Tag Archives: Sarnia

Introducing Kara Ghobhainn Smith and “The Artists of Crow County”

I’m handing in this apron/of silence, so/Tuck your tanks under these skirts/because this is mystory [sic] now. – Kara Ghobhainn Smith*

Poetry like art is open to different interpretations. That’s my viewpoint and I’ve been wrong before.

When I asked Chatham-Kent’s Kara Smith (poet Ghobhainn) about The Artists of Crow County, her first book of Ekphrastic poetry (poems inspired by visual art), she honed in on strong matriarchal images, the woman’s voice, and the elders who paved a path for her.

Kara Ghobhainn Smith, author The Artists of Crow County

Kara Ghobhainn Smith was Chatham-Kent’s 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence.

As an art lover, I was drawn to her “brushstrokes of poetic colour” and how her words were shaped by viewing tangible art work. Is it possible to have two different meanings rising from a single manuscript? Ultimately, this was her book and herstory [sic] so I opted to listen carefully to her literary perspective and then sought out the opinions of others.

Here’s what I’ve discovered** so far:

Similar to the take-charge Nancy in her poem “New Sheriff in Town”, Ghobhainn is that NEW poet confidently storming into Canada’s vast literary frontier. Already she has forged a poetic name with her poem “Splitting Worlds”, shortlisted for the 2016 Walrus Poetry Prize, a prestigious honour for an emerging poet competing against established writers. Both of these poems incorporate strong elements of sound and were inspired by women artists and characters.

Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields gives Ghobhainn a ‘thumbs up’. In her endorsement, Shields declares that The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press 2017) is “a murderous convergence of art and poetry masterfully written by poet Kara Smith, Ghobhainn. This collection is a song to mother earth, turtle island, at times pensive and natural and also fluttering a sassy, clever spirit.”

Sharon Berg, founder/publisher/editor of the micro press Big Pond Rumours and a Canadian reviewer states, “Smith is to be admired for what she has done, working in multiple languages, exploring history and culture in North America and Europe. Her work ‘in the real world’ seems to invade her writing appropriately. She appreciates art as a human expression. She writes involved poetry.”  Berg’s full review can be found here.

Kara Smith book

The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press 2017) is Kara Ghobhainn Smith’s first poetry book.

For me, Ghobhainn’s work is indeed a cultural and spirited montage of words and images. Heavily influenced by her role as Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre’s 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence, Ghobhainn immersed herself in the fine arts community and wrote about the art that inspired her.

What I love is that her Ekphrastic poetry collection reminds me of strolling through an art gallery or museum. Each piece is eclectic and unique based on a specific concrete image that the reader can also see. I give Windsor publisher Black Moss Press credit for including 17 full-colour photographs of artwork, something rarely seen in poetry books. However, I will be ‘biting the hand that feeds me’ when I state that the cream textured paper distorts the colour of the images. Reproduction on a glossy white paper would have been more suitable, although it would certainly add a significant production cost to the publication. I must remind myself that this is NOT a gallery catalogue but a poetry collection.

In contrast to the muted photographs inside, the striking minimalist-inspired cover depicts a black silhouette of a crow. The tips of its wings paint vibrant blue, orange, green, yellow, and red strokes on a cloudy-grey canvas: a strong introduction for the book’s content.

This palette emphasizing Ghobhainn’s use of poetic colour, both figuratively and metaphorically, is what I first noticed (and most enjoyed) while reading an advanced copy of her book. Phrases such as “wash the canvas in soapy waves of/white”, “I was born blue”, “a bright, yellow short life/begins”, and “your red, burnt rubber face”.

Like an artist, Ghobhainn brushes lines of light and shadows of dark into her work. For example, in one poem she writes “She grows straight to the sun”; in another “let them sink to/the dark sands of Poseidan’s [sic]

One of my favourite poems is “The Sunflower” where she writes “I knew the moment I saw her:/tall, defiant, green/in a dry/Crack/of hot black asphalt;/that something was different here.”

Ghobhainn is different and her voice has unique qualities. Stretching her creativity, she even experiments with concrete poetry with the poem “Welcome to the University!” At times she uses non-traditional line breaks and I want to take an old-fashioned ‘blue’ editing pencil and make some minor changes. However, this is herstory and her interest in strong matriarchal figures is what she wishes to emphasize. A poet to watch!

Kara Smith reads during the All Four Love event February 11, 2017 at the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario

Kara Ghobhainn Smith performs at the All For Love celebration, February 11, 2017 at the Thames Art Gallery in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Photo provided by Ghobhainn.

A few weeks ago, I asked Kara to share her thoughts about her writing process. Below are her responses:

In 2015-2016, you were the Writer-in-Residence for the Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre. What was your role and what types of projects did you work on during that period?

That year I worked with artists in two centres: the Thames Art Gallery collective in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, and La Roche D’Hys Arts Centre in France. It was fascinating to see how visual artists approach their work. The process is very similar to a poet’s. While the artist is looking to connect the visual threads of colours and lines emerging from the canvas in front of them, poets are often engaged by the musical, or even visual, link words provoke. I tried to capture each artist’s narrative in Ekphrastic verse to open their exhibit during the year.

You’re a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and have a number of books to your credit. The Artists of Crow County published by Black Moss Press earlier this year is your first trade poetry collection. Describe your new book in a few sentences.

The Artists of Crow County is a truly beautiful book simply because each poem evolved out of the art work of one of Canada’s visual artists, and those national artists each lent images of their paintings to the text. What the reader experiences is a rich meal of words, art, and graphics throughout the pages.

Which of your poems in this book is your most favourite and why is it important to you?

Now you are asking me to choose ‘who is my favourite child’, and that’s impossible! But I have to say that I am always drawn to models of strong women ‘taking on the world’. “New Sheriff in Town” (pp.20-21), and found-object artist Laurie Langford’s work, really evokes that matriarchal strength for me, “Tuck your tanks under these skirts…and crown this Queendom already!” Her exhibit, “Four Housewives of the Apocalypse” will be in Leamington this July.

How does your work differ from others in this poetic genre?  

The voice. The persona in each poem is consistently that of a woman looking back on her lives, her pathways through history as a girl, lover, mother, thinker, and free spirit. It’s a pronoun that’s hard to place at first, but that is the one distinguishing thread.

Your poem “Splitting Words” was short-listed for the prestigious Walrus Poetry Prize! How did it feel to receive this honour? Is it important for writers to enter their work into contests? Why or why not? 

Yes, and again, I often feel that the verse simply shares the story of all women. In this case, renown Anishnaabe artist Darla Fisher-Odjig’s moving Truth & Reconciliation (TRC) exhibit, “Cowboys and Indians” (pp. 34-36). Her [self]portraits are of girls with this strong outline, a solid shell, and an empty centre. It’s very moving. And yes, sharing and honouring our stories as women is the reason to enter contests, “…to reawaken her distinct identity in this world”.

Kara Smith reads during the open mic at Sarnia's 2016 National Poetry Month Celebration April 3, 2016 Photo by Melissa Upfold for Calculated Colour Co.

Last year Kara Ghobhainn Smith was an open mic reader at Sarnia’s 2016 National Poetry Month celebration. This year, she returns as one of two featured readers for the 2017 celebration.  The other featured guest will be Sharon Berg. We acknowledge the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada. Photo courtesy of Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour Co.

What inspires you and who are your mentors?

Waterloo coders; artists persisting with their work despite 21st-century industry struggles; the organic metaphors in our world; and my grandmothers, elders who have paved this path for me: they are the living synapses between the parts we segregate.

Describe your writing process.

I am drawn to poetry and short story because I have a busy family life. The form is manageable, in its whole, during the time of the day I have to myself. After the meals, dishes, cleaning, and children are gone, I usually have an hour or two to sit, have a coffee, and write. Then I go to work, answer on-average 170 emails later in the day, and the domestic work begins again in the evening. I try to keep to this schedule Monday to Friday, like a job, and before bed each evening I read. Reading is critical for language building; I don’t believe one can write without it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of a post-apocalyptic short story entitled, ‘The Tryout’, and it has me on the end of my nerves!

What are your future plans?

Write something, just for me, in the quiet of each morning. Laugh, as a child, each afternoon.

Thanks Kara. It’s been fun chatting. I look forward to hearing you read in Sarnia next week.

Ghobhainn will be one of two featured readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 National Poetry Month Celebration, Tuesday, April 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at John’s Restaurant’s “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Her reading is made possible with financial assistance from the Canadian Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada. More information here.

She will also be reading at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on August 4, 2017.

In addition to her poetry book, Ghobhainn is the co-author of Next to the Ice: Exploring the Culture and Community of Hockey in Canada (Mosaic Press, 2016), Teaching, Learning, Assessing (Mosaic Press, 2007), and the author of the blogspot poetry series, ‘The Travelling Professor’. She is also the Editor of the Journal of Teaching and Learning (JTL), as well as the books’ editor for the Canadian Journal of Education (CTL). Additional bio information is located on The Writers’ Union of Canada website. Additional information about Ghobhainn and The Artists of Crow County is located on the Black Moss Press website.

*from the poem “New Sheriff in Town” published in the book The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017) page 20. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Kara Smith, 2017.
**Please note: I must disclose that I’ve met and read with Globhainn on several occasions and that my opinions may be perceived as a conflict of interest since we are both published by the same publisher. Therefore, I strongly suggest that readers make their own judgments about her 57-poem, 96-page collection and feel free to add your opinions. Comments that are spam or do not pertain to this topic will be eliminated.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.                 

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Celebrating the Life of John Drage 1930 – 2015

“Remember me with humour,/The jokes I loved to tell and hear told,/The pranks that were played by me and on me.” John Drage*

He towered like a silo over a flattened toad poem. I can still hear his dry cough, the way he spun a tall tale or a comical verse with a straight face. He made so many people laugh.

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In Memory of the Late John Drage. He made so many people laugh.

Almost a year ago** (December 11, 2015), Sarnia-Lambton’s literary community gathered with his family and friends and embraced the fond memories of the late John Drage, a local storyteller /poet who often slipped jokes from his shirt sleeves and magically created laughter with his dry wit. If anyone had a “hole in his or her bucket”, he would try to fix it. He was not only handy with a hammer on the farm but also dandy with his words when he moved into the city.

“I was especially fortunate to have been able to hear many of the stories John told about his own past, about his own family, and his skills in the kitchen,” said historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy in his tribute to John at last year’s celebration of life. “As a local historian, I was able to learn about many of the early pioneers who farmed in Southeast Lambton, people John had known, folks who built so many of the small communities in places like Shetland.”

Family members, friends, and celebrant Allan McKeown also highlighted John’s love of the arts, marriage, learning, nature, and love in general. Five candles were lit while poetry, music and heart-felt stories enlightened the audience. Following the benediction, Leonard Cohen’s famous song ‘Hallelujah” filled the room.

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John had a passion for the arts, marriage, learning, nature, and love in general.

What a loss for the local literary community! He (and his wife Peggy who predeceased him by four years) left two holes in my bucket-heart.

I first met John back in 2002 when I joined a local writers’ workshop group. He penned and shared what he knew, then used his imagination to liven it up. He also loved local history and often wrote humourous and traditional form poems that rhymed.

“Like all poems, a humourous one starts with an idea or a line,” wrote John in an article called “Finding Humour in Your Poetry” published in the May to August 2015 Verse Afire. “I am a tall man with a short memory. I try to keep pen and paper handy to catch fleeting ideas. Sometimes, I start with an opening line and work forwards. Sometimes, I start with the last line and work backwards.”

His humour followed him to Spoken Word events where he would recite such old-time favourites as the children’s folk song “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” or attempt to teach the audience how to play bagpipes without the actual instrument.

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John was a regular reader/performer at Spoken Word at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

He was a regular contributor to: Canadian Stories, a national folk magazine written by or about Canadians; and Daytripping in Southern Ontario, the “Biggest Little Paper in Canada”. For several years he was also a columnist with The Observer, a daily newspaper from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

He was a member of several local writing groups: Writers in Transition (WIT), Spoken Word at the Lawrence House, Lambton Writers Association, and Writers Helping Writers (WHW) plus the provincial group The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS). He also attended book launches, ArtWalk and First Friday events in Sarnia.

Despite his accomplishments, fame did not interest him. As a writer he was content with the old ways: plunking on his typo-infected typewriter and submitting work via snail mail. Most of his work is compiled in books published by Sydenham Press, a small press he owned and operated with his late wife, the award-winning poet Peggy Fletcher.

sample-of-books-by-john-drage

Several books by the late John Drage were published by Sydenham Press, a small press he owned and operated with his wife, the late Peggy Fletcher.

His sudden and unexpected death from a stroke at the age of 85 shocked those who were close to him.

“He was like a father figure to me,” said Melissa Upfold, former Spoken Word Sarnia host who also lost her own father a year ago. “He and Peggy attended all my readings and art shows. They were true supporters of the artistic and literary community.”

“Such a great loss to our writing community, said Phyllis Humby, founder of the social networking group Lambton Writers Association. “John was a gentle man of great wit and compassion. Quiet and unassuming. Some of us are comforted to imagine that he is with Peggy now. And [his dog] Patches, too. Still heartbreaking to say goodbye.”

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John recites the children’s folk song “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” during a Spoken Word event.

“He always made jokes about his height and my lack of,” said Lynn Tait, spokesperson for the AfterHours Poets group. “His ‘Ode to a Flattened Toad’ is a classic, recited for us annually, and I will always remember his Dandee stories. His ability to memorize and recite his poems was amazing, and his on-going, tongue-in-cheek limerick battles with Anne Beachey [close friend and storyteller] were legendary. He was a kind and gentle man. All of us in After Hours Poets, miss him very much. He is back home now with his soul mate, Peggy.”

“John Drage was more than just a poet,” said I.B. Iskov, Founding Member of TOPS.  “He was a storyteller and a humourist. The Ontario Poetry Society was fortunate to acquire a short essay from John appropriately titled, “Finding Humour in Poetry”…. His wit, his charm and his “voice” will be missed.”

“I still can’t believe he’s gone,” said Norma West Linder, one of the members who established Writers in Transitions (WIT), a local writers workshop group. Below is a poem written by Linder, as a tribute to her long-time friend:

Shadow of a Special Smile
for John Alfred Drage
(July 9, 1930-Dec. 7, 2015)***

Stuffed in an envelope somewhere
in my cluttered computer room
John’s obituary
–John, who made everyone laugh
with his droll sense of humour
his limericks and tall tales
delivered with panache
 

John, who was like a brother to me
for half a century
taken by a massive stroke
on Pearl Harbour Day
 

I still expect to meet him
just around the corner
still expect to find him
there on his usual chair
at our Unitarian Fellowship
each Sunday
still expect to see his special smile
whenever writers get together

This week I look back and remember John Drage, a writer who gifted the literary community with such fond and humourous memories.

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In Paradise: John Drage reunited with Peggy Fletcher, the love of his life.

*originally printed in the program for the Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration for the Life of John Alfred Drage held Friday, December 11, 2015 in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Reprinted here with permission from the estate.

**Almost a year has passed since this blog was first drafted. It was revised and posted here for the first time as a reminder that John Drage has not been forgotten, that his spirit and love for others remain in Sarnia’s literary community.

***poem used with permission from the poet. 2016 © Norma West Linder

Historical Fiction Writer Bob McCarthy Fast Forwards to the 21st Century

Laura turned once again to face her cousin Kathy, pausing for nearly a minute before turning back to the audience. With tears in her eyes and sadness in her voice, she said, “I was so alone”. – Bob McCarthy*

 Back in 2013, Sarnia’s historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy published the book Case 666: A Travesty of Justice. The novel travelled back in time to resurrect the true story of Elizabeth Workman, a battered woman who was locally executed after being convicted of murdering her husband.

Bob McCarthy 2016 Photo 2

Sarnia-Lambton author Bob McCarthy with his new novella GENERATIONS (Quinn Riley Press, 2016), a follow-up to his 2013 book Case 666.

On June 19, 2016 (exactly 143 years after her hanging), Bob McCarthy will launch his fictional novella GENERATIONS: The Descendants of Elizabeth Workman. The 132-page book attempts to answer some of the more pressing questions arising from Case 666 including the possible whereabouts and the “nature versus nurture” impact on Workman’s two children: Hugh and Catherine. Published by Quinn Riley Press, the story jumps forward to a Sarnia hospital room in 1940 and continues with a 2016 reunion in an Owen Sound library.

At one point, the character Kathy states, “As the oldest, I would gather my brothers and sisters in my arms. Tell them to close their eyes. We would hide under the kitchen table until it was over.”*

The seriousness and prevalence of domestic violence in society makes this book a difficult topic to address and to read but demonstrates the need for victims to seek help and for crusaders to assist and lobby for change.                                                      

As McCarthy wrote in his Author’s Note: “This story is one man’s way of trying to speak out against pernicious violence directed daily at women and young girls, violence that prevents females of all ages from living full lives and realizing their true potential.”**

GENERATIONS is McCarthy’s 12th self-published book aimed at making Lambton County’s history come alive.

Meet the author this Sunday, June 19, 2016 from 2 to 3 p.m. at The Book Keeper, 500 Exmouth Street in Sarnia.

generations

Bob McCarthy will launch GENERATIONS on Sunday, June 19, 2016, the 143rd anniversary of the hanging of Elizabeth Workman.

Additional information about the launch is posted on this Facebook event page.

An earlier interview with McCarthy discussing his writing process appears here. 

Additional information about McCarthy can be found on his website .

*from the book GENERATIONS: The Descendants of Elizabeth Workman (Quinn Riley Press, 2016) page 112 and 113. Reprinted with the author permission: Copyright ©2016 Bob McCarthy

**from the Author’s Note from the book GENERATIONS: The Descendants of Elizabeth Workman (Quinn Riley Press, 2016) page 127. Reprinted with the author permission: Copyright ©2016 Bob McCarthy

Launching This Sunday, Sarnia, You Are In My Heart by Najah Shuqair

 

Sarnia poet Najah Shuqair

Sarnia poet Najah Shuqair

Sarnia resident Najah Shuqair is a fighter. As a cancer survivor with a double mastectomy, she continues to stay positive despite life’s challenges. Almost two years ago, she lost her oldest son and just recently her father passed away. Now she is experiencing periods of low blood sugar. Still, she is a firm believer that having a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.

Raised and educated as a journalist in Jordan, Shuqair is determined and courageous. One of her goals upon moving to Canada was to write proficiently in English which is her second language. To hone her skills, she belongs to Writers International Through Sarnia (WITS), The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS), and Artists For A Better World (AFABW) in Hollywood, California. She recently joined Lambton Toastmasters Club in Sarnia

This Sunday, August 3, her second collection of poems Sarnia, You Are In My Heart will be officially launched from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kinsmen Club of Sarnia, 656 Lakeshore Road in Sarnia. The book is dedicated to the City of Sarnia, in honour of its 100th birthday.

The afternoon will be hosted by well-known Sarnia writer Norma West Linder and will include a spotlight reading by Shuqair as well as poetic presentations by other local writers.

Refreshments will be served. Admission is free. Books are available at the launch and at the local indie store The Book Keeper in Sarnia.  Fifty percent of the book’s proceeds will be donated to the Sarnia Branch of The Canadian Diabetes Association.

Last week, I had a chance to read an advance copy of Shuqair’s second chapbook. Below is my review:

Sarnia, You Are In My Heart                                Reviewed by Debbie Okun Hill
Poetry by Najah Shuqair
Akhdar Press; 2014, 38 pages
I.S.B.N. 978-0-9811478-1-9

Six years after launching her debut chapbook Enter My Heart: Poems for the Soul, poet Najah Shuqair continues to focus on the heart: her love and passion for family, nature, and even the colour green. In fact, the word “heart” is mentioned over 15 times in her new book with her introductory poem stating “My heart is in every inch I walk on.” Her interest in the soul and spirits is still strong as evident in her poems “The Spirit”, “The Ghoul” and “White Angel with Green Outfit”.

Sarnia, You Are In My Heart by Najah Shuqair will be launched Sunday, August 3 in Sarnia.

Sarnia, You Are In My Heart by Najah Shuqair will be launched Sunday, August 3 in Sarnia.

However, in this second chapbook Sarnia, You Are In My Heart, Shuqair showcases her growth as a poet by experimenting with various poetic devices such as internal and end rhyme, free verse, alliteration and similes. Six of the 28 poems are written in acrostic form.

Raised and educated as a journalist in Jordan, Shuqair has embraced her Canadian home of Sarnia, Ontario but has also added some Arabic references which enrich her work. Her narrative exploration in new settings is welcomed. For example, in the poem “Sarnia” she writes “Your airport provides wings/to Toronto and beyond” and later in the poem “Car Rolls Over” she states “A car races the wind…not all people strapped in seat belts”.

With deep love, there is deep loss as shown in her poem dedicated to her late son: “Did the rose shrivel/ It was ripe yesterday./I watered it with my tears/covered it with my eyelids.” In this same poem, she writes: We hugged under the tree,/we became a pile of straw./The wind came and separated us.” In “One Winter Night”, one of the strongest poems in the book, she writes “the dark outside is hugging the dark inside” and towards the end of the book in the poem “One Spring Day” she asks “Did the thunder call the clouds to empty their tears?”

            To balance the book’s melancholic moments, Shuqair includes whimsical portraits of lawnmowers, raccoons, owls, herbs and flowers. One of her more humourous lines is: “Eating an apple a day helps me lose weight. As she states in an earlier poem: “We share our sorrow and happiness” Shuqair goes beyond that by showing how the heart heals. Bravo on a job well done.

Sarnia’s Bluewater Reading Series: A Pictorial View

Behind the swinging doors of the “Famous Room”, a new reading series emerged. Below are the poetic highlights!

The official 2014 National Poetry Month poster!

The official 2014 National Poetry Month poster!

James Deahl, Master of Ceremonies and Spokesperson, Bluewater Reading Series.

James Deahl, Master of Ceremonies and Spokesperson, Bluewater Reading Series.

A time for reflection.

A time for reflection.

Special thanks to the four guest readers!

Special thanks to the four guest readers: John Wing Jr., Allan Briesmaster, Lynn Tait and Clara Blackwood.

 

Allan Briesmaster reads from Against the Flight of Spring (Quattro Books)

Allan Briesmaster reads from Against the Flight of Spring (Quattro Books)

Clara Blackwell reads from Forecast (Guernica Editions)

Clara Blackwell reads from Forecast (Guernica Editions)

Lynn Tait reads from her manuscripts Chatter Marks and Broken Days

Lynn Tait reads from her manuscripts Chatter Marks and Broken Days

John Wing Jr. reads from Why-shaped Scars (Black Moss Press)

John Wing Jr. reads from Why-shaped Scars (Black Moss Press)

Featuring New Work

Featuring New Work

Relaxing

Relaxing

A stellar and captive audience.

A stellar audience.

“In Celebration of National Poetry Month. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets”

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The League of Canadian Poets new_logo_2

 

 

 

 

Please note: Two more National Poetry Month Events have been planned for Sarnia.

Spoken Word welcomes writers to share their work in front of an audience, Friday, April 25 starting at 8 p.m. at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Admission is free. More info here.

Seven poets Steven Michael Berzensky, Kent Bowman, James Deahl, Ryan Gibbs, Debbie Okun Hill, Norma West Linder and Lynn Tait will celebrate the literary work of literary giants Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster, Sunday, April 27 at 1 p.m. at the Book Keeper. Admission is free. More info here.

Celebrating Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during National Poetry Month

Celebrating Milton Acorn and Raymond Souster during National Poetry Month

POETRY: HEAR THE WORDS COME ALIVE!

Poets Clara Blackwell, Lynn Tait, Allan Briesmaster and John Wing Jr. during Sarnia's 2014 National Poetry Month Celebrations!

Poets Clara Blackwood, Lynn Tait, Allan Briesmaster and John Wing Jr. during Sarnia’s 2014 National Poetry Month Celebrations! Photo collage courtesy: Bob McCarthy

“Poetry has always been a “spoken word” art, not a “book page” art…Through National Poetry Month, poets are able to travel all over Canada and present live readings.” –James Deahl, spokesperson, Bluewater Reading Series

International Celebrity John Wing Kicks-Off Sarnia’s National Poetry Month Celebration April 5

Back in his hometown to introduce his new poetry book, Why-Shaped Scars, Los Angeles resident and internationally-known comedian John Wing Jr. will officially kick-start Sarnia’s National Poetry Month Celebration Saturday, April 5 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line on the outskirts of the city.

From Los Angeles: John Wing

From Los Angeles: John Wing

Spotlight readers also include League of Canadian Poets members Allan Briesmaster (Thornhill, Ontario), Clara Blackwood (Toronto) and Sarnia’s Lynn Tait.

Organized by the Bluewater Reading Series, this free inaugural event aims to introduce professional out-of-town poets and their work to the general public and will reflect the League’s Poetry Month 2014 theme: “Poetry City”. Several poetry books will be highlighted including work produced by three well-known traditional publishers Black Moss Press (Windsor), Guernica Editions (Oakville/Montreal) and Quattro Books (Toronto).

“Poetry has always been a “spoken word” art, not a “book page” art,” said James Deahl, committee spokesperson for the new Series. “It is difficult for poetry to truly live and breathe in a city without a reading series. Fortunately, the Canada Council and the League of Canadian Poets understand the true nature of poetry. Through National Poetry Month, poets are able to travel all over Canada and present live readings. We are extremely pleased to present three important out-of-town poets — two of them reading for their first time in Sarnia — along with Sarnia’s own Lynn Tait for our NPM debut presentation.”

Tait, an award-winning photographer/poet will be reading work from her two manuscripts Chatter Marks and Broken Days. According to Canadian poet George Elliott Clarke “Lynn has a gift for startling and stunning metaphor, for juxtaposition of casual conversational style and sudden, arresting, poetic language and for irony that moves often toward allegory.”

Why-shaped Scars by John Wing Jr. published by Black Moss Press 2014

Why-shaped Scars (Black Moss Press) by John Wing Jr.

Wing who was a semi-finalist on last season’s America’s Got Talent will perform a half-hour reading based on his latest Black Moss Press book which according to poet reviewer Bruce Meyer “captures those moments that leave their enigmatic scars on our souls…he does so with craft, power, and poetic precision.”

Against the Flight of Spring (Quattro Books) by Allan Briesmaster

Against the Flight of Spring (Quattro Books) by Allan Briesmaster

Briesmaster, a freelance editor and one of the Quattro Books’ founding partners, will read from his recent and sixth full-length poetry collection Against the Flight of Spring. The back cover states that the book “explores such themes as identity, personal growth, love and friendship, Canadian landscape, climate change, visual art, and the roots of poetry itself, in moods of anxious questioning, deep affection, dread, awe, and grateful praise.”

Forecast (Guernica Editions) by Clara Blackwood

Forecast (Guernica Editions) by Clara Blackwood

Toronto poet, visual artist and tarot reader Blackwood will read from Forecast, her latest and second book published by Guernica Editions. The publisher’s website states “this collection of sometimes sombre, sometimes whimsical poems takes the reader on an odyssey whereby things bizarre, miraculous and bewildering can and often do happen.”

The Bluewater Reading Series is a new literary offering organized by Sarnia writers : James Deahl, Venero Fazio, Debbie Okun Hill, and Lynn Tait. This inaugural reading is made possible with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets’ National Poetry Month program.

Additional national poetry month readings include: a poetry themed Spoken Word open mic where members of the general public may share their work Friday, April 25 from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, Sarnia and a Raymond Souster Legacy Reading to celebrate the publication of Under the Mulberry Tree (Quattro Books) to be held Sunday, April 27 at the Book Keeper in Sarnia.

SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

From Toronto: Clara Blackwood

Clara Blackwood is a poet, visual artist and tarot reader. Her first poetry collection, Subway Medusa (2007), was the inaugural book in Guernica Editions’ First Poets Series, which features first books by poets thirty-five and under. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian and International journals. Forecast, her second book of poetry, was published by Guernica Editions in 2014. She lives in Toronto.

Allan Briesmaster from Thornhill

From Thornhill: Allan Briesmaster

Allan Briesmaster is a freelance editor, micro publisher, and one of the founding partners of Quattro Books. He is the author of six full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is Against the Flight of Spring (April, 2013), and seven shorter books, and he has been active on the Toronto poetry scene for many years as a readings organizer, workshop leader, and mentor. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and he has given readings, and talks at venues from Victoria to St. John’s. He lives in Thornhill, just north of Toronto.

From Sarnia: Lynn Tait

From Sarnia: Lynn Tait

Lynn Tait, originally from Toronto, is an awarding winning poet/photographer, who has lived in Sarnia for 40 years. Her photography has graced the covers of poetry books and literary magazines, and been exhibited in Gallery Lambton, Gallery in the Grove, Cheeky Monkey and The Lawrence House. She has been a nominee, in various categories, for the International Black & White Spider Awards for Photography, 4 years in a row. She is a member of the Sarnia Photographic Club, The Ontario Poetry Society and the League of Canadian Poets. Her poetry has been published in numerous literary magazines in Canada and the U.S., including the Windsor Review, Quills, Contemporary Verse 2, and in over 70 anthologies including Under the Mulberry Tree, published by Quattro Books and edited by James Deahl. She published a chapbook “Breaking Away” in 2002, a book: Encompass I in 2013, with four other poets, and has currently completed two full-length poetry manuscripts.

From Los Angeles: John Wing

From Los Angeles: John Wing

John Wing Jr., born in Sarnia, has lived in Los Angeles for the last 25 years, while maintaining his Canadian citizenship. Along with six appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Johnny Carson, ten appearances at The Montreal Comedy Festival Just For Laughs, and a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent last season, John has also published eight books of poetry, A Cup Of Nevermind, …And The Fear Makes Us Special, None Of This is Probably True, Excuses, The Winter Palace, So Recently Ancient, Almost Somewhere Else, and the new book from Black Moss Press, Why-Shaped Scars. His memoir of his early years as a comedian is When You See The Red Light, Get Off, also from Black Moss Press. John is a regular contributor to CBC Radio’s Definitely Not The Opera, and The Debaters.

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