Tag Archives: The Ontario Poetry Society

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.


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.


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.”


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


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.


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.




Officially Launched -The PoeTrain Anthology


“The ghostly sway of the train remains/long after the journey completes.” –Kelsey Knight*

It’s Valentine’s Day 2016. Nine of the 23 PoeTrain anthology participants have stepped out of the unseasonal frigid temperatures into the warmth of the Orchard Bar, a dark and narrow meeting place in the heart of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

We are like family now! Not related by birth, but this poetic friendship reminds me of meeting distant cousins at a reunion and how strangers scattered across the country can easily bond like train cars resting on a track.


The PoeTrain Anthology final version

The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems (poetrain projects, 2015) was officially launched in Toronto, February 14, 2016 at The Ontario Poetry Society’s “The Love of Poetry Gathering”


Before settling down and finding a seat in the crowded room, the PoeTrainers greet each other with a warm hug and the reunion chatter begins. We are immediately reminded of our 2015 National Poetry Month memories and our shared moments on the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour. What an experience! All the photos I wanted to bring with me; all my thoughts from the trip remain un-blogged and at home. I promise to share these images when life is less busy.

Today, The Ontario Poetry Society hosts “The Love of Poetry Gathering” featuring members’ readings, an open mic and spotlight features including the launch of Songs of Exile by Bänoo Zan (a participant in the 2012 PoeTrain Express to Cobalt, Ontario) and The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets edited and compiled by Fran Figge.

David Brydges at TOPS Toronto Reading Feb 14, 2016

David Brydges, artistic director for the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is already planning for the next train adventure to be held in British Columbia in the Fall 2017.

David Brydges, artistic director for the PoeTrain 2015, can’t sit still. His excitement and enthusiasm for train travel lights the room. A stack of anthologies rests on a table beside him.

In his introduction, he describes the 56-page book as a “crafted collective spirit” and that the contents are “the combined contrarian treasures of an historic poetry tour that documented and detailed a shared poetic journey.”

And what a journey it was, with poets and musicians travelling the train from Ottawa to Toronto then Winnipeg to Edmonton to Vancouver with readings on and off the Via Rail “Canadian”.

Fran Figge, editor of The PoeTrain Anthology (2015) Final Version

Fran Figge, editor of The PoeTrain Anthology, will be reading again in Toronto, March 15 at The Art Bar Poetry Series and in Sarnia, April 3 during TOPS “Pathways of Poetry Gathering”.

Anthology editor and President of The Ontario Poetry Society Fran Figge states, “All of the poems will impart to you a piece of our adventure; the romance, nostalgia and hopes of the first Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour.”

The 23 anthology contributors (in alphabetical order) are: Rosa Arlotto, Marsha Barber, Kent Bowman, David C. Brydges, Margaret Code, Patrick Connors, Ian Ferrier, Fran Figge, Kathy Figueroa, Kathy Fisher, Debbie Okun Hill, Kelsey Knight, Joanne Lilley, Blaine Marchand, Laura Byrne Paquet, DC Reid, Quincy Russell, Paul Sanderson, Carrie Saxifrage, Michael Stacey, David Streitt, Judy Tate Barlow, and Ella Zeltserman.

Brydges expresses his thanks to the PoeTrain organizing team (Canadian poets Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, Patrick Connors and Kate Marshall Flaherty) for a job well done.

For those readers interested in obtaining a copy of The PoeTrain Anthology, please contact David Brydges for details at mybrydges (at) yahoo (dot) ca . Copies are limited so place your order early to avoid disappointment.

Brydges is also collecting pre-registration contact info for anyone interested in participating in the next PoeTrain adventure in September 2017.

“It’s called the Wild West Poetry Festival,” he announces, “and we will travel from Vancouver to Jasper, Prince George, and Prince Rupert by Via Rail train. Then we will take the BC ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island where we will travel by bus to Nanaimo for a final event.”

PoeTrain Anthology Readers at TOPS Toronto event Feb 14 2016

Several PoeTrain Anthology contributors met in Toronto to share their train poems.

Brydges has also joined forces with The Ontario Poetry Society and Ink Bottle Press to produce Memory and Loss: A Canadian Poetry Anthology. To be edited and compiled by I.B. Iskov, the book will be dedicated to the victims of Alzheimer’s. Poems on the themes of dementia and Alzheimer’s will be accepted until June 15, 2016. The call is open to all poets living in Canada. More information can be found here.

Additional information about the 2015 Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour can be found here and here and on several other blog posts on this site.

As PoeTrain poet/musician Paul Sanderson shared in his musical tribute** “Train Song”…  “Gonna ride this train./Ride on, ride on, ride on, ride on…”

P.S. — INFORMATION ADDED ON MARCH 1, 2016:  Two videos of The PoeTrain Anthology launch in Toronto have now been posted on YouTube. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. Special thanks to global sync media productions – video by Marty Smith.

*quote from “Dancing Through Time” by Kelsey Knight, The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrain projects, 2015) edited and compiled by Fran Figge. ISBN 978-0-9813599-3-9 Used with permission from the author ©Kelsey Knight. Her website appears here.

**quote from “Train Song” by Paul Sanderson, The PoeTrain Anthology: A Selection of Train Poems by Canadian Poets (poetrian projects, 2015) edited and compiled by Fran Figge. ISBN 978-0-9813599-3-9 Used with permission from the author ©Paul Sanderson. His website appears here.

I. B. Iskov’s New Poetry Book Skirts the Edge

“Bunny Iskov writes poems that skirt the edges and plunge the swirling eddies of sorrow and joy bringing with her the light of language and music of poetry.”

~ John B. Lee, Poet Laureate of Brantford; Poet Laureate of Norfolk County*

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.”

Larry and Bunny Iskov Photo courtesy of the author

Family and friends are important to Canadian poet I.B. (Bunny) Iskov.

As the founding member of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS), she has worked and continues to work tirelessly for this grassroots poetry-friendly organization which currently serves over 250 members. She has launched the writing careers of many emerging poets and embraces and caters to all writers from hobbyists to poet laureates. With the help of her executive, she has created contests, workshops, readings and open mic events. Through Beret Days Press, she has published newsletters, anthologies, and chapbooks for other people.

In 2009, she won the inaugural R.A.V.E. Award – Recognizing Arts Vaughan Excellence –for her work as Art Educator and Mentor in the Literary Arts.

Skirting The Edge by I.B. Iskov (IOWI, 2015)

Skirting the Edge by I.B. Iskov was spotlighted at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Autumn Harvest Poetry Gathering, October 18 in Oakville.

As an organizer and planner, she is simply amazing, but then I must disclose, we have been colleagues and friends for a long time. She is passionate about poetry, loves her family and friends and goes the extra mile to help others. Her own writing often takes a back seat in her busy schedule so I was thrilled when In Our Words Inc. (IOWI) officially released her new poetry book Skirting the Edge last Sunday, November 22 in Mississauga. Bunny also showcased her book at TOPS Autumn Harvest Poetry Gathering, October 18 in Oakville.

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

1) Congratulations Bunny on your new book. What inspired you to write it?

The world around me inspires me to write poems.  Whether the muse comes from a personal experience, a news item or a work of art, I get motivated and words flow forth on the page.

In A Wintered Nest by I.B. Iskov (Serengeti Press, 2013)

In a Wintered Nest by I.B. Iskov  published by Serengeti Press, 2013.

2) How does your work differ from other writers? What makes it unique and special? 

I believe all poets are unique and special.  I sometimes will read a poem that I wish I had written and sometimes I get that same compliment from another poet I admire.  We all differ in our approach, in our use of metaphor and in our methods to create concrete visual imagery in different ways that are all worth sharing.

3) What is your writing process? And why do you write the way that you do?

I don’t really have a writing process.  Sometimes, a few months will go by without a poem, and other times, I may write 2 or 3 poems in a day. It all depends on my muse and on what I may be exposed to that conjures a poem or poems.

4) Who are/were your mentors?

My mentors include Katherine L. Gordon, Ronnie R. Brown, Fran Figge, K.V. Skene, Nancy Walden, Joan Sutcliffe, Marsha Barber, Jean Kallmeyer, Allan Briesmaster, Honey Novick, and you, Debbie Okun Hill.

Sapphire Seasons by I. B. Iskov (Aeolus House, 2009)

Sapphire Seasons by I.B. Iskov published by Aeolus House,  2009.

5) Ha ha! I think it’s the other way around. YOU are one of my mentors. What writing project will you be working on in the future?

I haven’t decided on my next writing project yet.  I am taking a cruise this coming January and maybe something on this voyage will awaken my muse to write.  I have a lot of personal responsibilities and I must give all of them adequate attention.  Writing poetry is a luxury that I must make time for when I have the time, which isn’t as often as I would like.

6) Is there anything else you would like to add about your book, your writing, your past or future?

I am grateful to Ronnie R. Brown, for taking the time to read all of my poems and put them in the best order and make all the sections for the book. I am grateful to John B. Lee and Anna Yin for their kind blurbs on the back of my book and I am grateful to my publisher, Cheryl Antao-Xavier for her expertise in making my book so beautiful.  I look forward to writing new poems yet to be created.  I know I can count on my all friends to keep me writing.

7) Thanks Bunny. I look forward to reading your new book. The reviews have been most favourable. Enjoy your literary journey!

Below is a review** written by poet Fran Figge:

Skirting the Edge  I. B. Iskov In Our Words Inc., 2015, 78pp ISBN 978-1-926926-57-5

Skirting The Edge by I.B. Iskov (IOWI, 2015)

Skirting the Edge by I.B. Iskov was recently released by In Our Words Inc (IOWI).

Creativity and cruelty are themes woven throughout I.B. (Bunny) Iskov’s latest book, Skirting the Edge. Creativity comes in many forms, from a handmade rug, to a stitched tapestry, from sculpture to painting, from theatre to film. In the book’s first section, the beauty of these diverse forms has been ‘restored by loving hand’ into poetry. Iskov captures their undercurrents, their messages and their whimsy, using her pencil/brush for ‘encapsulating fantastic footage’ of art forms and the artists who created them. Countering the lightness of creativity is the darkness of cruelty. In her middle book section, Iskov states others say she holds “the pencil like a knife”, an apt description of her evisceration of situations of cruelty, violence, alienation and oppression. In Though my Voice Breaks, she writes, “I am a wingless creature / on a hard impenetrable ledge,” nailing the feeling of helplessness experienced by the maligned. Iskov’s poems are a window to her deep and personal encounters with the world. They are also her catharsis. As she reveals in Dreaming of Poetry, “I look for metaphor / inside every human exchange.” These poems are a tribute to the successful realization of that goal.

Additional info:  I.B. Iskov,  The Ontario Poetry Society, and In Our Words, Inc. (IOWI).

Meet I. B. Iskov and hear her read at TOPS Winter Warmup Poetry Gathering, Sunday, December 6, noon to 4 p.m. at The Central in Toronto. The event includes a members’ reading followed by an open mic. Everyone is welcome. Reading sign-up will be at the door.

*John B. Lee’s quote appears on the back cover of Skirting the Edge (In Our Words Inc. (IOWI), 2015) by I. B. Iskov. Reprinted with permission. Copyright © Bunny Iskov.

**Fran Figge’s review of Skirting the Edge (IOWI, 2015) by I. B. Iskov will appear in a future issue of Verse Afire (TOPS’ membership newsletter) and was reprinted here with permission from the author.





Overcoming the Terror – Open Mic Readings

“We may get scared tonight/but we have each other” –Tom MacGregor*

Last Friday, I attended an open mic event and hid inside a “Tree Spirit” costume. I sat at the back of the room, as far away from the open mic podium as possible, and scanned the audience. Not everyone wore a costume for this Halloween event but many had.

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. Makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a horror movie!

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. Makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a horror movie!

On my right, a black-wigged man in a red housecoat held what appeared to be the skeleton of a cow’s head. On my left, a woman arrived as a social media butterfly. Her back dress was adorned with social media logos.

Writers are indeed a creative bunch but those who are introverts (and many are) may limit their exposure to social settings so that they can relax with their writing at home.

Continue reading

Behind the Scenes – Compiling a Membership Anthology

“It reminded me of working on a jigsaw puzzle.” –Debbie Okun Hill, editor/compiler, MINDSHADOWS (Beret Days Press, 2015)

Something magical happens when poets work together, when their voices interconnect to reveal additional insights.

2015 Anthology Themes: Swallowing Confusion; The Night's Not Long Enough; Casting Shadows; and Drinking The Light.

2015 MINDSHADOWS Anthology Sub-Themes: Swallowing Confusion; The Night’s Not Long Enough; Casting Shadows; and Drinking The Light.

Below is a sneak peek at the foreword for MINDSHADOWS, a Beret Days Press anthology showcasing the best work of contributing members of The Ontario Poetry Society. The books have arrived from the printers. Contributors’ copies will be shipped by the end of August.


Imagine navigating through a haunted maze, crunching corn stalks (or is it brittle bones?) beneath your hiking boots as the sky bleeds into darkness. You grip a red plastic flashlight in your right hand. Your left hand shakes with a scavenger hunt list. You search for poetic themes.

An owl hoots or is it the howl of a stuttering ghost? The moon leaps like a popped button from Dracula’s cape. The Big Dipper collects neighbouring stars and hides them behind the clouds. Call it a nightmare. Call it a dream. Call it MINDSHADOWS!

Your mind starts swirling. A weeping willow bends, grabs your arm but your foot sinks into a word-mire. You taste something bitter or sour like chokecherries but you haven’t eaten in days. The faint thump of a drum mimics your heart beat. The smell of smoke startles you. Ravens scatter. You know you must run…run as fast as a masked bandit towards the dance hall where a jazz band’s trumpet blares, where a single light bulb illuminates the path, beyond your black coffin.

What a challenging yet magical adventure it has been to compile and edit MINDSHADOWS, the 2015 membership anthology for The Ontario Poetry Society. As a night owl, I was eager to read this year’s submissions with themes confronting those times and events which plague our thoughts.

MINDSHADOWS sprouted from a heavy box of 81 poet folders with over 500 poems to select from.

MINDSHADOWS sprouted from a heavy box filled with 81 poet folders. Each folder contained between 5 to 10 poems. Who said an editor’s job was easy?

Bravo to the 81 emerging and established poets who stretched their imagination to create and submit their best work. One by one, I read and re-read each poet’s folder to select the strongest pieces not only for the theme but also for placement within the anthology. It reminded me of working on a jigsaw puzzle where the photograph on the box lid was missing. I had to listen carefully to the words and trust the myriad of poetic voices to guide my decisions. What started off as individual poems eventually merged into a collection of interconnected lines and verses categorized into four sub-themes:

SWALLOWING CONFUSION begins with the question WHY? I was pleased so many members examined the five senses in his/her writing. Ellen Elizabeth Stout writes, “Thirst leads me to the deep sea”. In this section poets explore the mind, how it confuses, plays tricks, and leads us astray. Read poems about games, deceptions, lies, dreams, nightmares and regrets. Nan Williamson adds hope with the line “I dreamed/you saved me from the drowning waves.”

THE NIGHT’S NOT LONG ENOUGH continues with this quest for answers as K.V. Skene asks “What if?” Here the writers focus on night life: dancing, nocturnal careers, birds and creatures that wander in the gray-black hours.

CASTING SHADOWS is eclectic, evolving and drifting like fog through black and white settings interspersed with fans of landscaped colour. What appears to be serene may actually be disturbing with street people, addictions, Halloween hauntings, fear, the atrocities of this world, and personalized encounters with death lurking on several pages.

Available soon from Beret Days Press! Book Cover illustrated by poet Elana Wolff.

Available soon from Beret Days Press! Book Cover illustrated by poet Elana Wolff.

DRINKING THE LIGHT yanks the reader out of the dark and into a more positive space filled with fireworks, the moon, constellations, campfires and candles. Stroll through various seasons. Find love and sunshine. As Fran Figge, the president of The Ontario Poetry Society writes in the last poem of the book: “my heart/brightens/into dandelion fluff/waltzing on the breeze.”

A membership project like this cannot happen without the team efforts of so many people: I.B. Iskov, founder/treasurer of The Ontario Poetry Society who continues to keep the grassroots poetry community alive, the 2014-2015 TOPS Executive who created the MINDSHADOWS theme and invited me to edit/compile this project, Elana Wolff and Katerina Fretwell who provided illustrations for the cover and sub-themed sections, Mark Clement and his endless work on design and layout, Fran Figge for assisting with the Author Bio Answers, the contributing poets, and finally you, the reader.

Enjoy your exploration through this anthology. As John B. Lee wrote in his poem “Her Dark Secret”: “it drinks/the light/and shines”. May you continue to grow, learn more about our world, and see each poet’s inner gift as a beautiful light.

–Debbie Okun Hill

tops logoEach year, The Ontario Poetry Society produces a beautiful anthology for its members. It’s an “optional” group project funded by the contributors to showcase their best work. Additional information can be found here.

The 2016 ‘members’ only’ submission call for next year’s Latchkey Lyricality anthology is located here. Keith Inman, author of The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven (Black Moss Press, 2014) is the 2016 editor/compiler. Kate Kitchen is the illustrator. Deadline is March 15, 2016.

General information on The Ontario Poetry Society is linked here. A link listing the 81 MINDSHADOWS contributors as well as order information appears here.

DISCLAIMER: My comments on this blog post may be influenced by my involvement as a long-time member and former Executive Member of The Ontario Poetry Society. Of course, I wouldn’t belong to this organization if I didn’t believe in it.


PoeTrainers Head West – Ottawa – Toronto – Winnipeg – Edmonton – Vancouver

The adventure has changed but certainly not the adventure as a group of PoeTrainers travel westward and inward bringing poetry to the public during National Poetry Month. Poets have always been attracted to a journey and this will be a most memorable week of the “best poetry event in 2015”.            –David C. Brydges,  Artistic Director, Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour

All Aboard! Clickity-clack…the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is about to begin.  What started out as one-poet’s vision will soon turn into reality. Despite some of the glitches of not being able to start the journey on the east coast and the last minute decision to skip the Toronto-Winnipeg leg due to recent derailments in northern Ontario, the adventure moves forward. As the promotional poster states: “26 poets. 5 cities. Epic Journey”

All Aboard! Photo courtesy: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website.

All Aboard! Photo courtesy: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website.

Some of the PoeTrainers have already packed their bags and are heading their way to Ottawa for Wednesday April 15’s kick-off celebration. Others will join the festivities along the way with PoeTrain events also planned for Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver. For those on the train, poetry will not only fill the Skyline Dome Car Lounge but will spill with musical notes into the Park Car as well.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Ottawa Event April 15, 2015 poster

One of the special passengers will be my kulturBOT 3.0, a robotic artwork created by Dr. David Harris Smith of McMaster University and Dr. Fauke Zeller of Ryerson University. This usual bard features a roving mobility system, a pasta strainer, a thermal printer, camera, and bicycle flag.

According to a Ryerson University Public Affairs Media Release, “this ‘self-publishing’ robot, will produce ‘found’ poetry derived from the writings of the geographer and fur-trader David Thompson…Images and poems by my kulturBOT 3.0 will be publicized via its twitter and Facebook accounts. See the links here.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour  Toronto Event April 17, 2015 poster

An anthology of train-themed poems by PoeTrain participants is also expected to be produced and National Poetry Month will be celebrated with food-themed poems. DC Reid, a former president of The League of Canadian Poets will be the PoeTrain’s first poet laureate. Several other members of the league will be featured thanks to Canada Reading Tour funding via the Canada Council for the Arts. Paul Sanderson and Ian Ferrier will entertain as part of the Artist on Board program. Special thanks to all the sponsors who made this adventure possible. Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser Winnipeg Event poster

Clickity-clack! We’ll be back!

Follow this blog for future updates on the tour.

An earlier blog post on the PoeTrain appears here.

The official Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour website with a list of participants, scheduled events and sponsors appear here.


TOPS Membership Anthologies: Poetic Teamwork


“The rewards of participating in one of our anthologies are many.” – Fran Figge, President, The Ontario Poetry Society

Are you an emerging or professional poet who enjoys contributing to group projects? Being a member of The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) has its perks. Each year the executive of this grassroots, poetry-friendly organization brainstorms ideas and book titles before finalizing the submission call themes for its upcoming annual membership anthology. Their goal is to stimulate creativity and to celebrate and showcase the poetic work of its members, no matter where each poet stands in his/her writing career.

The Ontario Poetry Society has published several membership anthologies showcasing both emerging and professional poets. Previous editors/compilers have included such Canadian poets as Norma West Linder, John B. Lee, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Ronnie R. Brown and more.

The Ontario Poetry Society (with the assistance of Beret Days Press) has published several membership anthologies showcasing both emerging and professional poets. Previous editors/compilers have included such Canadian poets as Norma West Linder, John B. Lee, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Ronnie R. Brown and more.

Last year’s SCARLET THISTLES anthology published by Beret Days Press, edited and compiled by Fran Figge with photography by Lynn Tait and layout/design by Mark Clement was a huge success thanks to the editorial/production team as well as the contributors. (Disclaimer: As a former executive member of TOPS, of course, I’m going to applaud the positive attributes of this book. TOPS is an organization I strongly believe in. However, my comments are also based on statistic facts.)

Fran Figge, editor/compiler of SCARLET THISTLES, the largest TOPS membership anthology produced to date.

Fran Figge, editor/compiler of SCARLET THISTLES, the largest TOPS membership anthology produced to date.

According to Figge’s foreword, the 2014 anthology contained “the most contributors of any of our anthologies so far.” Eighty-nine members submitted over 650 poems, with 250 poems eventually selected for the final project. (A list of contributors appears here. ) Poems were divided into five sections: Blood Soaked Grounds, Slash and Burn, Cruel Cuts, Lighting the Dark, and Healing Hurts.

Figge stresses that “good writing brings the reader back again and again.” Those were the poems she was drawn to and those are the poems she recommends poets should submit for future projects like the upcoming MINDSHADOWS membership anthology.

As this year’s editor/compiler, I agree with Figge and would encourage contributors to submit their best work such as award-winning poems or work previously published and accepted by other magazines. Please double check and ensure you own the copyright and reprint rights, Such poems showcase what TOPS members are capable of achieving.

If you’re a new poet hesitating with submitting work for the first time, you’re not alone. Many poets started their writing careers with these anthology projects. Feel free to ask for editorial help from a fellow poet or attend a local writer’s group for constructive advice.

Sometimes it’s fun to create new work specifically for the theme. For example, this 2015 collection will explore the times and events which plague our thoughts. Consider topics associated with Mind Games, Night Life, Shadows & Hauntings and Lighting the Dark but don’t wait too long.

Working hard behind the scenes: Mark Clement, TOPS layout designer/webmaster.

Working hard behind the scenes: Mark Clement, TOPS layout designer/webmaster.

The March 15, 2015 deadline is fast approaching. Submission guidelines can be found here. Remember the call is only open to members of The Ontario Poetry Society. Members do not need to be Ontario residents. Special thanks to Canadian poets Elana Wolff and Katerina Fretwell who will provide illustrations for the book and Mark Clement who will be responsible for the design and layout.

Below are additional insights shared by Figge in an e-mail interview.

In your role as President and as the editor of SCARLET THISTLES what do you feel are the benefits of submitting work and participating in the membership anthology?

The rewards of participating in one of our anthologies are many. Not only do you have an incentive, a focus to write poems for a specific topic, but there is not the same pressure or uncertainty as when entering a contest. You are guaranteed to have at least two poems published in the anthology and get a copy of a beautifully designed book for less than the cost that it takes to enter most contests.

TOPS founder I. B. Iskov with a shipment of SCARLET THISTLES to be sent to participating poets.

TOPS founder Bunny Iskov with a shipment of SCARLET THISTLES membership anthologies sent to participating poets last autumn.

There is the satisfaction of knowing that your work will be seen, which is what most poets want, to share their work with others. You get exposure. You have a chance to be recognized by your peers. It’s also an opportunity to see how your work fits in with other peoples’ ideas and styles as well as lets you see other types of poetry writing that might inspire you in the future.

Submitting to an anthology can be a valuable learning tool as well. It’s a chance to analyze why certain poems were chosen over others.

What techniques were successfully used in the chosen poems? Were editing suggestions made? What did they entail?  Can you figure out why those edits were made? Were the poems that were not chosen too wordy, prosy, or abstract? Were there spelling errors, improper verb tenses, too much repetition? What can you add to your routine of self-checking that addresses these issues?

By taking the time to think about these questions, you are sure to improve your writing.

Based on your experience with editing last year’s anthology, what advice would you give to a poet who wants to participate in this year’s anthology? For example, what should they do and what should they avoid?

Good writing brings the reader back again and again. In order to do that, it must be new, fresh, stand out from other pieces. How is that accomplished?

The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

Poetry requires an economy of words that necessitates the writer be concise. Use of a dictionary and thesaurus makes it easier to avoid repetition and correct spelling.

There must be a depth of meaning that will be rewarding on second or third reading. Present something in a new way, have a thought-provoking take on a subject, use interesting language and a fresh use of words, avoid clichés: all good practices for accomplishing this.

The photos of award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait have graced the covers of several TOPS books including the most recent membership anthology SCARLET THISTLES (Beret Days Press, 2014).

The photos of award-winning poet/photographer Lynn Tait have graced the covers of several TOPS books including the most recent membership anthology SCARLET THISTLES (Beret Days Press, 2014). Tait also co-edited (with the late Adele Kearns Thomas) TOPS Sounding the Seconds membership anthology in 2008. Photo courtesy: Melissa Upfold of Calculated Colour Co. 2014.

Use concrete examples instead of abstract ideas as an effective way to keep up interest. Show the reader rather than tell. All of these techniques can only improve on the effectiveness of the work.

Make sure your work is polished. After writing your poem, let it sit for a few days then go back and read it again. Is there anything that stands out that you might change? Do this several times until no revisions come to mind and you should be very happy with the results.

Thanks Fran for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat!

If you are an experienced poet and/or illustrator and would like to be considered for a volunteer editor/compiler, illustrator or contest judge for future projects, please sent a brief resume outlining your qualifications and your interest in volunteering to Bunny Iskov, founding member of The Ontario Poetry Society. Additional information about the organization can be found here.

Poetry Contests: Is It Poetic Gambling?

A poet’s husband once won a trip for two to St. Lucia. I call that luck! For me, buying a lottery ticket is like throwing cash into a burning roulette wheel. It’s a waste of money unless you want to support a good cause like the Canadian Cancer Society or need a stocking stuffer or a compact gift for a friend or relative who enjoys playing bingo or a scratch version of crossword.

Let’s face it, how many of us are going to win a million dollars or a dream home during our life? What would a poet even do with that kind of cash?  Buy some exotic groceries? Quit his or her day job? Purchase more poetry books and new matching bookshelves for the office? You know I’m teasing here. A retreat might be nice, perhaps some sabbatical or retirement travelling to inspire the next book? Poets just aren’t that lucky or at least I’ve never met a poet or anyone who has taken home a sack of gold coins.

Entering poetry contests can be fun. Here the ghost of Dr. William Henry Drummond appears during a contest winners reading in Cobalt, Ontario last spring 2014.

Entering poetry contests can be fun. Here the ghost of Dr. William Henry Drummond appears during a contest winners’ reading in Cobalt, Ontario last spring 2014.

I will, however, gamble or (in softer terms) take a chance with poetry contests. Below are a dozen reasons why I believe entering literary competitions can be beneficial for a writer. Keep in mind, there are also drawbacks and some writers may have varying opinions based on his/her own experiences and viewpoints. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

  1. Contests provide a deadline. Some writers work better under pressure. Deadlines can motivate some poets into action. It helps me focus.
  2. Contests encourage writers to dig deep into their files for old poems to tweak or word snippets to expand and nurture. Recycling is good for the environment.
  3. Contests nudge writers to explore new themes or poetic forms. Some will jump start new poems. For example, some contests like The Binnacle’s Annual International Ultra-Short Competition seeks poems with 16 lines or less. (Deadline March 15, 2015.) The Betty Drevniok Award 2015 organized by Haiku Canada seeks work based on the three-line haiku format. (Deadline February 25, 2015.) Earlier this month, The Malahat Review was accepting submissions of a single poem or a cycle of poems that was between 10 to 20 pages long for its 2015 Long Poem Prize.

    The Dr. William Henry Drummond Contest is an annual contest held in conjunction with the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival in Cobalt, Ontario. Contest submissions for this year must be postmarked by February 27, 2015

    The Dr. William Henry Drummond Contest is an annual contest held in conjunction with the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival in Cobalt, Ontario. Contest submissions for this year must be postmarked by February 27, 2015

  4. Contests can introduce you to organizations and magazines that you are not familiar with. HINT: It’s vital to research an organization and magazine to not only ensure the contest is legitimate but to get a feel for what that particular market might be looking for. For example, if you are a Canadian poet, seek out professional national organizations like the Canadian Authors Association, The League of Canadian Poets and the Writers Union of Canada or provincial organizations like The Ontario Poetry Society. Check out what contests these members are submitting to. For example, The Dr. William Henry Drummond Poetry Contest was established as part of the annual Spring Pulse Poetry Festival held in Cobalt, Ontario. (Deadline: February 27, 2015.) Also consider contests organized by established magazines affiliated with universities.
  5. Contest fees help support literary organizations and magazines that might not be able to survive otherwise. HINT: Set an annual budget. Be firm with the total amount of fees you wish to spend spent and establish the number of contests you have time for. Make sure the contest isn’t a scam. It should be affiliated with a well-known organization and/or has a reputable judge. Remember some contests like those organized by The Binnacle and Haiku Canada are free so they fit well into a poet’s budget.

    The Binnacle Annual International Ultra-Short Competition is a free contest that seeks poems with 16 lines or less. This year’s deadline is March 15, 2015.

    The Binnacle Annual International Ultra-Short Competition is a free contest that seeks poems with 16 lines or less. This year’s deadline is March 15, 2015.

  6. Some contest fees include the subscription of a literary magazine. This provides valuable market research and reading material. HINT: If you are planning to purchase a subscription, why not spend a few extra dollars and enter the magazine’s annual contest?
  7. Contests can introduce you to judges and established writers who you are unfamiliar with. HINT: It’s beneficial to study a judge’s work prior to entering any contest.

    The Crooked Ledge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre spotlights the results of Ascent Aspirations Publishing’s 2014 poetry and flash fiction contest.

    The Crooked Ledge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre spotlights the results of Ascent Aspirations Publishing’s 2014 poetry and flash fiction contest.

  8. Contests can introduce you to names of past winners. HINT: One way to improve your writing is to read what other poets are writing and if possible read winning poems to determine what makes them unique or award-winning.
  9. Contests teach us about sportsmanship. Not all poems entered into a contest will win a prize. That’s the reality of both contests and general submissions. Poets like writers must develop a tough skin. Just because a work is rejected does not mean it is a poorly written poem. What one judge may dislike, another judge may treasure. The key is to keep submitting. If the work is rejected take a closer look at the poem. Should it be rewritten? Should it be work shopped with other poets? Or does it belong in a different market? Treat this as a learning exercise then move on. Even the best writers receive rejections but they continue to submit their work.
  10. Surprise, surprise. Sometimes, a poet’s submission does win a prize. If you never enter a contest, you may never experience that unexpected joy of accomplishment. Each year, a Canadian and an International writer will win the $65,000 Griffin Prize for Poetry, “the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in, or translated into English, from any country in the world.” The publicity surrounding this Prize has also been known to increase book sales. However, even smaller prizes can draw a publisher’s or reader’s attention to a poet’s work.
  11. Contests can reward contributions with the publication of a poem even if the work is not awarded a top prize. For example the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association will publish not only the top winning poems from their annual contest but will include honourable mentions and judge’s selections work in their Saving Bannister anthology. Ascent Aspirations Publishing also has an annual anthology where top prize winners are published with other selected work.

    The Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association organizes a provincial contest for Ontario residents. Their 29th Saving Bannister poetry anthology was launched last autumn 2014. Submission guidelines for their 30th poetry contest will be announced soon.

    The Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association organizes a provincial contest for Ontario residents. Their 29th Saving Bannister poetry anthology was launched last autumn 2014. Deadline for the 30th poetry contest is May 31, 2015. Submission guidelines will be posted soon.

  12. Finally, entering a contest is just plain fun. For example, every April, the literary magazine Contemporary Verse 2 hosts the CV2 Two Day Poem Contest. Registered participants receive 10 words at midnight Friday and then the new poem using those 10 words must be finished and submitted two days later. It’s a great activity for National Poetry month.

Poetry Contests: Should we even call it gambling? Absolutely not!

What are your reasons for entering or not entering a contest? Feel free to leave a comment or share this posting with your literary community.

Next Week in Toronto: PoeTrain, Open Mic, and So Much More

 “curled beneath a sports bench/coiled, thick wad, stale/like his gum – stuck/with no place to go.” -Debbie Okun Hill from her poem “Train Station”

Each week an e-mail from Norman Cristofoli arrives in my inbox. Not only does it list literary events (readings, launches, open mics, etc.) scheduled for the next seven days in Toronto but it reminds me of the dedicated individuals and organizations who continue to promote the literary arts in that particular Canadian city.

Today’s notice listed 14 events. Oh, those Toronto and area residents are fortunate to tap into such creative talent on a daily basis. When you live (like I do) in a rural area removed from large cities and public transportation, winter travel to literary events can be difficult. Sometimes I do feel like the teen character in my poem “Train Station” – “like gum – stuck with no place to go.” However, when the snow blankets the earth, this solitude provides a quiet comfort to squirrel away and hibernate with the muse, make plans for future trips and work on new material or revise old manuscripts. If my schedule allows and the weather cooperates I’m on my way. I have learned so much from my travels, even if it’s only a short trip down a country road.

Working behind the scenes: the PoeTrain team: Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, David Brydges, Pat Connors, and Kate Marshall Flaherty. Photo Courtesy: PoeTrain Files

Working behind the scenes: the PoeTrain team: Kent Bowman, Marsha Barber, David Brydges, Patrick Connors, and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

Two Toronto events (which I’m particularly familiar with) are: The Great Canadian PoeTrain Fundraiser and The Ontario Poetry Society’s For the Love of Poetry Festival. See additional information below. I highly recommend both readings and hope that some time down this literary road additional events, not only in Toronto but in other Canadian centers, will also be featured. Thanks for your patience.


Clickety-clack!  “The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is going to become a historic reality soon,” stated David Brydges, artistic director for the tour in a recent e-mail. “The official program for train activities is coming out by the end of the month.”

So far approximately 22 poets and train lovers have signed up for this National Poetry Month cross county adventure which will start in Ottawa in mid-April with stops in Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

In the interim, work continues with a special fundraising event planned for Thursday, February 12.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser this February 12, 2015 in Toronto.

Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser this February 12, 2015 in Toronto.

Meet several PoeTrainers for supper (6 to 8 p.m.) and stay for the entertainment at 8 p.m. featuring Max Layton, Robert Priest, and Cathy Petch. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page for additional information.

Bravo to David Brydges and his committee members Kent Bowman, Patrick Connors, Marsha Barber and Kate Marshall Flaherty for organizing this event. See an earlier posting about the tour here. Follow this blog for additional updates as well as highlights of the PoeTrain journey in April.


The Ontario Poetry Society

The Ontario Poetry Society

If you have never read your poetry in front of an audience or if you would like additional practice reading, this a great place to start. Every year, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travels across the province to various cities to offer its members as well as non-members a safe and friendly place to share work. Everyone who wants to read can read during this open mic event and if you’re a member with a new book, you may also have a spotlight feature. Sign-up for readers is at the door. Both experienced and non-experienced poets are welcome.  More info can be found here. Additional information about last year’s Toronto’s event is linked here. Similar events have also taken place in Cobourg, Cobalt, Stratford, Ottawa and Oakville. Members’ readings and open mics for 2015 will be posted on the TOPS website.


Below is next week’s list of Toronto events as supplied by Norman Cristofoli! Before heading out, please double check with the venue or the organizers to ensure the event hasn’t been cancelled or rescheduled.

If you wish to have your name added to Norman’s weekly mailing list or if you wish to promote your Greater Toronto area event, please contact Norman: norman.cristofoli (at) gmail.com . All submissions should include pertinent information about the event and be e-mailed before the Friday of the previous week. Norman distributes his event listing on the Friday or Saturday for the following week.  

Birds of a Feather Storytelling Series
Monday, February 9,
6:30 pm
at Windup Bird Café
382 College Street


Toronto Poetry Slam
Monday, February 9
at 8:00 pm
sign-up at 7:30 pm
at the Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West (east of Dufferin)

Featuring: Sabrina has found herself on many stages, including the Canadian Indies Finals, The Victoria Festival of Spoken Word and most recently, was part of the 2014 Toronto Poetry Slam team which was crowned national champions this past October. Sabrina’s poems float along the spectrum of love, pain, identity and Beyoncé. Hosted by: Valentino Assenza


Art Bar
Tuesday, February 10
at 8:00 pm at the Black Swan
154 Danforth Avenue (just west of Broadview)

Featuring: Clara Blackwood, Dave Silverberg, Nicole Brewer, Rahul Gupta

More info at www.artbar.org


Tightrope Books Launch Emily Pohl-Weary’s – Ghost Sick
Tuesday, February 10 at 7:00 pm
at The Tenant of Parkdale
1267 Queen St. West

Readings by: Emily Pohl-Weary, Lillian Allen, Irfan Ali, Chris Chambers, Dante King, Carolyn Smart & dianah smith.

Emerging Writers Reading Series
Tuesday, February 10 at 8:00 pm
at Duffy’s Tavern
1238 Bloor Street West,

Featuring: Faith Arkorful, Michelle Brown , F. A. Meier (Rick Meier), Noor Naga


Tuesdays @ 10
Spoken word and music Radio Show
Tuesday, February 10 at 10:00 pm
at CIUT 89.5 FM and on the Internet at www.ciut.fm, Rogers Cable channel 946 and Star satellite channel 826
Hosted by Valentino Assenza

Guests: James Dewar, Sue Reynolds, Arlene Paculan, Lizzie Violet.


Pivot Reading Series
Wednesday, February 11 at 8:00 pm
at the Press Club
850 Dundas Street West

Featuring: Ken Babstock, David Goldstein, Sheniz Jahmohamed
Hosted by Jacob McArthur Mooney


BAM! The Youth Slam
Wednesday, February 11 at 6:00 pm
at The Central
603 Markham Street (just west of Bathurst & Bloor)
Hosted by Patrick de Belen

Featuring: Sean Warren
*** IMPORTANT: This is the Finals Night! There will be an open mic, but only qualified slammers will be able to compete!
Rules of a BAM! Poetry Slam are quite simple. There we will have 12 slots open for youth poets ages 12-19 – 2 rounds, 3 minutes with a 10 second grace period for every poet to drop their fire, with a 0.5 penalty for every 10 seconds afterwards. There is an OPEN MIC available for all ages for anyone that wants to share his or her works on stage!


Love is Stronger than – – – – – – –
Wednesday, February 11 at 6:30 pm
at Windup Bird Cafe
382 College Street

Featuring Poets: Valentino Assenza, Jennifer Hosein, Alexandra Innes
Featuring Musicians: Suitcase Sam, Brian Blain, Michael Marian, Armando Espana
Hosted by Alexandra Innes


Fundraiser for PoeTrain
Thursday, February 12 at 8:00 pm
at Hot House Restaurant
35 Church Street
Featuring: Robert Priest, Cathy Petch, Max Layton


Best Canadian Poetry Valentine’s Day Reading
Saturday, February 14 at 2:00 pm
at Ben McNally Books 366 Bay Street (at Temperance)

Featuring: Michael Fraser, Laura Lush, Jim Johnstone, Ruth Roach Pierson, Maureen Hynes, Aaron Kreuter, Kateri Lanthier, & Moez Surani


Sunday Poetry @ Ellington’s
Poetry Reading Series and Open Stage
Sunday, February 15 at 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Ellington’s Music & Cafe
805 St Clair Ave West


Plasticine Poetry Series
Spoken Word and Open Stage
Sunday, February 15 at 6:00 pm
at Pauper’s Pub
539 Bloor Street West

Featuring: Rudy Fearon, Olive Senior, Cathy Petch, and Marcia Johnson
Hosted by Rod Weatherbie


Roots Lounge Poetry Slam and Open Mic
Sunday, February 15 at 8:00 pm
at the Harlem Restaurant
67 Richmond Street East

Featuring: Dwayne Morgan, Paulina O’Kieffe, Hoodo Mohamed, Bambu, Gavin Russell, Scribe, Bassam, Patrick de Belen, Spin, Dionne Bird of Paradise, Chris Tse


New works from every branch of literature on “The Loop” in this month’s Radio Wildfire Live! @ www.radiowildfire.com

Radio Wildfire is an independent online radio station which blends spoken word, poetry, performance literature, comedy, storytelling, short stories and more with a novel selection of word/music fusion and an eclectic mix of musical styles.

Radio Wildfire is looking for spoken word audio tracks.  Check out their site and then send them your stuff.  Lots of European exposure.