.0 co-designed by Ryerson University professor Dr. Frauke Zeller and McMaster University professor Dr.  David Harris Smith. This digitally-savvy guest rode the rails in an inaugural trip. The world’s first robot poet my kulturBOT 3.0 couldn’t talk but would only print out poems connected to the content of the famous explorer David Thompson’s diaries.

David Brydges, artistic director for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour as well as Pat Connors, one of the key organizers interacts with My kulturbot 3.0, the world's first robot poet to ride a train.

David Brydges, artistic director for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour as well as Pat Connors, one of the key organizers interacts with my kulturBOT 3.0, the world’s first robot poet to ride a train.

Several poets and some of the general public read short 100 word poems on and off the train. A social media campaign was organized by Alexandra Pavliuc a Ryerson student who posted photos /videos on www.hitchbot.me . We human poets had fun breathing real life into these whimsical style poems throughout the trip. A poet in Edmonton reading one of the David Thompson diary inspired poems said she liked a phrase and would use it in her next poem.

Canadian Poet Blaine Marchand finds inspiration in VIA's Skyline Dome Car.

Canadian Poet Blaine Marchand finds inspiration in VIA’s Skyline Dome Car.

Kids at the Edmonton train station loved it and had all kinds of suggestions for hats. One guy at the Jasper train station thought the lemon squeezer on top of robot’s head was a tip tray and threw a loonie in as one of the poet/musicians played in front of the BOT. In Vancouver robopoet was seated on a table along with the poets. Amusing, entertaining the curious…for when do you have a robot poet attend a poetry event or for that matter travel across Canada on the train? A perfect complement to a most innovative week of poetry celebrations.

If a group bonds in community, happiness naturally magnifies. When we begin to serve/dedicate ourselves to the better happiness of others we all prosper. Our collective spirits indeed did shine.

Poetry at heart is a pure journey.

Travelling a literary landscape

of discoveries and re-discoveries.

In the end the poetry pioneer

arrives at the same place

as where they began.

Collecting gold dust memories

along the brightened trail.

Special appreciation and thanks to the volunteer organizing team of Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, Kate Marshall Flaherty, and Patrick Connors. Your go getter and go giver attitude made this a reality of legacy memories. Patrick Connors read a Nik Beat poem throughout the trip as he originally was part of the organizing team but died suddenly in September 2014.

Participants in the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015 Supplied Photo

Participants in the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour made an unexpected and extended stop in Winnipeg. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet

Congratulations to the PoeTrainers for keeping the spirit of adventure alive and bonding into a beautiful and epic memory journey. Much poetry was read by the PoeTrainers in each city visited and several open mics on the train. Your diverse and varied voices were an oral mosaic of the Canadian poetic identity. New poetry flowed on the train for a selection of train poems by Canadian poets for an anthology that is to be published shortly.

Ian Ferrier performed both off the on the train.

Ian Ferrier performed both off and on the train.

A huge thank you to all our 40 sponsors and supporters who generously provided grants, gifted their services, and financial donations. In particular my Vancouver coordinator contact Josephine Wasch  Sr Manager, International & Domestic Sales  who was highly professional, efficient, and  immaculate in helping organize the many moving parts of this PoeTrain project.

Via Rail provided the complementary Skyline Car between Winnipeg and Edmonton on Tuesday April 21 and again on the final journey between Edmonton and Vancouver on Friday April 24.

Paul Sanderson shared music and poetry.

Paul Sanderson shared music and poetry.

VIA Rail sponsored two poet/musicians (Ian Ferrier and Paul Sanderson) to travel on the Canadian, between Toronto and Edmonton, and then Edmonton and Vancouver as part of our Canadian Talent (musician/ poet) Artist On Board program. They entertained passengers in the Park car and in our skyline Car. On the last night they did a special concert for the economy class passengers that was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed. Paul Sanderson also did an impromptu music set at the Jasper station during our short stop.

Laura Byrne Paquet was given a complimentary cabin and she blogged, took photos, and is submitting her story of our journey to various travel magazines.

Ontario poet Fran Figge was one of several poets who had never seen the Rockies before.

Fran Figge, current President of The Ontario Poetry Society AND Tower Poetry Society, was one of several poets who had never seen the Rockies before but first, a stop in Edmonton.

So many memories...

So many memories…

The on board staff at Winnipeg and Edmonton departures were excellent in providing lunch/dinner vouchers for first call which helped us with our on board program. They were continuously supportive throughout the two legs of the trip from Winnipeg to Edmonton and then Edmonton to Vancouver.

A big thanks to Michael Wheelen who was commissioned to take photos of the “Canadian” passing the Rockies. We used his photos for our poster, website home page, t-shirt design, official program, and our train poem anthology book cover.

David Brydges is the artistic director of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015. A special thank you for his guest blog post.

Clickity-clack...we'll be back...

Clickity-clack…we’ll be back…

For additional information about the Tour as well as a list of 2015 participants, check the official website here. Previous PoeTrain blog posts appear here , here, and here.

Additional photos and comments about the tour will be posted in the near future.


PoeTrainers Head West – Ottawa – Toronto – Winnipeg – Edmonton – Vancouver

The adventure has changed but certainly not the adventure as a group of PoeTrainers travel westward and inward bringing poetry to the public during National Poetry Month. Poets have always been attracted to a journey and this will be a most memorable week of the “best poetry event in 2015”.            –David C. Brydges,  Artistic Director, Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour

All Aboard! Clickity-clack…the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is about to begin.  What started out as one-poet’s vision will soon turn into reality. Despite some of the glitches of not being able to start the journey on the east coast and the last minute decision to skip the Toronto-Winnipeg leg due to recent derailments in northern Ontario, the adventure moves forward. As the promotional poster states: “26 poets. 5 cities. Epic Journey”

All Aboard! Photo courtesy: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website.

All Aboard! Photo courtesy: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website.

Some of the PoeTrainers have already packed their bags and are heading their way to Ottawa for Wednesday April 15’s kick-off celebration. Others will join the festivities along the way with PoeTrain events also planned for Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver. For those on the train, poetry will not only fill the Skyline Dome Car Lounge but will spill with musical notes into the Park Car as well.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Ottawa Event April 15, 2015 poster

One of the special passengers will be my kulturBOT 3.0, a robotic artwork created by Dr. David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Dr. Fauke Zeller of Ryerson University. This usual bard features a roving mobility system, a pasta strainer, a thermal printer, camera, and bicycle flag.

According to a Ryerson University Public Affairs Media Release, “this ‘self-publishing’ robot, will produce ‘found’ poetry derived from the writings of the geographer and fur-trader David Thompson…Images and poems by my kulturBOT 3.0 will be publicized via its twitter and Facebook accounts. See the links here.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour  Toronto Event April 17, 2015 poster

An anthology of train-themed poems by PoeTrain participants is also expected to be produced and National Poetry Month will be celebrated with food-themed poems. DC Reid, a former president of The League of Canadian Poets will be the PoeTrain’s first poet laureate. Several other members of the league will be featured thanks to Canada Reading Tour funding via the Canada Council for the Arts. Paul Sanderson and Ian Ferrier will entertain as part of the Artist on Board program. Special thanks to all the sponsors who made this adventure possible. Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser Winnipeg Event poster

Clickity-clack! We’ll be back!

Follow this blog for future updates on the tour.

An earlier blog post on the PoeTrain appears here.

The official Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website with a list of participants, scheduled events and sponsors appear here.


This Canada Day…More Applause for Award-winning Canadian Poets

“Every so often, one comes across a poet and sees what makes poetry, poetry.” – Judges citation describing Anne Compton, winner of the 2014 Raymond Souster Award and author of Alongside (Fitzhenry and Whiteside).

Today, on Canada Day, all Canadian poets should be read and applauded. There are over 700 professional poets enrolled as members of the League of Canadian Poets and many more writers who are writing poetry at the grassroots level or for personal enjoyment. To select and spotlight the cream from the top must be a daunting task and yet each year, poetry awards are presented in an attempt to draw attention to certain poetic greatness and, yes, to sell more books.

The short-listed and award winners at the 48th annual League of Canadian Poets Poetry Festival and Conference

The short-listed and award winners at the 48th annual League of Canadian Poets Poetry Festival and Conference

bill bissett received the Sheri D. Wilson Golden Beret Award for his influence and impact on spoken word in Canada.

bill bissett received the Sheri D. Wilson Golden Beret Award for his influence and impact on spoken word in Canada.

One of the highlights of this year’s 48th annual League of Canadian Poets Poetry Festival and Conference early June at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in downtown Toronto was the awards dinner gala. The announcement of the winners is already old news but is worth repeating again for those who may have missed the excitement. See the League website for a media release on the gala presentations. The snapshots (my own) are being posted for the first time.

Behold the unique poetic voices rising like red and white flags from their books.

One more round of applause for these award-winners and for their contributions to the Canadian literary scene.

Happy Canada Day!

Anne Compton won the Raymond Souster Award for her book Alongside (Fitzhenry and Whiteside)

Anne Compton won the Raymond Souster Award for her book Alongside (Fitzhenry and Whiteside)


Murray Reiss won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for his book The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild (Hagios Press)

Murray Reiss won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for his book The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild (Hagios Press)

Alexandra Oliver won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for her book Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway (Biblioasis)

Alexandra Oliver won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for her book Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway (Biblioasis)

Allan Briesmaster received the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award.

Allan Briesmaster received the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award

The Honouraray Life Membership Award went to Kitty Lewis, General Manager of Brick Books

The Honourary Life Membership Award went to Kitty Lewis, General Manager of Brick Books

Missing from Photos: The Life Membership Award was given to Sheri-D Wilson