Tag Archives: poetry

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)

 

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Chatting with Canadian Poet Bernice Lever

Gonna kick up these old heels/Swing on that shiny pine floor/Stamp feet to that drum beat./Oh, find some lovin’ galore* – Bernice Lever

 You won’t find Canadian poet Bernice Lever resting on her laurels in an easy chair. Even at the golden age of 80 plus years, she’s much too busy for that.

Berrnice Lever at World Peace Poets 6th Read-In October 6, 2018 in Bellingham, Washington Photo courtesy Ashok K. Bhargava

Canadian Poet Bernice Lever reads at World Peace Poets 6th Read-In, October 6, 2018 in Bellingham, Washington. Photo courtesy of Ashok K. Bhargava

In addition to working on her 11th book of poetry expected to be published in 2019, she is still giving readings and workshops. Earlier this month, she was one of six Canadian and 31 American poets to read at the World Peace Poets 6th Read-In in Bellingham, Washington.  Two of her poems featured at that event will be published in a December chapbook.

Tamaracks - Lummox Press 2018 - front cover

Lever is one of 113 Canadian poets from Halifax to Vancouver published in TAMARACKS: Canadian Poets for the 21st Century (Lummox Press 2018)

Additional work recently appeared in two anthologies published by Lummox Press in San Pedro, California: LUMMOX Number 7 and TAMARACKS: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century. She also had four poems featured in Delicate Impact, an anthology released by Beret Days Press in the summer

In April, the League of Canadian Poets highlighted her poem “Not Just My Bunions” for Poem In Your Pocket Day. (Read more here.) Plus one of her poems was selected for Poetry Pause the League’s new on-line showcase to be launched this November.

Recently, she was welcomed to share her praise of her multi-talented publisher, Marty Gervais and of his five decades of leading Black Moss Press and his national prize winning literary magazine. This coming book is edited by well-known writer Bruce Meyer.

Bernice Lever has made such an extensive contribution to the literary community that several organizations including the League, the Canadian Authors Association, and The Ontario Poetry Society have honoured her with Life Memberships.

I recently chatted with Bernice about her literary life, philosophy, and future goals.

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Canadian poet Bernice Lever – Photo by Juergen Bruhns

Thanks Bernice for taking time from your busy day to chat about writing. Let’s start with your philosophy. On your website www.colourofwords.com, you stated that “structure and form add clarity and creativity to our thoughts. Both music and message – even fun/pun – of words delight” you. You are “interested in idiomatic and/or conversational language rooted in the images of the 5 concrete senses to compress life’s experiences and emotions to lyrics that illuminate.” Why are these concepts so important to you?

The sounds, words and music of our first dozen or even 20 years [of our lives] have a major effect on our personalities.

In fact, music of songs and rhythms are an international language that most children learn before words.

Plus idiomatic / conversational / even slang language of an era or generation is true to that time and those people. Even each sibling in a family has variances with each other.

I try to be aware of my surroundings in sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and colours and shapes. Noticing details stops too much replaying of past memories — especially negative ones over and over. Memory is not a problem solver. Awareness of the NOW and creativity can solve much.

Learning to live in PEACE or not, happens in a family or close knot setting LONG before one gains a university degree or even a paying occupation.

ENCOMPASS 1

Lever’s poem “Mamma’s goin’ dancin’ tonight” appears in the anthology EnCompass 1 (Beret Days Press, 2013)

Your work including your poetry is indeed accessible and easily understood by the general public. Often, you inject humour in your work. In the anthology EnCompass 1, the poem “Momma’s Goin’ Dancin’ Tonight” has a unique rhyming scheme. The first verse has an ABCB pattern followed by AABB, then ABBA, and ABAB. A chorus bridges all the verses together. The majority of your work is in free verse form but you’re not afraid to write and publish rhyming material. How do you decide when a poem requires a rhyme or when it should be expressed in free verse?

 A poem chooses its own form! Mainly I use internal rhyme or repeat sounds to unify a poem. As a poet, I find poems come to me best, upon waking and sometimes I write before rising, before breakfast or coffee BUT not every day. (We all have different body rhythms to our personal creative hours!) Then I read my poems and ones by other poets, before I walk about my house reciting aloud or quietly editing any time of day. When I’m away from home, I always have a small tablet in my purse, ready for a good line. A few words can give birth to a new poem days later: let it grow roots and bloom in its own season.

In an age when family sometimes takes a back seat to work responsibilities, you’ve managed to set your priorities in such a way that family remains an important aspect of your life and your writing themes. Why does family factor so prominently in your work?  

Family is the central life of all cultures. Even if one is an only child or adopted, we all have GENES from two parents and four grandparents. We are not plastic cookie cutter made—even if we live on the same block or winding road.

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Bernice often injects humour into her work. Photo taken in New Westminster. Photo by Juergen Bruhns

Also, I consider myself a People’s Poet. I am not an academic poet – in love with the Greek and Latin classics or other set schools of writing – I can only feel comfortable writing what I know from LIFE more than from book learning or class room lectures.

Would you call yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

 I am not trendy about gender! I love men of all ages and of many types. Yet I belong to the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets. Let’s say I support  #WEtoo – as I have always worked for equality for the sexes—- in jobs, in committees, in leaderships.

Who is your literary hero or who has influenced you the most?

My hero was an early mentor, Irving Layton—as I took two classes with him and was in the class editors’ group for our annual booklet which led some of us to start WAVES, Fine Canadian Writing, at York University from 1972 to 1987. Layton stressed honesty in emotions and to be fearless against CURRENT TRENDS to be “polite and gentle, or seem weak” – that pleased gentile reviewers.

My heroines were Dorothy Livesay, Margaret Laurence and Miriam Waddington, writers I knew from the classroom, readings, friendships, and from their books!

Photo 14 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015 reading with Bernice Lever in Stanley Park in Vancouver - Photo by Okun Hill

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour 2015 reading with Pat Connors and Bernice Lever, Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo by Okun Hill

You have also been a role model for emerging writers. What advice would you give to a new poet interested in publishing his/her first book?

The Canadian Writers Guides, a Canadian Authors Association publication was a major support for writers in the 1990s. There’s no collection like it today. You can still find it in academic libraries. Random material and advice can also be found on the internet.

Most of all: be patient. Just ENJOY writing poems for your own delight.

What’s next for Bernice Lever in terms of your life and/or your literary aspirations?

My focus is to sort/organize my library papers—-for possible University literary archives.

My donation of 15 years of editing at WAVES: a complete collection of 45 copies—a tri-annual—is with York University archives now.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Editor Hadda Sendoo of the World Poetry Almanac has included two of my PEACE poems, a short biography and an interview with me in No. 7 to be launched this fall 2018.

I was also in the 2017 edition which features some 100 poems from over 70 countries.

Thanks Bernice for sharing your experiences and knowledge. I wish you much success with your future projects.

You are an inspiration to so many writers!

Lever is a great grandmother of three and creates poetry on Bowen Island, BC. Her most recent and 10th poetry book was Small Acts, Black Moss, 2016. (A review of that book appears here.)

Small Acts by Bernice Lever

Small Acts (Black Moss Press, 2016) is Lever’s 10th book.

Her travels allowed her to read poems on five continents. Her English composition book (now a free PDF) is The Colour of Words. 

Although she is active in many Canadian national writing organizations, she is delighted to be on the B C coast again, writing and performing PEACE poems internationally. Additional information about Lever can be found on her website: www.colourofwords.com,

As John B. Lee, Poet Laureate of The City of Brantford wrote on the back cover of her latest book Small Acts, “Bernice Lever writes beautifully of water, the ocean, the amniotic mother of all life, of the need for kindness, the deep and abiding life-sustaining quality of love, love of humanity, love for one another, love of our planets, our earth, our hydro biological future threatened by being careless, indifferent, and thereby behaving like a futureless species”.

*from the poem “Momma’s goin’ dancin’ tonight” reprinted in the anthology EnCompass 1 (Beret Days Press, 2013) page 33 and first published in Blessings (Black Moss Press, 2007). Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Bernice Lever, 2013

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I. B. Iskov’s Latest Chapbook Embraces Her Best Poems

 

“I am visiting my childhood memories/green as tomatoes in May/stalked until they are red/and plucked like roses,” –I. B. Iskov, Founder, The Ontario Poetry Society.*

I B Iskov launches My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018)

Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov in London, Ontario, Canada.

A huge bouquet of virtual roses for Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov who recently launched her latest chapbook My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018). Over the years, she has not only acquired many accolades for her dedicated work with The Ontario Poetry Society but praise has also been bestowed on her writing. Many of these award-wining memory-infused poems are included in her new book. Almost all have been previously published between 2000 and 2017. I look forward to reading this new collection.

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Iskov will host The Ontario Poetry Society’s Autumn Ingathering for Poetry event, this Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville, Ontario. Everyone is welcome.

You may hear Iskov read from My Coming of Age this Sunday, October 14, 2018 in Oakville where she is hosting The Ontario Poetry Society’s Autumn Ingathering for Poetry event. Open to the public, this free event will begin at 1 p.m. at Taste of Columbia – Fair Trade Coffee & Gift Shop; 67 Bronte Rd., Units 2 and 3. It will include mini-book launches, members’ readings, and an open mic for non-members. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Additional information here.

Can’t wait?

Below is a review** (of Iskov’s chapbook) written by award-winning Canadian poet Elana Wolff:

My Coming of Age - HMS Press 2018 - by IB Iskov

My Coming of Age by I. B. Iskov was recently published by HMS Press.

My Coming of Age     

I.B. Iskov

HMS Press, 2018, 48 pp

ISBN: 978-1-55253-095-5

The forty-four poems in My Coming of Age—a chapbook with the inside-cover subtitle The Best of an Ongoing Collection of a Life Expressed in Poetry—represent I. B. (Bunny) Iskov’s selection of previously published poems, most of which have received contest citations. The title poem, “My Coming of Age”—a riff on the fan-fiction mold, told as homage to The Beatles—aptly captures the poet’s characteristic wry sense of humour and unshielded personableness in the face of life’s swerves, curves, and world concerns. “The Beatles belonged to me / in my coming of age. It was a freer time / even though the Viet Nam war was raging, / even though there was unrest in the Middle East, / even though my parents were constantly fighting, / I had my Beatles record / to keep me safe and happy / when they sang All You Need Is Love …”

Bunny Iskov displays a discerning eye for the everyday, as captured in titles like “Chronic Cough”, “Wringer Washer Warranty”, and “Ode to My Computer”; genuine interest in the ‘everyman’ in poems like “Trucker on the 401”, “Lucy and Desi”, and “Pamela for Mayor”; and strong identification with her Jewish self in “What Is a Jew”, “The Jewish Side of the Poem”, and “Be on Guard”.

An Iskov poem speaks with personal conviction and plainspoken pluck: “I am in charge,” says the narrator in “Bedtime Chimera”; “My depression is a page in your book,” she declares in “As One Cradles Pain”; “I remember the last time / I worked the street in high heels,” she says tongue-in-cheek in the savvy-shopper piece, cleverly titled “Cheap Love”.

There’s a strong thread of sadness underlying the humour and juxtaposed the easiness in many of these pieces. Humour is often a cover and a face for deep and complicated emotions, and it’s clear that I.B. Iskov has the latter. She reveals her own “Complicated Suffering and Personal Complexities”; remembers and pays tribute to those who have gone to the other side: the beloved people’s poet, Ted Plantos, in the surging opening poem “What Plantos Meant to Poets Trapped Within Socio-Economic Boundaries”; her girlfriends “Marilyn, Rhondi and Lolly” (lost to cancer) in “Making Macaroni and Cheese”; her mother in “Memory and Loss”; and the dead at large in “When the Dead Do not Depart”.

In possibly the most touching and illuminating piece in the chapbook, “Glass House”, the poet writes: “I open my cabinet doors, / rearrange familiar figurines … “I care for moments, dust them off, display them / on little easels. / I’m composed.” This could be the artist’s statement. She makes what she will of her life—delicately, deliberately and artfully, piece by piece.

Wallace Stevens wrote that “the poet is the priest of the invisible.” I submit that Bunny Iskov is the priestess of the visible. My Coming of Age is a collection that will let you know who I. B. Iskov is and what she stands for.  (end of Elana Wolff’s review)

A sample of books by IB Iskov

I.B. (Bunny) Iskov has had several books published over the years.

Additional information about I.B. Iskov appears here.

A blog post about her book Skirting the Edge appears here.

A blog post about her receipt of the 2017 Absolutely Fabulous Women Award for women over 40 for her contributions to the literary arts in the Golden Horseshoe area appears here.

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

Follow this blog for future Canadian writer profiles.

Coming soon a question and answer feature with Tom Cull, London Ontario’s current Poet Laureate and a review of his debut book bad animals.

Later this year, more details about the Canadian launches of California-based anthologies LUMMOX 7 edited by Lummox Press publisher RD Armstrong and TAMARACKS edited by Canadian poet James Deahl and featuring an all Canadian line-up.

Plus, Sharon Berg’s re-introduction to CADENCE, a new folk art salon launching January 2019 in Sarnia, Ontario. Background information re: the former Cadence reading series appears here. Watch for a new partnership with the Lambton County Library.

**quote is from the poem “Pluck” in the book My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov Copyright © 2017 by I. B. Iskov, page 45. Used with permission.
**Elana Wolff’s review of My Coming of Age (HMS Press, 2018) by I. B. Iskov will appear in a future issue of Verse Afire and was reprinted here with permission from the author.  

De Santis Co-Edits Seventh Italian Canadian Anthology

“It was my first day of school in Canada and I didn’t understand a word of English. I was feeling lost and lonely. But when Morena spoke to me in Italian, her words were like rays of sunlight illuminating the darkness.” –Delia De Santis*

 Italian Canadian writer Delia De Santis values the immigrant’s voice. Read one of her stories and you’ll hear authentic dialogue: the banter between neighbours, the fragmented sentences of broken English, the chatter of women at a social gathering.  It’s a skill that comes easy to her like cooking and serving Italian frittata for a guest or working behind the scenes at a local Books and Biscotti event.

Delia De Santis co-edited People Places Passages - Longbridge Books 2018 Image 1

Delia De Santis is a Bright’s Grove editor/short fiction writer known nationally for her work with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.

Her gift for describing the struggles, joys, and cadences of this culturally-rich group is the basil that seasons her storytelling. As she wrote in one of her stories,

“Oh. So now I am not even Italian anymore,” he laughs. “What kind of talk is that? You were friends with my mother…you don’t think she was Italian? Didn’t she speak and cook Italian? Didn’t she do everything Italian? If you ask me, there was no woman around more Italian than my mother…”**

As a co-editor, De Santis also encourages other Italian Canadian writers to share their unique voices and ensures them that their written creations will be heard nationally and internationally. Her latest project People, Places, Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing represents her seventh anthology. Recently released by Longbridge Books, this book was edited with Giulia De Gasperi, and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni.

According to its back cover, the anthology features short stories, poems, memoirs, and excerpts of plays and novels in English, French, Italian, and a variety of Italian dialects. Its 98 contributors are established and prize-winning authors as well as emerging writers. The volume is the most comprehensive collection yet of Italian-Canadian writing, and a milestone in the history of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW). The writings in this anthology take readers on a journey through myriad worlds and themes: Canada and Italy, past and present, immigration, language, memory, friendship, love, fear, mystery, tears and laughter – an essential volume for students and scholars of Italian Canadiana.”

People Places Passages published by Longbridge Books 2018

People, Places, Passages (Longbridge 2018) is the seventh anthology focusing on Italian Canadian culture that Delia De Santis has co-edited. Included in the 98 contributors are local writers Joseph A Farina, the late Venera Fazio, and Carmen Laurenza Ziolkowski.

De Santis will soon travel to Manitoba for the 17th Biennial Conference, Roots, Routes and Recognition: Italian Canadians in Literature and the Arts, to be held at the University of Winnipeg, September 27-29, 2018. In addition to reading her short story “Why Is It Dark?,” she will participate in two panels: “Honouring and Remembering Venera Fazio” where she will read an essay about a friend/colleague/co-editor who recently passed away; and “The Making of an Anthology: People, Places, Passages”, a look at this important book created for the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW)’s 30th anniversary.

De Santis was also a panel member at the Montreal’s Blue Metropolis Literary Festival on April 29 and the first edition of Librissimi – Toronto Italian Book Fair at the Columbus Centre in Toronto on May 5. 2018.

Last week, I asked Delia to share her thoughts about her writing and editing process. Below are her responses:

First of all, congratulations Delia, on the recent release of the anthology People, Places, Passages. How does this seventh anthology differ from all the others?

September 27 to 29, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Open to the public. Program guides available from the University of Winnipeg.

Thank you, Debbie. When this anthology finally went to the publisher for its final proofing and printing, after two years of us the co-editors, working on it, it was a great relief. It’s an understatement to say that People, Places, Passages is a big book. It’s 545 pages.

Actually, at one point we were wondering if we should make two books instead of one—the contributions seemed to be an overwhelming amount of writing. But our publisher Domenic Cusmano, of Longbridge Books, Montreal, was able to set it all up beautifully in one book. He did a fantastic job. And we just loved the cover design Corrado Cusmano came up with. It’s eye catching and the title placement perfect. We are proud of the finished product.

Besides featuring Italian Canadian writers, is there a common theme that loosely connects all the seven anthologies together?

I would say “Life.” There are myriad themes in the pages of this anthology. Migration is well noted. Immigration, and the aftermath of it; looking back either in memory or transferring memory. The present, too, humanity in all its aspects, joy, fear, laughter. Revisiting the past, but always with forward movement. The progression of life that takes us to the present.

Could you share a glimpse into your editing process? How does an editor decide what is included or not included in a book?

Deciding whether to accept a piece of writing or not to accept it is the first task you deal with, of course. Sometimes that’s easy and sometimes it’s quite difficult. You could be presented with material that is meticulously crafted but ineffective and pieces that are written in a careless manner but interesting and memorable in content. But whatever you decide, you have to keep in mind the reader. Would someone, after reading a story think, “I am glad I read that…” The writing has to move you in some way, especially to reflection.

Delia De Santis reads during a Bluewater Reading Series event in Sarnia - May 9, 2015

Dialogue is the oregano that seasons Delia’s storytelling.

What does a normal editing day look like?

Normally, my editing takes place in the evening. After supper is over and the kitchen is cleaned up, I go to my computer room, close the door, and work away. When I am working on an anthology, I hardly get to watch TV or read a book. Sometimes, when I am pondering on what to say to the author, how to word the suggestions for corrections for example, I will make a printout of the writing, put it on the dinette table and leave it there for me to add quick notes on the margin of the pages while I am cooking or baking, or cleaning. I carry that person’s writing in my mind while I perform tasks that are not cerebral. That actually works quite well for me.

When did you first decide you also wanted to be an editor?  Was there an incident that led you in that direction?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I recall Venera Fazio asking me if I would like to work with her on an anthology of writers who were Sicilian North Americans or writers of any other extraction but who wrote about Sicily or its culture. Without even stopping to think it over, I said “Okay.” And then I thought, “What am I doing? I have no editing experience—and I am not even Sicilian!” But I am not someone who gives up easily. So what I didn’t know, I researched and found out—I learned. All my life actually I have learned a lot on my own—figuring it out by myself. In the end, that project was a wonderful experience for me. The book’s title is Sweet Lemons. It had so many great reviews, and it went into second printing. I didn’t feel like an amateur anymore. I had turned professional. And I must also say, I acquired a real love of editing.

Through your editing and volunteer work, you’ve been an advocate for Italian Canadian writers. In fact you’ve been a member and involved with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW) since it began in 1986. You were also the treasurer off and on for 20 years and were recently elected vice-president. The AICW website lists you as the key contact person for this national non-profit organization of over 100 writers from Canada, the United States, Italy, and other parts of Europe. In April 2016, the AICW presented you and your writing/editing friend the late Venera Fazio with an award for your “extraordinary contributions to the Italian Canadian writing community and to Canadian literature.” See more info here. What motivates you to work so hard for this special group?

Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis were honoured for their contributions to the Italian Canadian community, 2016

Co-editor (the late) Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis were honoured for their extensive contributions to the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW).

The AICW is like family to me. Its members, Italian Canadians and second generation, expats, and educators, not necessarily Italian, who study or teach Italian culture, students of Italian language, most of us, share a common background, or interests. It’s also a reality that at first it was not easy for Italian immigrant writers to get their work published. It was mostly rejected for being too ethnic, and it was difficult to break into the Canadian literary scene.

The Association of Italian Canadian Writers became an instrument for promoting the work of its members and a conduit for publishing opportunities. At first, some writers felt that by belonging to the AICW meant ghettoizing oneself, but that’s an idea that has been pretty well dispelled now that we have mostly become comfortable in our position as writers… and even found that our ethnicity and duality can be advantageous at times.

Personally, I am part of my local community of all people, I don’t keep myself excluded. And I don’t feel excluded. But I actually like being in the skin of someone who understands two cultures. It’s not a takeaway. I find it broadens my outlook on life. And, the AICW still functions for me on an important level—besides that of providing me with volunteering opportunities and beneficial networking—that of being able to acquire vital and lasting friendships in North America and Italy.

Fast Forward and Other Stories by Delia De Santis

Fast Forward and Other Stories (Longbridge Books, 2008) is Delia De Santis’ debut short fiction collection.

Let’s switch the focus to your own writing. You’ve been so busy with editing and yet in 2008, Longbridge published Fast Forward and Other Stories which was your debut collection of short stories. Which of your short stories (either in this collection or in other publications) is your most favourite?  Why does it appeal to you?

The favourite of my short stories is “Faces in the Windows.” It was written in the magic realism style. It’s about people in a nursing home, drawn to their windows to watch an old man sitting in his backyard, playing the accordion in the middle of the night. It’s a story that if I were a reader reading it the first time, I would never forget it. I’ve read many stories that I have never forgotten. Even if I don’t remember the whole storyline, I remember the feeling they gave me. Stories of lasting quality.

You have a sharp ear for dialogue. What advice would you give to another writer who yearns to improve his/her dialogue? What is your secret?

Dialogue comes easy to me. If anything has helped me, is that I used to read a lot of plays. So perhaps immersing yourself in reading plays would be good. And of course, it helps to be a good listener. Dialogue doesn’t have to be perfect construction of sentences. It has to capture the character of the speaker and be in the context of the situation at the moment. If your character is a doctor for example, how does he speak when conversing to other doctors, to the staff at the hospital, how does he talk to his family, to his patients? The dialogue has to reflect the mood, the feelings, of the person who is doing the speaking. It has to sound natural, just as in real life.

What are you currently working on?

I am more than half way editing another anthology with Giulia De Gasperi, who is an excellent editor and translator, and I am also doing some of my own writing.

Short stories by Delia De Santis appear in both of thse anthologies

Delia’s work has also appeared in several prestigious Italian Canadian themed anthologies.

Wow, you sound busy. Do you have any other plans for the future?

Yes, I would like to put together another collection of my own short stories. I have some that were not included in Fast Forward and Other Stories, but I need to write a few more.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

For writers: don’t give up writing. Writers make a difference in the world, especially since freedom of speech is not allowed everywhere in the world. Our voice must be valued in our country, but also be made to reach those countries where writers are being silenced and imprisoned.

For readers: please support writers from all over, but also give support and encouragement to our local authors. There is a wealth of talent right here in our town, which continues to enrich our minds… and our community, every day.

Delia, thank you for welcoming me into your home and sharing your thoughts with me. Have a wonderful trip to Manitoba and I look forward to hearing future updates on your writing and editing projects.

PIC_Book_Peregrinations

Delia De Santis is the author of the collection Fast Forward and Other Stories and her short stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Some of her work has been translated into Italian. She is the co-editor of seven anthologies: Sweet Lemons: Writings With a Sicilian Accent (2004); Writing Beyond History: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry (2006); Strange Peregrinations: Italian Canadian Literary Landscapes (2007); Sweet Lemon 2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent (2010); Italian Canadians At Table: A Narrative Feast in Five Courses (2013); Exploring Voice: Italian Canadian Female Writers (2016); and People, Places, Passages (2018).

Delia De Santis has co-edited 7 anthologies featuring the work of Italian writers

Since 2004, Delia De Santis has co-edited seven Italian Canadian themed anthologies. Two are missing from this photo.

For several years, Delia has been on the executive of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, presently as vice president; and belongs to the Writers Union of Canada. She lives in Bright’s Grove, Ontario with her husband. They have two grown sons of whom they are very proud.

Another profile interview with Delia De Santis appears on the Gloria Pearson-Vasey website.

*from the article “Coming of Age” by Delia De Santis published in the book People, Places, Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing (Longbridge Books, 2018), edited by Giulia De Gasperie, Delia De Santis, and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni, page 111. Reprinted with the author’s presmission. Copyright © 2018 the Authors, Editors, Translators, Association of Italian Canadian Writers.
**from the story “The Last Frozen Dinner” published in the book Fast Forward and Other Stories (Longbridge Books, 2008) by Delia De Santis page 41. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © 2008 Delia De Santis.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

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.

Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours Organizes Regional Tour of Prize-Winning Poet

“This morning, my stomach is a helicopter,/on top and in the rear, thrum, rumble, flutter/look how I run; will I need a mop?” – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

A southwestern Ontario poetry tour** featuring headliners Toronto poet and musician Tom Gannon Hamilton and Sarnia author and micro-press owner Sharon Berg will demonstrate how poetry can tell a story, be entertaining, serious and/or humorous based on such subjects as the war in El Salvador, dysfunctional relationships, art, suicide, cannibalism, nature, and more.

Tom Gannon Hamilton

Prize-winning poet Tom Gannon Hamilton will headline Big Pond Rumours Southwestern Ontario Tour with events in London, Sarnia, Petrolia, and Windsor  between August 19 to 28, 2018.

Organized by Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours (BPR), the five readings will take place in four urban settings (London, Petrolia, Sarnia, and Windsor) between August 19 and 28, 2018. The tour also features a variety of other authors (Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby, London author and visual artist Sile Englert, Lambton poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill, Lambton author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby, and Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith) who will read on specified dates and in different locations.

“My goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this form of writing can accomplish,” said Berg who is also the tour organizer. “Poetry was once revered by kings and practised by people of the highest intellect. But in Canada, poetry has been celebrated as an art form for the people, which led to the appointment of poet laureates in tens of cities across the country. Every poem tells a story, and on this tour, with these authors, you are sure to receive a variety of stories.”

Sharoon Berg

Featured reader and tour organizer Sharon Berg says “my goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this art form can accomplish.”

Headliner Hamilton has a unique story to share. In addition to being the founder, curator, and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon (in partnership with the Toronto Public Libraries), he was also an aid worker during the war in El Salvador. His chapbook manuscript El Marillo, which won 1st place in an annual contest organized by Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Press, focuses on the havoc of events taking place in the 1980s during the extreme violence of the 12-year Civil War in El Salvador.

He has also just released Panoptic, a full-sized book, with Aeolus House, a micro-press owned by Canadian poet/editor Allan Briesmaster.

“This means that he has two books of stunning poetry to promote on this tour,” said Berg. “Hamilton is also an accomplished musician who makes his daily living performing music. He is likely to share a tune or two at each of the readings.”

Headliner Berg is returning to active participation in the Canadian poetry scene after a long hiatus while she worked as a teacher. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine & Press in 2006.

“The existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant,” said Berg. “Indeed, both the international literary magazine and the press have gradually gained attention across the country for the work they are doing in promoting Canadian authors and providing an international forum for literary work.”

The press has already published chapbooks featuring Nelson Ball, Sharon Berg, Harold Feddersen, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, John Oughton, Brian Purdy, and Bob Wakulich. Plus, in 2016, Big Pond Rumours also released Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix A Poet’s Workshop (1976 to 1986) which includes authors like: Heather Roberts Cadsby, Richard Harrison, Stuart Ross, and Libby Scheier.

THE TOUR SCHEDULE

August 19 in London: Hamilton launches his chapbook at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Summer Sultry Poetry Gathering, 1 p.m. at Mykanos Restaurant.

August 23 in London: London author and visual artist Síle Englert reads with Hamilton and Berg, 7 p.m. at Brown and Dickson Bookstore.

August 25 in Sarnia: Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby and Lambton County author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby will read with Hamilton 1 p.m. at the Sarnia Public Library on Christina Street.

August 26 in Windsor: Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith will read with Hamilton and Berg 1 p.m. at Storyteller Bookstore.

August 28 in Petrolia: Lambton Country poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill will read with Hamilton and Berg 6 p.m. at The Cottage Petrolia on Petrolia Line.

Each event is open to the general public. Admission is free.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT BIG POND RUMOURS PRESS?

As the owner of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press (BPR) and a recent retiree, Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia and a new home in August 2016. “I moved here, in part, because Sarnia has a small but vital community of authors,” she said. Her work on the magazine and as a publisher had gone on for years as a sideline while she worked, but both the E-Zine and her press were “small potatoes back then. Indeed, I refer to the press as a micro press because it publishes just four chapbooks (30 pages or less) for Canadian authors a year, the press runs being limited to 100 copies. Still, most Canadian poets and first time novelists have press runs of 500 copies with larger presses, so the existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant.”

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours Press can be found here and on its website.

MORE INFO ON THE SPOTLIGHT READERS AND THEIR WORK

 TOM GANNON HAMILTON:

El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton

In March 2018, Tom Gannon Hamilton won 1st place in an annual Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press. Hamilton’s poetry in El Marillo, is of a different character than most authors in Canada present to their readers. It is literary, but it also reveals the effect of being an eye witness to atrocities through lines of poetry that bring readers right into the scene as a witness. Hamilton was a relief worker with Salvaide, an organization promoting social justice, during his time in El Salvador. He worked to provide medical supplies and other aid to the low income civilians in El Marillo. While thousand of people were being disappeared, the UN reports that the war killed at least 75,000 people between 1980 and 1992.

Hamilton has turned those tragic events into moving poetry. His award-winning chapbook is a dramatic and startling piece of work filled with every human emotion: from horror to terror, from grief and misery to sweet remembrance of others who joined him on that project in El Salvador. As one reviewer wrote of his work, “a lesser man would have had a nervous breakdown rather than turning those events into poetry”. Hamilton put his chapbook together as a way of making a public record about what he witnessed and of celebrating the work Salvaide did to save thousands of lives. It is also a text with special meaning for him as his wife died due to drowning under suspicious circumstances while she was in El Salvador. The pain he deals with related to this loss, is transformed into a celebration of her efforts to gain justice for the people she had devoted her life to.

Quattro Books Presents

As for his book Panoptic recently released by Aleous House, Canadian poet Donna Langevin wrote “Maestro Hamilton composes poems with the same musicality, virtuosity and fidelity that he brings to the violin he feels wed to.” This full-length collection will be officially launched in Ottawa on September 9 and in Toronto on September 12. 

SHARON BERG:

Odyssey and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg is founder of Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine & Press in Sarnia. Her first book was published in 1979 and her work includes: The Body Labyrinth, Coach House (1984), Black Moths, Big Pond Rumours (2006), The Great Hoop Dance, Big Pond Rumours Press (2016), Odyssey & Other Poems, Big Pond Rumours (2017) and two audio cassette tapes (Tape 5, Gallery 101 Productions and Black Moths, Public Energies, 1986). She also publishes academic work on the history of First Nations education.

Referring to her first poetry book with Borealis Press, John Robert Colombo said “love becomes lyric in your hands, and poem after poem I am moved from delight to delicious delight.” With the release of her second book from Coach House Press in 1984, Dennis Lee said, “She is one of the younger poets to watch,” while a book review in Malahat Review said, “These are vigorous, quick moving poems with a surprising tension and strength.” After more than 30 years, she will read from her long anticipated third poetry manuscript on this tour.

 ADDITIONAL GUEST READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

 Heather Roberts Cadsby: In the 1980s, Cadsby co-produced Poetry Toronto and co-founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and the Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she served as the director of the ArtBar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections (Brick Books 2018) is her fifth poetry collection. More info here.

Sile Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her stories have shortlisted in contests for Room Magazine and longlisted in Prism International. Her poetry placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and featured in Room Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology, The Canadian Authors Association’s Saving Bannister Anthology, Misunderstanding Magazine, and Crannog Magazine (Ireland). Read her Contemporary Verse 2 poem here.

Debbie Okun Hill is a Lambton County poet/blogger with over 30 years of writing and promotional experience. Drawing from Experience is a collection of ekphrastic poems that present her impression of various works of art. Her books are: Tarnished Trophies, Black Moss (2014), Chalk Dust Clouds, Beret Day Press (2017) and Drawing from Experience, Big Pond Rumours (2017). More info here.

Phyllis Humby lives in Lambton and is a well-known blogger at The Write Break, a columnist at First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors. More info here.

Laurie Smith, is a poet, editor, and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario. She is also an award-winning poet and author of short fiction. Among her collections are Said the Cannibal, Gallstones, One Ninth of a Cat’s Life, Menagerie, and an upcoming collection of poetry inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Read about Smith’s humorous 2018 National Poetry Month reading in Sarnia here.

* From the poem “Running of a Country” from the prize-winning chapbook El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Tom Gannon Hamilton, 2018

**Written from the files of Big Pond Rumours Press and Sharon Berg.

Additional information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found in the event section of this blog.

 

 

#HeartwoodPoet – For the Love of Trees

“Poems fall like leaves until/wheelbarrows sag from collected rain.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

Yesterday’s e-mail from the League of Canadian Poets arrived unexpectedly like the popped cork from a champagne bottle.

“We are so excited that Heartwood is finally out in the world!” wrote Madison Stoner, Communications Coordinator for the League.

Heartwood - front cover image

Heartwood is published by The League of Canadian Poets, 2018. It includes 154 poems by League poets representing every province and territory in Canada.

I could feel the effervescence tingling in her words and the anticipated release of congratulatory balloons on a Facebook page. Bravo to editor Lesley Strutt and all the Canadian contributors and compilers and designers and more who worked behind the scenes on this important project. The League’s fundraising anthology Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees reinforced my own interest in nature and the importance of trees for our well-being. How wonderful to know that others felt the same way. I was pleased to tag along!

According to the Amazon posting, this collection published by the League “features poets from every province and territory celebrating the immeasurable value trees have for the environment and the soul.”

“Trees matter,” wrote Strutt on the back cover of the 288-page anthology, “and we have written about them with the windows of our hearts open, breathing in the good air that the forests provide.”

As one of over 100  #HeartwoodPoets involved in the project, I’m thrilled that the first section of my long poem “This trail of phragmites shrouds” was included in the book.

HEARTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR HD

Special thanks to the League of Canadian Poets for including my poem “This trail of phragmites shrouds – Part I” in its new fundraising anthology.

Since May 2011 (and also thanks to an Ontario Arts Council Writers’ Reserve Grant), I have written over 100 poems about southwestern Ontario’s ash trees destroyed by the invasive emerald ash borer. This particular poem was inspired by Bright’s Grove artist Mary Abma’s Signposts & Traces Ash Tree Memorial Trail installed in the spring of 2017 at Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The poem described segments of the memorial service that she organized. More information about that service appears here. More information about Mary Abma’s project appears here. More information about the status of my ash-tree book…well, that will be shared at another time.

April 28 to May 2017

My tree-themed poem was inspired by the Ash Tree Memorial Performance organized by Bright’s Grove artist Mary Abma. The outdoor event was held April 29, 2017 at Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Another local poet involved in the League’s Heartwood anthology is Lynn Tait.  Her poem “If Our Mother Was a Tree” is featured. Tait is also a photographer and tree lover. According to the anthology notes, she “has published poetry in CV2, Freefall, Windsor Review, Literary Review of Canada, and in over 90 anthologies.

Sarnia audiences will also be familiar with these out-of-town contributors who have read in the area over the years: Allan Briesmaster, Keith Inman, John B. Lee, Michael Mirolla, Chad Norman, Vanessa Shields, and Glen Sorestad. Anthology contributor Heather Cadsby will be reading in Sarnia at the end of August. Also a special shout-out to Penn Kemp, London’s first poet laureate who has worked with area children as part of the League’s Poet In the Schools program.

However, there’s more than just a local connection to this national project.

In addition to the 154 tree-themed poems written by League members from across Canada, the book includes photographs by Chuck Willemsen and a foreword by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of The Sweetness of a Simple Life and The Global Forest: 40 ways trees can save us.

“We must turn to the poets to expand dreams,” wrote Beresford-Kroeger for the book’s back cover. “This is because trees are the parents to the child deep within us.” See her full quote below:

Heartwood - back cover image

“Praise for “Heartwood: Poems For the Love of Trees” published by the League of Canadian Poets.

Contributors are being encouraged to organize and attend launch readings across the country. As the League website states: “Interested hosts can organize a joint screening and launch for Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees and the 1-hour documentary Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees.” What an excellent idea!

Last night, outside my window, Amur maples and Austrian pine waltzed in the rain. Liquid confetti drummed over the tree crowns. Such a joyous outburst!

This morning at my desk, the celebration continues.

“What can the trees teach us?”

I open the patio door, step outside, and breathe in the moist air.

Stay tuned to the League’s social media to find out about a Heartwood launch near you. Check out the twitter hashtags: #HeartwoodPoet #LCPHeartwood

Once additional information becomes available, I will also post Ontario launch details in the event section of this blog.

Read more about the book here.

The League also has an article about the book here.

According to its website, the League of Canadian Poets is “the professional organization for established and emerging Canadian poets. Founded in 1966 to nurture the advancement of poetry in Canada, and the promotion of the interests of poets, it now comprises over 700 members.”

I tip my water-filled wineglass to the trees, “Cheers!!” Looking forward to reading this anthology beneath a healthy green canopy.

Follow this blog for future Canadian poet profiles, literary news, and reviews.

Coming soon: an interview with Canadian poet/editor Harold Rhenisch, Electronic Writer in Residence for the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association.

*From the poem “This trail of phragmites shrouds – Part I” from the anthology Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees (The League of Canadian Poets, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2018