Tag Archives: Sharon Berg

Sarnia-Lambton Poets Prepare For #NPM17 Celebrations

Shift the colours on your page;/and softly coax your reds and purples,/that have concealed themselves/for years…” – Kara Ghobhainn Smith*

Close your eyes for a minute or two. Imagine what it would be like to be a poet. What does today’s poet even look like? Listen to the words melting into a new sound or image. What does a poet write about? Perhaps, you are a closet poet afraid to admit that you are moved by words.

Kara Ghobhainn Smith, author The Artists of Crow County

Kara Ghobhainn will be one of two spotlight readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 April is Poetry Month Celebration.

Today’s poetry, like colour, shifts on the world stage and April is one of the best times to not only explore this form of writing but to seek answers to your questions. All across Canada and the United States, poets are planning launches and readings for the big #NPM17 celebration.

According to The League of Canadian Poets’ website, this professional organization for established and emerging poets boasts over 700 members. The Ontario Poetry Society, a provincial grassroots not-for-profit organization has over 250 members.

The Sarnia-Lambton area houses poets from both organizations as well as The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW), and such local groups as AfterHours Poets, Lambton Writers Association, Writers Helping Writers (WHW), and Writers International Through Sarnia (WITS).

Every poet whether published or not, deserves to be applauded for his/her efforts. If you know a poet, take time to get to know him or her. Ask why writing is so important to them.

Below is an event featuring six area writers who wish to show the public what their poetry is all about and why poetry matters. Hope to see a few of you there!

National Poetry Month April 18, 2017 in Sarnia for distribution

Mark your calendars for this FREE public event – Tuesday evening – April 18, 2017

Six former and current members of The Writers’ Union of Canada will showcase their work during Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 National Poetry Month (#NPM17) celebration, Tuesday, April 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at John’s Restaurant’s Famous Room, 1643 London Line.

Featured poets Kara Ghobhainn Smith (from Chatham-Kent) and Sharon Berg (who recently moved to Sarnia) will share the spotlight thanks to the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers’ Union of Canada.

Ghobhainn was the Chatham-Kent Cultural Centre’s 2015-2016 Writer-In-Residence. She recently launched her book The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press) which includes the poem shortlisted for the 2016 Walrus Poetry Prize. Many of her poems (within this collection) were inspired by artists in the Chatham-Kent area as well as her trip to Mâlain, France.

Author Sharon Berg, founder-publisher-editor Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Micro-Press

Sharon Berg will be one of two spotlight readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s 2017 National Poetry Month Celebration.

Berg is the founder/publisher/editor of Big Pond Rumours (the literary e-zine and micro press) and former host of Sarnia’s Cadence Reading Series. Her third manuscript, The Book of Telling, reveals many secrets that wait on the other side of truth.

Four local poets (James Deahl, Debbie Okun Hill, Norma West Linder, and Carmen Ziolkowski) will also share the stage. Ziolkowski, who is in her nineties, is Sarnia’s oldest living poet. Her granddaughters will assist with her reading. 

“One of the exciting developments in recent years is how Sarnia has emerged as a poetry hot spot”, said James Deahl, one of the organizers and the emcee for the event. “Indeed, it can now be said that Sarnia is an important literary focal point in Ontario. Local poets commonly travel from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to present readings or participate in literary festivals, and several Sarnia poets have contributed to the sesquicentennial anthology celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. This is your chance to hear them.”

Sarnia-Lambton’s April 18th celebration is free and open to the public.

As part of National Poetry Month, several Sarnia-Lambton poets have also been invited to read at out-of-town and local events in April.

Both Okun Hill and Berg will be reading in Toronto at The Art Bar, considered to be “Canada’s longest running poetry-only weekly reading series”. Okun Hill will be the sharing the stage with poets Phlip Arima and Ian Burgham on Tuesday, April 4 while Berg will showcase with John Terpstra and Betsy Struthers on April 11. The Art Bar series is held at the Free Times Café, 320 College Street (College and Spadina). Featured readings begin at 8 p.m. followed by an open mic.


The Art Bar in Toronto is considered to be “Canada’s longest running poetry-only weekly reading series”.

On Wednesday, April 5 in London, Deahl and Linder are the featured guests at the London Open Mic Poetry Night held at Mykonos Restaurant, 572 Adelaide Street North. Their readings begin at 7 p.m. followed by an open mic.

James Deahl

James Deahl, the author of 26 literary titles, will emcee the April 18th event as well as read at numerous events.

Deahl and Linder will also read in Hamilton with several other poets including Sarnia’s Lynn Tait, Thursday, April 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Staircase, 27 Dundurn Street North as well as in Toronto on Wednesday, April 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Main Branch of The Toronto Public Library, 137 Main Street.

On Saturday, April 29 in Sarnia, Okun Hill (who has a manuscript of over 60 poems about the ash trees and the emerald ash borer) will share the stage with artist Mary Abma and other performers during the special event Signposts & Traces: Ash Tree Memorial Trail Performance from 10 to 11 a.m. at Canatara Park.

In Chatham-Kent, Ghobhainn will participate in Poetry City, an annual poetry celebration that encourages mayors and city councils in Canada to declare April as National Poetry Month. She will open a council meeting with a poetry reading.

Additional information about these and other upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found here.

Additional information about The Writers’ Union of Canada can be found on the organization’s website .             


KARA GHOBHAINN SMITHis the author of The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017), co-author of Next to the Ice (Mosaic Press, 2016), Teaching, Learning, Assessing (Mosaic Press, 2007), and the author of the blogspot poetry series, ‘The Travelling Professor’. Ghobhainn is Chatham-Kent’s 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence, and Editor of the Journal of Teaching and Learning (JTL), as well as the books’ editor for the Canadian Journal of Education (CTL). Her poems have been shortlisted for the 2016 Walrus Poetry Prize and the Polar Expressions Prize.


SHARON BERGis an author of fiction, poetry and educational history related to First Nations. She is also the founder and editor of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Micro Press. She published widely up until the 1980s, with her poetry appearing in periodicals across Canada, the USA, the UK, The Netherlands, and Australia. Then she pursued her teaching career. Since she retired from teaching in April 2016, she has returned to her writing and has new work appearing in several places in 2017. She has produced two full books, three chapbooks, two audio tapes, and a CD of her work. Additional information on her website. Follow her review blog here.

Norma West Linder

Norma West Linder is a prolific Sarnia writer (novelist, poet, and short story writer).

JAMES DEAHL – is the author of twenty-six literary titles, the four most recent being: To Be With A Woman, Landscapes (with Katherine L. Gordon), Unbroken Lines, and Two Paths Through The Seasons (with Norma West Linder). A cycle of his poems is the focus of a one-hour television documentary, Under the Watchful Eye. Currently, Deahl is writing a series of essays on ten Canadian poets of the Confederation Period for Canadian Stories magazine for their sesquicentennial issues.

NORMA WEST LINDERis a member of The Writers Union of Canada, The Ontario Poetry Society, and WITS. A novelist, poet, and short story writer, she spent her formative years on Manitoulin Island and now lives in Sarnia where she taught English at Lambton College for 24 years. Her latest publications are The Pastel Planet (children’s novel), Tall Stuff (adult), and Two Paths Through The Seasons (poetry with James Deahl) published by Swords & Cyclamens, Israel. Her poem Valediction has been performed by choirs in Toronto and Calgary, set to music by Jeffrey Ryan, a West Coast composer.

DEBBIE OKUN HILLis Past President of The Ontario Poetry Society and a current member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and The League of Canadian Poets. She has been writing poetry since 2004 and has over 350 poems published in literary journals across Canada and the United States. Windsor publisher Black Moss Press published her first trade book Tarnished Trophies in 2014. This July, Big Pond Rumours Press will publish her art-themed chapbook manuscript Drawing From Experience. Okun Hill enjoys promoting the work of other writers and blogs about her literary journey on this site: Kites Without Strings.

Carmen Ziolkowski

Carmen Ziolkowski, an amazing woman and poet who is still writing in her nineties.

CARMEN ZIOLKOWSKIwas born in Italy and following WWII, lived in England where she worked as a registered nurse and later a midwife. In 1955, she emigrated to Canada and enrolled in the Port Huron Junior College, where she studied Journalism, finishing the course at Wayne State University. She has won several prizes for her poetry and in 1988, Ziolkowski received a special award for her contribution to Canadian and Italian literature from the Italian Vice Consul to Canada. Her first book of poems, Roses Bloom at Dusk, was translated into Italian and Japanese. Carmen has taught creative writing at Lambton College. She is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, the Association of Italo-Canadian Writers, Pen International, Writers International Through Sarnia, and The Ontario Poetry Society. Ziolkowski’s first novel, House of Four Winds, was published in 1987, her 2nd book of poetry, World of Dreams, was published in 1995, her chapbook, Moments to Treasure, was published in 2008, and her latest work, The Moon Before the Sun, was published in 2009. Ziolkowski is currently working on her diary of life on La Monaca, where she was born, in Italy.

*from the poem “Change” published in The Artists of Crow County (Black Moss Press, 2017) page 19. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Kara Smith, 2017


Poet James Deahl was profiled here and Norma West Linder was profiled here. Sharon Berg’s involvement in the Cadence Reading Series was featured here.


Introducing CADENCE, Sarnia’s Newest Reading Series with A Little Music

Leave them wanting more. – Sharon Berg, organizer/hostess of CADENCE: a reading series with a little music

 When Big Pond Rumours founder/editor Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia in August, she didn’t know what to expect. She had just retired from teaching and was hoping to jump-start a return to her prolific literary career from the 1980s.


Sharon Berg, founder/editor of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine, is the organizer/hostess of CADENCE, Sarnia’s newest reading series to be held on the third Wednesday of the month. Photo by Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour Co.

The timing proved perfect in one regard. Spoken Word Sarnia under the leadership of Melissa Upfold was seeking volunteers to reinvent the long-standing open mic event and voila, all the magical ingredients fell into place. Berg gladly took over the reins and her fresh ideas and enthusiasm continue to inspire those around her.

Her initial goal was “to create and provide a venue for short readings of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, interspersed by short sets of music offered by individuals and very small groups in the folk and/or classical vein.”

Last month, CADENCE: a reading series with a little music was officially launched. Visiting author and poetry editor Stuart Ross read from his latest poetry book A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent (Wolsak and Wynn) while Lambton County musician Gregger Botting performed work from his debut album Never Saw A Thing Coming expected to be released soon. An open mic allowed members of the audience to also share their work.


Lambton County musician Gregger Botting performs during the first CADENCE reading series event. Photo by: Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour Co.

So far the response and support has been positive.

“This series has my full support,” said Melissa Upfold, former host of Spoken Word Sarnia, “and I hope it can grow into something amazing. Sarnia needs poetry and Spoken Word in our community.”

James Deahl, a committee member of the defunct Bluewater Reading Series also gave his support, applauding loudly from the audience.

My own views are glowing. I can’t wait to see what Berg has planned for the community. This week, I had a chance to chat with her about some of her personal goals and future plans for CADENCE as well as her on-line e-zine Big Pond Rumours.

Sharon, welcome to Sarnia! 

Thank you! I have been overwhelmed by the welcome I have received and the friendliness of the people living in Sarnia. It really is a beautiful city to live in with all of its trees and parks, but the special character of this city is definitely in its people.

It’s so nice to finally meet. Back in 2006, you created quite a stir around the local writers’ group workshop when the late Peggy Fletcher and the alive-and-still-kicking Joseph A. Farina had poems published in the first issue of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine. Please share your recent literary journey with the readers.

I have just retired from teaching elementary school in Brampton and Mississauga, and so it is not as simple as saying “Hi! I am Sharon Berg and I have just moved to Sarnia.” To a very large degree, I am switching channels as-it-were, rediscovering my writing self as I retire, and rediscovering the public voice I once had, even as I am adjusting to living in this new city. It has been three decades since I last published a full book of poetry, yet I did keep my connection to the writing community through founding and editing Big Pond Rumours, an International Literary E-Zine. I founded the Zine in 2006, and through an associated micro press I published several chapbooks of poetry, including Brian Purdy and John Oughton in 2016, with plans to publish James Deahl and several others in 2017.

Sounds like you’re going to be busy. Tell us about your own writing!

During my post graduate education, I researched the founding of the first Native Way school in Canada in 1976, recording that history through the narratives of its founder, Pauline Shirt, several former teachers, former students, and volunteers at that school for my M.Ed. thesis. That sort of study is another direction I have taken in my writing. I also write short stories, and writing fiction has become vitally important to my personal identity as an author over the past several decades.

So, I am a retired elementary school teacher, a writer, an editor, a publisher, and an educational historian with a specialization in First Nations history and education. It is a bit of a juggling act.

And now you have the title of founder/host of a new readings series for the Lambton County area. What have you planned so far?

About 3 weeks after I moved to Sarnia, I began to advertise a new reading series. I am calling it CADENCE: a Reading Series with a little music. The name has to do with the cadence in both poetry and music, the pattern of sounds, and levels of voice. CADENCE is held on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at The Coffee Lodge, 400 Exmouth Street, Sarnia and it will usually feature a renowned visiting author and a musician. The idea is to draw in authors that people in Sarnia don’t usually have the opportunity to see live, partnering them with musical performance. The setting is very comfortable with its beautiful stone fireplace, it is easy to reach by bus or car, and people can help themselves to a great variety of drinks or tasty foods while they listen.

Sounds great! Sarnia has been home to many successful reading series including the long-standing Spoken Word Sarnia event created by the late Peggy Fletcher and the late Hope Morritt and the more current Bluewater Reading Series held at John’s Restaurant’s Famous Room. How will the CADENCE reading series differentiate from the other series which are now defunct?

One of the big differences in the CADENCE series, I would guess, is it is not focused on poets but it will include prose artists and authors of children’s literature. Really, the idea is to feature any writing that people in Sarnia are interested in, so it may include humourists at some point, or well-written histories or biographies. The time each feature artist has on the stage is also different. We start with an Open Set, which allows local authors and songwriters to share their work with the audience. That set is followed by a second set, introducing a musician for 10 minutes followed by an author for 20 minutes. This is repeated in the third set, giving the musician a total of 20 minutes and the author a total of 40 minutes. That change means that we may see higher profile authors deciding to visit Sarnia.

For instance, we started off the series with Stuart Ross who also ran a Pitch Up Poetry Workshop in the afternoon. That is very different from other series. The pairing with music is also different from most of the reading series, though I have noticed there are several which are beginning to partner music and poetry.


Poetry Editor/author Stuart Ross dazzles the audience during the first CADENCE Reading Series event held last month at the Exmouth Street Coffee Lodge in Sarnia, Ontario. Photo by: Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour Co.

I understand you are also planning some community-based contests. Please elaborate!

This is where other people in the region are needed as volunteers. What makes the series really special is its focus on giving back to the community – by offering chances for leadership through becoming members of the CADENCE committee or by becoming Contest Judges. We are offering four separate contests to promote the literary arts and song writing in Sarnia. The first contest has already been launched and the idea is to inspire the writing of a collection of Limericks. The winners of the contest and the honorary mentions are all invited to come to CADENCE in December, to present them in their own voice. That contest will be followed by a High School writing contest in January, followed by a Song Writing contest in February, and then a Writing Contest that is open to anyone in Lambton county – published or unpublished, prose or poetry – in March.

Why do you think a reading series is important to a community?

 Sarnia is somewhat isolated, especially during the winter months, due to the danger in driving on the 402 in bad weather. In any community, there are always people who write and people who are aspiring song writers. Those people want to be able to see themselves in relationship to other communities which surround them. This is a series that hopes to bring those authors and song writers out of the shadows and inspire them to perform and share their works with their community on stage. It is also a chance to assume a leadership role in the community through the committee or through offering to judge those contests. A reading series helps to attract some attention to Sarnia, and vice versa. It will introduce Sarnians to the stage so they feel more comfortable when they reach out to perform on stage in other communities. Yet, it will also introduce Sarnians to higher profile authors, in a comfortable setting, allowing them to approach those authors as real people.


Maureen Hynes’s most recent  collection, The Poison Colour, was nominated this year for both the Pat Lowther Award and the Raymond Souster Award. She will read at the Cadence Reading Series, October 19 in Sarnia. Photo by Vivek Shraya

What are your future plans for the series?

Right now, I am focused on fund raising to continue with the series. So far, the funds have come entirely from myself and passing a jar at the events, but that is not sustainable. The League of Canadian Poets and The Writers Union offer funding for two readers each, but there are still some associated costs. And the existing funding does not pay for musicians.

As I have said, we began in September with the fabulous Stuart Ross. Stuart is a perfect example of what I hope to bring to the series, as he is so dedicated to writing he agreed to offer a Pitch Up Poetry Workshop in the afternoon. That workshop was an entity unto itself, and just as successful as the Reading. I have heard from authors who attended the workshop how much they enjoyed and were inspired by it. In fact, one person who attended ended up losing the poems that they wrote during the workshop on their journey home. So they immediately tried to rewrite each of the poems they created during the workshop. That is how special the experience of writing is. That is how special I hope the Readings will be for those people who attend them. Perhaps other authors will be willing to do similar workshops, or participate in other events, in addition to appearing in CADENCE.

I have made efforts to raise funds to continue, going so far as to announce a Fund Raising Pasta Dinner in my home on October 22nd. I really hope to inspire people with a similar vision to help me get this series off the ground with enough funding to continue indefinitely.

You are also a writer and publisher of the e-zine Big Pond Rumours? What are you future writing and editing goals?

I have so many writing goals I have to create a list:

  1. editing my 3rd poetry manuscript
  2. finishing the connected stories in a young person’s novel called Chepi-Cumay Returns
  3. editing the 400-page manuscript for a narrative history of Wandering Spirit Survival School designed to be read by the regular public
  4. continuing to write short stories for a collection of prose that I am creating
  5. writing new poems
  6. sharing my work with the public on stage once again

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

I am both a creative writer and an academic, having done my D.Ed. at the University of British Columbia. In the Spring of 2017, my next publication will appear as “The Name Unspoken: Wandering Spirit Survival School”. It is Chapter 11 in a book called Alternative Schooling: Canadian Stories of Democracy within Bureaucracy. The editors are Nina Bascia, Esther Fine and Malcolm Levin. This book has been in-process for some time. It will be published by Palgrave MacMillan and is expected to become a well-used university text.


Sarnia (classical) musician Colin Graf will perform at CADENCE on Wednesday, October 19 at the Exmouth Street Coffee Lodge in Sarnia, Ontario.

Congratulations Sharon. Sarnia is fortunate to have someone with your skills to motivate our local writers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I wish you much success with the reading series and your ongoing projects.

Follow CADENCE on Facebook and mark your calendars for future events:

October 19th with visiting poet and editor Maureen Hynes and Sarnia ‘classical’ musician Colin Graf

November 16th with spotlight readers Nelson Ball (author of Chewing Water (Mansfield Press, 2016) and CADENCE host Sharon Berg plus local musician Mike Blackmore.

December 21 event will spotlight the winners of the Limerick Contest and a musician TBA. More details here. 

Also find notices for the series online in many of the local newspapers, read the posters at The Coffee Lodge, 400 Exmouth Street in Sarnia, or phone Sharon Berg at 289 – 808 – 1025.

Check out Sharon Berg’s website.

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours is located here.