Tag Archives: Ottawa

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.

 

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Ottawa: A Poetic Glimpse

“Looking for beavers, moose
and Mounties.”

He laughs. I laugh too, try

to pretend I wasn’t serious.

-Ronnie R. Brown*

Ottawa Sightseeing October 2014 photo 1If you are a travelling poet, a weekend visit to Ottawa isn’t long enough. Yes, in three days you can squeeze in an afternoon poetry reading, visit the National Gallery of Canada and wander across the river to Gatineau, Quebec to marvel at the towering totem poles in the Canadian Museum of History. You might even be fortunate to see wildlife such as beaver or moose venturing across a road or to encounter Mounties also known as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). However, this glimpse of Canada’s capital city only represents a thin layer of the heightened cultural exchange that permeates the area.

Ottawa Sightseeing October 2014 photo 2

For example, a young poet once told me that after moving from Ottawa, she missed and craved the vibrant, creative literary scene that had become part of her university existence: poetry icons like prolific writer and promoter rob mclennan, bywords  (an on-line and print journal that provides a focal point for Ottawa poetry, literary information, and events) and the vast array of readings like the Tree Reading Series which is considered to be one of Canada’s longest running literary events.

Spotlight Reader Henry Beissel shares work from "Fugitive Horizons" (Guernica Press). The book was a finalist for the 2014 Ottawa Book Award: Fiction awarded for outstanding works of fiction including novels, short stories, children's literature and poetry.

Henry Beissel shared work from “Fugitive Horizons” (Guernica Press). The book was a finalist for the 2014 Ottawa Book Award: Fiction awarded for outstanding works of fiction including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry.

Ottawa is also the home of ARC Poetry magazine, a literary magazine that has shared poetry with readers across Canada and beyond for over 30 years. Twice a year, the Ottawa International Writers’ Festival celebrates the diversity of word with presentations by local and international writers. Last week, the Ottawa small press book fair celebrated its twentieth anniversary fall 2014 edition.

There is more: A quick search on the internet reveals a calendar filled with three or four literary events each day. Click here for more information.

Also it’s difficult to think or write about Ottawa now, without reflecting on Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the Canadian soldier who was fatally shot by a gunman at the National War Memorial last month. This horrific news impacted not only Ottawa residents but people across Canada and the world. Perhaps at some point, poetry can heal these emotional wounds but for now the mourning continues and cultural activities can help pull people together.

Spotlight Launch Reader Catina Noble shares work from two new Poetry Friendly Press chapbooks "Pussyfoot" (series #17) and "Clean Up in Aisle 4" (series #20). This year Catina was the 'poetry category' winner of the Canadian Author Association's 2014 National Capital Writing Contest. Congratulations

Catina Noble displays work from two new Poetry Friendly Press chapbooks “Pussyfoot” (series #17) and “Clean Up in Aisle 4” (series #20). This year she was the ‘poetry category’ winner of the Canadian Author Association’s 2014 National Capital Writing Contest.

Earlier in October, The Ontario Poetry Society was in Ottawa for a members’ reading and open mic held at Pressed, a Gladstone Street restaurant.  Three spotlight readers Ronnie R. Brown (Un-Deferred: A Draft Dodger’s Wife Remembers, Beret Days Press), Catina Noble (Poetry Friendly Press chapbooks Pussyfoot (series #17) and Clean Up in Aisle 4 (series #20) and Henry Beissel (Fugitive Horizons, Guernica Press) stepped onto the stage and introduced new work. Additional readers included: Gill Foss, Carol Stephen, Debbie Okun Hill, Fran Figge, I. B. Iskov, Tom McGregor and J. C. Sulzenko. New members were Helen Johansen, Sylvia Adams and Shery Alexander Heinis.

“What a beautiful day to network, meet new writers and celebrate the poetic gifts of others!”

This Sunday, November 16, The Ontario Poetry Society travels to Oakville where they will host The Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering, their next members’ reading and open mic. Sign up for readers is at the door. More information can be found here. Admission free. Open to the public.

Spotlight Launch Reader Ronnie R. Brown shares work from "Un-Deferred: A Draft Dodger's Wife Remembers" (Beret Days Press) (winner of The Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award, 2013)

Ronnie R. Brown’s “Un-Deferred: A Draft Dodger’s Wife Remembers” (Beret Days Press) won The Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award, 2013.

*from the poem “IX. Another Kind of Road Trip”  Un-Deferred: A Draft Dodger’s Wife Remembers (Beret Days Press, 2013) © Ronnie R. Brown

The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

Several members of The Ontario Poetry Society read during a Sunday, October 25, 2014 reading in Ottawa.

Several members of The Ontario Poetry Society read during a Sunday, October 5, 2014 reading in Ottawa.