Tag Archives: Mark Clement

Behind the Scenes – Compiling a Membership Anthology

“It reminded me of working on a jigsaw puzzle.” –Debbie Okun Hill, editor/compiler, MINDSHADOWS (Beret Days Press, 2015)

Something magical happens when poets work together, when their voices interconnect to reveal additional insights.

2015 Anthology Themes: Swallowing Confusion; The Night's Not Long Enough; Casting Shadows; and Drinking The Light.

2015 MINDSHADOWS Anthology Sub-Themes: Swallowing Confusion; The Night’s Not Long Enough; Casting Shadows; and Drinking The Light.

Below is a sneak peek at the foreword for MINDSHADOWS, a Beret Days Press anthology showcasing the best work of contributing members of The Ontario Poetry Society. The books have arrived from the printers. Contributors’ copies will be shipped by the end of August.


Imagine navigating through a haunted maze, crunching corn stalks (or is it brittle bones?) beneath your hiking boots as the sky bleeds into darkness. You grip a red plastic flashlight in your right hand. Your left hand shakes with a scavenger hunt list. You search for poetic themes.

An owl hoots or is it the howl of a stuttering ghost? The moon leaps like a popped button from Dracula’s cape. The Big Dipper collects neighbouring stars and hides them behind the clouds. Call it a nightmare. Call it a dream. Call it MINDSHADOWS!

Your mind starts swirling. A weeping willow bends, grabs your arm but your foot sinks into a word-mire. You taste something bitter or sour like chokecherries but you haven’t eaten in days. The faint thump of a drum mimics your heart beat. The smell of smoke startles you. Ravens scatter. You know you must run…run as fast as a masked bandit towards the dance hall where a jazz band’s trumpet blares, where a single light bulb illuminates the path, beyond your black coffin.

What a challenging yet magical adventure it has been to compile and edit MINDSHADOWS, the 2015 membership anthology for The Ontario Poetry Society. As a night owl, I was eager to read this year’s submissions with themes confronting those times and events which plague our thoughts.

MINDSHADOWS sprouted from a heavy box of 81 poet folders with over 500 poems to select from.

MINDSHADOWS sprouted from a heavy box filled with 81 poet folders. Each folder contained between 5 to 10 poems. Who said an editor’s job was easy?

Bravo to the 81 emerging and established poets who stretched their imagination to create and submit their best work. One by one, I read and re-read each poet’s folder to select the strongest pieces not only for the theme but also for placement within the anthology. It reminded me of working on a jigsaw puzzle where the photograph on the box lid was missing. I had to listen carefully to the words and trust the myriad of poetic voices to guide my decisions. What started off as individual poems eventually merged into a collection of interconnected lines and verses categorized into four sub-themes:

SWALLOWING CONFUSION begins with the question WHY? I was pleased so many members examined the five senses in his/her writing. Ellen Elizabeth Stout writes, “Thirst leads me to the deep sea”. In this section poets explore the mind, how it confuses, plays tricks, and leads us astray. Read poems about games, deceptions, lies, dreams, nightmares and regrets. Nan Williamson adds hope with the line “I dreamed/you saved me from the drowning waves.”

THE NIGHT’S NOT LONG ENOUGH continues with this quest for answers as K.V. Skene asks “What if?” Here the writers focus on night life: dancing, nocturnal careers, birds and creatures that wander in the gray-black hours.

CASTING SHADOWS is eclectic, evolving and drifting like fog through black and white settings interspersed with fans of landscaped colour. What appears to be serene may actually be disturbing with street people, addictions, Halloween hauntings, fear, the atrocities of this world, and personalized encounters with death lurking on several pages.

Available soon from Beret Days Press! Book Cover illustrated by poet Elana Wolff.

Available soon from Beret Days Press! Book Cover illustrated by poet Elana Wolff.

DRINKING THE LIGHT yanks the reader out of the dark and into a more positive space filled with fireworks, the moon, constellations, campfires and candles. Stroll through various seasons. Find love and sunshine. As Fran Figge, the president of The Ontario Poetry Society writes in the last poem of the book: “my heart/brightens/into dandelion fluff/waltzing on the breeze.”

A membership project like this cannot happen without the team efforts of so many people: I.B. Iskov, founder/treasurer of The Ontario Poetry Society who continues to keep the grassroots poetry community alive, the 2014-2015 TOPS Executive who created the MINDSHADOWS theme and invited me to edit/compile this project, Elana Wolff and Katerina Fretwell who provided illustrations for the cover and sub-themed sections, Mark Clement and his endless work on design and layout, Fran Figge for assisting with the Author Bio Answers, the contributing poets, and finally you, the reader.

Enjoy your exploration through this anthology. As John B. Lee wrote in his poem “Her Dark Secret”: “it drinks/the light/and shines”. May you continue to grow, learn more about our world, and see each poet’s inner gift as a beautiful light.

–Debbie Okun Hill

tops logoEach year, The Ontario Poetry Society produces a beautiful anthology for its members. It’s an “optional” group project funded by the contributors to showcase their best work. Additional information can be found here.

The 2016 ‘members’ only’ submission call for next year’s Latchkey Lyricality anthology is located here. Keith Inman, author of The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) is the 2016 editor/compiler. Kate Kitchen is the illustrator. Deadline is March 15, 2016.

General information on The Ontario Poetry Society is linked here. A link listing the 81 MINDSHADOWS contributors as well as order information appears here.

DISCLAIMER: My comments on this blog post may be influenced by my involvement as a long-time member and former Executive Member of The Ontario Poetry Society. Of course, I wouldn’t belong to this organization if I didn’t believe in it.



Like a Compass, Poetry Anthologies are Great Travelling Buddies

Planning a winter escape? Try slipping a poetry anthology into your suitcase. I kid you not! Just because you became lost once or twice studying poetry in high school English class doesn’t mean the poetic journey is always a dense forest of words where your feet trip over meters and your eyes glaze over unfamiliar metaphors. Like with music, movies and novels, there are poetry books written to suit a variety of different tastes and styles. I must admit there was a time when I too didn’t quite understand poetry but now it consumes a large part of my life. The key is to find the poet and the poetic phrases that speak to you as an individual. An anthology helps to pull different voices together and then like a compass points you down different poetic paths. The reader is free to choose.

Below is my review of one of many Canadian anthologies available to the public to read. I must disclose that this particular series is dear to my heart because it spotlights and celebrates the work of many poets involved with The Ontario Poetry Society. In 2004, this grassroots organization grasped my unsteady literary hand and has since provided me with strength to not only write and share my poems but to create my own unique cobblestone road into the publishing jungle. I am forever thankful.

Edited and compiled by Fran Figge    Cover Art by Lynn Tait Spotlighting the work of Mark Clement, Norah Eastern, Silvana Sangiuliano, K.V. Skene and Ed Woods Beret Days Press 2013, 72 pages I.S.B.N. 978-1-897497-88-3

Edited and compiled by Fran Figge Cover Art by Lynn Tait
Spotlighting the work of Mark Clement, Norah Eastern, Silvana Sangiuliano, K.V. Skene and Ed Woods
Beret Days Press 2013, 72 pages
I.S.B.N. 978-1-897497-88-3

            Bravo to The Ontario Poetry Society for showcasing the work of five more Canadian poets in the third anthology in their EnCompass series.  Over 72 pages of eclectic work rolling onto the red carpet and stitched together in seamless fashion! Fran Figge sparkles in her debut as editor/compiler.


Mark Clement

Mark Clement

Mark Clement’s work starts off with a modified drum roll. His simple short lines mimic the rhythmic sound of drumbeats. He writes: “Beat/upon the empty drum/hear the hollow sound”. Best known for his tributes to nature, Mark uses sound words and haiku form to capture unique characteristics of autumn leaves, feathers, grass, water and “birds that sing in the dark”. His narrative people’s poet style often draws on humour to make the work stand out. His most memorable poems are Dear Dr. Leftover with a focus on “unemployed socks” and Grocery Store Man who shops for a poem in the food aisles.


Norah Eastern

Norah Eastern

  In contrast, Norah Eastern’s work startles the reader but in a benevolent way. Drawing from her experiences as dance instructor and visual artist, Norah makes excellent use of visuals and rhythm in her work. She plays with her words. “It will crunch your savoury/soul, spitting out gritty pieces of art-ery like bone”. She not only masters more traditional forms of couplets, tercets and rhymes but also experiments with humour and surreal images such as “dip the hands of Dali’s clock/in dripping chocolate”.  Her strength lies in injecting mundane subjects with thought provoking images. In Wildflowers, she writes “At twilight, rainbow hues of a/miniature snapdragon army/open their mouths and receive/the sacrament of raindrops”.

            Silvana Sangiuliano’s collection of 14 poems showcases heartwarming odes to the river and sunshine as well as intimate and family love. Her work is filled with such words as caress, breath and soul and in one poem she writes “light penetrates the core of my being”. Her close attention to details is evident in this description of a child who “springs out of bed like a carefree slinky”. However, it doesn’t take long for the hardships of life to wear one down. Drawing from her Italian ancestry, she describes a wedding gown in the attic where “weeping/beads/hit/stained/hardwood”. Later “chocolate eyes melt” and “rosary beads scatter upon the floor”.


K.V. Skene

K.V. Skene

Like the wind, K. V. Skene pushes her images away from the traditional and nudges the reader to think beyond the horizon. As a veteran and award-winning poet, K.V. is at ease taking risks with language and poetic forms. Six of her poems stretch the wind theme and includes the flight of starlings and strings cut from kites. In the poem Bliss, she sarcastically writes “Behind/you roars the bloody dawn/cheering you on.” In another poem “I will listen while I inhale/exhale with the wind”. Other poems focus on ageing and dying: “that last gasp as youth/fades with the wallpaper” and “you can calculate her years/in ripples”. As she describes the world in chaos she adds “we may find an odd relaxation, a heightening/an unquantifiable joy in the irrational insanities/of the human heart.”


Ed Woods

Ed Woods

Of all the poets, Ed Woods uses the most minimalist style to describe topics as love, family, illness, dying and city life. His work can be tender and sensual or gritty depending on his topic. In his poem Bliss when the main character wakes from a dream: “rain pelts a dirty window/of basement existence”. The poem Angel Softness describes the process of dying and compares angels to UFOs. He shares the view of city nightlife from the perspective of a snow plow operator and describes a problem in urban sprawl where the rich “basks in a better view/than a shingled sunset.”

            To read just one poem is not enough. While this anthology offers an assorted platter of rich-creamy voices, it also tempts the reader to seek out additional work by those poets they favour the most.

            For more information about the EnCompass anthology series, check out The Ontario Poetry Society website.