Tag Archives: The Ontario Poetry Society

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.  

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.

Delicate Impact – Celebrating Poets

I have a soft spot for The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and the not-for-profit organization has a soft spot for poets.

Every year around this time, The Ontario Poetry Society releases its annual membership anthology. The process begins in March when members interested in sharing their work will submit their ten best poems based on the year’s theme. Then during the spring months, an assigned editor will select the best work from those submissions.

Delicate Impact - Beret Days Press 2018

Delicate Impact (Beret Days Press 2018) edited by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson features the delicate-themed work of 63 poets from The Ontario Poetry Society.

It’s a huge project but the result is an eclectic mix of work celebrating poets and poetry. Some submissions are new creations. Others are previously published and/or contest winners. What a wonderful showcase!

This year’s anthology Delicate Impact: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Verse (Beret Days Press 2018) edited and compiled by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson, features the work of 63 poets on 214 pages. The book is divided into four sections: Handle With Care, Delicate Matters, Delicate Cycles of Life, and The Climate’s Delicate, The Air Most Sweet.

April Bulmer- Author Photo - Creeds and Remedies Photo Nadezhda

Editor April Bulmer has just released her 11th poetry book, Out of Darkness, Light (Hidden Brook Press, 2018, John B. Lee Signature Series.). Photo by Nadezhda.

“The word… [delicate]…is an adjective that denotes a variety of definitions…” wrote Bulmer in her introduction. “…The poets in this anthology investigate many of these meanings in their delicately-crafted poems.”

Bulmer cited many examples: Kate Marshall Flaherty described an apple slice, John B. Lee penned a poem about foxes and Elana Wolff highlighted the blush of a crab apple tree. Other reccurring themes included birds and cycles and recycling with more cited examples by Donna Langevan, Kathy Robertson, Alvin G. Ens, and Katherine L Gordon.

Some of the contributors will be in London, Ontario today (Sunday, August 19) to read from the Delicate Impact anthology. Others will be launching new books or presenting new work. Non-members may share their poetry during the open mic portion of the event. Sign-up for readers is at the door. The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering starts at 12:30 p.m. at Mykonos Restaurant, 572 Adelaide Street North. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome even if it is your first or hundredth time reading. Prepare to share one or two short poems. The length of each reading depends on the number of readers signed up.

Applause for this year’s editor/compiler:

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April Bulmer’s 11th book of poetry, Out of Darkness, Light (Hidden Brook Press, John B. Lee Signature Series) was released in May, 2018. More information here.

She is known for her spiritual poems and her interest in women’s issues.

Another of April’s books (And With Thy Spirit, Hidden Brook Press) was recently named a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (U.S.) in its spirituality category.

April lives in Cambridge, Ontario.

Sample Books by poet April Bulmer - 2018

April Bulmer is known for her spiritual poems and her interest in women’s issues.

Applause for this year’s illustrator:

Nan Williamson Artist Photo

Nan Williamson

Nan Williamson is an artist and poet. She is a graduate of The Humber School for Writers, 2013; her poems have appeared in literary journals in Canada and the UK.  Her sold-out chapbook, leave the door open for the moon, was published by Jackson Creek Press, 2015.

Always interested in the verbal-visual connection, she plays with shapes, colours, and texture to wed form and content in paint and poetry.

Nan is inspired by beauty – natural, or created in the arts and by language and the challenge of painting with brushes – or words.

 

Chapbook and Delicate Impact illustrations by Nan Williamson

Delicate Impact illustrator Nan Williamson is also a published poet. Her limited edition chapbook leave the door open for the moon (Jackson Creek Press 2015) quickly sold out. Her illustrations appear on the front and back cover of Delicate Impact as well as on the anthology’s matching bookmark.

Applause for this year’s featured poets:

 In alphabetical order: Sheila Bello, Christopher Black, Clara Blackwood, Wendy Bourke, Allan Briesmaster, Ronnie R. Brown, David C. Brydges, April Bulmer, Mark Clement, John Corvese, Linda Crosfield, Laura De Leon, Alvin G. Ens, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Gill Foss, Renée Francoeur, Howard Freelander, Meg Freer, Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, Siegfried Gatkowski, Linda Lou Gauthier, Suparna Ghosh, Joyce Goodwin, Katherine L. Gordon, Glenna Hall, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, Eva Kolacz-Hutchman, Keith Inman,  I. B. Iskov, R. Patrick James, Judith Johanson, Mark Kruk, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever, Melanie Lever, Norma West Linder, Tom MacGregor, Bob MacKenzie, Martha Mallory, Fred Manson, Fotios Panos, Yavar Khan Qadri, Frances Roberts-Reilly, Kathy Robertson, Ellen B. Ryan, K.V. Skene, Michael Stacey, Dorothy Stott, Ellen Elizabeth Stout, Elsie Suréna, Lynn Tait, Vanna Tessier, Jim Tomkins, Sheila Tucker, Lily Williams, Nan Williamson, Elana Wolff, Jan Wood, Ed Woods, and Carmen Ziolkowski.

Submission Call For the 2019 Anthology:

Next year’s membership anthology Dancing on Stones will be edited, complied and illustrated by John Di Leonardo. He will be seeking poems on Landforms/Natural Environments, Music, Relationships, Impactful Situations. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2019. More information here.

What are you waiting for?

 If you are at all timid about sharing your writing and don’t know where to turn, consider becoming a member. If you are an experienced writer looking for opportunities to give back to the community, contact the group as new judges and/or editors are often needed for some of its projects.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society as well as their future readings can be found on its website.

Information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found here on my website.

The Spring into Poetry Party – May 5, 2018 in Cobourg

“My life is like the lotus/swelling in copper light of morning/undisturbed by torrents of falling water”* – Joan Sutcliffe

 I could listen to the voice of Canadian poet Joan Sutcliffe all day! Originally from Yorkshire, Sutcliffe captivates the audience and her accent adds another dimension to her casual reading style. On Sunday, she launched her poetry book From Time to Time during The Ontario Poetry Society’s The Spring into Poetry Party at Meet at 66 King East in Cobourg, Ontario.

One of the beauties of spring and the ease of safely travelling to out-of-town launches and poetry readings is that one often collects precious memories to take home to treasure. Sutcliffe’s reading was one of those memories. The other was the featured reading by Life Member Allan Briesmaster who has been spotlighted on this blog before. I also enjoyed meeting for the first time Greer Roberts, a Durham region resident who launched his self-published chapbook The Slaughters.

 

TOPS The Spring into Poetry Party - Featured Readers and Books Launched

Featured guest reader and TOPS life member Allan Briesmaster read from his recent books while Joan Sutcliffe launched her second book and Greer Roberts introduced his self-published chapbook during The Spring into Poetry Party in Cobourg.

Of course, it was nice to be in a room filled with other writers: from first time readers to veteran performers. All of the members, the open mic readers, and the appreciative audience made the afternoon special.

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The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic on May 5, 2018 at Meet at 66 King East in Cobourg, Ontario.

Below is a report by Joan Sutcliffe that will appear in the next issue of Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter. It is printed here with permission from the author and The Ontario Poetry Society:

Reported by Joan Sutcliffe:

With first blossoms of May, members and friends of The Ontario Poetry Society enjoyed the bohemian charm of our favourite tea house in Cobourg, with its exquisite décor and china tea cups.

T.O.P.S. ever-active creator and organizer, Bunny Iskov, opened the afternoon with a warm welcome drawing attention to the attractive packages of book prizes, donated by our sponsors and  raffled off throughout the event.

First to read was Glenna Hall with an intriguing piece called Looking Glass which conjured up ethereal personifications of starlight and the dream weaver posing mystical questions. Then John Ambury paid tribute to the intuitive insight of women as the shamanic holders of the fabric of civilization in an interesting poem on the roles of men and women in traditional societies. President Fran Figge, using the metaphor of the juicy apple and the slithering serpentine male seduced by white innocence of the female, gave us a poem rich in sensual imagery, and followed with an ekphrastic poem on a painting titled Panspermia. Acknowledging his technical skill in setting up T.O.P.S. publications & webmaster skills, Bunny introduced Mark Clement, whose first reading brought to life old experiences at the high school dance, with following pieces depicting the throaty croak of the crow and fallen leaves.

TOPS The Spring into Poetry Party - members featured May 5, 2018 in Cobourg

Members’ reading with Glenna Hall, John Ambury, Fran Figge, Mark Clement, Debbie Okun Hill, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, and Joanna Gale.

Next came a book launch by Joan Sutcliffe, presenting her new book From Time to Time (In Our Words, 2017), in which she followed the cycle from Beltane to Gemini, then touched on long-lost memories, finishing with a poem on Impermanence which suggests it is the briefness of all passing things that makes life so precious.

TOPS in Cobourg with Allan Briesmaster - May 5, 2018

Featured reader and TOPS Life member Allan Briesmaster launched his chapbook Pod and Berry (Aeolus House, 2017).

During the break, poets and audience mingled and got to know each other. To start the second half of the readings, feature poet, Allan Briesmaster began with a poem from the latest Verse Afire which had previously enjoyed its initial reading at Cobourg. This was followed by the launch of his new book Pod and Berry which is the product of a writers’ retreat in Bermuda and contains art by his wife, Holly. One of the poems came into being through a workshop on dreams, and after amusing us with dreaming experiences he gave us an Office Dream. Then came a descriptive piece suggestive of a parkland’s healing quality, where images of goldfinches and red cardinals emerged life-like from the lines. A moving poem on trees plummeted the depths of ideas from the book The Hidden Life of Trees. His final offering portrayed the poignant sweetness of the last day in Bermuda.

Debbie Okun Hill then presented her two prize winning chapbooks, where in one poem from Drawing from Experience she describes the touching joy of drawing with her father-in-law in the nursing home. From her other chapbook, in her poem Pencil Crayons: Sharpened a companion theme with her father-in-law demonstrates the power of crayons as a medium of expression. Then, from an unpublished manuscript, her poem Turning a Corner was inspired by the loss of four ash trees in her garden which captures in similar vein the loss of some of the Sarnia writers.

Greer Roberts read from his new chapbook, and began with the light shining in the forest and blue moon bliss, before masterfully depicting the buildup of terror approaching a school massacre.

TOPS The Spring into Poetry Party - Open Mic Readers

Open mic readers Donna Wooton, Liz Hammond, and Walley Keller.

Bunny Iskov, first read her poem, Air Show, in which a host of starlings dazzled everyone with acrobatic flights of fancy over the corner of Finch and Yonge. In a stark contrast to this, she informed us poetically as a near witness, of Toronto’s recent van attack at Mel Lastman Square, and then changed to a lighter mode with a rhyming poem on Ontario in the Spring. Last T.O.P.S. member to read was Joanna Gale, first winding her way through a disappointment by a walk near the water’s edge and the exhilaration of sun-blown kisses through clouds. Her final poem, a lyrical evocation of spring, introduced a delightful vocabulary of willow-bough-willow complex words.

The afternoon culminated in readings at the open mike by three talented poets from the Cobourg area. Lots of poems and lots of prizes were acquired by all.

Thank you Joan for sharing your observations!

The Ontario Poetry Society’s next members’ reading and open mic will be held this August in London, Ontario. For more information about this and other literary events taking place in Ontario, check out the 2018 Event Section of this blog.

*Quote is from the poem “Impermanence” printed in the book From Time to Time (In Our Words Inc, 2017). Page 39. Copyright © 2017 Joan Sutcliffe. Used with permission.

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

Memories – The Love of Poetry Gathering

Today the grey clouds parted like curtains on a stage and the sun slid into view wearing a radiant coat! Melted snow dripped and dropped off the neighbourhood rooftops. It smelled like spring…like poetry…like love sneaking around a corner for Valentine’s Day.

If only Cupid had warmed the Earth a little sooner.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering in North York invite

The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic on February 11, 2018 at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge in North York, Ontario.

 

Last Sunday, several local members of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) braved the cold icy weather to attend “The Love of Poetry Gathering” at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge in North York, Ontario. According to TOPS Vice-President Joan Sutcliffe, “the event was reasonably well attended and enjoyed by all who made it.”

Symposium Restaurant North York Feb 11, 2018 Photo Larry Iskov

“There were three book launches,” she wrote. “Reflections: Places, People, Love & Loss – a chapbook by John Hastings, published by Beret Days Press as Stanza Break Series #62; Bottom of the Wine Jar – an English/Spanish anthology launched by Patrick Connors as one of four contributors in connection with the Cuba Literary festival; and Letters to My Father by Banoo Zan, a Persian/English book published by Piquant Press in 2017.”

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering - book launches Feb 11, 2017 in North York

One book, one anthology, and one chapbook by members of The Ontario Poetry Society were spotlighted in North York, Ontario.

 

Additional readers (in alphabetical order) included: Marsha Barber, Sheila Bello, Allan Briesmaster, Howard Freedlander, I.B. (Bunny) Iskov, Mark Kruk, Joan Sutcliffe, Lilly Williams, and Victor Zurkowski.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering - featured readers Feb 11, 2017 in North York

I, like many out-of-town poets, missed the gathering due to the inclement weather and the dangerous driving conditions. However, thanks to Larry Iskov, many of the memories were captured in these photographs.

Featured Readers North York event Feb 11, 2018 Photo by Larry Iskov

May you have a warm and wonderful week!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Celebrating Poetry in North York, Cobourg, St. Catharines, and more

If poetry is life, what then is life?/Or is that the abstraction/before the reflected surface. –Keith Inman*

You’ve got mail! Here’s your personal e-invitation! Gather your love poems and release your pink- and red-ribbon word-gifts to your poetic peers. This Sunday, February 11, 2018, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travels to North York to host “The Love Of Poetry Gathering”, an afternoon of spotlight book launches, members’ readings, and an open mic for non-members.

TOPS The Love of Poetry Gathering in North York invite

The Ontario Poetry Society will host “The Love of Poetry Gathering” this Sunday, February 11 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 5221 Yonge Street in North York, Ontario. Admission is free.

The event starts at 12 noon and runs until approximately 4 p.m. at the Symposium Café Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 5221 Yonge Street, (2 Blocks north of North York Centre, South of Finch Avenue) in North York, Ontario. Sign-up for book launch spotlights and readings is at the door. Admission is free. Everyone (including first time readers) is welcome. Depending on the number of people signed-up, each person should come prepared to read either two short poems or one longer poem. All styles from rhyming couplets to free verse to experimental to rap and spoken word are accepted. More information here.If you can’t attend the Sunday event, TOPS will be hosting at least three more open mic events in 2018. The next one will be the “Spring into Poetry Party” to be held Saturday, May 5, 2018 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the café: Meet at 66 King East in Cobourg, Ontario. A summer event is tentatively planned for Sunday, August 26 in London and information about an autumn event will be announced at a later date.

On Saturday, March 3, 2018, Roy Adams and the Hamilton branch of The Ontario Poetry Society will team up with Brydge Builder Press for “A Hamilton Poetry Night”, 8 to 10:30 p.m. at The Staircase, 27 Dundurn Street North. Highlights include the launch of Vagabond Post Office: A Poet’s Path Home by David C. Brydges (TOPS Cobalt branch manager), featured readings by Kathy Fisher and Gary Barwin plus music by David McIntosh. TOPS president Fran Figge will emcee the evening. An open mic will follow. Admission is free.

March 3, 2018 in Hamilton, Ontario

TOPS Cobalt branch manager (David C. Brydges) will be launching his new book Vagabond Post Office: A Poet’s Path Home, Saturday, March 3 in Hamilton.

THROWBACK THURSDAY:

For those who missed it: TOPS travelled to St. Catharines for the first time last November 12, 2017. Six members took to the stage and two new books and two new chapbooks were spotlighted during the “Autumn Harvest Poetry Festival”.

Keith Inman introduced his second trade book SEAsia (Black Moss Press, 2017). Canadian poet John B. Lee stated in his review published in the January 2018 issue of Verse Afire “..in Niagara poet Keith Inman’s book of poetry we take something of a cultural journey in which we accompany the poet on his travels seeing the southeast Asian world through the filter of language as we depart by way of poetry from our common home in Canada travelling east by way of Cambodia and Vietnam and returning to our Native land changed by the experience of having been away. …we are companions on a journey. We are fellow travelers having knowledge of going hence from the familiar and returning from the foreign. And we wonder what it means to belong. How is it for the exile?” Check the Black Moss Press website for the full review plus info about Keith Inman and his books.

Transitory Tango, TOPS 2017 membership anthology edited and compiled by Ottawa poet Ronnie R. Brown was also introduced with readings by several members. Additional information about this anthology and the list of contributors is posted on the TOPS website.

Debbie Okun Hill shared two new chapbooks: Drawing from Experience (a runner-up in the 2017 Big Pond Rumours Chapbook contest) and Chalk Dust Clouds (this year’s winner of TOPS Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award.) Info about the first chapbook appears here. In a recent Verse Fire review of Chalk Dust Clouds, Canadian poet Ronnie R. Brown states “Replete with unique and unexpected images, Okun Hill manages to produce a small collection that stands large in the readers’ minds. From the boy who writes his love’s name on his arm in ball point, to a recycled book of paper dolls, Okun Hill pushes all the buttons, rewinding the reader’s mind back to an earlier and simpler time when erasing the blackboard and slapping the erasers was a reward worth fighting for.” The contest results appear here.

Other spotlight readers (in alphabetical order) were Roy Adams, Fran Figge, I. B. (Bunny) Iskov, and Kamal Parmar. Work by non-members were also shared.

TOPS Members Reading in St Catharines - November 12, 2017 blog version

The Ontario Poetry Society held a members’ reading and open mic on November 12, 2017 at the Mahtay Café & Lounge in St. Catharines. Featured readers included: (back row, left to right) Roy Adams, Keith Inman, Debbie Okun Hill, Fran Figge, and Kamal Parmar. (Front row) I. B. (Bunny) Iskov.

The Ontario Poetry Society is a poetry friendly grassroots organization with over 240 members. It was founded to create a democratic organization for members to unite in camaraderie, friendship, emotional support and encouragement in all aspects of poetry, including writing, performing and publishing. Additional information can be found on its website.

Several other articles about this organization have been posted on this blog over the years.

A partial listing of Ontario literary events for 2018 appears here.

Follow this blog for future news about Canada’s literary community.

*From the poem “What is Poetry?” from the book SEAsia (Black Moss Press, 2017). Used with permission from the author. Copyright © Keith Inman 2017