Tag Archives: The Ontario Poetry Society

Congratulations I. B. Iskov – More Applause for this Arts and Culture Leader

Some women are absolutely fabulous.

I. B. (Bunny) Iskov is one of them.

Last Sunday (March 5, 2017), Iskov was one of forty Greater Golden Horseshoe residents honoured during the 4th Annual Absolutely Fabulous Women – 40 over Forty Awards Gala. According to the organizers, “this prestigious annual award ceremony celebrates inspirational individuals and recognizes their outstanding contributions to the community.” Iskov received her award for her long-standing service to the Arts and Culture community (more specifically for her dedication and leadership with The Ontario Poetry Society).

Photo 3 Bunny Iskov win her award March 5, 2017 Photo courtesy Anna Yin

Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov was recently honoured at the 4th Annual Absolutely Fabulous Women – 40 Over Forty Awards Gala held in Mississauga, Ontario. Photo Courtesy: Anna Yin

 

I’ve written about Bunny before. Back in 2015, I stated, “Canadian poet I. B. (Bunny) Iskov reminds me of the Energizer® Bunny and the TV commercial where the batteries in the pink-plush, sunglasses wearing, hare “keep going and going and going”. Even the Oxford Dictionary’s description of the generic ‘energizer bunny’ phrase resonates with her character and enthusiasm. She is indeed a “persistent or indefatigable person or phenomenon.”  See the full blog post including a question and answer segment here.

Bunny was also featured in two blogs about her involvement as editor/compiler of the recent Memory and Loss fundraising anthology and tour where monies were raised for the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. See those blogs here and here.

As I’ve mentioned before, Bunny is one of the hardest working individuals I know and is a crusader for all poets, especially those at the grassroots level who need a nudge and boost of confidence to keep writing.

Photo 1 Bunny Iskov at Absoluately Fabulous Women March 5, 2017 event photo courtesy Larry Iskov

For over 16 years, Bunny Iskov has inspired poets through The Ontario Poetry Society, a not-for-profit organization she founded and runs with the help of several volunteers. Photo Courtesy: Larry Iskov

 

With permission from the nominating committee (Fran Figge, Ronnie R. Brown, and me), below are some of the highlights of Bunny’s achievements that were shared with an independent panel of judges. I am thrilled that the judges accepted the nomination.

Toronto poet I. Bunny Iskov is the dynamic leader and Founder of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS). For over 16 years she has funneled her enthusiasm for words into the creation and ongoing development of this highly successful not-for-profit provincial literary arts organization which currently serves over 260 members.

Through Beret Days Press, Iskov has published over 150 books including member anthologies and private collections as well as a triannual newsletter Verse Afire.  Through her poetry initiatives, over $1500 has been donated to several non-profit charitable organizations.  She has also established a poor poet fund and the Make-A-Chapbook Foundation for poets in financial need.

As a volunteer and poetry promoter, Iskov helps launch the writing careers of emerging poets. She embraces writers from every ethnic and cultural background, from hobbyists to poet laureates. She creates, organizes and runs several contests, workshops, readings and open mic events each year.

In 2009, she was the recipient of the inaugural RAVE (Recognizing Arts Vaughan Excellence) Award for her work as Art Educator and Mentor in the Literary Arts Discipline.

Bunny Iskov is inspirational, irreplaceable and deserves recognition for her achievements.

Additional information about her personal literary credentials are posted on-line on The Ontario Poetry Society website.

Photo 2 Anna Yin and Bunny Iskov at award ceremony March 5, 2017 Photo Courtesy Larry Iskov

Anna Yin, Mississauga’s first poet laureate, congratulates Bunny Iskov on her award. Photo Courtesy: Larry Iskov

 

Bunny is indeed amazing. A few hours after winning her award, she was back at The Ontario Poetry Society headquarters sending e-mails and promoting other poets.

And there’s more….

Later this month, she’ll be releasing a new limited edition chapbook called Hold The Applause (Ink Bottle Press, 2017). The collection will include a sample of her poems that have either won poetry awards or have come close as Honourable Mentions and/or Judge’s Choice Awards.

She will also be preparing all the files for Transitory Tango, a poetry membership anthology to be edited and compiled by Ronnie R. Brown and released in late summer by Beret Days Press. Submissions for Verse Afire, TOPS membership newsletter must also be compiled. Several contests and members’ readings and open mic events have also been organized for 2017.

Like the Energizer® Bunny, she keeps “going and going and going”. She continues to make a difference in so many lives. Thank you for all that you do!

 

Advertisements

Squirreled Away With More Books: Preparing for the End of Summer

And then I turn to the piles of books. – Bob Armstrong*

Last week, I finished reading Dadolescence, a humourous novel about a stay-at-home dad written by Winnipeg playwright Bob Armstrong and published by Turnstone Press in 2011. (Yes, I took a welcome break from reading poetry.) In one of the chapters, the main character (Bill Angus) decided it was time to de-clutter his office and he was faced with piles of unread books, magazines, papers, and restaurant take-out menus.

Summer Reading 2016 photo 1

My 2016 summer reading pile. I still have a long way to go.

I laughed aloud. It reminded me of my own summer goal to de-clutter my living space without much success. Yes, the yard looks less like a jungle and I can see (well almost see) the top of my desk but my reading pile appears to have grown.

I’m convinced, books are like autumn leaves. As soon as the weather cools, new novels and poetry collections fall from publisher-heaven and swirl into “must read” piles. The stacks grow higher and higher, the lists stretch longer and longer, and my eyes open wider and wider. I want to rake them into my mind and read them all.

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 MC Fran Figge

Fran Figge, President, The Ontario Poetry Society, introduced the poets at The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering in London, Ontario, Canada.

Yikes, I wonder if all writers have this problem: the love of books and the lack of time to read or review then all! Maybe if I stopped writing and attending literary events (which I tried almost successfully this summer), I would have that extra time to catch up. Maybe if I gave up watching all 10plus seasons of the TV series Bones on Netflex, my mind would be more poetic and less inclined to wander into some fictional mystery genre. Dream on….I’m afraid, I’m a bit like Bill, the stay-at-home dad, except I’m female, and have no interest in writing a PhD thesis called ‘participatory anthropological research’ nor being the next Kathy Reichs, the famous crime fiction author and brains behind the long-running TV series.

One event I refused to miss was The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering organized by The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and the London Open Mic Poetry group. Held last Sunday, August 21 in London, Ontario, Canada, this poetry friendly event welcomed all levels of poets from the experienced to the first time reader. Many were London residents but over half of the attendees drove in from out-of-town: Sarnia, Toronto, Windsor and more. Everyone and anyone who wanted to share their work could do so which made for a long but enjoyable afternoon.

Congratulations to all the poets who launched and/or showcased new books!

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 mini-launches

A record number of TOPS members received spotlight launches/readings for their new books. The next TOPS event will be held in Oakville on Sunday, October 30, 2016.

They included in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name: Moving Waters: Poems and Stories (In Our Words Inc. (IOWI), 2016) by John Ambury; A Hundred Poems About Flowers – the first twenty-five (Boularderie Island Press) and A Hundred Poems About Flowers – the next twenty-five (Boularderie Island Press) by Robyn Marie Butt; Landscapes: Poems from the seasons of Ontario’s soul (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, 2016) by Katherine Gordon and James Deahl; Zapped by Design, Zithered by Wit, The Artisan’s Well (2011) by R. Patrick James; Two Paths Through the Seasons (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, 2014) by Norma West Linder and James Deahl; On Wings of Time: Poems Selected & New (Beret Days Books, 2016) by Kamal Parmar; Poems From An Eclectic Mind (Trafford Publishing, 2016) by David D Plain; and Look at Her (Black Moss Press, 2016) by Vanessa Shields.

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 members in attendance

A warm, dreamy day…close to 20 members of The Ontario Poetry Society shared their poems during the August 21st event at Mykonos Restaurant. Four non-members also read their work during the open mic.

Wow, more books to consider! What a great way to hear a sample from each collection and to learn more about some of the Ontario poets who are contributing to our rich Canadian culture. Rather than gush forth with all the details, I encourage you to check out additional photos on Facebook here and/or stop by some of the future readings held in your area.

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 Host Stan Burfield

Stan Burfield, London branch manager for TOPS and co-host of London Open Mic Poetry held the first Wednesday of the month at Mykonos Restaurant.

As for what happened to the fictional character Bill Angus and his pile of books, you’ll have to read Bill Armstrong’s book to find out. Or wait for my official review which may be posted at a later date. That’s my Canadian author’s plug and cliffhanger for today.

Times up! Supper break! See me escaping my chores, diving into another book, before the sun sets on this last week of summer reading.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) as well as their future readings can be found on their website. Or check out previous blog posts on this site.

Additional information about London Open Mic Poetry and their upcoming readings can be found on their website.

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

The League of Canadian Poets has an excellent blog post about how to start a new reading series. An event listing is also posted on their site.

COMING SOON: Information about CADENCE, a new reading series being planned for the Sarnia, Ontario, Canada area will be posted on this blog at a later date.  I can’t wait to hear what Sharon Berg and her committee have planned.

*quote is from the book Dadolescence (Turnstone Press, 2011) Copyright © Bob Armstrong, page 84.

Poet Profile: Marsha Barber Reflects on All The Lovely Broken People

This is a poem/for when you are broken…Marsha Barber*

The front cover of Marsha Barber’s latest book includes a snapshot of a rag doll with its head tilted and severed at the neck. Symbolically, it reminds me of childhood innocence and how easily it is lost.

book launch photo 2 for invitation with shadow

All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) is the latest poetry collection by Ryerson journalism faculty member Marsha Barber.

At some point we all break and need to find a way to ease the pain.

As an award-winning Canadian poet, Barber cradles this universal theme of family ties, loss, brokenness, and grief and through poetry tries to make sense of it all.

For example, in her first poetry collection What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling (Borealis Press, 2011) she introduces the reader to the joys and tragedies of life and death. As she writes in her introduction, the book “begins with the suicide of someone else’s father and ends with the death of my own father.” It is her way of “trying to understand both the small and enormous losses that make up all our lives.” Her 62 poems are divided into three sections: Remembrance, Graveyard in Summer, and Watching My Father Rest.

This unravelling of emotions continues with her second book All The Lovely Broken People released by Borealis Press in 2015. The 98-page collection includes 64 poems divided into five sections: Inside the House, Difficult Journey, Swimming for My Father, Guided Tour, and Small Joys.

As a journalist and a documentarian, Barber hones in close to her subject matter and writes in a clear and accessible manner. In her poem, “Photo of the Doomed Man”, she examines the struggle between the journalist’s need to share the news and to protect the victims. At one point, she writes: “We’re inured/to gutting open/the fragile moments between/life and/death/like a Halloween pumpkin.”**

Marsha Barber photo from Ryerson website

Canadian Poet Marsha Barber writes about grief and healing in her two poetry collections published by Borealis Press. Photo Credit: Gary Gould

Her work is deep: both analytical and close to the heart. Of particular note is her use of the five senses, especially the sense of smell: “Inhale the smell of coffee and damp coats/still flecked with snow, like white icing.”***

In a Verse Afire review****, Canadian poet John B. Lee wrote: “Marsha Barber’s poems are consoling in their beauty and fortifying in their faith in the quality of a good life well lived and also in the purposefulness of dying well. She writes of loss and of the pain resulting from the terrifying awful things we humans are capable of inflicting at our worst reminding this particular reader of Yeats’ line “…the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” And she confesses more than once in these poems that she does not always understand. And it is that lack of understanding that renders her insights all the more luminous. Her poems are more than an anodyne to soothe the troubled mind. They often kick sideways into the dark realm of true experience.”

By the end of the book, Barber offers the reader hope: “This is a poem to sew those torn pieces/into ribbons//and eventually/into kites.”*

A few weeks ago, I asked Barber about her writing process. Below is her response:

Congratulations Marsha on your latest work. Describe your new book. What inspired you to write it?

I write about what’s important to me and this book was inspired by needing to write about themes that range from the intimate and personal, to events unfolding in the wider world. The poems are my attempt to make sense of those worlds.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Perhaps they’re more accessible than some. I love words and form, and have written experimental poems, but for me the real test of a poem is whether it will move readers. Will they relate to it? Will they laugh, or cry, or pause to think? Perhaps that comes from a deep desire to communicate with each person who is reading my book or hearing my words.

 

poems book cover McNally Robinson

What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling (Borealis Press, 2011) was Marsha Barber’s debut poetry collection.

 

You were a journalist first. How has your documentary experience influenced your poetry writing?

As a journalist, my goal is to tell an interesting story to an audience. That’s made me very aware of the power of narrative and storytelling. Just as journalism uncovers truth, I aim to get to the heart and inner truth of what I write about. Also, I’ve been told my work appeals to the senses, including the visual. Perhaps that stems from my work as a documentary maker. And finally, the best broadcast writing is clear and concise and words are chosen carefully. I’ve learned from that, I think.

 What inspires you and who are your mentors?

Good poetry inspires me. I’m a traditionalist in my tastes, so books of poetry by Keats and Yeats are never far from my bedside. I love the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and Jane Kenyon and Dorothy Livesay, among many others. The Canadian poetry community, which is wonderfully generous, is full of people who have been inspirations and mentors.

Describe your writing process.

I write my first drafts late at night. Usually I sit on the bed with my Hilroy notebook and start to write. I always complete my first draft in long hand and I write fast. Revisions are a different matter. Usually I type out the draft and revise as soon as I wake up in the morning. Reading the poem aloud helps with that. Then I let time pass before I return to the poem so I can see it with a fresh eye before I do additional revising.

 What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on my third poetry book. This spring I was in Europe on sabbatical and some of the poems were written overseas. It was inspiring to write in a new setting in the middle of intense new sensory experiences.

What are your future plans?

More writing. I’ve written since I could hold a pencil so I imagine I’ll continue until I can’t hold a pen anymore. I think the impulse to create is as powerful as the impulse to draw breath. For me, it’s largely what makes life worthwhile.

Thanks Marsha for the interview and for allowing me to share a reprint of one of your poems. I look forward to reading your future work.

The Condolence Call

By Marsha Barber*****

I cradle the phone gently.
You are so far away.

Your grief surrounds you now
like a moat full
of dark water.

I cannot reach
far enough to comfort you.

My words flit around, useless
as flies.
What, after all, can be said?

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, you say.

I imagine I would have howled.
I imagine I would have rolled on the floor.
But in the end, I cannot begin to imagine.

I’ll be okay, you say,

but your voice is so remote as if
you’ve left us all
behind,
for a bleaker planet

where the air is charred,
and you cannot find the path
that leads
back home.

Marsha Barber’s next reading will be at the 100,000 Poets for Change event, Saturday, September 17, 2016, 5 to 8 p.m. at Mây Restaurant, 876 Dundas Street West in Toronto, Ontario. Hosted by Pat Connors and Steve O’Brien, the event will also include readings by Mahlikah Awe:ri, Sharon Berg, Luciano Iacobelli, Donna Langevin, Max Layton, Jeannine Pitas, Robert Priest, Dane Swan, and Anna Yin. More information here.

Marsha reading on train

Barber shares her work during the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour.

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

Descriptions about her books are located on the Borealis Press website.

*from the poem “All the Lovely Broken People” published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) pages 94 and 95. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © by Marsha Barber, 2015

**from the poem “Photo of the Doomed Man” published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) page 69. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © by Marsha Barber, 2015

***from the poem “Writing in Cafés” published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) page 82. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © by Marsha Barber, 2015

****The full book review by John B. Lee appears in Verse Afire, A Tri-Annual Publication of The Ontario Poetry Society, Jan. to Apr. 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.

*****“The Condolence Call” originally published in the book All The Lovely Broken People (Borealis Press, 2015) page 26. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Marsha Barber, 2015  Please note due to formatting limitations of this blog, the phrase “as flies” in the fourth verse could not be indented as it should be. My apologies to the author and Borealis Press.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles. 

.

 

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’.

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).

Stone-Soup-FC-220x357

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.                                           

Celebrating National Aboriginal History Month with Local Author/Poet David D Plain

He takes out cigar his favourite pass-time/To smoke on his thoughts of past paradigms – David D Plain*

As a young boy, David D Plain remembers sitting with his grandfather on a veranda in Sarnia, Ontario and feeling the “awesome power” of Nimikiins or Little Thunder, an Ojibwa War Chief who was also his grandfather’s great-great-grandfather. This vivid childhood memory comes alive in “Rendezvous with an Ancestor”, one of 43 poems in Plain’s newest book Poems from an Eclectic Mind published earlier this spring by Trafford Publishing.

David D Plain was a regular reader at Sarnia's Spoken Word event at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts

David D Plain is an aboriginal historian/author/poet from Aamjiwnaag Territory, Canada.

His non-fiction book The Plains of Aamjiwnaaang won a Golden Scribe Award in 2008 and was short listed for an Eric Hoffer Award in 2014. Two other non-fiction books (Ways of Our Grandfathers and From Ouisconsin to Caughnawaga) plus his historical fiction 1300 Moons have also won Gold Seals for Literary Excellence and were nominated for an Eric Hoffer Award. All four books were reviewed by the U.S. Review of Books.

His interest in history and culture is also evident in his debut poetry book where he touches on such indigenous themes as an Ojibwe creation story told in tercet form, a cinquain with an echoing Sioux expression “hoka hey”, a rhyming narrative about a windigo from Ojibwa folklore as well as references to an Ojibwe sweat lodge. However, non-indigenous themed works like “Limericks in Honour of John” are also featured.

Many of these traditionally-formed poems stemmed from assignments provided during weekly workshop meetings of Writers International Through Sarnia (WITS), one of several local writing groups in the Lambton County area.

 

Poems from an Eclectic Mind by David D Plain Book Cover 2016

Poems from an Eclectic Mind (Trafford Publishing, 2016) explores such universal themes as passion, spirituality, science and nature.

 

As a new poet, Plain takes risks and jumps in with confidence. As he revealed in the book’s preface: “In the spring of 2014, I was challenged to write a poem around a specific word, nemophilist. I had never written a poem, indeed I didn’t think I could. But, always up to a challenge I accepted and the result is in this work.”**

Plain’s work embraces his willingness to experiment and to try different styles including a concrete poem “Thirteen Essential Literary Terms” written in the shape of an umbrella. The front cover carries a surreal streetscape “Paris in the Rain” oil painted by Plain’s mother, Helen M. Coghill.

As shared on the back cover of his book:

“Eclectic and electric with ‘thunderous cracks’ of a summer storm!…Plain opens his literary umbrella to slosh and play in the poetic puddles and rhythmic-rhyming landscapes of his debut collection! Daring and exploratory through an ‘indigenous lens’, his literary trek reclaims such universal themes as passion, spirituality, ‘quasars and quarks’ nature’s ‘gurgling spring swirls’ and ‘past paradigms’. “

Promotion for his new book has already begun.

Earlier this month, Plain was one of three featured poets at Sarnia’s First Friday launch of LOCAL: Curated Art Show and Mural Project.http://localsarniashow.wix.com/local

In early May, he read with two other indigenous writers (Charmaine E. Elijah and Gloria Alvernez Mulcahy) during the London Open Mic Poetry Night in London, Ontario. Additional information: http://www.londonpoetryopenmic.com/may-4th-2016-photos-and-summary-featuring-indigenous-poetry.html

As a new member of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS), Plain will have a mini spotlight reading at The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering, Sunday, August 21 starting at 12:30 p.m. at Mykonos Restaurant in London, Ontario. More info: http://www.theontariopoetrysociety.ca/Poetry%20London%2016.html

With June being National Aboriginal History Month and June 21 being National Aboriginal Day, I asked Plain to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:

(1) You have written several historical based books. What inspired you to switch your writing focus to poetry?          

I didn’t really change my focus, but more expanded my horizons. I am still writing history, but I now also write poetry for r&r (rest and relaxation). I was challenged to write a poem a couple of years ago and I took up that challenge, although I didn’t think I was capable. I found not only was capable, but I found writing poetry relaxing.

 

A Sample of David D Plain's books.

David D Plain is the author of five books: three non-fiction, one historical fiction and his latest a college of poetry Poems from an Eclectic Mind.

 

(2) Today’s contemporary poets often write in free verse format but your book focuses mainly on more traditional closed forms with end rhymes.  Explain why you prefer to work in these older forms.

I prefer rhyming forms of poetry, because of the challenges they present. For example, the sonnets I write must have 14 lines consisting of rhyming couplets and ten syllables per line. I just find the stricter form more fun to try to accomplish, although, I do write some free verse.

(3) Which is your favourite poem in your new collection and why do you like it so much?  

My favorite poem in my new collection is “Death’s Sudden Embrace”. It’s a love sonnet. It takes place in World War II and the two lovers in it are my parents, so it’s very personal.

4) Describe your writing process. For example where do your ideas come from and what do you do to turn that idea into a poem? Also do you write long hand or compose on the computer? What time of day/night do you like to write?

Often my writer’s group is given an exercise to try involving the writing of a poem using a certain form and/or a particular topic. Other times I select a topic from a list of writing prompts or sometimes my muse inspires me. I never write longhand, but type directly into my word processor. My most productive time is in the mornings so that is when I set aside a block of time to write.

(5) What are you currently working on? 

 

1300 Moons Book Launch1

Plain’s historical fiction book 1300 Moons may be turned into a TV drama series. A screenplay for the pilot episode has already been written.

I am currently working on a sequel to my historical fiction 1300 Moons. I am also involved with an ongoing TV drama series based on that novel. I co-wrote the screenplay for the pilot episode and it is currently being shopped around by the film production company. I am also working on a book on Saugeen history. It is non-fiction and I have about 50 pages written so far. All the while I continue to write poetry during my down time, as I stated earlier, for r&r.

(6) A week ago, you mentioned a new history group project that you are involved in. Could you expand upon that?

Yes, I belong to the Aamjiwnaang Heritage and Culture Club here on the rez (the local reservation). We have decided to publish a history of Aamjiwnaang. It is a collaborative effort by the club’s members. Individual community members will be interviewed with the taped interviews transcribed into oral histories of the community. At least that’s how it’s starting out!

(7) What are your future goals as a writer?

My immediate goal is to finish the sequel. The working title is Honorable Decent. I also plan to be more involved in writing screenplays. When I have enough of a collection of poems built up I will probably publish another poetry book.

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

Plains Launch Thumbnail

Another author profile on Plain appears on the “Writers Networking” section of Gloria Pearson-Vasey’s May 23, 2015 blog post: http://www.gloriapearsonvasey.com/writers-networking-david-d-plain/blog.

Also check out Plain’s website/blog: https://theplainsofaamjiwnaang.wordpress.com/

National Aboriginal History Month was created and officially declared by the Canadian House of Commons in 2009. The celebration takes place each June to “honour the heritage, contributions and cultures of First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities across Canada. Canadians are also invited to celebrate National Aboriginal Day on June 21st of each year.”

*from the poem “Rendezvous with an Ancestor” published in the book Poems from an Eclectic Mind (Trafford Publishing, 2016) page 66. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2016 David D. Plain

**from the “Preface”, Poems from an Eclectic Mind (Trafford Publishing, 2016) page ix. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2016 David D. Plain

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

 

Anthology Editors to Kick-Off Sarnia’s #NPM16 Celebration April 3

Six Ontario anthology editors/contributors including Fran Figge, President of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and Keith Inman, an internationally published, award-winning poet will join local writers for “The Pathways of Poetry Gathering”, Sunday, April 3, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at John’s Restaurant “Famous Room”, 1643 London Line, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 poster for distribution jpg version

Hosted by TOPS, this year’s local National Poetry Month Celebration will include book launches, featured readings by the editors/TOPS anthology contributors and an open mic for all poets. Participants are encouraged to share “road or journey” themed verse in keeping with The League of Canadian Poets’ 2016 poetry month initiatives. Admission is free and is open to the public. Sign-up for open mic readers is at the door.

Travelling to and reading in Sarnia for the first time is Keith Inman (Thorold/St. Catharines), editor of Latchkey Lyricality, a TOPS membership anthology to be released this autumn. He is also the coordinator of this year’s Banister contest anthology to be published by the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association and is author of War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014). His spotlight reading is being sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets/Canada Council for the Arts “Canada Poetry Tours” program.

He will be joined by Fran Figge (Stoney Creek) who is also President of Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society, the oldest poetry workshop group in North America. Figge will launch her new chapbook fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) and will also showcase The PoeTrain Anthology, a selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrain projects, 2015).

Local editors/contributors Norma West Linder, Venera Fazio and Rhonda Melanson will launch two books from TOPS EnCompass anthology series. Sarnia editor/poet/photographer Lynn Tait will also be spotlighted. Lambton County poet Debbie Okun Hill will emcee.

“Over the last decade, Sarnia has lost several poetry mentors,” said I. B. Iskov, TOPS founding member. “Great poets including Peggy Fletcher, Hope Morritt, and Adele Kearns Thomas are deeply missed. Their passing has left a deep chasm in the poetry map of Sarnia. However, Sarnia poets continue to play a major role not only in this grassroots organization but also in the national poetry scene.”

The Ontario Poetry Society was founded in 2000 to create a democratic, not-for-profit, poetry-friendly organization for members to unite in camaraderie, friendship, emotional support and encouragement.

Future TOPS events include “The Spring into Poetry Party”, May 15 in Cobourg, Ontario and “The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering, August 21 in London, Ontario.

Additional information can be found on the TOPS website.

OUT-OF-TOWN SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 Out of Town FEATURED BOOKS poster for distribution

FRAN FIGGE – President of The Ontario Poetry Society, Editor/Compiler of several books: The PoeTrain Anthology, SCARLET THISTLES -TOPS 2014 Membership Anthology, ENCOMPASS III and V; and contributor to ENCOMPASS II. Figge is also the president of Hamilton’s Tower Poetry Society and a member of the Canadian Authors Association. She has read her poetry and won contests across Ontario and west to Vancouver. fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) and hope and despair in the ark (lyricalmyrical, 2013) are her two poetry chapbooks. The escarpment in Stoney Creek Ontario is her calming breath, backyard refuge and inspiration. Additional information about SCARLET THISTLES can be found here.

KEITH INMAN – Editor/Compiler of LATCHKEY LYRICALITY – TOPS 2016 Membership Anthology. Inman is an internationally published, award winning poet. His book, The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press 2014), earned strong reviews for poetry about ‘the common experiences of people…touched by war’ (Canlit #223). Keith lives in an old stone home overlooking the Welland Canal in Ontario, Canada. Additional information about Inman can be found here.

FEATURED BOOKS BY OUT-OF-TOWN READERS

fall float fly (Beret Days Press, 2016) by Fran Figge. Figge’s second chapbook is a selection of many of her prize winning poems.

The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (PoeTrain Projects, 2015) Edited and compiled by Fran Figge This 56-page collection features the work of 23 participants in the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour held during last year’s National Poetry Month Celebrations. Additional information about this anthology can be found here.

 The War Poems: Screaming from Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) by Keith Inman. In this 67 poem collection, “Inman masterfully uses poetry to weave stories of lost or gained innocence, death, joy, hard work, and humour – and characterizes them to show that they are the traits that built Canada. Inman shows that we did not become a country via some specific battle or war – war being a set of circumstance gone wrong. Canada is much more than that. We are people who continually reason through change.”

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT READERS/PERFORMERS

VENERA FAZIO –Contributor to ENCOMPASS IV. Fazio’s poetry book The Fabric of My Soul was recently published by Longbridge Books, 2015. Born in Italy, she has co-edited six anthologies relating to her culture of origin. Her poetry and prose have been published in literary magazines in Canada and abroad.

NORMA WEST LINDEREditor/Compiler of ENCHANTED CROSSROADS – TOPS 2006 Membership Anthology and contributor to ENCOMPASS V. Linder is a member of The Writers Union of Canada, The Ontario Poetry Society, and Writers International Through Sarnia. She’s a novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her latest poetry collection, Two Paths through the Seasons (with James Deahl) was published in Israel. A children’s book, The Pastel Planet has just been released by Hidden Brook Press.

RHONDA MELANSONContributor to ENCOMPASS IV. Melanson graduated from Queen’s University’s Artist In The Community Education program and is currently a Grade 8 teacher for the Lambton Kent District School Board.  She is the author of a chapbook called Gracenotes, published by Beret Days Press.  She has also been published in many print and online journals, including Boxcar Poetry Review, Quills and the Windsor Review.

LYNN TAIT – Co-Editor/Compiler (with the late Adele Kearns Thomas) for SOUNDING THE SECONDS – TOPS 2008 Membership Anthology, contributor to ENCOMPASS I, and cover art photographer for TOPS SOUNDING THE SECONDS and SCARLET THISTLES anthologies and for the ENCOMPASS series. Tait is an awarding winning poet/photographer who has published in various literary magazines and journals including Freefall, CV2, Vallum, Feathertale Review and in over 70 anthologies. She was shortlisted in Freefall’s 2014 Poetry Contest and Hamilton’s GritLIT’s 2015 Poetry Contest. Her chapbook “Breaking Away” was published by TOPS in 2002.

TOPS Sarnia National Poetry Month April 3, 2016 FEATURED BOOKS

EMCEE

DEBBIE OKUN HILL –Past President of The Ontario Poetry Society, Editor/Compiler of MINDSHADOWS –TOPS 2015 Membership Anthology and contributor to ENCOMPASS I. Okun Hill has been writing poetry full-time since 2004 and has over 325 poems published in literary journals across Canada and the United States. She enjoys promoting the work of other writers and often blogs about her literary journey on this Kites Without Strings website.

Additional “behind the scenes” information about editing/compiling MINDSHADOWS can be found here.

SPONSORS

Special thanks to The League of Canadian Poets/Canada Council for the Arts for their Canada Poetry Tours program. Additional sponsors can be found here.