Tag Archives: The League of Canadian Poets

Throwback Thursday – Sarnia’s #NPM16 Celebration

Every April, poets across Canada celebrate National Poetry Month. Some travel to read and/or visit out-of-town events while others stay close to home to organize or attend festivities in their own regions. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, to share common interests, to hear other people’s work, and to grow as a poet.

Last April, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travelled to Sarnia, Ontario to host “The Pathways of Poetry Gathering” and to showcase some of its recent anthology editors and contributors. Non-members were encouraged to share their poems during an open mic.

 

Keith Inman reads at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo- Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co.

Latchkey Lyricality Anthology editor/compiler Keith Inman travelled to Sarnia last April thanks to support of the Canada Poetry Tours program.

 

Special thanks to The League of Canadian Poets Canada/Canada Council for the Arts “Canada Poetry Tours” program for sponsoring Thorold poet Keith Inman’s visit and reading. (Note: the Canada Poetry Tour funding deadline for the October 2015 to March 2016 period is the end of July. The host is responsibility for submitting the application. More information here.)

 

Fran Figge reads at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co.

Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society and Scarlet Thistles anthology editor/compiler.

 

Special thanks to TOPS Founder/Treasurer Bunny Iskov and TOPS President Fran Figge for supporting Sarnia’s #NPM2016 celebration. (Note: check the TOPS website for additional ways in which this organization supports poets.)

Norma West Linder reads at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co.

Norma West Linder, editor/compiler of Enchanted Crossroads.

Three cheers for all the featured poets  (Keith Inman, Fran Figge, Rhonda Melanson, Venera Fazio, Norma West Linder, and Carmen Ziolkowski) open mic readers (Alanna McGraw, Alexandra Ziolkowski, Bill Ansell, Don Gillatly, Kamal Parmar, Paul Ritchie, Melissa Upfold, Kara Smith, Heather Dunlop, Robert Hall, James Deahl, and Colin Graf) and members of the audience who braved the inclement weather to attend the celebration.

 

Enjoy the event photos taken by Melissa Upfold for The Calculated Colour Co. (Watch for a blog feature on Upfold this fall. Here’s her website.) 

Below is a report by Kamal Parmar, written for an upcoming issue of Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter. Parmar is the TOPS branch manager for the York Region. (News about her new poetry book will be announced soon.)

The Pathways of Poetry Gathering in Sarnia Report

By Kamal Parmar

The Sarnia poetry event emceed by Debbie Okun Hill, was held at the popular John’s Restaurant on April 3rd. There 50 poets/readers, including non-members and out-of-town poetry lovers in spite of the inclement weather and the forecast of an impending snowstorm.  Light snacks were graciously donated for this event. Everyone got to enjoy cheese and crackers, fruit, veggies and dip as well as a platter of butter tarts, brownies and carrot cake squares. It was a group effort.

Featured readers include Keith Inman from Thorold. He read poems from his War Poems collection, and Fran Figge, our President.  She read a few poems from The Poetrain Anthology as well as a few poems from her new chapbook, fall float fly.

 

Local and out-of-town guests at TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co

Local and out-of-town featured readers and guests at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Pathways of Poetry Gathering in Sarnia, April 3, 2016.

 

Other featured poets were Venera Fazio whose poetry was read by her friend Delia De Santis, Norma West Linder, and Carmen Ziolkowski whose poetry was read by her granddaughter, Alexandra. Other T.O.P.S. members who read were Debbie Okun Hill and Kamal Parmar. Members David D. Plain and Grace Vermeer came to be an appreciative audience.  Lynn Tait was unable to attend, due to a bad cold.  Debbie introduced her and showcased her work. We had thirteen open mic poets. There were seven gift wrapped prizes of books won by lucky purchasers of the raffle tickets.  It was an event to be remembered.

 

TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia

Special thanks to Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co. for capturing all the memories. I wish I had space to share them all.

 

Detailed information about the featured readers, books, and anthologies can be found here.

Future TOPS events include “The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering, August 21 in London, Ontario; “The Autumn Harvest Poetry Gathering”, October 30 in Oakville; and “The Winter WarmUp Poetry Festival”, November 27 in Toronto. More details here.

Upcoming Sarnia and other Ontario literary events are posted on my Event page.

Mark your calendar for the official launch of Landscapes, a joint book featuring the work of James Deahl and Katherine L. Gordon on Monday, August 15, 2016 in Sarnia. Out-of-town poet Pat Connors will also be reading. Follow my blog for more details.

Windsor poet Vanessa Shields will also be launching her new Black Moss Press book in Sarnia this fall. More details to be announced soon. Follow her website/blog.

Approximately 50 people attended TOPS NPM16 event in Sarnia Photo by Melissa Upfold of The Calculated Colour Co.

Can’t find a literary event or reading in your area? Consider organizing one. Several reading series/open mic events have started from just an idea and the enthusiasm to just ‘do it’.

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Poet Kate Marshall Flaherty’s Healing Ingredients – Yoga, Poetry, and Stone Soup

What a big iron pot/is mothering–cast wide/and heavy as a hippopotamus/smelling of grass and river. – Kate Marshall Flaherty*

Take a deep breath. Inhale her simmering ingredients. Allow the silver-bell-tinkle of spoon and other trickling sounds and taste of vegetable broth to soothe what ails you.

Toronto poet Kate Marshall Flaherty calms and charms her readers as she ladles poetic murmurings from her latest poetry collection Stone Soup (Quattro Books, 2014).

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Stone Soup by Kate Marshall Flaherty was published January 2015 by Quattro Press. Included is Flaherty’s poem “A Mouse’s Prayer” which was the inspiration for a YouTube and Vimeo video by Micro Films.

According to the publisher’s promotional literature, her book “is inspired by the poetic folktale in which three travelers enter a village and open the minds and hearts of the townspeople by inviting them to contribute whatever they can to a simple meal that begins with a stone: a gesture that dispels fear, forges connections and nourishes the entire community.”

As a certified creative writing guide in the AWA (Amherst Writers and Artists) Method and as an instructor of yoga and meditation, Flaherty blends her interest in diverse cultures, the natural world, and family relationships with a sprinkle of spiritual seasonings. Her child-like wonder, her mothering instinct, her aura of optimism rises like the bubbling communal stone soup simmering on the stove.

It’s a recipe she often shares.

For example, one of the five affirmations of the AWA method is Writing belongs to everyone – of all classes, faiths, sexual orientation, experience etc. – and writing knows no borders.”

In the poem “Zatoun” she writes “In this pale olive space/we meet,/softer than handshakes,/warmer than the wrap of scarf.”

Another AWA affirmation is “Each of us has a strong unique voice.”

For me, it was Flaherty’s soft voice and first person “accessible” narratives, both on paper and on stage, which first attracted me to her work in 2004. Since that time, she has been published in journals such as CV2, Descant, Grain, Malahat Review and Vallum, was Shortlisted for Descant’s Best Canadian Poem, the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize and Robert Frost Poetry Prizes. Hidden Brook Press published her first book Tilted Equilibrium in 2006 and in 2009 Piquant Press released where are we going. Her most recent books are Reaching V (Guernica Editions, 2014) and Stone Soup.

reaching v_oct29

Reaching V by Kate Marshall Flaherty features over 55 poems including “When the Kids are Fed”, a first prize winner in This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt, 2008.

In a recent review** of Stone Soup, Canadian poet Katherine L. Gordon stated, “Her (Flaherty’s) language can leap from literature lovely to playful patios, and is entertaining and delightful – quite a mix.”

I agree and strongly encourage readers to view the three video poems posted on Flaherty’s website, peaceworks. Her latest video, A Mouse’s Prayer, which also appears in Stone Soup, is spoken from a mouse’s perspective, “I will scurry my prayer/across the stone mantel/beneath the clock”. A beautiful mix of voice, visual and original music.

Not all the poems are laced with light. In the poem “Statue” she writes, “This stone angel is the colour of letdown/after the Christmas star, the colour of a snowman melting into pavement.”

One of my favourite lines is from the poem “Resentment”. The setting is inside a hoarder’s home and the narrator speaks, “the only space in this dank mansion/is the hope of air/through the keyhole”.

Flaherty is like that ‘hope of air’, that ‘ray of light’ that inspires and guides other writers around her. According to her website, poetry is her passion, yoga is her peace, and performance is her pleasure.

Earlier this week (Tuesday, July 5, 2016), Flaherty was one of four featured poets at the Quattro Books/Aeolus House reading held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Quattro Book launch poster July 5, 2016 with revised location

Flaherty was one of four featured readers at the Quattro Books-Aeolus House event, July 5, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

 

I asked Katie to share her thoughts about her writing process. Below are her responses:

1)      Describe your new book in a few sentences. Why did you decide to write it?

I wrote the poems in Stone Soup in response to over a decade of guiding Golden Rule Leadership retreats for young people, studying World Religions and working at an inter-faith centre. Most of the poems explore in some way our commonality, common ground and/or “Signs of One-ness,” which was almost the title.

2)      How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I think that my poems are more spiritual and metaphysical than many poets of this era who tend to be gritty, edgy and experimental. I can be experimental (see “Discovery of the God Particle”) but find these poems really delved into the mystical at times.

3)      What inspires you and who are your mentors?

 I feel Rumi, Hafiz, Derek Walcott, Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, Ellen Bass and many others have inspired and influenced me.

Kate Marshall Flaherty 1

Kate Marshall Flaherty is an award-winning poet from Toronto.

4)      Describe your writing process.

Usually, I see a connection or a paradox in life that excites me. I often scribble words, a web of ideas, associations, and then just play with the places where I feel energy. I usually write very fast and without any editing in a real flow. Then I edit on paper (I always write in pen first) and next type the poem into the computer, editing and polishing as I type. Finally I let some time elapse and return to the printed version for more polishing. At last I take this version to a workshop, if I can, to get the feedback of other poets.

5)      What are you currently working on?

 I am currently almost finished a work of fiction about a young girl in a foster home with special needs who runs away with her best friend. Something happens when they reach the train station that changes their lives forever.

 6)      Describe your writing workshops and when is your next intake.

My StillPoint Writing Workshops are in the AWA method, and are usually the first Monday of every month from 6-9 p.m. We begin with an entering meditation to get us into that liminal state where creativity can flow and the subconscious is accessed. Then I guide two writing prompts, then we share our raw writing in a safe, creative and constructive environment. Break and snacks. Then two more writing prompts, with lessons on craft, and one more sharing of this fresh writing. They are wonderful and I encourage people interested to visit my website.

7)      What are your future plans?

 I am guiding yoga and writing with Sue Reynolds and James Dewar of InkSlingers in Ireland this summer! I hope to guide more StillPoint Writing Workshops around Toronto and area, and to guide more yoga and writing retreats around the world. I also hope to get my novel out there into the world when it is done, and perhaps get back to play-writing. I am happiest when I am writing or sharing writing in some way. I have been performing poetry to music with musicians Mark Korven/Cathy Nosaty as well as musicians Anne Hurley/Jim Video … I think the fusion of music and poetry is a wonderful way to deepen and enhance poetry.

LCP Toronto rep Kate Marshall Flaherty

Flaherty teaches StillPoint Writing Workshops.

Thanks Katie for the interview. I wish you continued success with all your literary projects.

Additional information about Flaherty appears on the “Members page” section of The Ontario Poetry Society website.

Information about her books can be found at Quattro Books, Guernica Editions, peaceworks, and Amazon.

*from the poem “Stone Soup” published in the book Stone Soup (Quattro Books, 2014) page 39. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2014 Kate Marshall Flaherty and Quattro Books Inc.

**See the complete review by Katherine L. Gordon in the Sept. to Dec. 2015 issue of Verse Afire or posted on-line on the Quattro Press website.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.                                           

Conference Highlights – The Tough Business of Writing in Canada

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

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

All lit up - Winnipeg view from the Radisson Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LCP Toronto rep Kate Marshall Flaherty

LCP Toronto rep Kate Marshall Flaherty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN B. LEE AND VANESSA SHIELDS! COMING TO SARNIA THIS WEEKEND!

Window Fishing…Burning my Father….Laughing Through a Second Pregnancy…I Am That Woman. The poster says it all…If you’re in the Sarnia area this Saturday, November 8, check out the next offering in the Bluewater Reading Series. Admission is free. Open to the Public! More info here.

Saturday, November 8 in Sarnia

Saturday, November 8 in Sarnia

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