Tag Archives: PoeTrain

Memory and Loss Anthology Officially Launched

“…set me/wondering what an Alzheimer mind/feels like inside…” – Kate Marshall Flaherty*

 Imagine if we all lost our memories, dropped them like mittens into the snowy abyss or hid the pink mass in a suitcase and left it on a train.

Dates like Red Thursday or Black Friday or even a loved one’s birthday would mean nothing.

Think about it. That’s the point. We couldn’t! Our cognitive skills would be impaired or worse yet, our short-term memories would be zilch.


What a journey…the train that sparked the Memory and Loss poetry anthology project.  All aboard with Editor/Compiler I. B. (Bunny) Iskov and Emma Laughlin Photo by David Brydges

Last weekend, several Canadian poets gathered in Ajax, Toronto, and Ottawa to help launch Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry. The primary goals were to draw attention to those suffering with Alzheimer and/or dementia and to raise some monies for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.

David Brydges, one of the organizers of the fundraising project, is pleased with the response so far.

“Some very memorable moments and memories were created for the three days of book launches,” he said. “We sold 50 copies of the Memory and Loss anthology and raised $500 for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto’s dedication to crafting their music to complement the themes from the Memory and Loss book were splendid and powerfully effective in bringing us all together. Those in attendance were particularly moved by the poetry, stories, and music for many had known someone who was afflicted by this disease or dementia. It was a serious but fun filled three days with a little PoeTrain adventure trip added to the mix.”


A huge round of applause for Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto for creating new music and lyrics to tie in with the book’s Alzheimer and dementia theme.

Brydges who is also the engine-force behind the original PoeTrain Express to Cobalt in 2012 and the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour in 2015, has a talent for finding unique projects to pull poets and trains together. The Memory and Loss anthology grew from a kernel extracted from a good news story.


In Toronto, cultural entrepreneur David Brydges presents Memory and Loss editor I. B. (Bunny) Iskov with the book cover’s original artwork by Laura Landers.

“I heard,” explained Brydges, “that Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee Company had purchased and restored a 1924 Pacific rail car built by Canadian National Railway and used by King George VI and the Queen Mother in the first Canadian tour by a reigning British monarch in 1939. It was used in 2012 to raise one million dollars and awareness for the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

The ONR passenger train towed it as far as Moosonee. A stop in New Liskeard and story in the Speaker tweaked my curiosity. They said if anyone else wants to have a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s and wants to use the train to contact them.

My original idealistic plan was to use it for the venue book launch to Ottawa but there were too many obstacles with Via Rail. Previous event planning experience has taught me to reach high then plan down if necessary. So, plan B the more practical was to have the launch in the private rail car in its siding near the Mother Parkers manufacturing plant in Ajax.

On Thursday, November 17 with the sun shining in Ajax beside the Mother Parkers Tea Plant, we had our first launch inside the private rail car. Paul Higgins Jr. present co-owner (since his father died of Alzheimer’s) attended to tell his story about his father’s disease and how they acquired this historic train car. Emma Laughlin was there to help with organizing and read a poem by poet laureate Anne Margetson called “Train Travel and Memories”. Poets Bunny Iskov, and Kate Marshall Flaherty travelled from Toronto along with Wendy Jean Maclean and her sister (who came from Brockville) for the afternoon event. Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto entertained some original tunes that had similar themes from the Memory and Loss book.


Ajax was the first stop in the Memory and Loss three-city book launch tour. Supplied photo.

The second launch was held on Friday, November 18 in Toronto at The Hot House Restaurant & Bar. We had dinner beforehand and socialized with several poets in the anthology. Then fourteen poets read, from the anthology, their heart wrenching stories of how this disease has disrupted their lives and those they love. (Editor’s note: The readers included: David Brydges, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Fran Figge, Debbie Okun Hill, K. V. Skene, Kamal Parmar, Jean Kallmeyer, Donna Langevin, Charles Taylor, Joan Sutcliffe, Margaret Code, Marsha Barber, and Honey Novick.) Music and songs were once again performed by Ottawa musicians Anne Hurley and Jim Videto.


Special thanks to Toronto poet Kate Marshall Flaherty for her enthusiasm and help with organizing the three launches.

On Saturday, November 19 in Ottawa we had our final book launch and 45 people packed an excellent ambiance Pressed Café. Featured Ottawa poets were Ronnie Brown, Janice Falls, Blaine Marchand, and Susan McMaster. Gerry Mooney asked Fran Figge to read her very personal poem. Poets Bunny Iskov, Debbie, Okun Hill, Fran Figge, and David Brydges travelled by Via Rail train from Toronto to attend and participate. Kate Marshall Flaherty returned with her Ottawa musician friends who played their final event of this tour. With a hometown audience, they performed poetry and songs that blended to perfection. A surprise of the evening was a poem crafted during the show by Theresa Cull and read to us all.”

Thanks David for your detailed report.

Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry is published by Ink Bottle Press, 2016 and edited/compiled by I. B. (Bunny) Iskov. The 164-page anthology features approximately 125 Alzheimer/dementia poems by 67 Canadian poets.

For a list of anthology contributors and/or to read more about the three city tour click here.

Additional information about the launch sponsor The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) can be found here.

Additional information about Ink Bottle Press can be found here.


In Ottawa, several local and out-of-town contributors shared their Alzheimer-themed work. The Memory and Loss poetry anthology includes the work of 67 Canadian poets.

This Sunday, November 27 starting at noon, The Ontario Poetry Society will host The Winter WarmUp Poetry Fest at Bar Italia, 582 College Street in Toronto Ontario. Contest winners from the Arborealis anthology as well as contributors to Memory and Loss, the membership anthology Latchkey Lyricality and/or the Fire and Sky “Fort McMurray fire themed” anthology will be asked to share a poem or two from these books. All TOPS members are welcome to read and are encouraged to bring their membership card to sign up for the members’ reading portion. Non-members may share their work during the Open Mic. Sign-up is at the door. Admission is free.

Join The Friends of the Ontario Poetry Society Facebook page for additional photos and information about upcoming events, contests and projects.

*Epigraph is from the poem “Far Away” by Kate Marshall Flaherty published in Memory and Loss: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry, page 116 Copyright © Kate Marshall Flaherty 2016 used with permission from the author.


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.

Officially Launched -The PoeTrain Anthology


“The ghostly sway of the train remains/long after the journey completes.” –Kelsey Knight*

It’s Valentine’s Day 2016. Nine of the 23 PoeTrain anthology participants have stepped out of the unseasonal frigid temperatures into the warmth of the Orchard Bar, a dark and narrow meeting place in the heart of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

We are like family now! Not related by birth, but this poetic friendship reminds me of meeting distant cousins at a reunion and how strangers scattered across the country can easily bond like train cars resting on a track.


The PoeTrain Anthology final version

The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems (poetrain projects, 2015) was officially launched in Toronto, February 14, 2016 at The Ontario Poetry Society’s “The Love of Poetry Gathering”


Before settling down and finding a seat in the crowded room, the PoeTrainers greet each other with a warm hug and the reunion chatter begins. We are immediately reminded of our 2015 National Poetry Month memories and our shared moments on the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour. What an experience! All the photos I wanted to bring with me; all my thoughts from the trip remain un-blogged and at home. I promise to share these images when life is less busy.

Today, The Ontario Poetry Society hosts “The Love of Poetry Gathering” featuring members’ readings, an open mic and spotlight features including the launch of Songs of Exile by Bänoo Zan (a participant in the 2012 PoeTrain Express to Cobalt, Ontario) and The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets edited and compiled by Fran Figge.

David Brydges at TOPS Toronto Reading Feb 14, 2016

David Brydges, artistic director for the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is already planning for the next train adventure to be held in British Columbia in the Fall 2017.

David Brydges, artistic director for the PoeTrain 2015, can’t sit still. His excitement and enthusiasm for train travel lights the room. A stack of anthologies rests on a table beside him.

In his introduction, he describes the 56-page book as a “crafted collective spirit” and that the contents are “the combined contrarian treasures of an historic poetry tour that documented and detailed a shared poetic journey.”

And what a journey it was, with poets and musicians travelling the train from Ottawa to Toronto then Winnipeg to Edmonton to Vancouver with readings on and off the Via Rail “Canadian”.

Fran Figge, editor of The PoeTrain Anthology (2015) Final Version

Fran Figge, editor of The PoeTrain Anthology, will be reading again in Toronto, March 15 at The Art Bar Poetry Series and in Sarnia, April 3 during TOPS “Pathways of Poetry Gathering”.

Anthology editor and President of The Ontario Poetry Society Fran Figge states, “All of the poems will impart to you a piece of our adventure; the romance, nostalgia and hopes of the first Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour.”

The 23 anthology contributors (in alphabetical order) are: Rosa Arlotto, Marsha Barber, Kent Bowman, David C. Brydges, Margaret Code, Patrick Connors, Ian Ferrier, Fran Figge, Kathy Figueroa, Kathy Fisher, Debbie Okun Hill, Kelsey Knight, Joanne Lilley, Blaine Marchand, Laura Byrne Paquet, DC Reid, Quincy Russell, Paul Sanderson, Carrie Saxifrage, Michael Stacey, David Streitt, Judy Tate Barlow, and Ella Zeltserman.

Brydges expresses his thanks to the PoeTrain organizing team (Canadian poets Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, Patrick Connors and Kate Marshall Flaherty) for a job well done.

For those readers interested in obtaining a copy of The PoeTrain Anthology, please contact David Brydges for details at mybrydges (at) yahoo (dot) ca . Copies are limited so place your order early to avoid disappointment.

Brydges is also collecting pre-registration contact info for anyone interested in participating in the next PoeTrain adventure in September 2017.

“It’s called the Wild West Poetry Festival,” he announces, “and we will travel from Vancouver to Jasper, Prince George, and Prince Rupert by Via Rail train. Then we will take the BC ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island where we will travel by bus to Nanaimo for a final event.”

PoeTrain Anthology Readers at TOPS Toronto event Feb 14 2016

Several PoeTrain Anthology contributors met in Toronto to share their train poems.

Brydges has also joined forces with The Ontario Poetry Society and Ink Bottle Press to produce Memory and Loss: A Canadian Poetry Anthology. To be edited and compiled by I.B. Iskov, the book will be dedicated to the victims of Alzheimer’s. Poems on the themes of dementia and Alzheimer’s will be accepted until June 15, 2016. The call is open to all poets living in Canada. More information can be found here.

Additional information about the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour can be found here and here and on several other blog posts on this site.

As PoeTrain poet/musician Paul Sanderson shared in his musical tribute** “Train Song”…  “Gonna ride this train./Ride on, ride on, ride on, ride on…”

P.S. — INFORMATION ADDED ON MARCH 1, 2016:  Two videos of The PoeTrain Anthology launch in Toronto have now been posted on YouTube. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. Special thanks to global sync media productions – video by Marty Smith.

*quote from “Dancing Through Time” by Kelsey Knight, The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrain projects, 2015) edited and compiled by Fran Figge. ISBN 978-0-9813599-3-9 Used with permission from the author ©Kelsey Knight. Her website appears here.

**quote from “Train Song” by Paul Sanderson, The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrian projects, 2015) edited and compiled by Fran Figge. ISBN 978-0-9813599-3-9 Used with permission from the author ©Paul Sanderson. His website appears here.

Conference Highlights – The Tough Business of Writing in Canada

“The work of writers fuels an almost 2 billion dollar industry, and yet more than 80% earn an income from their writing that is below the poverty line.” –The Writers’ Union of Canada*

It is late, almost midnight, but I can’t stop thinking about Winnipeg and all the ‘writer-ly’ chats and facts gathered during “Cultivating the Literary Ecosystem”, the League of Canadian Poets (LCP) and The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) 2015 Joint Conference held May 28 to May 31, 2015 at the Radisson Hotel. By now, most of the conference highlights would be considered old news but some messages need to be repeated, personalized by other voices, and shared with new audiences.

All lit up - Winnipeg view from the Radisson Hotel

Winnipeg, all lit up – a view from the Radisson Hotel

Did you hear The Writers’ Union of Canada’s announcement? Let me SHOUT it again from the rooftop: “Today’s writer does more to earn less. Taking inflation into account, writers are making 27% less than they were making in 1998 from their writing, while 45% of writers say they must do more to earn a living now.” 

Some might argue: “So what? These are tough and challenging times for many workers not only CanLit writers.” However, when a writer or any employee is paid less than minimum wage isn’t that against the Employment Standards Act?

One could also argue that the Employment Standards Act does not apply to self-employed writers. Authors/poets are similar to struggling small business owners, working long hours for little pay. It can take years to establish a name. Are writers and publishers pricing their products too low or is the Canadian market saturated with too many writers willing to work for free?

That’s one of the concerns Dorothea Helms, writer/editor/owner of Write Stuff Writing Services expressed in her “The Business of Writing” workshop I attended back in September 2003. She used this analogy: “Would you say to a plumber, gee, I can’t afford to pay you, but you can sign my pipes? Unless it is for a charity or non-profit group you want to help, giving away your writing devalues your work.”

40logobluewithtypeWEB2Here are some additional facts presented in the recent TWUC document Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity. Doing More and Making Less: Writers’ Incomes Today. (A copy of the TWUC media release and the condensed report are available here.) Based on the union’s recent survey, 81 percent of the respondents said their writing income fell below the poverty line, that the median net income from writing was less than $5,000, while the average income from writing was $12,879. The survey also indicated that 88 percent of the respondents had an undergraduate degree and that 50 percent had a master’s or doctorate degree.

Writers are well-educated folk and yet, in order to continue writing, many must juggle their priorities and seek paid work in a different field.

The document also indicated that the main source of writing income (46 percent) came from royalties from traditional publishers. Eight percent (the third largest source of income) was derived from self-published titles.

These statistics can only tell us so much. Is the number of “paying” markets decreasing while the number of writers seeking publication increasing? Has it become a supply and demand issue or has the general public lost interest in the creative arts? Or is a paradigm shift in the markets that writers haven’t adapted to yet?

For example, over a decade ago, my creative writing mentors reminisced about their earlier years when CBC and Chatelaine paid good money for poetry and short stories. Now these and other lucrative literary markets have either dried up or are accepting less work or paying less. Payment sometimes means receiving a free copy of the publication in which the work appears.

Reminiscing with Manitoba writers and TWUC members John Parr and Bob Armstrong.

Reminiscing with Manitoba writers and TWUC members John Parr and Bob Armstrong.

Even newspapers are downsizing their staff. About a year ago, I was shocked to hear that an assignment editor of a daily newspaper was also required to multi-task: answer the public’s webmaster concerns and supervise posts for an on-line event listing.

Authors have become jugglers. For example, blogging and social media networking #twucLCP2015 @twuc  @CanadianPoets have also become one of those necessary evils for professional writers. Unfortunately, author blogs rarely pay the bills and I am still searching for a poet or fiction writer who has been compensated for his or her time spent on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Yet, some publishers are now asking for a record of your social media following and fan base as a criteria for accepting your book for publication. Maybe ten years down the road this extra promotional work will generate more book sales but it’s difficult to measure its immediate value in the short term.

During the Conference Gala, Penn Kemp received the prestigious Sherri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award. Congratulations!

During the Conference Gala, Penn Kemp received the prestigious Sherri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award. Congratulations!

From my perspective, the market is now flooded with writers and on-line publications that are here today, gone tomorrow. The internet is inundated with words, tweets, YouTube videos, blogs. People are chattering but is anyone listening? Will anyone read this blog post?

The general public’s expectation of FREE information is also a concern.

TWUC pointed out that “recent changes to the Copyright Act, broadly misinterpreted as an education exemption, have also had an impact on writers’ incomes.”

As writers, what should we do? Continue to work long hours for little or no pay?  I know several talented writers who just gave up because, frankly, they either ran out of money or just ran out of steam. Others are passionate about working with words, so they cling onto their dream and forge forward but for how long?

 The union indicated they would continue “to work to reverse the distressing trends outlined in these results.”  I suspect this will be a daunting task, one that writers will continue to discuss for a long time. The League of Canadian Poets is also looking for ways to help its members.

Fortunately, for those writers attending the joint conference, not all the presentations were gloomy. Below are some additional memories worth noting:

Conferences are great places to meet up with familiar faces. Several participants and/or organizers of the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour gather for chat!

Conferences are great places to meet writer friends from across Canada. Several participants and/or organizers of the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour gather for a quick chat! David Brydges shared the success of this project during the May 30, 2015 LCP annual general meeting.

-This year, over 135 professional writers and an additional 15 guests, panelists, non-members, students and staff were listed on the attendee list. Thirty of these attendees held joint memberships. What a great weekend to mingle with not only poets but fiction and non-fiction writers as well!

Author, poet, performer Sapha Burnell was a conference rookie, attending the TWUC AGM for the first time.

Author, poet, performer Sapha Burnell was a conference rookie, attending the TWUC AGM for the first time.

-‘Conference rookies’ attending their first Union Annual General Meeting were encouraged to wear their identifying yellow name tag. This was their ticket to the rookie reception where a room-full of conference newbies gathered to talk about….writing!! TWUC’s out-going chair Harry Thurston and incoming chair Heather Menzies mingled with the guests and made everyone feel welcome.

-Metis poet, playwright, and educator Gregory Scofield presented a powerful Anne Szumigalski Memorial Lecture reinforcing his concerns over the missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. His talk will be published in Measures of Astonishment, a collection of Anne Szumigalilski lectures to be launched during National Poetry Month 2016.

-Thanks to the Writers’ Trust of Canada, Toronto speculative fiction writer Guy Gavriel Kay delivered the Margaret Laurence Lecture on the topic “A Writer’s Life”.

-For those interested in learning more about literary trends and the characteristics of an average reader, Noah Genner from BookNet Canada shared some interesting stats. Check the non-profit organization’s website here.

Anna Yin, LCP Ontario rep and the new Poet Laureate for Mississauga and Alice Major, the first Poet Laureate for the City of Edmonton (2005 - 2007) and a Past President of the LCP

Anna Yin, LCP Ontario rep and the new Poet Laureate for Mississauga and Alice Major, the first Poet Laureate for the City of Edmonton (2005 – 2007) and a Past President of the LCP

LCP Toronto rep Kate Marshall Flaherty

LCP Toronto rep Kate Marshall Flaherty

-Such a wide variety of panel discussions, it was impossible to attend them all: Affirming the Artistic Life, Time and Money, Writing and Editing the Long Poem and so many more.

-Former LCP vice-president Ayesha Chatterjee became the new President of the League of Canadian Poets.

-Four prestigious LCP awards were presented at the Gala Awards Ceremony and Dinner. Congratulations Washita (Harnour Publishing) by Patrick Lane, recipient of the 2015 Raymond Souster Award; M X T  (Coach House Books) by Sina Queyras, recipient of the 2015 Pat Lowther Award; For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions) by Kayla Czaga, recipient of the 2015 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award; and Penn Kemp, recipient of the Sherri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award. Additional details here.

Congratulations to Kayla Czaga, recipient of the 2015 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She was also shortlisted for the CAA Emerging Writer Award during the Canadian Authors Association's annual conference in mid-June 2015.

Congratulations to Kayla Czaga, recipient of the 2015 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She was also shortlisted for the CAA Emerging Writer Award during the Canadian Authors Association’s annual conference in mid-June 2015.

-American Innovations (HarperCollin Canada) by Rivka Galchen won the 2014 Danuta Gleed Literary Award. Additional information here.

As a writer or non-writer, what will you do to help improve the living standards of Canadian writers? Purchase a book (or even an e-book), encourage libraries to carry the work of Canadian writers and borrow those novels and books so that they won’t be removed from the shelves, lobby schools (and governments) so Canadian literature won’t be forgotten, invite authors to the schools, attend and support local readings, write a review and post on-line or better yet, treat a local author or poet to lunch and exchange your views on the future of Canadian literature. Keep the dialogue going!

If you missed this year’s joint conference, mark your calendars for next year’s conference “Write – the Canadian Writers Summit” to be held June 16 to 19, 2016 at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Numerous national and provincial literary organizations will be involved.

*The TWUC quote is from the document Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity: Doing More and Making Less: Writers’ Incomes Today, 2015.

YAHOO, WE’RE FLYING TO WINNIPEG – A PoeTrainer’s Reflection

The Poet Laureate of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour (D.C. Reid) sits by himself at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. His carry-on bags surround him as the morning light opens her eyes. Soon, other PoeTrainers join him as they gather for their flight to Winnipeg. I reflect, glance at my watch, and scan the sea of travellers for a poet-friend who hasn’t shown up yet.

At the Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

At the Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

This is where my PoeTrain journey begins: at an airport not a train station.

Version 2

Call it Murphy’s Law. Call it double-sided luck. Sometimes detours happen for a reason!

When VIA Rail officials suspended passenger rail travel from Toronto to Winnipeg due to an earlier derailment in northern Ontario, organizers of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour were left with a dilemma. We yearned to embrace train travel but would the tracks open up in time for the National Poetry Month tour from Ottawa to Toronto to Edmonton to Vancouver and proceed as planned? And if not, how could onboard events be re-scheduled?

Guest reader Shirley Camia, a Toronto broadcast journalist (born in Winnipeg) shares work from her new collection The Significance of Moths (Turnstone Press, 2015).

Guest reader Shirley Camia, a Toronto broadcast journalist (born in Winnipeg) shares work from her new collection The Significance of Moths (Turnstone Press, 2015).

Within weeks of travelling, PoeTrainers opted to cash in their Toronto-Winnipeg  train tickets to book flights to Winnipeg where train travel could safely resume.

I secretly welcomed this change. Although I had been looking forward to travelling through northern Ontario (which I love), I also have a soft-spot for Manitoba and its inhabitants. Despite the sub-zero weather in the winter and the mosquito-threats in the summer, this Canadian province houses the warmest and friendliest people.  Even their license plates smile with the slogan “Friendly Manitoba”.

The PoeTrainers rejoiced. The folks at the Fort Garry Hotel offered a reasonable room rate for the out-of-town guests and bonus: a glitzy place to celebrate National Poetry Month.  Several Winnipeg poets and musicians shared in the festivities.

Drek Da and the Low Flying Gurus were guest musicians at the Winnipeg event.

Drek Da and the Low Flying Gurus were special guests at the Winnipeg event.

Can you feel it?…Rock roll, rock-rumble…this movement…Rock roll with the flow…

The rest is history! According to organizer David Brydges, “The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour (Ottawa to Vancouver – April 15 to 26, 2015) was a great success.”  See his report here.

League of Canadian Poets Marsha Barber launches her book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) thanks to an Canada Reading Tour grant.

League of Canadian Poet Marsha Barber launches her book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) thanks to an Canada Reading Tour grant.

Were you there in the crowded room, a poetic voice in Salon A?

Did you learn to roll, catch the flow, when some plans derailed?

Did you bring an extra sweater when snow clung to unopened bags?

Did you linger, wave goodbye as the Monday train departed?

Follow this blog for additional posts and highlights of the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour.


Can’t wait to return to the friendly province! If you’re in Manitoba, check out this writing workshop “Exploring the Five Senses” scheduled for Thursday, May 21 at the Gaynor Regional Public Library. Prior writing experience is not necessary. See details here.

Winnipeg's Bruce Symaka accepts the talking feather gift for Speaking Crow reading series coordinator Chimwemwe Undi.

Winnipeg’s Bruce Symaka accepts the talking feather gift for Speaking Crow reading series coordinator Chimwemwe Undi.

On Sunday, May 24, tune into CKUW for P.I. New Poetry with host Carmelo Militano – 4:30 to 5 p.m. More details here.

Hear the work of Manitoba fiction writer Brenda Hasiuk and poets Carmelo Militano and Brenda Sciberras. I’ll also be launching my book Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) on Monday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. at McNally Robinson Booksellers. Hope to see you there. More details here.

Poets will also be attending the joint League of Canadian Poets/Writers’ Union of Canada conference held in Winnipeg May 28 to 31.

Also check out the Envoi Poetry Festival (May 29 to June 5, 2015) for more poetry readings here.

Local independent bookseller McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park, Winnipeg hosts literary events and launches on a regular basis. See its current schedule here.

The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour event, Sunday, April 19, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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.


Next Week in Toronto: PoeTrain, Open Mic, and So Much More

 “curled beneath a sports bench/coiled, thick wad, stale/like his gum – stuck/with no place to go.” -Debbie Okun Hill from her poem “Train Station”

Each week an e-mail from Norman Cristofoli arrives in my inbox. Not only does it list literary events (readings, launches, open mics, etc.) scheduled for the next seven days in Toronto but it reminds me of the dedicated individuals and organizations who continue to promote the literary arts in that particular Canadian city.

Today’s notice listed 14 events. Oh, those Toronto and area residents are fortunate to tap into such creative talent on a daily basis. When you live (like I do) in a rural area removed from large cities and public transportation, winter travel to literary events can be difficult. Sometimes I do feel like the teen character in my poem “Train Station” – “like gum – stuck with no place to go.” However, when the snow blankets the earth, this solitude provides a quiet comfort to squirrel away and hibernate with the muse, make plans for future trips and work on new material or revise old manuscripts. If my schedule allows and the weather cooperates I’m on my way. I have learned so much from my travels, even if it’s only a short trip down a country road.

Working behind the scenes: the PoeTrain team: Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, David Brydges, Pat Connors, and Kate Marshall Flaherty. Photo Courtesy: PoeTrain Files

Working behind the scenes: the PoeTrain team: Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, David Brydges, Patrick Connors, and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

Two Toronto events (which I’m particularly familiar with) are: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Fundraiser and The Ontario Poetry Society’s For the Love of Poetry Festival. See additional information below. I highly recommend both readings and hope that some time down this literary road additional events, not only in Toronto but in other Canadian centers, will also be featured. Thanks for your patience.


Clickety-clack!  “The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is going to become a historic reality soon,” stated David Brydges, artistic director for the tour in a recent e-mail. “The official program for train activities is coming out by the end of the month.”

So far approximately 22 poets and train lovers have signed up for this National Poetry Month cross county adventure which will start in Ottawa in mid-April with stops in Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

In the interim, work continues with a special fundraising event planned for Thursday, February 12.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser this February 12, 2015 in Toronto.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser this February 12, 2015 in Toronto.

Meet several PoeTrainers for supper (6 to 8 p.m.) and stay for the entertainment at 8 p.m. featuring Max Layton, Robert Priest, and Cathy Petch. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page for additional information.

Bravo to David Brydges and his committee members Kent Bowman, Patrick Connors, Marsha Barber and Kate Marshall Flaherty for organizing this event. See an earlier posting about the tour here. Follow this blog for additional updates as well as highlights of the PoeTrain journey in April.


The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

If you have never read your poetry in front of an audience or if you would like additional practice reading, this a great place to start. Every year, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travels across the province to various cities to offer its members as well as non-members a safe and friendly place to share work. Everyone who wants to read can read during this open mic event and if you’re a member with a new book, you may also have a spotlight feature. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Both experienced and non-experienced poets are welcome.  More info can be found here. Additional information about last year’s Toronto’s event is linked here. Similar events have also taken place in Cobourg, Cobalt, Stratford, Ottawa and Oakville. Members’ readings and open mics for 2015 will be posted on the TOPS website.


Below is next week’s list of Toronto events as supplied by Norman Cristofoli! Before heading out, please double check with the venue or the organizers to ensure the event hasn’t been cancelled or rescheduled.

If you wish to have your name added to Norman’s weekly mailing list or if you wish to promote your Greater Toronto area event, please contact Norman: norman.cristofoli (at) gmail.com . All submissions should include pertinent information about the event and be e-mailed before the Friday of the previous week. Norman distributes his event listing on the Friday or Saturday for the following week.  

Birds of a Feather Storytelling Series
Monday, February 9,
6:30 pm
at Windup Bird Café
382 College Street


Toronto Poetry Slam
Monday, February 9
at 8:00 pm
sign-up at 7:30 pm
at the Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West (east of Dufferin)

Featuring: Sabrina has found herself on many stages, including the Canadian Indies Finals, The Victoria Festival of Spoken Word and most recently, was part of the 2014 Toronto Poetry Slam team which was crowned national champions this past October. Sabrina’s poems float along the spectrum of love, pain, identity and Beyoncé. Hosted by: Valentino Assenza


Art Bar
Tuesday, February 10
at 8:00 pm at the Black Swan
154 Danforth Avenue (just west of Broadview)

Featuring: Clara Blackwood, Dave Silverberg, Nicole Brewer, Rahul Gupta

More info at www.artbar.org


Tightrope Books Launch Emily Pohl-Weary’s – Ghost Sick
Tuesday, February 10 at 7:00 pm
at The Tenant of Parkdale
1267 Queen St. West

Readings by: Emily Pohl-Weary, Lillian Allen, Irfan Ali, Chris Chambers, Dante King, Carolyn Smart & dianah smith.

Emerging Writers Reading Series
Tuesday, February 10 at 8:00 pm
at Duffy’s Tavern
1238 Bloor Street West,

Featuring: Faith Arkorful, Michelle Brown , F. A. Meier (Rick Meier), Noor Naga


Tuesdays @ 10
Spoken word and music Radio Show
Tuesday, February 10 at 10:00 pm
at CIUT 89.5 FM and on the Internet at www.ciut.fm, Rogers Cable channel 946 and Star satellite channel 826
Hosted by Valentino Assenza

Guests: James Dewar, Sue Reynolds, Arlene Paculan, Lizzie Violet.


Pivot Reading Series
Wednesday, February 11 at 8:00 pm
at the Press Club
850 Dundas Street West

Featuring: Ken Babstock, David Goldstein, Sheniz Jahmohamed
Hosted by Jacob McArthur Mooney


BAM! The Youth Slam
Wednesday, February 11 at 6:00 pm
at The Central
603 Markham Street (just west of Bathurst & Bloor)
Hosted by Patrick de Belen

Featuring: Sean Warren
*** IMPORTANT: This is the Finals Night! There will be an open mic, but only qualified slammers will be able to compete!
Rules of a BAM! Poetry Slam are quite simple. There we will have 12 slots open for youth poets ages 12-19 – 2 rounds, 3 minutes with a 10 second grace period for every poet to drop their fire, with a 0.5 penalty for every 10 seconds afterwards. There is an OPEN MIC available for all ages for anyone that wants to share his or her works on stage!


Love is Stronger than – – – – – – –
Wednesday, February 11 at 6:30 pm
at Windup Bird Cafe
382 College Street

Featuring Poets: Valentino Assenza, Jennifer Hosein, Alexandra Innes
Featuring Musicians: Suitcase Sam, Brian Blain, Michael Marian, Armando Espana
Hosted by Alexandra Innes


Fundraiser for PoeTrain
Thursday, February 12 at 8:00 pm
at Hot House Restaurant
35 Church Street
Featuring: Robert Priest, Cathy Petch, Max Layton


Best Canadian Poetry Valentine’s Day Reading
Saturday, February 14 at 2:00 pm
at Ben McNally Books 366 Bay Street (at Temperance)

Featuring: Michael Fraser, Laura Lush, Jim Johnstone, Ruth Roach Pierson, Maureen Hynes, Aaron Kreuter, Kateri Lanthier, & Moez Surani


Sunday Poetry @ Ellington’s
Poetry Reading Series and Open Stage
Sunday, February 15 at 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Ellington’s Music & Cafe
805 St Clair Ave West


Plasticine Poetry Series
Spoken Word and Open Stage
Sunday, February 15 at 6:00 pm
at Pauper’s Pub
539 Bloor Street West

Featuring: Rudy Fearon, Olive Senior, Cathy Petch, and Marcia Johnson
Hosted by Rod Weatherbie


Roots Lounge Poetry Slam and Open Mic
Sunday, February 15 at 8:00 pm
at the Harlem Restaurant
67 Richmond Street East

Featuring: Dwayne Morgan, Paulina O’Kieffe, Hoodo Mohamed, Bambu, Gavin Russell, Scribe, Bassam, Patrick de Belen, Spin, Dionne Bird of Paradise, Chris Tse


New works from every branch of literature on “The Loop” in this month’s Radio Wildfire Live! @ www.radiowildfire.com

Radio Wildfire is an independent online radio station which blends spoken word, poetry, performance literature, comedy, storytelling, short stories and more with a novel selection of word/music fusion and an eclectic mix of musical styles.

Radio Wildfire is looking for spoken word audio tracks.  Check out their site and then send them your stuff.  Lots of European exposure.



A Canadian Poet’s Fascination for Trains

Canadian poet David Brydges was the motivating force behind The Original PoeTrain Express Toronto-Cobalt-Toronto May 2012

Canadian poet David Brydges was the motivating force behind the original PoeTrain Express that transported poets, bloggers, and a film crew from Toronto-Cobalt-Toronto in May 2012

David Brydges likes to talk. Some days, he’s like a runaway train that never stops. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration. Pardon the pun, but he does have a multi-tracked mind when it comes to his love for trains and rail travel.

David Brydges with Cobalt's Poet Laureate Ann Margetson May 11, 2012

David Brydges with Cobalt’s Poet Laureate Ann Margetson May 11, 2012

When I first met Brydges over the phone, he was pitching an idea for what he considered to be a new and exciting poetry event: the 2012 PoeTrain Express.  His vision included a poetry festival on a train where poets, musicians, bloggers, and a film crew would climb aboard a passenger train at Union Station in Toronto and then be transported 8 to 9 hours to Cobalt, a small northern Ontario community. Would I go? His enthusiasm kept me on the phone for close to three hours; a conversation that may have lasted longer if the battery in his cell phone hadn’t died. Yes, he signed me up. Yes, the experience left a deep impression on me and yes, I would highly recommend train travel to others.

Not only is David Brydges a great salesman but he’s also a man of action. Once he gets an idea, he becomes that optimistic and determined train character in the childhood story The Little Engine that Could. However, instead of chanting “I think I can, I think I can”, Brydges has no doubts when stating “I know I can do this.” As the organizer behind seven Spring Pulse Poetry Festivals and the first PoeTrain Express to Cobalt, Ontario, he has already proven that dreams and ideas can become a reality.

The Original PoeTrain Express and 2012 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival participants May 12, 2012

The Original PoeTrain Express and 2012 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival participants May 12, 2012

Kent Bowman at the 2014 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival May 30, 2014

Kent Bowman at the 2014 Spring Pulse Poetry Festival May 30, 2014

This year, his dream turned national. He is the current engine behind the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour a special “Poetry in Motion” event being planned for the 2015 April is National Poetry month celebrations. The tour which will begin Wednesday, April 15 in Ottawa and end 10 days later on April 25 in Vancouver will include a variety of poetry events both on and off the train. Registrations are now being accepted by original PoeTrain participant Kent Bowman. (NOTE: Registration now closed and link was removed March 8, 2017).

Will Brydges and his crew succeed in this project? I know they can and will.

If you wish to be part of this historical event, below is additional information being distributed by the organizing committee!

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Banner


On The Great Canadian POETrain Tour

An Historic, Once In A Lifetime

ViaRail Poetry Trip

Across Canada

The Original PoeTrain Express left Toronto May 10, 2012

The Original PoeTrain Express left Toronto May 10, 2012

Because we’re poets, we create. Because we’re poets, we seek out other poets.

Because there’s a POETrain, we can now take our poems, our thoughts, and our passions across Canada, writing, speaking, singing, listening to, and rolling in  – you got it – poetry.

Along the way, the gorgeous scenery and personal interactions matched with our own mighty creativity will help us write the world’s longest train poem.

The POETrain is a once in a lifetime chance to celebrate National Poetry Month 2015, while traveling across Canada with a group of other poets of all ages and backgrounds.

This is an historic venture – a poetic `Last Spike.’

Spaces are limited and discounts are only available up to December 1, 2014.

The original PoeTrain Express left Cobalt on May 13, 2012

The original PoeTrain Express left Cobalt on May 13, 2012



OTTAWA: Opening Ceremony, Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TORONTO:   Poetry Events from Thursday, April 16 through Saturday April 18 (VIA RAIL Canadian leaves for Edmonton on Saturday evening, April 18, arriving on Tuesday, April 21st)

EDMONTON:  From Tuesday, April 21 through Thursday, April 23, we will participate in the fabulous Edmonton Poetry Festival (leaving for Vancouver on April 24).

VANCOUVER:  Arriving early on Friday, April 25, we will be participating in the closing evening ceremony – a fitting end to National Poetry Month and an incredible journey.

On the PoeTrain Express May 10, 2012

On the PoeTrain Express May 10, 2012

Not only will Poetrainers on this journey experience an amazing literary adventure of writing and reading their work, attending poetry workshops to learn about their passion, hearing others read as well as participate in new book launches and in writing the world’s longest train poem as well as attending the famous Edmonton Poetry Festival as invited guests, but you will also be a part of a remarkable voyage through the incredibly beautiful Canadian Rockies as seen through the vista of the Skyline cars; truly one of the miracles of our marvelous country. This historic tour is a unique destination vacation for those who truly love the art of poetry and the beauty of Canada.

Important deadlines:

December 15, 2014: Deadline for submitting your registration form and $50 registration fee. Also the deadline if you wish to take advantage of the one Via Rail on board entertainment poet-musician position, Canada Reading Tour Grants (if you are a full member of The League of Canadian Poets) or the PoeTrain laureate  position. (Ask for details.)

January 31, 2015: Deadline for obtaining discounted train tickets for travel April 11 to 25, 2014.