Tag Archives: The Ontario Poetry Society

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

 

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.

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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.)

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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).

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.

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