Tag Archives: Poetry Events

Tom Cull, London’s Poet Laureate Loves to Make People Laugh

“Returning from a night ride,/the bat takes off his leathers.” – Tom Cull*

I laugh as I read and review this new book.

Let’s say bad animals (Insomniac Press 2018) is a hybrid between “a Red Bull of owls” hoot-enanny and “a threnody of hyenas”. Created by Tom Cull, London Ontario’s current poet laureate and a new poetic voice in the CanLit scene, this pocket-sized book (with a beaver-inspired cover) overflows with his fun-filled humour as he shines a flashlight on underlying concerns with our changing environment.

June 1, 2018 in London

Tom Cull’s bad animals was officially launched June 1, 2018 at London Bicycle Café in London, Ontario.

Overall, I liked Cull’s approach. His impressive debut collection of 41 wild (think mischievous) and bad-animal inspired poems surprised me (in a good way) with his surreal yet accessible images: drowning machines, a poet of dodos, Saturday six-pack anglers, schools of strollers, and a plethora of four- and two-legged animals including swimming pigs and teenaged boys!

Using his knowledge gleamed from his regular clean-ups of local waterways, Cull pulls the reader from urban decay into the murky river (and other locales) where shopping carts and vacuum cleaners morph into inanimate creatures and where humankind is not-so-kind but sometimes thought-provoking as the lines between animals and Homo sapiens blur.

Expect a few rough edges: Do I really want to go inside the YMCA Men’s Plus locker room to visualize his poem “The Dinks Are Out”? Hardly not but the audience roars and laughs like spotted hyenas whenever he reads that poem in public.

In contrast, in one of his more moving and insightful poems, he writes: “a great blue heron wallops/across the sky, beak down/a needle etching a record of this day/into the vinyl of a darkening night.” I love the beauty in that image!

Tom Cull Photo by Rob Nelson

Tom Cull is London, Ontario’s current poet laureate. Photo by Rob Nelson

Cull is like that great heron: wading with the flow, communing with nature, and slowing etching his name into the minds of his literary followers. Definitely, an emerging writer to watch!

This autumn, I was fortunate to attend several of Cull’s readings. He immediately makes an audience comfortable and is well respected in the London literary community. Although I must disclose that I first met Cull when he was a workshop facilitator for Poetry London, I knew little of his background and philosophy and had never read his work before.  It was fun to hear his responses to my questions.

Hi Tom, before we chat about your role as London’s poet laureate, let’s focus on your early years. I understand you grew up in the small southern Ontario community of Wingham. When you moved to London almost 10 years ago, you decided to help clean the Thames River. When did you first realize that the environment was important to you and how has the environment shaped you as a person?

Hi Debbie—I’m not sure if I had any moment of realization that the environment was important to me. I had a rural upbringing; our log cabin/house was situated on 70 acres of forest, ponds, and wetland bordered by a beautiful river. I spend a good deal of my childhood outdoors exploring the woods and learning about plants and animals. We had a stack of those nature books that identify trees, plants, reptiles, birds, mammals, etc. I’ve always been attracted to water, woods, wetlands, wildlife and wild spaces.

Tom Cull has a deep appreciation for the environment Photo by Miriam Love

Cull is inspired by the river. Photo by Miriam Love.

When did you first decide you wanted to be a poet?  Was there an incident that led you in that direction? Please explain.

I don’t remember any one moment where I said to myself, “you are now going to be a poet”—that happened gradually as I was finishing my doctorate in English Literature. It had a lot to do with moving to London and getting involved with the literary arts community. I started sharing my work with peers and the ball started to roll.

At a recent reading at the Oxford Book Shop, you said that the river influenced your writing and the writing influenced your involvement with the river. Please expand upon that.

I think that the river of my childhood (The Menestung/Maitland River) imprinted on me—it still flows from my early memories into my now-and-here. But the other river which is equally if not more important is Deshkan Ziibi or Thames River. I started writing poetry in London about the same time I discovered the river. Many of my poems come back to the river and questions of home, habitat, animals and history. My poetry is also tied in with the environmental work I do. My partner Miriam Love and I started Thames River Rally (a grassroots river protection/cleanup group) soon after we met. The river and my poetry have great reciprocity.

Poet Tom Cull and his partner Miriam Love are co-founders of Thames River Rally, a grassroots environmental group based in London, Ontario Photo by Mary Love

Cull and his partner Miriam Love co-founded Thames River Rally, a grassroots environmental group based in London, Ontario. Photo by Mary Love

This year Insomniac Press published your debut poetry book bad animals. Where did the idea for the title come from? Which came first the title/theme and then the writing or the writing first led to the title? Please expand.

The title came after the collection was pretty much finished. I was thinking about the themes and motifs that unite the collection. Bad Animals popped into my head along the way somewhere. The word “bad” has many meanings: deficient, rebellious, immoral, poorly behaved, libidinous. “Animals” also has several meanings. People often think of animals as separate from humans. The poems in the book play with these meanings.

At your Poetry London feature last month, your friend Chris introduced you with these words, “He is a community and cultural individual. He is also a bad animal”. Obviously, there must be a hidden dark side of you that the public is not aware of. Please respond to his comments.

Ha! Well, I think he was specifically talking about my competitive nature on the squash court. I’ve always loved sports and I am competitive. Sports offers a great social way to channel energy. Regular exercise is crucial to my mental health and to my writing. Most of my poems come to me when I’m walking.

One of the prominent literary devices in your poetry is your use of humour. For many individuals, humour is difficult to write and yet, it appears to come naturally to you. I noticed that your editor for the book was Stuart Ross who is also known for his wit. What role can humour play in the genre of poetry? Do you feel it takes away from the seriousness of your environmental concerns? Why or why not?

I love to make people laugh. I think humour can create consensus while also offering critical perspective. Humour can be used to “punch up,” to subvert and critique, to investigate taboo, troubling drives, the unconscious, the uncanny, and the weird.

Environmental concerns are not only serious, they are absurd, complex, baffling, and pressing. Humour can help negotiate and explore, nudge and niggle. When poetry becomes too didactic or preachy it risks turning people away, and I think it also loses its ability to open up space for creative intervention.

Tom Cull at Oxford Book Shop - September 23, 2018 photo 2

Cull reads from bad animals, September 23, 2018 at the Oxford Book Shop.

One of the poems in your collection has stumped me. It is section iii. in your long poem “The Sleuth of Bears”. The section is titled, “Bear Breaks into House, Plays Piano but Not Very Well” which is a headline based on an article in the Washington Post, June 2017. After your title, the page is blank. Does that mean the people in the house ran away? Please explain.

The other poems in that grouping (or Sleuth) are erasure poems. For the “Bear Breaks into House” story I erased everything but the title. The title is funny and weird and I thought the story that followed only weighed down or compromised the power of the title. It also leaves space for the reader to create their own story as you did!

Wow, I totally missed the erasure part. That is too funny! On a more serious note, my favourite poems were “Backspace” (no bad animals here) and “The Granite into Which It Reaches” which includes the great blue heron line quote in my review of your book. I wasn’t as fond of “Conibear”, “dad bod” and “Auscultation”.  Which was your favourite poem in the book and explain why?

I think my favourite poem changes. My relationships with all the poems shift depending on mood, context, familiarity, time of year, etc. Sometimes a new audience will help me find a new love for an older poem. I often come back to the first poem in the book “After Rivers” — I’m glad Stuart suggested that one as the first in the collection.

What inspired you to apply for the role as London’s poet laureate? What did you enjoy most about the role? The least?

I was inspired to apply for the role of Poet Laureate because I saw it as an opportunity to build on and combine my love of poetry, community, and environmentalism. The role also offered an opportunity to work as a professional artist. I love so much about this role. I loved collaborating with so many excellent London and area artists and working with a great team at the London Arts Council. I loved creating programming to help London artists grow and share their work. I loved bridging the worlds of art and social justice. I loved being an ambassador for the City. I loved writing poems for dedications and occasions, and I loved meeting new people and hearing their stories. I loved mentoring emerging writers. Finally, I loved making a case for the continued relevance and importance of poetry in civic and public spaces. That’s the short list.

Sometimes I found it challenging to negotiate my private life and artistic freedom with my public role, but I wouldn’t say that I disliked this or liked this the least—in fact, it was a crucial part of the job and a challenge that deepened my understanding of the complexity of art in the public realm.

Tanis MacDonald, Tom Cull, and Penn Kemp at Oxford Book Shop - September 23, 2018 Photo 1

Cull shares the spotlight with writer Tanis MacDonald and former poet laureate Penn Kemp during a reading September 23, 2018 at the Oxford Book Shop.

Your appointment as London’s Poet Laureate ends in a couple of months. What are your plans for the future, personally and professionally?

I think I’m going to take some time to rest, recharge, and write. I’d like to tour my book across Canada, and I’ve got some collaborations in the works that are exciting. I will remain active in the community and always work to bridge the University campus and the London Arts community

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers? Perhaps a plug about the WORDS festival in London which I’m assuming you are involved with again this November? Or your November 7th feature reading as part of the Creative Writers Speakers Series at Western University?

I have one more event planned as Poet Laureate: Poet Laureate Presents River of Words, which will take place at Words London at Museum London on Saturday, November 3rd . Additional information here.

I will also be reading at Words; I’ll be on a panel with Julie Bruck and Deanna Young (November 3rd at noon). Additional information here.

November 3, 2018 in London with Tom Cull

See London’s current Poet Laureate during WORDS “In Conversation” with Julie Bruck and Deanna Young, Saturday, November 3 at noon at Museum London.

Finally, I’ll be reading at Western (open to the public) in Dr. Aaron Schneider’s class, Write Now. Additional information here.

What the Badger Said (Baseline Press 2013) a chapbook by Tom Cull

What the Badger Said (Baseline Press, 2013) is Cull’s first poetry chapbook.

Thanks Tom for taking time from your busy schedule to chat. You appear to be having so much fun! Wishing you continued success and enjoyment with your future plans.

According to the inside back cover of Cull’s book, “Tom Cull grew up in Huron County and now resides in London, Ontario, where he teaches creative writing and serves as the city’s current Poet Laureate. His chapbook What the Badger Said, was published in 2013. Since 2012, Tom has been the director of the Thames River Rally, a grassroots environmental group he co-founded with his partner Miriam Love, and their son Emmet.”

*from the poem “Like a Bat” printed in bad animals (Insomniac Press 2018) by Tom Cull. Reprinted with the author’s permission Copyright © 2018 by Tom Cull (p.34)

 

Follow this blog for future Canadian Poet Profiles and Reviews.

Advertisements

Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering – A Pictorial Reflection

“All summer was heat/in steaming reflections/warm beads of sweat imitated the rain,/pretended to nourish grass and birds,/found shade in tired branches.” – I. B. Iskov*

 I have never been to Greece but last Sunday (August 19, 2018) I could almost imagine the waves lapping the shores of the Cyclades, the whispers of Greek gods and goddesses, and the serenity of poetic blue skies over whitewashed structures.

 

The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - September 19, 2018

Founding member/treasurer I. B. Iskov celebrated her birthday at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering held Sunday, August 19, 2018 at Mykonos Restaurant. Half way through the program, baklava (a rich sweet dessert pastry) was served.

What a dreamy place for members of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) to share poetry on the breezy outdoor patio of Mykonos Restaurant in London, Ontario, Canada. Not only did the scent of Greek food and the turquoise seaside-themed décor add to the ambience but Heidi, the co-owner, showed her support for The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering by applauding loudly.

What a celebration it was!

In addition to the membership anthology Delicate Impact, four books by TOPS members were launched: My Misty Madness: A Semi-Autobiography (a Reflection and Lots of Poetry) by Emily Cox; El Marillo (Big Pond Rumous Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton; My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov, and After the River (Black Moss Press, 2018) by Denis Robillard. More information about Delicate Impact appears here.

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - Featured Readers and Books Launched 2018

Celebrating new books by TOPS members.

Several members of the TOPS Executive (President Fran Figge, Founder/Treasurer I. B. Iskov, and Secretary Kamal Parmar) and three Branch Managers (Stan Burfield of London, Najah Shuqair of Sarnia, and Roy James of Windsor) were in attendance.

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - EXECUTIVE and Branch Managers - 2018

Cheers to the TOPS team who stopped in to chat and share their work.

What an eclectic and full afternoon: sixteen members (not counting the book launch readers) shared their work followed by an open mic presenter. Several people including spouses were there to support and applaud.

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - Members - 2018

The Ontario Poetry Society currently has over 200 members. Several of them read their work during the London, Ontario, Canada event: Frances Roberts-Reilly, Debbie Okun Hill, Janice McDonald, Keith Inman, and David D Plain.

According to the restaurant website, “Mykonos is a sacred place where we celebrate life and each other with joy, warmth, good food and drink.”

TOPS The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering - Members 2 - 2018

More Readers: Carl Lapp, Ken Lumpkin, David Stones, Wayne Ray, and Roy Adams.

I agree. Sometimes just a photo or a poetic word can brighten a day or transport you to another place like Mykonos or one of the other Greek islands. Life is for living!

Delicate Impact anthology - August 19, 2018

The Ontario Poetry Society launched Delicate Impact (Beret Days Press, 2018), a membership anthology edited and compiled by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society can be found on its website.

The next TOPS reading “The Autumn Ingathering for Poetry” will be held Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville. More info here..

 A partial list of upcoming literary events in Ontario can be on my website.

*quote is from the poem “Autumn’s Grandeur” in the book My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov Copyright © 2017 by I. B. Iskov, page 20. Used with permission.

Ten Cities with Wayne Johnston – May 23 in London, Ontario, Canada

“Wayne Johnston has the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat with his tales of urban scenes.”* – Jim Chan, New York City videographer

 I’m sitting on the edge of my chair,

staring at all the accolades for Ten Cities: The Past Is Present, a free literary performance by Wayne Johnston to be held Wednesday, May 23 at 7 p.m. at the Arts Project Theatre, 203 Dundas Street in London, Ontario, Canada.

Ten Cities illustration by Wayne Johnston 2015

“Ten Cities: The Past Is Present” is a literary performance by Wayne Johnston. Illustration copyright © 2015 by Wayne Johnston. Used with permission from the artist.

“It’s brilliant! It’s funny, and sad, and unsettling and surprising.”* This quote is attributed to Guelph librarian Robin Bergart.

I’m intrigued!

Promotional material for the show explains that Johnston is visiting “ten sites in each of ten cities that have had a formative impact on his life.”

Wayne Johnston at Dixon Place in New York City

Johnston performs “Ten Cities” at the Dixon Place in New York City. Still image pulled from a video taken by Jim Chan. Used with permission from the videographer. Check out Chan’s website here.

He has already performed in New York City, Toronto, Accra (Ghana), Geneva (Switzerland), and Zagreb (Croatia). London represents his sixth stop with future performances scheduled for June 7 at the Arts Court in Ottawa and July 28 at Quixote’s Cove in Kathmandu (Nepal).

Events in Iqaluit and La Paz will also be planned but dates have not been confirmed at the moment. Each of the literary performances will feature Johnston’s drawings as well as his writing which mimics prose poetry, creative nonfiction or postcard stories.

 I’m still sitting on the edge.

In his tale entitled “London: Lord Nelson Public School”, he writes: “We hatch a plan to sneak out into the night. He leaves a note on his bedroom window. I sleep through the night and the note is found by his father the next day.”

Do I dare to read more?

In an artist statement e-mailed to Poetry London organizers, Johnston stated he wanted to “formalize a process for saying goodbye to the places where so many of [his] memories were born.”

Wayne Johnston - Self-portrait Painting

Johnston is a painter, performance artist, writer, and librarian from Guelph, Ontario.   Self-portrait painting copyright © 2015 by Wayne Johnston Used with permission from the artist.

In London, he focused on his experiences at Beaver Lumber, the Richmond Hotel, Clarke Road Secondary School, Victoria Hospital and six more locations.

“At each site I allow the sights, sounds and smells of the place to awaken my memories,” explained Johnston. “I write about those memories but I also write about the current experience visiting the site. I look for common threads between the past experiences and the current visit. I also do a drawing. The end result is a bit of a collage where multiple stories and an image emerge. I look for common motifs or structuring elements that tie the various elements together, sometimes in very subtle ways. Sometimes those connections may be apparent to the reader/listener. Other times there may be disparities and contrasts that are hopefully evocative without being necessarily coherent.”

“One of the strategies I’ve employed is to write always in the present tense. That can be confusing when elements clearly come from very different points in time. What I’m trying to suggest is that the past is not something fixed in a point in time. The past as it exists in memory is alive, impacting the present, being impacted by the present. To quote Slaughterhouse Five again, it’s like being unstuck in time.”

To say Johnston’s work is edgy is an understatement.

In some cases, his words will push you over. He warns, “I know the piece won’t connect with everyone who attends but some people have told me that this exploration of the relationship between place and memory has been very meaningful to them, that it left them thinking about similar dynamics in their own experience.”

Wayne Johnston is a painter, performance artist, writer and librarian from Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

His writing accomplishments include publication of an oral history on a tavern that had historic impact on Canada’s art community in the sixties. Making a living as a librarian has taken him to places such places as Geneva, Zagreb, Accra, Kathmandu, La Paz, Manhattan, Ottawa and Iqaluit.

*Additional praise for Johnston’s performances is posted on The Arts Project website (which was recently re-branded as TAP: centre for creativity).

His London appearance is being hosted by Poetry London and will also include a regional poets’ showcase featuring Frank Beltrano, Stan Burfield, Debbie Okun Hill, and Ron Stewart who will read approximately 5 to 7 minutes each.

Poetry London Presents - Wayne Johnston - Regional Poet Showcase - May 23, 2018 in London - Revised location

Poetry London is hosting a special literary event featuring Wayne Johnston and regional poets Frank Beltrano, Stan, Burfield, Debbie Okun Hill, and Ron Stewart, Wednesday, May 23 starting at 7 p.m. at The TAP Centre for Creativity, 203 Dundas Street in London, Ontario.

Admission is free. Hope to see you there!

Poetry London logo

Poetry London’s regular reading series runs from September to April of each year. Logo used with permission from Poetry London.

The website in partnership with the London Public Library, hosts monthly readings and poetry workshops in London, Ontario. Johnston’s performance is a special event to be held outside the regular reading season. For the latest news from Poetry London, follow their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Follow this blog for future event highlights as well as poet and author profiles.

More Than a Book Launch – An Invitation to Share – November 11, 2017

“She runs barefoot over river beds/holding hands now with Emily Carr/slipping her childlike fingers/through scenic waterfalls,/toting pots of iridescent paint,/an easel, and a brush or two.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

Call it a ‘collage of performances’ or a ‘painting with words’ celebration! When Big Pond Rumours Press officially launches my chapbook Drawing From Experience, this Saturday afternoon at the Coffee Lodge in Sarnia, please come prepared to share something you’ve created. Take your pick: two short poems, a couple of jokes, flash fiction, a song, or even a painting, a dance or a theatrical skit. Yes, I want to hear you during the open mic.

November 11, 2017 event in Sarnia with correct spelling

Stop by and read during the open mic portion of this event. Sign-up for readers will be at the door. This is a public event. Admission is free.

I plan to read several ekphrastic and art-themed poems including “Spirit of Peggy” from my new 30-page chapbook. This tribute poem to the late Peggy Fletcher was written over 5 years ago, following the passing of this local prolific writer and artist. During her life, she had a gift for meshing the literary and visual arts together: the way she penned her words and layered them over a sketch, a computer-altered photograph or a scenic watercolour she had produced. She supported all the arts. I think of her often and hope that she will be there in spirit.

Additional highlights: featured guest readers and former Sarnia-Lambton residents Ryan Gibbs and Anne Kavanagh Beachey will also read for about 10 to 15 minutes each. I have admired and followed the work of these two writers for years and I look forward to their performances. Ryan will read poetry inspired by his recent travels and experiences while Anne will share a humourous short story. Special thanks to historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy who will emcee the event. See their bios below.

Anne Kavanagh Beachey November 6, 2017

Guest reader Anne Kavanagh Beachey, a humourist, former columnist with The Observer, and fiction writer.

The rest of the afternoon will be devoted to the open mic stage where anyone may share his/her creative work. Sign-up for readers/performers will be at the door but please arrive no later than 10 minutes prior to the chapbook launch so that a schedule can be finalized. For those interested in reading, plan for approximately five minutes per person, keeping in mind, the estimated length of each performance will depend on the number of people signed-up. First time and/or experienced performers are welcome. The event is open to the public. Admission is free.

What are you waiting for? Grab your imagination and run wild like the geese preparing to take flight on an autumn day. If you prefer to stop by and just listen. That’s fine too.

Mark it on your calendar: Drawing From Experience launch – Saturday, November 11, 2017 – 2 to 4 p.m. at the Coffee Lodge – 400 Exmouth Street in Sarnia – Ontario  –  Canada.

Hope to see you there!

FEATURED GUESTS

Ryan Gibbs Profile Photo

Guest reader Ryan Gibbs, a former co-host of Spoken Word at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. Photo courtesy: Lois Nantais

Ryan Gibbs lives in London and is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario. He works as an English professor and coordinator at Lambton College in nearby Sarnia, where he is a member of the After-Hours Poets and has read his poetry in the City Council as part of the nation-wide Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge. His poems have appeared in Tower PoetryThe Windsor Review, and the anthologies Under the Mulberry Tree and Whisky Sour City. His children’s poetry has been included in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. An earlier interview with Ryan appears here.

Anne Kavanagh Beachey was born in Wales, emigrated to Canada, and was involved in Sarnia-Lambton’s writing community for decades before moving to London. Her short stories and humorous verse have been published in numerous magazines; some of these stories won prizes in Angles magazine and Writers’ Digest Competition. She wrote a monthly column about Lambton County for The Observer, including a column about Dudley George, who died at Ipperwash during a tragic confrontation with the government. Her favourite form of writing is the novel.  She has written five (unpublished as yet).  Her latest one, Fresh Is The Rose is in three volumes. She hopes to publish the first of these in the near future.

THE EMCEE

Bob McCarthy 2016 Photo 2

Bob McCarthy, a historical fiction writer and author of the new memoir The Book of Bob (not shown) will be the emcee. Bob will launch his new book on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 1 p.m. at The Book Keeper in Sarnia.

Bob McCarthy lives in Sarnia and is a prolific writer. Since his retirement from teaching for the Lambton-Kent District School Board, he has been active in making the history of Lambton County available and interesting to students and others through his writing, radio talks and visual history projects. He has written three novels based on the lives of his ancestors and seven books about Lambton history. His memoir, The Book of Bob, will be launched Sunday, November 19, 2017 at The Book Keeper. Earlier articles about Bob and his work appears here and here.

Additional information about my chapbook Drawing From Experience, can be found here.

My updated bio is located here.

Big Pond Rumours Press is a micro-press based out of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Additional information about the press, can be found on its website.

*From the poem “Spirit of Peggy” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 6 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017

23 Canadian Poets Selected for LUMMOX Number 6

“If creation (life) is like a river, then surely poetry is one of the many eddies that feeds the river and makes our journey possible.*” – RD Armstrong, Editor-in-Chief, LUMMOX Number Six

Canadian poet James Deahl has done it again! For four years, he has been encouraging Canadian poets to submit work to LUMMOX, an American poetry anthology published by LUMMOX Press in San Pedro, California. His goal was (and is) to promote Canadian writers to an American market and he has certainly done that.

Lummox 5 Sarnia Launch with James Deahl Photo 2 November 12, 2016

Canadian poet James Deahl is interested in promoting Canadian poets and their work to an American and international market.

“This year, there are 23 Canadian poets in LUMMOX Number Six,” said James Deahl in a recent announcement. “The most ever. And once again the city of Sarnia leads the way with seven contributors.”

Two of those Canadian poets have won awards for their submissions. Hamilton poet Ellen S. Jaffe won second prize for her poem “Another Kind of War Story” while Barrie poet Dr. Bruce Meyer won third place for “The Beautiful Neanderthals”.

Other Canadian contributors include: Rosemary Aubert, Ronnie R. Brown, Patrick Connors, James Deahl, Joseph Farina, Venera Fazio, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Jennifer L. Foster, Katherine L. Gordon, Debbie Okun Hill, Eryn Hiscock, Susan Ioannou, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever, Norma West Linder, Rhonda Melanson, Deborah A. Morrison, Lynn Tait, Grace Vermeer, and Jade Wallace.

Lummox6Cover-240x300

Launching in Canada: LUMMOX Number Six (LUMMOX Press, 2017)

Edited by American poet RD Armstrong, the 216-page book features the work of over 150 poets from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, China, and Dubai. “There is [sic] also a lot of other interesting goodies as well,” wrote Armstrong is his foreword to the anthology. “We have a conversation between the Queen of Bohemia, Philomene Long and Allen Ginsberg…This little gem comes from the old LUMMOX Journal. There are a number of essays ranging from a “newbie” poet in Dubai writing about dealing with rejection to two portraits of influential poets – Canadian Al Purdy (James Deahl) and American Ed Dorn (John Macker) to Murray Thomas’s “Music and Memory”.”

The anthology also includes flash fiction, several reviews about Canadian poetry collections written by Canadians, photography by Sarnia’s Lynn Tait, and the essay “On Writing and Dreaming” by Bright’s Grove editor/author/poet Venera Fazio.

LUMMOX 6 Back Cover

This 216-page anthology features the work of over 150 poets from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, China, and Dubai.

To celebrate and promote this inclusion of Canadian poets in an American publication, Deahl has organized two FREE readings in Ontario, Canada: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 starting at 7 p.m. at the Staircase Café, 27 Dundurn Street North in Hamilton and Saturday, November 18, 2017 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Turret Room of the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, 127 Christina Street South in Sarnia. Both local and out-of-town LUMMOX contributors will share their work at the events. Admission is free and open to the public. (Special thanks to The Lawrence House Centre for the Arts for presenting/hosting the Sarnia launch.)

LUMMOX Six launch dates November 2017

Mark your calendar for these two Ontario launches featuring several Canadian contributors to LUMMOX Number Six.

A reading in Toronto is also being planned for April 2018.

Deahl mentioned that LUMMOX Press has expressed an interest in publishing an anthology of Canadian poetry. “This would be the first anthology of Canuck poetry to come out in the United States in over 30 years,” said Deahl. He expects an announcement with more details to be made soon.

Additional information about previous LUMMOX readings in Canada can be found here , here, and here.

Additional information about LUMMOX PRESS can be found here.

Follow this blog for future event highlights. A partial list, of upcoming literary events planned for various Ontario locations, can be found here.

*This epigraph is from the foreword “The View From Down Here” by RD Armstrong published in LUMMOX Number Six (LUMMOX Press, 2017).

 

Toronto’s Art Bar Poetry Series – A Must See and Do

We’re on our way to the famous Art Bar Poetry Series. Did I pack my camera?

Toronto skyline - October 19, 2014

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Large cities make me nervous. Prairie wheat and southwestern Ontario corn runs through my blood so its takes courage and an experienced driver like my husband to maneuver the heavy pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic surrounding this downtown Toronto poetry reading. Even with a GPS strapped to the car’s dashboard, we miss the discounted hotel we had booked on-line.

So many distractions like in a Where’s Waldo? book! When we finally spot the main entrance tucked behind some taller buildings, we can’t find a place to park. I fumble for my cell phone and call the hotel desk to request assistance.

Then there’s the problem with our dog. Not a sliver of grass to.. (you know)… relieve himself and so he leaves a nice puddle in the underground parking lot. We hope the incident isn’t captured on closed circuit cameras but that’s another story…

As a poet, I feel it’s important to push outside one’s comfort zone. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and allow the words to tractor across a white field and leave word-seeds typed and planted in a straight furrow for everyone to pick and read at a later date. However, poetry is more than written words. It’s organic (like soybeans) sprouting from a writer’s pen then growing and extending further into and beyond a consumer’s mind.

It’s also rhythm and sound so studying oral presentations is vital for improving one’s poetic voice. At least that’s the advice I received from award-winning Canadian sound poet Penn Kemp during a writer-in-residence session at Western University many poetic seasons ago.

Between the wailing sirens and the honking of impatient drivers, I can still recall what other poets have said about the Art Bar Poetry Series. “It’s a permanent fixture of Toronto”. “It has a huge following.” “It’s a great place to read.” Even in rural Ontario, I’ve felt its impact. Its reputation as Canada’s longest-running poetry-only weekly reading series is strong and many emerging poets dream about being asked and featured at least once in their writing careers.

art-bar-reading-april-4-2017

The Art Bar Poetry Series (based in Toronto) is Canada’s longest-running poetry-only weekly reading series.

I never expected an invitation but was pleased when it arrived in my inbox last year.

And today, here we are…here I am…

…suitcase (and poetry books) in hand. We settle in the hotel room and I can’t wait to meet my close childhood friend. She noticed the Art Bar event advertised on Facebook and suggested a reunion. We hadn’t seen each other (in person) for close to 20 years and although Donna (one of my bridesmaids) has a strong creative side to her, this would be her first experience attending a poetry reading. I’m touched to have her join me since hubby and dog are not poetry fans and prefer to watch TV in the hotel room. She even brings along a neighbour-friend and tells me it is part of their goal to do something ‘new’ each week. I smile and feel my cheeks blush like a red pepper. She travelled 30 to 40 minutes for a quick visit. I hope she enjoys the show.

If you live in Toronto, the Art Bar reading venue is easy to reach via bicycle or public transportation, or so I’m told. The Mid East snack (2 skewers of marinated chicken breast served with 2 falafel, hummus, grilled veggies, salsa, chickpea-kale salad, pita) is excellent and was highly recommended by one of the co-hosts. The private room at the Free Times Café is ideal for showcasing the poets. There’s a stage, a microphone and I add a chair to hold my props which I forget to use. At first the spotlights challenge my eyes but then I find the right angle to connect with my printed words. Next time I’ll bring LARGER print or better yet, have my poems memorized.

Debbie Okun Hill at Art Bar Reading Series April 4, 2017 Photo 2 by Donna Henrikson

I smile and feel my cheeks blush like a red pepper. Photo by Donna.

During my Art Bar debut, over 60 people fill the room despite the competition of other poetry readings in the area including an earlier performance (by the well-known author Molly Peacock) held several blocks away. As a newcomer, I’m impressed by the variety of people in the audience. Not only are they culturally diverse but they represent a wide range of ages and include both emerging writers reading for the first time to the more experienced poets/editors/publishers. I’m comforted by seeing a few familiar faces, but many of the attendees are either strangers to me or writers I had heard about but had never met before. Call it a great place to feel the pulse of Toronto’s poetic scene!

On this evening, I share the spotlight with Phlip Arima and Ian Burgham, two well-known and experienced poets. Arima, a former artistic director of the ArtBar, dazzles the audience with his use of sound and his ability to perform his work by memory. The only time he reads from paper is when he is introducing new work. He is high energy combined with theatrics. I like how he changes his voice for each poem.

Phlip Arima (left) is a former artistic director of the series.  Ian Burgham (right) has read his work throughout Canada and the United Kingdom. Both were featured readers at the Art Bar on April 4, 2017.

Burgham is quieter (and sometimes apologetic when reading his new work) but like Arima he brings an entourage of friends and fellow poets with him. Although he has read his work throughout Canada and the United Kingdom, in an October 20, 2010 on-line interview with The Toronto Quarterly, he expressed his preference for writing versus the performing. (Many poets feel the same way.) He is the author of six poetry collections published in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

I’m in awe. Because this is my first time listening to these poets, I make note of Arima’s website here and Burgham’s feature on the Quattro Books website here. I look forward to reading more of their work in the future.

Over the years, the Art Bar has perfected their format. Each week, the series usually features three guest readers. Some are local. Others, like me, are from out-of-town or even out-of-province like Carmelo Militano, a Winnipeg poet who featured a week earlier than my reading. The evening closes with an open stage with approximately ten emerging and experienced poets.

A half hour later, the lights dim and another Art Bar evening ends as patrons slip outdoors to head home. Overall, I’m impressed but please, if you are reading this, stop by on a Tuesday evening and judge for yourself. A list of future readers appears on the Art Bar website.

I’m told, in Toronto, it is common to have two or three readings scheduled each day of the week. If I resided in this urban centre, I could slip into the audience and study them all. Can you imagine what a wonderful ‘live’ classroom this would be?

Rosa Arlotto, host at Art Bar Reading Series, April 4, 2017 in Toronto

Rosa Arlotto emcees the April 4, 2017 event. She is one of several hard-working members of the current Art Bar organizing team.

As a former co-host of a monthly open mic event in the Sarnia area for approximately 8 years, I am aware of how difficult it is to not only organize a regular reading series but to also properly promote it so that it attracts a regular following. In my opinion, the Art Bar team does an excellent job in both areas.

Team members Rosa Arlotto and Margaret Code are pleasant and professional in dealing with featured readers, open stage presenters and audience members. They praise Rob Welch for his enthusiasm and drive in organizing the featured readers from a distance. (Unfortunately, Welch is out-of-the country during my reading but I look forward to meeting him in person one day.)

The following week, I return to Toronto to support Sarnia poet Sharon Berg who reads from her new chapbook ODYSSEY and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017). (Follow my blog for a future post about Berg and her new chapbook.) At the Art Bar, she features with Hamilton poet John Terpstra and Peterborough poet Betsy Struthers.

Sharon Berg photo 4 Art Bar Reading April 11, 2017 in Toronto

Sarnia poet Sharon Berg introduces her new chapbook ODYSSEY and other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) during the April 11, 2017 reading at the Art Bar Poetry Series in Toronto.

During their readings, I lean back, sip my drink and relax. Being a member of the audience is fun. Later, I share some new work during the Open Stage and then it’s over.

The drive back home towards the United States border is long but the time goes by quickly despite the late hour. It helps to travel with another poet; Berg and I chat the whole way. By the time I walk in the door and turn on my computer, the Art Bar Poetry Series has already posted and shared photos on Facebook. The next morning, promotions begin for the next week’s performers. I’m impressed again. Not only does this assist in widening the poets’ regional recognition but it allows out-of-towners, who cannot travel, to learn more about Canadian poets.

I smile like a stuffed potato sack filled with new experiences. The Art Bar Poetry Series is more than a vital thread in our national poetic fabric. I’ve learned it’s a home where poets can come together on a weekly basis and experience the rhythmic sounds and varied voices of poetry performed on a stage.

For me, that’s exciting news! So much support for creative folk!

Happy National Poetry Month everyone!

Canadian Readings of Lummox 5

“In place of Romanticism there is a new cynicism.*” – James Deahl, one of 16 Canadian contributors to LUMMOX 5

Imagine an international poetry anthology filled with ‘isms’: nationalism, surrealism, environmentalism, alcoholism, Buddhism, existentialism, consumerism, idealism, even terrorism.

According to RD Armstrong, Editor-in-Chief, LUMMOX 5, “there are at least 850 isms on record.”  Many of which are included in the 255-page “isms-themed” book released earlier this fall by LUMMOX Press in San Pedro, California.

Titled LUMMOX 5, the collection features the work of close to 150 poets from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Nepal.

Once again Ontario poets are well represented and include in alphabetical order: Ronnie R. Brown, James Deahl, Joseph A. Farina, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Debbie Okun Hill, Eryn Hiscock, Lawrence Hopperton, Susan Ioannou, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Norma West Linder, Deborah A. Morrison, Denis Robillard, Ken Stange, Lynn Tait, and Grace Vermeer.

To celebrate the Canadian contributions, three readings have been scheduled in the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Toronto and Sarnia. 

Mark these dates on your calendar:

lummox-five-launch-dates-november-2016-jpg-version-for-distribution

Several Canadian contributors of LUMMOX 5 will travel to Hamilton, Toronto, and Sarnia to showcase ‘isms-themed’ work.

Saturday, November 5 in Hamilton: LUMMOX 5 will be spotlighted with the launch of three other books: To Be With a Woman (LUMMOX Press, 2016) by James Deahl, Landscapes (Swords and Cyclamens, Israel, 2016) by James Deahl and Katherine Gordon, and Tall Stuff (Hidden Brook Press, 2016) a novel by Norma West Linder. Featured readers include Kent Bowman, Patrick Connors, James Deahl, Lawrence Hopperton, Ellen S. Jaffe, Norma West Linder, Michael Mirolla, and Deborah A. Morrison. This free event begins at 8 p.m. at The Staircase, 27 Dundurn Street, North.

Wednesday, November 9 in Toronto: LUMMOX 5 will be launched with readings by James Deahl, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Jennifer L. Foster, Debbie Okun Hill, Eryn Hiscock, Larry Hopperton, Donna Langevin, Norma West Linder, Michael Mirolla, and Lynn Tait. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Toronto Public Library, Main Street Branch, 137 Main Street. Admission is free.

Saturday, November 12 in Sarnia: Poets James Deahl, Debbie Okun Hill, John B. Lee, Norma West Linder, Denis Robillard and Lynn Tait will read from the LUMMOX 5 anthology. Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy will be a special guest reader. This free event begins at 2 p.m. at John’s Restaurant’s Famous Room, 1643 London Line.

norma-west-linder-during-the-lummox-hamilton-reading-october-18-2015

Canadian poets have also been featured in previous LUMMOX anthologies. Norma West Linder is seen reading in Hamilton on October 18, 2015.

Additional information about previous LUMMOX readings in Canada can be found here and here.

Additional information about 2016-2017 readings in the United States can be found here.

Non-themed submissions for LUMMOX 6 will be accepted from April 1 to May 31, 2017. In addition to poetry, essays on poetics, biographies, and the craft of writing, along with well-written rants and interviews will also be considered. For additional information check the LUMMOX Press website.

 *quote is from the essay “A Yankee in the Closet” by James Deahl published in LUMMOX 5 – 2016, page 198 Copyright © James Deahl 2016 used with permission from the author.