Tag Archives: Pat Connors

The Pandemic Challenge – Introducing 2020 Books by 14 Ontario Poets

“Well-thumbed books are strewn on the sill haphazardly/after bedtime’s nightly storytelling” – Frances Roberts Reilly*

My home library overflows with books: stacks of novels in my living room, short story collections in the family room, poetry books in my office. You could say I have a love for words. The challenge is to balance reading and reviewing with other daily activities. I wish I had time to read them all and some day I hope I will.

If your goal is to support local authors and/or to read work by an Ontario poet, it’s never too late. Perhaps you can help me out by cheering them on! Order one of their books, ask the library to include several books in their collection, maybe even post a review on Goodreads or other review locations.

Last week, I introduced several new anthologies that included work by members of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS). See the post here. Today, I present new collections** by individual members. All were published in 2020. Congratulations to all!

Three Cheers for the Award-winning:

 Swoon (Guernica Editions 2020) By Elana Wolff  ISBN13: 9781771835077     ISBN10: 1771835079

Swoon by Elana Wolff won the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry.

Congratulations to TOPS Life Member Elana Wolff! Her most recent poetry collection Swoon was named winner of the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry. This is quite an honour as the award is presented annually in recognition of “the finest Canadian writing on Jewish themes and subjects”. See additional information here.

According to the September 29, 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards media release, “This collection of poems explores a variety of subjects but returns again and again to our longing for transcendence. Informed by Jewish texts and contexts, with a sure-handed control of language and image, the poems are passionate but mature, precise and curious, willing to risk everything for a chance to slip behind the curtain of the familiar to get a glimpse at the divine. The poems in Swoon are philosophical considerations, meditations on the sacred and profane with a subtle understanding of one’s own connection to the world. It is a subtle, sensual book of observances pleasing to the ear.”

A review of this book written by Kate Marshall Flaherty appears here on the League of Canadian Poets website and also in the January 2021 issue of Verse Afire.

Additional information about Elana Wolff and her other books can be found on the Guernica Editions website.

Additional Cheers for New Work (in alphabetical order according to the poet’s last name):

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Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration – A Literary Reflection

Some people stuff history into a closet. I can attest to that.

Any time I opened a history book in high school, all those dates/figures/names would cobweb my eyes and lull me to sleep at my desk. I’m surprised I even passed the course.

Sesquicentennial Reading Featured books photo 1 - August 22, 2017

History is all around us: a sample of featured books on display during Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration held August 22, 2017.

When all the neighbors pulled out their Canadian flags and other memorabilia to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary of its Confederation, I felt the urge to de-clutter my office and clear my mind of all the festive noise and streamers. Seriously, how does one erase the controversial rental cost ($120,000) and image of the world’s largest (six-storey, 30,000-ton) rubber duck that made its official Canadian debut at the Toronto harbour during the Canada Day weekend?

That’s when it hit me, as I tugged on a box of unsorted literary magazines, moved a pile of photo albums onto a shelf, and opened a small blue/white/gold cardboard box labelled “The Spirit of ’70: 1870 Manitoba Centennial 1970” .

Decluttering - 47-year-old box

De-cluttering can unearth some historic or memorable treasures.


History is someone’s memories. It doesn’t have to be about politics and war. It can be closer to home, even tucked in a drawer inside your own desk.

Why else was I saving this 47-year-old Souvenir Cake Box? I certainly don’t remember the taste or style of the miniature cake or the Centennial event in which I received it. Yet, for all these years, it housed approximately 30 little pencils from my childhood.

Sesquicentennial Reading - Group Photo - August 22, 2017

Featured readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration: (from left to right): Bob McCarthy, John B. Lee, Lynn Tait, Patrick Connors, Norma West Linder, and James Deahl.

Memories matter!

Last Tuesday, several writers gathered for Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration! The audience appeared smaller than normal but similar to the dwindling attendance at other literary events I’ve attended this summer. The emcee (Sarnia poet James Deahl) wondered whether the event would have attracted more people if it had been advertised as a literary versus an historic event. I wondered if people were just overwhelmed by busy summer schedules and are just taking a much needed break.

For those who missed this local August 22nd celebration below are some snapshots spotlighting the six featured readers!

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Pat Connors Flexes his Poetic Muscles in Part-Time Contemplative


You have turned the tip-tips and taps/and thump thumps and ba-pa-dumps/of disenfranchised nerdy young men//into something resembling music – Pat Connors*


Reading a Pat Connors’ poetry chapbook is like stepping inside a bar and eavesdropping on someone’s contemplations and daydreams. In fact, the first poem in his first Lyricalmyrical book Scarborough Songs is titled ‘Scarborough Bar’. It makes reference to the clichéd phrase “wildest dreams” and describes the antics of a “gap-toothed guy”, as well as “slow dancing with a beauty queen” and the reality of  “places I cannot go anymore”.


Scarborough Poet Pat Connors

The cover photo (with an opened beer bottle between two hockey gloves) sets the tone not only for Connors’ sense of humour but the light and sporty sections of the book. Read on and you’ll also find numerous melancholy images as well as some heavy topics such as politics, faith, destiny, the future and one’s purpose in life. 


Scarborough Songs is Connors’ first poetry chapbook published by Lyricalmyrical.

One of the strongest poems in the collection is called ‘In the House Where I Grew Up’. It uses a table as a metaphor for a dysfunctional family: “Came apart in the middle/Like so many ruined meals/And other realities hard to digest”.


Despite all the references to waiting and dreaming, the 36-page collection ends on a hopeful reflective note, “I will hold out for/The future/And trust in/What it brings”.


Connors’ second Lyricalmyrical chapbook, Part-Time Contemplative, continues with similar reflective themes from the first book. However, Connors’ style as a poet has changed and strengthened. Rather than beginning each line with a capital letter, he starts each line with a mix of upper and lower cases which makes the poems less formal and easier to read. He includes several haiku and short poems and uses more line structure and/or stanza consistency. The language is richer, although at times, it also leans toward abstract thought.


His best work stems from his narrative poems such as ‘Burby’ where he writes, “On Summer days too hot for baseball/or moving the lawn or digging post holes/we sweated and burned in the sun/to gain a small victory or live out a dream.” Sometimes, his poems remind me of a mantra, a prayer or a stream of consciousness. For example, “If I am to become the man I am to be become//I have to stop being the one others would have me be.”


Connors stresses that his poetry is intended for the general public versus an academic audience.


In his dedication, he acknowledges the support of Canadian poet and former Grain editor Mick Burrs, “who has helped me/to become a better poet and person.”


As Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society, wrote in her review of Connor’s latest chapbook, “Pat Connors’ book is the poetry of discovery, finding one is “blessed beyond what I ever believed.” It is the rite of passage, “the sunrise after darkest night”.”


Pat Connors in Cuba, January 2017. Photo courtesy of Lillian Allen.

In January, Connors travelled to Cuba as part of the launch of the bilingual anthology The Bottom of the Wine Jar. The Toronto launch of this book will be held this spring. Below are some of his thoughts about his writing and future projects.


Congratulations Pat! Please describe your latest Lyricalmyrical chapbook in a few sentences.


Thank you, Deb!  Part-Time Contemplative is very much the sequel to Scarborough Songs, released in 2013 by Lyricalmyrical Press, and charted on the Toronto Poetry MapIt is the continuation and  development of the themes from the first book, as well as my growth and development as a poet and as a person. 


Several of the poems from both chapbooks were either previously published or won awards. What is your favourite poem in your latest collection and why do you like it so much?


“The Beginning of Forever” had never been published before, although I certainly tried.  People have apparently been offended by the relatively innocuous expletive I use at the end of the first stanza.  But it is a warm and inviting and gentle piece aside from that one turn of phrase, which I wrote while going through a very challenging period.  The poem didn’t work the various times I tried to change that line.  It lost its honesty.


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

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October’s Bluewater Reading Series Event Spotlights Nova Scotia, Toronto and Lambton County Writers

“One thing I understood quickly was the poems would be shorter, and seemed to be arriving in a plain kind of language I figured could be read by anyone.” –Chad Norman*

Award-winning Canadian poet Chad Norman may have settled in Truro, Nova Scotia but he’s back on the road with a stop in Sarnia, Ontario in early October as part of his 2015 multi-city book tour. He’ll be sharing work from his sixteenth book of poetry, Learning to Settle Down, a collection of short “laid-backness” themed poems recently published by well-known Windsor publisher Black Moss Press.

Canadian poet Chad Norman is on a multi-city tour with his 16th book of poetry Learning to Settle Down.

Canadian poet Chad Norman is on a multi-city tour with his 16th book of poetry Learning to Settle Down.

Norman’s “impressive writing career spans the last thirty years,” stated his press kit. “He has won the BC Writers’ Poetry Contest as well as the Gwendolyn MacEwen Memorial Award as well as several other prestigious places, honourable mentions and runner-up awards.” His work has appeared in numerous publications across the globe including The Antigonish Review and Fiddlehead.

The League of Canadian Poets new_logo_2

His travel to Sarnia is made possible by The League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Saturday, October 3, 2015 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

The 7th reading in the Bluewater Reading Series spotlights both poetry and pose Saturday, October 3, 2015 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

During the October 3rd Bluewater Reading Series event, he will share the spotlight with three other guests: Patrick Connors, manager for the Toronto chapter of 100, 000 Poets for Change, historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy, and retired Lambton College Literature Professor Patrick Sheridan.

Sarnia’s award-winning poet Lynn Tait will emcee. Both prose and poetry will be featured.

This community event, open to the general public, starts at 2:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant on the outskirts of Sarnia, Ontario. Admission is free.

To date, the Bluewater Reading Series committee has organized six other successful readings. Previous out-town guest readers (in alphabetical order) included: Becky Alexander, Clara Blackwood, Allan Briesmaster, Ronnie R. Brown, Barb Day, Andreas Gripp, David Haskins, Laurence Hutchman, John B. Lee, Carol Malyon, Antonino Mazza, Elizabeth McCallister, Michael Mirolla, Kathy Robertson, Denis Robillard, Vanessa Shields, and John Wing Jr.


Toronto poet Pat Connors will read in Sarnia for the first time.

Toronto poet Pat Connors will read in Sarnia for the first time.

Patrick Connors has been published in Zouch Magazine & Miscellany, This Place Anthology, Northern Voices Journal, Poetry’Z Own Magazine, Chrysalis Zine, and was nominated for the 2011 Best of the Net contest. He was Lead Artist in the pilot of Making a Living; Making Art, a project of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts at the University of Toronto. He was literary juror of Big Art Book 2013, a digital project of Scarborough Arts. In celebration of National Poetry Month, he was featured on the blogs of The Toronto Quarterly and the League of Canadian Poets. His first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was released by Lyricalmyrical Press in 2013. He has also had work published in Belgium, India, and Timmins. He has recently been posted on the Toronto Poetry Map. He is part of an anthology coming out next February in Cuba, and is also working on a full manuscript. He is a manager for the Toronto chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change.

Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy is touring the Lambton County area with his commemorative edition of his historical novel Early Days in Oil Springs.

Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy is touring the Lambton County area with his commemorative edition of his historical novel Early Days in Oil Springs.

Bob McCarthy: a Sarnia author, historian and photographer, has written three fictionalized accounts based on the lives of his ancestors, two children’s history books presenting Stories of Lambton, five books based on local history in the form of historical fiction and one murder mystery. A member of Lambton Writers Association and Writers Helping Writers, Bob is currently working on GENERATIONS, a follow-up to CASE 666 – the Story of Elizabeth Workman.

Chad Norman’s writing career spans over 30 years. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications across the globe including The Antigonish Review, Fiddlehead, Bogg, Inkshed, Capman, Edge Magazine, The New Criterion, and Voices Israel (Anthology). He has won the B.C. Writers’ Poetry Contest as well as the Gwendolyn MacEwen Memorial Award as well as several other prestigious places, honourable mentions, and runner-up awards. He is also a member of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia and a full member of The League of Canadian Poets. He organizes and hosts River Words: Poetry & Music festival in Truro, Nova Scotia, each year in July. Learning to Settle Down (Black Moss Press, 2015) is his 16th published poetry book.

Bright’s Grove poet Pat Sheridan is a retired Lambton College Literature Professor.

Bright’s Grove poet Pat Sheridan is a retired Lambton College Literature Professor.

Patrick Sheriden: started writing when he was in first year university. He studied poetry with Robin Skelton and prose with Bill Valgardson. He was a Literature professor at Lambton College for 29 years and helped edit and was published in Rose and Gasoline, a literary journal for teachers and students at the college. He is a former member of Writers in Transition (WIT) and a current member of the Sarnia poetry critique group: ‘After Hours Poets”.


Early Days in Oil Springs by Sarnia’s historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy

Early Days in Oil Springs by Sarnia’s historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy

Early Days in Oil Springs- A Historical Novel About Lambton County (Quinn Riley Press, 2015) is a ‘novelized’ re-telling of the first days of oil (1858 to 1863) and the lives of real people who were a part of the oil heritage of Lambton County. It was first published in 2008 and recently reprinted with the book Black Springs Abbey by Gloria Pearson-Vasey. This double-book commemorative edition was issued to celebrate the sesquicentennial of The Village of Oil Springs. It was published with the assistance of a grant from the Creative County Fund of Lambton County.

Learning to Settle Down by Nova Scotia poet Chad Norman

Learning to Settle Down by Nova Scotia poet Chad Norman

Learning to Settle Down (Black Moss Press, 2015) is Chad Norman’s sixteenth poetry book. According to Norman’s press kit, Norman is inspired by the “laid-backness” of the growing town and inhabitants of Truro, Nova Scotia. “Part of his writing process includes taking long walks to ‘stir up the words when a poem is being stubborn.’ Learning to Settle Down is the result of learning to follow his Muse and let the poetry flow.”

Scarborough Songs (LyricalMyrical, 2013) is Patrick Connors’s first collection of poetry. This limited edition handmade book features 20 poems including previously published work in Poetry’Z Own issue, the J Peachy Gallery blog, The Toronto Quarterly, unFold mag, and John Oughton’s blog. Several of the poems have won and/or been shortlisted or nominated for prizes.

Scarborough Songs by Toronto poet Patrick Connors

Scarborough Songs by Toronto poet Patrick Connors

*quote from “An Interview with Chad Norman” originally published in his press kit.

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The Bluewater Readings Series’ September 12th event spotlighted four out-of-town and two local writers: (back row) Elizabeth McCallister, Becky Alexander, Barb Day, and Kathy Robertson plus (front row) Debbie Okun Hill and Phyllis Humby.

The Bluewater Readings Series’ September 12th event spotlighted four out-of-town and two local writers: (back row) Elizabeth McCallister, Becky Alexander, Barb Day, and Kathy Robertson plus (front row) Debbie Okun Hill and Phyllis Humby.

In Toronto “Roses Are More Than Valentine RED”

Writing poetry squeezes the Valentine red from your heart. It’s a calling (there I’ve said it) and Toronto, Ontario is one of those urban hubs that lives and breathes with a strong poetic rhythm. According to one source, this Canadian city’s literary calendar overflows with launches and readings scheduled for most days or evenings of the year.

In February, the public’s perception of poetry often bleeds with clichéd images of rose scented candles, cardboard cupids, silver-foiled kisses and gummy heart-shaped candies. Mix the words “poetry” and “romance” and what do you get? More sticky sentiments and tacky silk flowered thoughts? Think again!


Spotlight reader Honey Novick performed work from her CD.


Incoming President Fran Figge as emcee!


Poet/musician Kent Bowman shares his talent during intermission.

For emerging and professional poets, a powerful and memorable poem represents more than a few cute sugar-cubed phrases on an annual Valentine card. It is literary art in a tuxedo or a poetic slam in a pair of worn-out work boots: a rhythmic or musical expression of oral and written thoughts and images. Think outside the heart-shaped chocolate box with poetic lines depicting topics as dark, deep and thick as blood or as light as a whiff of fragrance! Verse can be serious or humourous: entertaining as somersaulting sentences or thought-provoking as airborne word wads of crumpled paper smacked on the side of your head.


Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar showcased their new books.


Ontario Poetry Society members Pat Connors and Howard W. Isbenberg launched new work during the For the Love of Poetry Festival in Toronto, Sunday, February 2, 2014.

Last Sunday afternoon in the quaint darkened setting of Central (near Bloor and Bathurst), The Ontario Poetry Society extrapolated the “roses are red” theme and organized the For the Love of Poetry Festival. Guests were treated to a chocolate rose stem and yes, the curtains on stage were striking: a bright red sateen or brocade.

Several writers greeted each other with hugs as if they were family. Almost all of them were Toronto members of this provincial poetry-friendly grassroots organization but several out-of-town poets also managed to brave the snow and ice to attend. Most stopped by to share their work, to test a new poem, to practice their presentation skills, to network, to listen and to be inspired by others.

            As a long-time member, I immediately felt at ease. I had been here before, so I was familiar with the format, the casual meet and greet, the sign-up sheet, a chance to have lunch or a drink with friends followed by the actual readings. For most poets there is nothing more nerve-wracking or exhilarating than reading in front of a live audience.

On this particular afternoon, four poets Pat Connors, Howard W. Isenberg, Laura DeLeon and Kamal Parmar launched new books while poet/musician Honey Novick shared some songs from her CD.

Fran Figge, the new President of The Ontario Poetry Society kept the afternoon moving smoothly with her emcee skills. There were four sets of readers and poet/musician Kent Bowman entertained during the breaks. Anyone who wanted to read could and did read with longer readings reserved for members launching new work. The afternoon ended with an open mic where non-members could also share their work.

            Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I give it a thumbs up especially for new poets who are seeking a safe haven to break into Toronto’s poetry scene.

For upcoming members’ readings and/or open mics organized by The Ontario Poetry Society, check their website for updates. Two additional readings have already been scheduled: one in Cobourg in May, the other in Ottawa in October. Sign-up for readers is at the door.  Admission is free.