Community - News and Events

POETS’ CORNER: ON MENTORSHIP | PEARL PIRIE

rob mclennanby League member Pearl Pirie | Find more in the Poets’ Corner here

The single most pivotal moment in my 20 years of taking poetry workshops came in rob mclennan’s workshop where he took my poem, put a diagonal thru all 40-odd lines explaining, “I’ve heard this before, but these two last lines, they are interesting. Start there and see what happens”. Once he said it, I could see it too. So let’s start there: the audacity; the honesty; the end of frustration where workshops copy edit punctuation and capitalization, question and debate content. It was mildly scandalous, but whose neck doesn’t turn rubbery at the unexpected?

It wasn’t the first time I’d met rob. When I was 20 — a seemly significant number — I’d heard of him, seen him at readings. rob runs a lot of events around Ottawa but also showed up wherever the bat signal of poetry reading showed. He was ubiquitous around town, whoever was hosting. His commitment to the literary community was formally recognized this year as an inductee to the VERSeFest Hall of Honour: “He has demonstrated tireless community leadership in his activities as the founder of the Ottawa small press book fair, the organizer of the factory reading series, and the editor and founder of Chaudiere Books, ottawater, The Peter F. Yacht Club, and above/ground press. All of these activities, alongside the generosity of his mentorship and his editorial flair, have helped to shape the creative ethos of this city.”

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LCP50: CHAPBOOK CONTEST

We were so excited to discover these two beautiful chapbooks in our #LCP50 adventures! We found out that in the late 90s and early 2000s the League ran a national chapbook contest open to all Canadian poets. We discovered 1998 winner George McWhirter’s chapbook Ovid in Saskatchewan, and 2000 winner Claudia Morrison’s Arrival. Unfortunately, we’re unable to figure out how long this contest ran, and who the other winners might have been! Do you remember? If you have any interesting #LCP50 facts, stories, or tidbits to share, feel free to email info@poets.ca!

LCP50: BACK TO THE BEGINNING

“We’ve come through the first thirty-five years,” said Raymond Souster in an interview about the League’s tumultuous beginnings. “The League is needed more than ever before on our Canadian literary scene. Full speed ahead for that fiftieth anniversary!”

50 years ago, a group of friends and poets gathered in a backyard in North Hatley, Quebec, and dreamed up the League of Canadian Poets. (Well, first they dreamed up the Canadian Guild of Poets–and then they changed the name.) This informal gathering of Lorna Everson, Ron Everson, Ralph Gustafson, Lia Souster, Raymond Souster, Louis Dudek, Mike Gnarowski, and Frank Scott proved to be the founding meeting of the League, an organization that grew beyond—we imagine—even the wildest dreams of its founders.

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LCP50: THE NATIONAL POETRY CONTEST

gv3

As I read these pieces again and again, I recognize how poetry is a speaking out. It is the quiet voice that all human beings carry inside themselves but which social convention demands that we still.

– from the foreword to Vintage 92, an anthology of poems from the League’s National Poetry Contest.

From 1988 to 2000 (as far as we can tell), the League administered a national poetry contest for individual poems, open to all poets across Canada. Each year, in addition to selecting three winners, the jury selected the top 50 poems to be published in a printed anthology. The contest ran for the first time in 1988 “as a means of raising some much-needed capital for projects, …as a way of discovering and encouraging new talent, and, equally important, as an effort to increase public awareness of an art-form.”

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THE WRITING PARENT: THE FINANCIAL REALITY OF BEING PUBLISHED

Column by Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit. Find an archive of the Writing Parent columns here.

Receipts are gathering in various places around my home. Clipped in a smiley face magnet on my fridge. Folded neatly, yet conspicuously, into pages of my date book. Jammed into folders marked ‘Look At Her’ and ‘Submissions’. I can assure you that they are not all in one place. I can double assure you that they are not being tallied.

Herein is the blog that I have been avoiding. The topic of which I have been avoiding is thus: The Financial Burden  Challenges Reality of Being Published. Oh yes, this is a topic that everyone is always writing about in lit mags; talking about at readings; swearing about in union meetings. Or, if you’re me, avoiding facing even as I live through it. It’s hard to write about this topic without divulging private financial matters of both myself and my publisher. The point of this piece is to communicate that it costs to market and promote a new book (which we all know), and these costs affect the writing parent in ways that extend beyond the bank card, or more honestly, the credit card.

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LCP50: THE FEMINIST CAUCUS

feminist-caucusThe League’s Feminist Caucus came to be as a result of a long article by Sharon Nelson published in the summer 1981 edition of the League newsletter: she examined the disparity in representation of men to women poets within the League, which brought many of the female members together to ultimately form a new committee—the Feminist Caucus.

The committee’s beginnings were fierce and controversial, with some members of the League even resigning over it, calling it a “disruptive” group and protesting the inclusion of a “special interest group” in the League. Some members called for the League to “disassociate” itself from the group, lest it appear the association was giving a “seal of approval” to the Caucus activities. Then-Executive Director Geraldine Gaskin wrote that that she was receiving letters suggesting she resign over her role in supporting the committee, accusing her of being a “radical feminist… deliberately trying to dissolve the League”.

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LCP50: DENNIS LEE

Our first #throwbackthursday of our 50th anniversary celebrations takes us back to pre-League times, with an anthology from 1956. We discovered First Flowering: a selection of prose and poetry by the youth of Canada on one of our bookshelves earlier this month, and we were excited to spot a poem from 16-year-old Dennis Lee in its pages! Dennis Lee was a member of the League in its earliest years, and present at the League’s first ever AGM. His book of poetry Civil Elegies, an “uncompromising exploration of citizenship, both Canadian and human”, was the winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 1972. As well, Dennis Lee was appointed Toronto’s first Poet Laureate in 2001, serving in that position until 2004! So yes, we were over the moon to discover this little gem, “Free Verse” by Dennis Lee, from 1956.

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LCP50: LOOKING BACK, MOVING FORWARD

pexels-photo-24873Our 50th anniversary has coincided with an incredibly exciting time of transition and progress at the League! We have been enjoying taking time in 2016 to look back fondly, and look forward eagerly at how the League has and will support poets and poetry in Canada.

In the last 50 years, the League started several programs to help raise the profile and recognition of Canadian poets and poetry: we have published anthologies of work by poets at all stages of their careers; we helped start Canada’s longest running poetry-only reading series; we have run a national poetry contest for an individual poem, as well as a national chapbook contest. We are proud to recognize incredible poets every year with our three book awards, our young poets’ prize, and a spoken word prize. Since 1971, with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, we have distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to poets for readings in every corner of this beautiful country; with the support of the Ontario Arts Council, in that same year we started a program to support schools who want to bring poets into the classroom. The Toronto Arts Council has provided huge support for poetry across the city throughout the years, providing support for poetry readings, National Poetry Month celebrations, and innovative projects to support local poets across the city of Toronto. We have also been lucky to receive support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Access Copyright, and donors who are poets and lovers of poetry.

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IN CONVERSATION WITH ROOM MAGAZINE

It’s exciting times for feminism in Canadian literature! Room magazine, Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women, is celebrating its 40th anniversary and we thought this we be a great opportunity to chat with them about the future of feminism, literature, and art. This interview with Room Managing Editor Chelene Knight is the second in what we hope will be a long-running series of interviews with feminist editors and publishers in the Canadian poetry community. Find our first interview, with Robin Richardson of Minola Review, here.

First and foremost: congratulations on your exciting plans for Room’s 40th anniversary! We’ve checked out your crowdfunding campaign and absolutely can’t wait for the anthology. What has been the most exciting part of preparing for this milestone?

Thank you! We are all super thrilled that this is official and that we are very close to holding this lovely work in our hands. For me, the most exciting part was hashing out what pieces were to be in the Anthology. A few of our board members got together in a cabin and really dug into these pieces from our shortlist, over an entire weekend. Imagine looking back at 40 years of writing from some of Canada’s best writers … I still get covered in goosebumps every time I think about it.

How long have you been with the magazine? How (and why) did you first get involved?

I joined the Room collective in 2014. I published a prose poem in issue 37.4 before deciding that I wanted to be a part of this amazing group of women. I worked my way to poetry submissions coordinator, and now managing editor. At the time, my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Zilm was the creative non-fiction submissions coordinator at Room and she encouraged me to apply and referred me. (more…)

REVIEW: CARIBOU RUN | BY RICHARD KELLY KEMICK

875-7_KEMICK_COV_PRF1.inddicehouse poetry / Goose Lane Editions | 96 pages | March 2016 | $19.95 | Purchase online
Review by H. H. Brown

Richard Kelly Kemick’s poetry collection Caribou Run surprises and delights. First, the tawny book cover itself, designed by Chris Tompkins, has concentric irises of caribou circling outward from a spare bone-white title. The texture of the cover and its size makes it feel as if it were an essential guidebook from someone familiar with an immediate physical landscape

where under thick ice

braided water still

runs to the ocean

and who might be relied upon— as it turns out to be the case—to let us know what once moved in pre-historic Ireland, or in a bedroom in Calgary, or remarkably, in a New York subway where a Simon and Garfunkel-singing God is helping out Noah. Typically modest Canadian provocation.

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SHARING AND PROMOTING YOUR NEWS

ONLINE EVENTS LISTINGS | GETTING HELP SPREADING THE WORD
GETTING HELP FROM THE LEAGUE | WHERE SHOULD I SEND MY NEWS?

There is no doubt in our minds that Canada’s literary community is bursting with talent, initiative, and promise right now—from coast to coast, groups and individuals are creating art, organizations, collectives, and projects that bring together an incredible array of skills, backgrounds, and voices. At any given time you can open up your internet browser and find a new literary magazine, a new small press, a book launch, a reading series, and much, much more. So the trouble is: how do you make your news stand out?

There’s no one way to make your project stand out in the literary crowd, and what works for one group may not work for another, but we’ve assembled some tips and tricks for getting your news out there. You can also check out the bottom of this post for a bit more information about how the League, specifically, can help you promote your events and other news.

If you’re just starting out planning an event, check out our tips for organizing a reading or literary evening here.

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THE WRITING PARENT: THE UNBREAKABLE SCHOOL-BOND

 

Column by Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit. Find an archive of the Writing Parent columns here.

Summer Vacation: the Math of it All

I feel like my body is still attached to the school year calendar. I also feel like my body and my brain (and my ability to stay committed to things) only work in seasonal cycles (lasting 3-4 months) – these seasons also very connected to ‘school’.

I graduated from university in 2001. That was 15 years ago (GULP.) Previous to that, I was in school for over twenty years (day care – 2 yrs; elementary school – 9 yrs; high school – 5 yrs, university – 5 yrs). It follows that I’ve been out of school less than I’ve been in it. Then, in 2006, I gave birth to Jett, our son, who is now ten and who’s been in school for close to ten years (day care – 3 yrs; elementary 7 – with JK/SK up to grade 5 which he’ll start in September). My daughter Miller is also in school. Our schedule is built around the school calendar, which is directly related to the holidays of the seasons. You can see that school and seasons are closely related. I can’t seem to shake the physical and emotional feelings that come with the starts and finishes of school vacations amidst the heats and colds of our wacky seasons.

The reason I’ve done the math (A+ Vaness, well done) is to show connections between life scheduling and writing scheduling. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working on a writing project. Whether it was for school or for personal achievement/growth, I’ve always been working on one or more writing projects. My ability to time manage and teach myself how to write while in school or around parenting has been in the making since I was a child. Learning how to write without being inspired, without having full days or even hours to write, and perhaps most importantly, to write and finish projects has taken my whole life to learn. I’m still working on it, and that’s what this blog is about.

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POETS’ CORNER: ON MENTORSHIP | LESLEY STRUTT

Finding my Poetry Mentor and How that Changed my Writing Life
by Associate Member Representative Lesley Strutt

Before beginning this blog, I took a walk into my village to clear my mind. By chance, the swing bridge over the locks was open to let boats through. I was delayed long enough to notice a flock of small birds rising and swooping out over the cascading water from the dam overflow and winging their way back to the branches of nearby trees. One of the birds perched close enough for me to see that they were Cedar Waxwings. What a lucky chance the bridge was open or I’d have missed seeing these exotic little birds cooling off in the mist.

Lucky chance also brought me my poetry mentor. In 2005 I was signed up for a beginner poetry writing workshop at UBC’s Booming Ground. There weren’t enough students in my group and I was asked if I’d consider joining Patrick Lane’s intermediate workshop. I said yes but I was very nervous.

The workshop was designed for experienced poets who were working towards a first collection. I was way out of my depth, hadn’t even published a poem yet, but this group of fine people included me easily and took me under their care as I navigated my first real poetry writing workshop.

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ADVERTISE WITH THE LEAGUE

We are excited to be constantly growing and improving the way that we support and promote poets and poetry in Canada. Our members-only publication, ST@NZA, is distributed to over 600 writers and poets nationwide and contains exclusive news about writing opportunities, League news, and industry updates. We are in the process of changing the format of this publication, and we are–for the first time–opening up this publication to include advertisements from other organizations and individuals! If you would like to share your news with professional writers all across Canada, consider placing an ad in our next issue of ST@NZA. All ST@NZA advertisements also include online promotion. Find out more about how to advertise with the League by checking out our rate card. (more…)

IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBIN RICHARDSON

I created Minola Review, named after Katherine Minola, the shrew who is arguably broken by men in Taming of the Shrew, in an attempt to resuscitate that stifled voice. Minola Review features all women and is carefully curated for only the strongest, fiercest, most honest voices. Minola Review is a space for us to inhabit our full female selves, to be messy, real, goofy, angry, and bewildered without worrying about censoring for or pandering to the visions and opinions of men.

This is your space. What will you do with it?

Here at the League, we are always excited to find out about what our members our doing–in their own careers, but also in the wider Canadian poetry community. Many of our members run or work with reading series, publishing houses, and literary magazines all across the country, and we were thrilled to sit down with new Leaguer Robin Richardson, founder of and editor at the online feminist magazine Minola Review, to find out about her experience in dreaming up, starting, and growing a feminist literary magazine. This interview is the first in what we hope will be a long-running series of interviews with feminist editors and publishers in the Canadian poetry community.

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CHAPBOOK REVIEW: BRIAN PURDY’S BLACK INK: PORTRAITS

April 2016 | Big Pond Rumours | 24 pages
review by Bianca Lakoseljac

Brian Purdy’s Black Ink: Portraits is an eclectic collection of whimsical poems, each composition a moment in life.

The poem “Goddess Sculpture, Greek, circa 540 BC” is a stirring contemplation of the liaison between the artist and the woman who inspired his creation. “Gun Fired in the Discharge of Duty” is a raw and honest reflection on the aftermath of a police shooting—a timely and complex issue—where all are victims, and only the degrees vary. “For Layman” reads as a tribute to his father, a meditation on the human frailties and strengths, and the power of inspiration—a gritty, yet tender eulogy.

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TOM CULL NAMED LONDON, ONTARIO’S NEW POET LAUREATE

>>Excerpt from Western News

A leading literary advocate has now been charged with carrying the city’s unique artistic legacy forward into the world.

Earlier today, Western professor Tom Cull was named Poet Laureate for the City of London by the London Arts Council. The Poet Laureate is an ambassador for London’s arts community on local, provincial and national levels.

Cull, an American Studies and Writing Studies professor, was born and raised in rural Southwestern Ontario. He is a poet, community organizer and active participant in the city’s arts scene. As a poet, Cull strives to write poems that are accessible, open to diverse groups and engaged with the socio-political-environmental realities of our world. His poems comprise a wide variety of poetic forms, from traditional lyric to spoken word to experimental language.

“Tom has served London as a dedicated professional in his field for various literary organizations and initiatives,” said Andrea Halwa, London Arts Council Executive Director. “We are delighted to be working with Tom and look forward to supporting him in his new role.”

Read the full article here.

REVIEW: A HOUSECOAT REMAINS | BY TINA BIELLO

Guernica Editions | 106 pages | Fall 2015 | $20.00 | Purchase online
Review by Vanessa Shields

What happens to a family when aging and disease become its main storyline? In an attempt to keep the heart and mind connected, memories become medicine and hope sews them together. Tina Biello’s A Housecoat Remains is the quilted result of such a dedicated project — the project of remembering, reflecting, grieving, giving, and, essentially reclaiming the identity of the living poet who remains.

In a sentence, Biello’s second book of poetry is a collection about a daughter’s experience navigating under the darkening cloud of Alzheimer’s disease that is taking her mother. But oh, how this collection reaches into the deepest layers of family, history, disease, loss, aging, tradition and identity – and leads the reader, essentially, into her self through an emotional spark plug of awareness.

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THE WRITING PARENT: THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAVEL

Column by Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit. Find an archive of the Writing Parent columns here.

This past June, I attended the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto. By myself. For four days. Just me and my self and I.

For me, the League of Canadian Poets’ AGM is something I look forward to attending every year. Last year, the League and TWUC held a joint conference in Winnipeg. The year before that, I ventured east to St. John’s for the TWUC AGM. Wherever the gathering happens, I want to go!

What does that do to my writing and parenting life, though? Not to mention my financial life? Well, it puts everything into upheaval. This was my third year of it, and it’s getting slightly easier…

Overall, my recommendation as parent who is a writer is to DEFINITELY travel. Give yourself the experience of attending a conference or escaping to a writer’s retreat. You need it. Your imagination and creative juices need it. Your body and soul need it. Your words need it. It might be hard on the finances (there are grants/free residencies that do exist to help with this!), but it’s so good for your spirit. It’s good to be away and feel how much you miss the ones you love. It’s amazing to come home and get barreled with embraces and smooches. And to slide back into the rituals of daily life.

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VOLUNTEER WITH THE LEAGUE IN TORONTO

We are looking for a passionate and interested individual to join us in our Toronto office and provide volunteer support to our three-person staff! Support may include administrative duties such as filing, research, and database maintenance, as well as membership coordination, communications tracking, and other general office responsibilities as they arise. Volunteers should be interested in Canadian literature, publishing, and arts. Some previous office experience is an asset. See our poster below for more information about how to get involved! Feel free to send any questions to info@poets.ca.

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REVIEW: WAITING ROOM | BY JENNIFER ZILM

BookThug | 104 pages | April 2016 | $18.00 | Purchase online
Review by rob mclennan, originally published in the Small Press Book Review

MUSE IN AUGUST

Her muse for poetry is an old woman. She declares this on an island in the wilderness—it doesn’t matter where as long as it’s either Ontario or Québec. She says her mother was always kind to her. Her mother says she would leave her young daughter alone in the kitchen, baking. Alone with flour, eggs, oven, elements, because she didn’t want to discourage her but couldn’t watch her do it wrong. The Crone Muse prefers heavy, dense sentences. The Muse as Landscape says I am the road you are walking on, pay attention. The Muse as Pioneer Housewife hides the bodies of her sons beneath wet soil as territorial markers. Sometimes the Crone Muse says I am happy. She forever holds someone’s memory of burnt cookies—an absence with the flavor of smoke and hard crust.

The author of two poetry chapbooks—The whole and broken yellows (Frog Hollow Press, 2013) and October Notebook (dancing girl press, 2015)—Vancouver poet Jennifer Zilm’s first trade poetry collection is Waiting Room (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2016), a draft of which was shortlisted for the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. The poems that make up Waiting Room are constructed out of a mix of experimental fragments, erasures and more formal lyrics, ranging from sonnets and centos to poems with titles such as “The Committee Meeting,” “Footnotes to the Associate Professor” and “Email to the Full Professor.” As she describes the collection in a recent interview conducted by Stacey Seymour and posted at BookThug: “It has four sections. The first is about the dentist, the second about the academy, the third is about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the fourth is about therapy. There are a lot of doctors in it.”

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HOSTING A POETRY READING

pexels-photo-70252-largeWhile we all love curling up on the couch with a great book of poetry and a warm cup of tea (or a cool cup of something stronger maybe, in this heat wave!), one of the best ways to get out and meet our fellow writers and readers is by attending a poetry reading. Many cities across Canada are bursting with regular reading series (check out our Hitting the Road series to find something in your area), but not everywhere is so lucky. So we want to help you host your own poetry reading! This is a resource that can always be updated, and should always be considered incomplete–the best part about starting your own reading is the freedom to push boundaries and create something new. If you would like to add something to our tips, email info@poets.ca

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REVIEW: TRANSMITTER AND RECEIVER | BY RAOUL FERNANDES

Nightwood Editions | 96 pages | March 2015 | $18.95 | Purchase online
Review by Clay Everest

Raoul Fernandes’s debut collection Transmitter and Receiver by Nightwood Editions is an amazing collection that explores intimacy and interconnectedness. The poems are fragments, bits that are collected and re-purposed by Fernandes, like the friend from the poem “Mixtape” who “collects his friends’ broken walkmans// and builds a flying machine out of them…” The use of moments as poetic devices and signifiers of a truth that we only scratch but rarely delve into gives this collection and early morning dawn feeling.

The poems in this collection are aware and explore of the give and take that relationships require. In the first poem, “By Way of Explanation,” Fernandes writes, “You have this thing that you can only explain//by driving me out to the port at night//…I have this thing I can only explain to you// by showing you a pile of computer hardware//chucked into a ravine…”. It is the moments like these, where Fernandes explores the small moments that occur in life that are important to understanding another person, that this collection is at its strongest. In particular the first two poems, “By Way of Explanation” and “The Goodnight Skirt” stand out as humor and intimate portraits of tenderness and understanding, the speaker listing the shared memories and metaphors that they exchange with “you”–

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LORNA CROZIER IS DOUBLE-WINNER AT 2016 LCP BOOK AWARDS

We are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2016 awards! On Saturday, June 18, at the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto we were pleased to present the winners of our 2016 Raymond Souster Award, Pat Lowther and Gerald Lampert Memorial Awards. We were also pleased to honour the winner of the 10th annual Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award. Congratulations to Lorna Crozier, Ben Ladouceur, and RC Weslowski, our 2016 book award winners!

Lorna Crozier took center stage as the winner of two awards: the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for a book of poetry by a woman, and the Raymond Souster award, for a book of poetry by a League member. Jurors described her winning collection, The Wrong Cat, as “superbly realized lyrical poems,” “sly, sexy, irreverent and sad,” and “a book deeply nuanced in its exploration of the human condition.”

Ben Ladouceur is the newest poet to join the ranks of emerging writers honoured by the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Jurors called his debut collection, Otter, “relevant and finely honed” and “edgy with honesty and originality,” saying “this sort of bravery is rarely found in a first collection.”

We were also honoured to hear from RC Weslowski, winner of the 10th annual Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award, a lifetime achievement award recognizing significant contributions to spoken word in Canada.

Congratulations to our 2016 winners! Find the 2016 shortlists here.

Our awards ceremony was also where we presented three awards for significant contribution to poetry in Canada: our honorary membership award, our life membership awards, and our Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award. We are pleased to welcome Ben McNally, of the beloved Toronto bookstore Ben McNally Books, to the League as an honorary member thanks to his ongoing support of poetry and literature, and thrilled to grant Armand Garnet Ruffo life membership for his contributions to Canadian Poetry. Penn Kemp presented Bruce Rice with our Colleen Thibaudau Award, honoring and thanking him for his efforts in establishing the now-annual Poetry City Challenge, which reaches Mayors and councils in communities large and small across Canada.

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REVIEW: OBSERVING THE MOON | BY SNEHA MADHAVAN-REESE

Hagios Press | 88 pages | November 2015 | $17.95 | Purchase online
Review by Ayaz Pirani

In Observing the Moon Sneha Madhavan-Reese offers plain-speech poems unruffled by pretence. Gratuitous poetic moves are at a minimum in this tender, accessible book that keeps getting warmer in your hands.

The first stanza of the four-part title poem displays Madhavan-Reese’s natural, speakerly voice and her generous patience in the set-up:

Sometimes, instead of reading in the evenings,

I take out my binoculars and look up

at the moon. Two weeks ago,

it was round and bright, every tone of light,

a pockmarked face, an ancient lace.

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REVIEW: A JAR OF FIREFLIES | BY JOSIE DI SCIASCIO-ANDREWS

Mosaic Press | 108 pages | September 2015 | $15.95 | Purchase online
Review by Debbie Okun Hill, originally published in Verse Afire and on Debbie Okun Hill’s blog.

Canadian poet Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews collects memories like she collects sea glass along the shore. It’s her quiet polishing of word gems that first drew me to her work in 2008 when her chapbook The Whispers of Stones was released by Beret Days Press.

In her latest poetry book, A Jar of Fireflies (Mosaic Press, 2015), she continues to collect the past and states that “memories light up the landscapes of our nights like fireflies”. Themes inspired by her familial remembrances, nature, love, flowers and dreams dominate this collection. What makes her work shine is her ability to pull in the reader with both her narrative style and sparkling-fresh metaphors. Three examples include: “summer days split open/like slices of ripe watermelon”, “the leaves are velvet tongues” and “I strike a match on stone/and memory ignites it to diamond.”

Fans of Di Sciascio-Andrews’ work will recognize such favourites as “Sea Glass” where memories are broken and scattered and fused back again and “Immigrants Fishing on the Oakville Pier” where “Across the lake, white sails/Bite the sky’s pale lip./A regatta of shark’s teeth/Aimed at the unsuspecting neck of night.”

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MY WRITING DAY | ROB MCLENNAN

>>from rob mclennan’s blog

Inspired by this, I decided to write up my own.

7:30am: Awake, to toddler footfalls; the length of hallway. Newborn squeaks.

7:45am: As Christine dresses toddler, newborn assists as I prepare cereal for toddler, put coffee on. Check email. Collect newspaper from the front step.

Send out mass email for the new “Tuesday poem” piece posted on the dusie blog today, a series I’ve been curating for more than one hundred and sixty weeks now. Endi Bogue Hartigan. I post to twitter.

Dress newborn. Collect toddler socks and shoes and convince her to wear them.

Finish reading yesterday’s newspaper. I don’t get into today’s paper at all. I set it aside for tomorrow.

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THE WRITING PARENT: ASK THE KIDS

Column by Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit. Find an archive of the Writing Parent columns here.

As I was considering what to write for this next column, I sat in my living room while the kids watched Arthur on PBS Kids. I thought, why don’t I ask the kids what they think about my writing life?

Over the years, my writing life has changed significantly. It went from writing whenever I wanted, unfocused, barely disciplined, free in an I-have-all-the-time-the-world kinda way to writing in the in-betweens (nursing, cleaning, cooking, sleeping, crying…) in a very focused, disciplined, scheduled in an I-have-23.5-minutes-to-write-now kinda way. It’s true, I am usually an arm’s length away from my laptop or a book or a piece of paper and pen. It’s true, I have many a time, been typing and the kids are asking for snacks or for my help with something and I say: “Just lemme finish…this…sentence…” Certainly, the possibility of me asking (pleading?) for the kids to give ‘gimme one more minute’ has increased significantly as they’ve gotten older.

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2016 TRILLIUM BOOK AWARD SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED

>> From the OMDC website

TORONTO – Six English and five French books have been shortlisted for the 2016 Trillium Book Award, the Ontario government’s prestigious award for literature. Three titles are also shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry in both English language and French language. For detailed information on all the 2016 Trillium Book Award finalists click here.

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INTERVIEW WITH PENN KEMP

>> Interview conducted by and originally posted by the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Penn Kemp talks to PGC about her upcoming participation in the Canadian Writers’ Summit, the upcoming releases of Women & Multimedia and Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets, and the role of the playwright within the greater Canadian writing community.

Q: What do you hope to get out of the Canadian Writers’ Summit 2016, a conference with writers across all disciplines?

A: What a celebration of Canadian writing in all its forms! Such an opportunity on such a scale is unprecedented in Canada and a terrific occasion for synergy. It will be fun to meet old friends from across the country and to hear and meet writers new to me.

Q: What do you see as the role of the playwright within the greater Canadian writing community?

A: By their public nature, plays have a great sense of community and collaboration, involving so many— whether on stage, off stage, or in the audience. Other writing forms are more private or personal: the author of a poem or novel is single.

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INAUGURAL SUMMIT UNITES 14 NATIONAL WRITING ORGANIZATIONS

Fourteen Canadian writing and reading organizations have joined forces to present the inaugural Canadian Writers’ Summit (#CWS2016), a four-day super-conference for writers and publishing industry professionals. The largest national gathering of its kind, #CWS2016 presents a unique opportunity in terms of programming, ideas, and networking for the Canadian writing community, and efficiencies for the participating organizations. The conference features more than 200 panellists and speakers in more than 75 events and is expected to draw over 500 writers and readers from across Canada. #CWS2016 takes place from June 15 to 19 at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

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REVIEW: A MORE PERFECT [ | BY JIMMY MCINNES

BookThug | 124 pages | April 2015 | $18.00 | Purchase online
Review by William Kemp, originally published in issue 7 of (parenthetical).

Jimmy McInnes’s A More Perfect [ is the type of book of poetry that I’m secretly jealous of. It’s the type of book of poetry I wish I could write, but fear that I am far too ineloquent and far too uneducated to write. It is the type of book of poetry that makes me remember my university rhetoric class and wish it was on the course list. It is the type of book of poetry that has the power to make rhetoric not only interesting and relevant, but an actual joy to read—and that’s quite the feat.

Several times now I’ve seen McInnes read from A More Perfect [ in its various stages of development, and undoubtedly, McInnes is one of the most engaging readers I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. He not only makes a show out of his readings, but he imbues what appears to be a random collection of signifiers with meaning—with life.  What’s even more impressive than that, though, is the fact that McInnes’s work does not lose that sense of momentum, that life on the page.

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CALL FOR REVIEWS

As part of our ongoing efforts to promote and engage poets and poetry across Canada, the League of Canadian Poets is hoping to create a reviews series hosted here on our Community page. In time, we would like to develop a dedicated network of writers and reviewers who want to support and discuss the cool new projects coming to life every day in CanLit. We all know poetry doesn’t get a lot of space (or love) in mainstream review outlets, although literary magazines, blogs, and lots of online platforms are going to great lengths to keep poetry criticism alive and well. We figure it’s about time we contribute!

It’s a small, small poetry world out there, and we know there’s a large chance reviewers have met the poet they’re reviewing at least once. So we want to embrace that: friends, review friends! Publishers, review your own books! Discuss, discuss, discuss–as long as you disclose your connections and keep your writing transparent. We’re looking for reviews that speak to the reviewer’s personal experience with the book, but we’re also looking for reviews that can connect a book with other legacies, initiatives, and creators in CanLit.

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POETS ON POETRY: GLEN SORESTAD

Glen Sorestad. Photo Credit - Donna StewartIn celebration of the release of Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry, Jeanelle Mandes from the University of Regina Press sat down with Gregory Scofield, Anne Simpson, Marilyn Bowering and Glen Sorestad, who are four of the 13 contributors from Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry. They talked about the poets’ aspirations, how long they’ve been writing poetry, how they deal with writer’s block, and their upcoming new work.

Our last poet is Glen Sorestad. He is a well-known poet from Saskatoon who has had nearly 25 volumes of poems published and has been included in over 60 anthologies and textbooks. When Glen is not creating new poems, he is working on revisions to older poems. To read more about his life’s work, check out the post below.

Join us at the Measures of Astonishment launch on Friday, June 17 at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

How long have you been writing poetry? 

I began writing poetry – seriously, that is – around 1968 shortly after I moved to Saskatoon to accept a teaching position. I had always been interested in writing, but had never considered actually becoming a writer until I met practicing writers in Saskatoon. By 1970, I was having poems accepted and published, but my first little chapbook didn’t appear until 1973. So in a few years, I’ll have been writing poetry for half a century!

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POETS ON POETRY: MARILYN BOWERING

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHIn celebration of the release of Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry, Jeanelle Mandes from the University of Regina Press sat down with Gregory Scofield, Anne Simpson, Marilyn Bowering and Glen Sorestad, who are four of the 13 contributors fromMeasures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry. They talked about the poets’ aspirations, how long they’ve been writing poetry, how they deal with writer’s block, and their upcoming new work.

Our next poet is Marilyn Bowering. She is a poet and novelist who lives in British Columbia. Her most recent works are Soul Mouth (poetry), What It Takes To Be Human (novel), and the libretti (see Quebecite, 2003). Read on to find out what inspires Marilyn to write.

Join us at the Measures of Astonishment launch on Friday, June 17 at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

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POETS ON POETRY: ANNE SIMPSON

Anne SimpsonIn celebration of the release of Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry, Jeanelle Mandes from the University of Regina Press sat down with Gregory Scofield, Anne Simpson, Marilyn Bowering and Glen Sorestad, who are four of the 13 contributors from Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry. They talked about the poets’ aspirations, how long they’ve been writing poetry, how they deal with writer’s block, and their upcoming new work.

Our next poet is Anne Simpson. She writes fiction, poetry, and non-fiction which have won her a number of awards. Anne has been a writer-in-residence at libraries and universities across Canada. Find out what Katherine Lawrence, who is an established writer, said to inspire Anne to write the lecture in the Measures of Astonishment book.

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POETS ON POETRY: GREGORY SCOFIELD

Gregory Scofield PicIn celebration of the release of Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry, Jeanelle Mandes from the University of Regina Press sat down with Gregory Scofield, Anne Simpson, Marilyn Bowering and Glen Sorestad, who are four of the 13 contributors from Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry. They talked about the poets’ aspirations, how long they’ve been writing poetry, how they deal with writer’s block, and their upcoming new work.

Our first poet is Gregory Scofield. He is one of Canada’s leading Indigenous writers whose seven collections of poetry have earned him both a national and international audience. He is Assistant Professor of English at Laurentian University, where he teaches Creative Writing. Read to find out how his late aunty inspired him to write this lecture in the Measures of Astonishment book.

How long have you been writing poetry?

I have been writing poetry for probably about 30 years and I have been publishing for about 26 years.

What inspires you to write poetry?

What inspires me the most to write poetry are the things I observe around me, the things that seem to touch me, move me, the things that make me angry it’s an emotional response within me. I’ve always approached poetry as a form of healing and it’s like a form of therapy in a way.

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2106 JESSAMY STURSBERG PRIZE: HONORABLE MENTIONS

We’re wrapping up National Youth Arts Week with our final Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize announcement: our honorable mentions! Judges selected three poems in each category as honorable mentions. Congratulations again to all the young poets who placed in this year’s prize! We were inundated with great work from all across Canada, and our wonderful jurors were hard pressed to select just three winning poems in each category. Find the full prize announcement here, meet our first place winners and read their poems here, meet our second place winners and read their poems here, or meet our third place winners and read their poems here.

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2016 JESSAMY STURSBERG POETRY PRIZE: THIRD PLACE

Congratulations to Frida Purdon and Kelsey Tishinki, who placed third in our 2016 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize! We’re excited to share their poems with you today, as well as a brief interview with Kelsey. The prize is awarded annually through the Jessamy Stursberg Youth Poetry Trust Fund, sustained by a generous donation from the Stursberg family and other donors in honour of Jessamy Sutrsberg. The prize was established to foster a lifelong relationship between Canadian youth and the literary arts–specifically poetry–in honour of Jessamy’s lifelong love of poetry. The prize awards six student poets across two categories: the junior category, for students in grades 7 to 9, and the senior category, for students in grades 10 to 12.

Find the full awards announcement here.

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2016 JESSAMY STURSBERG POETRY PRIZE: SECOND PLACE

Congratulations to Sadie Bell and Harmony Taetz, who placed second in our 2016 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize! We’re excited to share their poems with you today, as well as a brief interview with Harmony. The prize is awarded annually through the Jessamy Stursberg Youth Poetry Trust Fund, sustained by a generous donation from the Stursberg family and other donors in honour of Jessamy Sutrsberg. The prize was established to foster a lifelong relationship between Canadian youth and the literary arts–specifically poetry–in honour of Jessamy’s lifelong love of poetry. The prize awards six student poets across two categories: the junior category, for students in grades 7 to 9, and the senior category, for students in grades 10 to 12.

Find the full awards announcement here.

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2016 JESSAMY STURSBERG POETRY PRIZE: FIRST PLACE

Congratulations to Muneeza Sheikh and Aubry Williams, winners of the 2016 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize! We’re excited to share their poems with you today, as well as a brief interview with each of these young poets. The prize is awarded annually through the Jessamy Stursberg Youth Poetry Trust Fund, sustained by a generous donation from the Stursberg family and other donors in honour of Jessamy Sutrsberg. The prize was established to foster a lifelong relationship between Canadian youth and the literary arts–specifically poetry–in honour of Jessamy’s lifelong love of poetry. The prize awards six student poets across two categories: the junior category, for students in grades 7 to 9, and the senior category, for students in grades 10 to 12.

Find the full awards announcement here.

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JESSAMY STURSBERG POETRY PRIZE: 2016 WINNERS

nyaw-logoThe first week of May each year is National Youth Arts Week in Canada, and we are excited to celebrate six youth poets this week! We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2016 Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Prize for Canadian youth. The prize is awarded annually through the Jessamy Stursberg Youth Poetry Trust Fund, sustained by a generous donation from the Stursberg family and other donors in honour of Jessamy Sutrsberg. The prize was established to foster a lifelong relationship between Canadian youth and the literary arts–specifically poetry–in honour of Jessamy’s lifelong love of poetry.

The prize awards six student poets across two categories: the junior category, for students in grades 7 to 9, and the senior category, for students in grades 10 to 12.

Congratulations to all the amazing student poets recognized for this year’s award! Continue to check our Community page throughout National Youth Arts Week to read the winning poems and find interviews with the winning poets.

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THAT’S A WRAP: NPM16

It feels like we woke up yesterday and National Poetry Month was just beginning, but somehow it’s May tomorrow and we have to wrap up our celebrations. We’ve had such a great month celebrating poetry, both online and in events across Canada, and seeing what other organizations orchestrated for our favourite month! We’ve definitely missed tons and tons of initiatives, but here’s a small roundup of #NPM16 goodies we loved this April:

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HITTING THE ROAD: ATLANTIC PROVINCES

pexels-photoNational Poetry Month is almost over, and so too is our virtual road trip. We hit our last four provinces today, driving through PEI, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick. We know for a fact that all of the Atlantic provinces are highly literary and active, but once again we confess we don’t have too many events listings to include in our roundup. We recommend checking out the PEI Writers’ Guild, the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, and the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick. Each of these organizations runs contests and awards for members and the public, as well as keeping events listings for regular and one-time events. These are also a great way to connect with other writers in your province!

There has been a flurry of literary news, good and bad, from the Maritimes lately, including the shortlist for the 29th Cox & Palmer Island Literary Awards, the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards shortlist announcement, the winners of the 2016 Atlantic Writing Competition for Unpublished Manuscripts, the winners of the inaugural New Brunswick Book Awards, and the fourteen winners of the 2016 Atlantic Book Awards. As well, Newfoundland and Labrador’s library board announced huge changes to its services earlier this week, adopting a regional library model which will see 54 branches close in the next two years.This news comes on the heels of the Newfoundland government announcing its plans to introduce a 10% provincial book tax. If passed, Newfoundland will be the only province in Canada to tax books.

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2016 GOLDEN BERET AWARD WINNER: RC WESLOWSKI

RC WeslowskiAt the beginning of National Poetry Month, we were thrilled to announce our 2016 book awards shortlists as well as the winner of the 10th annual Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for spoken word. The Golden Beret Award was created by Sheri-D Wilson—a pioneer of spoken word poetry in Canada—to honour  a Canadian spoken word artist who has made a substantial contribution to the development of spoken word, through the originality and excellence of his or her own writing/performance works, and through involvement in—and contributions to—the expansion of the spoken word community. The award was first presented at the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival in 2007 and carries a $1000 prize.

This year, we are pleased to honor RC Weslowski of Vancouver, BC for his influence and impact on spoken word in Canada. He is a multi- talented performer who loves to walk between worlds to see what the ghost dragged in. RC wears many masks including poet, clown, storyteller, playwright, broadcaster, voice actor, coach and educator. Over the past 15 years he has toured North America, the United Kingdom and parts of Europe including many spoken word, poetry and music festivals.

We we happy to chat with this year’s winner about his influences, inspirations, habits, and hopes! Check out the interview below.

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ONE WEEK ON THE ROAD

by Alessandra Naccarato

  1. DEPARTURE: Salt Spring Island, BC

pexels-photo-30855My cat did not do a very good job of saying goodbye. She slid past my legs and ran into the garden, up a tree. My partner did a better job. Walked me down the hill to the ferry. There’s something perfectly melancholic about saying goodbye at a pier. Waving goodbye as the boat pulls from the harbor. An eagle above us, and mountains in the distance.

Three months, I’ll be on the road. Crossing Canada, touring my newly released album, and working with youth in Toronto. It’s a far cry from the sweet quiet life I’ve been living on Salt Spring Island, where you don’t run into anyone on a hike by the ocean. But to say I don’t crave the city would be a lie. I miss the busy streets and busses that come more often than every two hours. The plethora of cafes. And most of all: the poets. Booking 20+ shows across the country is, on the one hand, an organization hoopla, and on the other, a chance to drop in on almost every spoken word scene in the country. A chance to witness and be heard.

So I held my head up high and got on the boat, with an overstuffed suitcase and a wide brimmed hat.

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LCP WELCOMES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The League of Canadian Poets (LCP) is pleased to announce the appointment of new Executive Director, Lesley Fletcher. Lesley is thrilled to rejoin the League of Canadian Poets, where she previously worked as an Administrative and Communications Coordinator from September 2012 ‒ January 2014. She is a literature-obsessed graduate of the Creative Book Publishing Program at Humber College, and has worked in many parts of the Canadian literary industry, including as a bookseller, a freelance writer and editor, a social media manager for self-published authors, and with the Book and Periodical Council.

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HITTING THE ROAD: QUEBEC

houses-port-tree-overviewHere, our virtual road trip also becomes physically impossible, as we soar through all of Ontario in just 24 hours and carry on into Quebec. Magic! With just 0.5 french-speaking staff at the League office, we are unfortunately not the most up-to-date with literary goings-on in Quebec, and many of our roundup take place in Montreal. We would love to expand our listings! We’re open not only to English language events taking place in Quebec, but also to French language events–although please, if you have a French language event listing, send one paragraph that will appear as is on our website.

Poets and writers in Quebec should check out the Quebec Writers’ Federation (provides community support for the promotion and encouragement of English language literary arts within the province), L’Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois (qui travaille à la promotion et à la diffusion de la littérature québécoise), or La Maison de la poésie de Montréal (qui a pour mission de promouvoir la poésie québécoise, autant au Québec qu’à l’étranger).

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HITTING THE ROAD: ONTARIO

We’re out of the prairies and into Ontario on our road trip today, and there’s an impossible amount of amazing literary initiatives in our home province! We can’t possibly go into all of them, so as usual, we recommend checking out your local library or college/university creative writing courses if you’re looking for something in your area. Unlike other provinces, Ontario doesn’t have a provincial writers’ association, and is instead home to many national organizations such as The Writers’ Union of Canada, the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada, the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada, and yours truly, among others.

If you run a series, festival, or other organization that you think belongs on this list, let us know! No project is too small. Simply email info@poets.ca with details.

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MICHELINE MAYLOR NAMED CALGARY POET LAUREATE

>>Local poet will serve as an artistic ambassador for Calgary from 2016 – 2018

(Calgary AB) – Calgary Arts Development and the Calgary Poet Laureate Selection Committee are pleased to announce the appointment of Micheline Maylor as the 2016 – 2018 Calgary Poet Laureate. The position was formally announced in Council Chambers at Calgary City Hall this morning, in conjunction with an update about National Poetry Month and the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge. Outgoing laureate derek beaulieu was also in attendance to wrap up his two-year term as Calgary’s Poet Laureate from 2014 – 2016.

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HITTING THE ROAD: MANITOBA

pexels-photoWe head back south on our virtual road trip (we picked up a dog along the way) into Manitoba to explore the last of the prairies’ literary goings-on. As ever, our list is woefully incomplete, and centered mainly in Winnipeg. If you run or know of a literary press, reading series, or magazine, let us know! We’d love to include you in our roundup. Email info@poets.ca with information so we can help spread the word.

We recommend writers in Manitoba check out the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, which is open to all writers and also has a student membership discount. A Manitoba Writers’ Guild membership is the perfect way to connect with Manitoba’s writing community, meet other writers, and participate in a wide range of programs, workshops and events of interest to writers and readers. Guild members receive reduced rates on workshops and masterclasses, and exclusive access to some of the Guild’s programs (including access to our free Blue Pencil Sessions, and eligibility to apply to the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program).

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: CHAD CAMPBELL, CASSIDY McFADZEAN & SARAH TOLMIE

We have a super-sized final segment of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” series, where we chat with Chad Campbell and Cassidy McFadzean, whose books Laws & Locks and Hacker Packer were shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Sarah Tolmie, whose book Trio was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for ourRaymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visitpoets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

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HITTING THE ROAD: NORTHWEST TERRITORIES & NUNAVUT

aurora-borealis-lofoten-norway-nightToday we drive north from Saskatchewan into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut! Although we have a confession to make: we were woefully under-prepared for this segment of the road trip. Almost certainly, we have barely scratched the surface of what these two territories have to offer. If you know of any regular readings, presses, or magazines run out of NWT or Nunavut, please let us know! We’d love to work more at involving our northern communities with the work we do year-round here at the League. You can comment below or email info@poets.ca with any information you have on literary goings-on in the territories.

Writers in NWT should check out the NWT Arts Council, which provides great opportunities for funding to individuals and organizations. In Nunavut, writers can check out the Arts Development Program, which also includes a new partnership between the Government of Nunavut the Canada Council for the Arts to provide professional Nunavut artists access to travel contributions. The website Visit Yellowknife has an active events listing, which includes book launches, literary panels, and readings taking place in Yellowknife. You can also check out the Yellowknife Public Library/City of Yellowknife and Nunavut Public Library websites to find information about literary programming.

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: RAOUL FERNANDES & ARMAND GARNET RUFFO

For the fifth installation of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series, we meet Raoul Fernandes, whose book Transmitter and Receiver was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Armand Garnet Ruffo, whose book The Thunderbird Poems was shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visitpoets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

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HITTING THE ROAD: SASKATCHEWAN

Photo credit: Nicole Brewer

Photo credit: Nicole Brewer

Today on our virtual road trip we continue into the prairies, through endless skies and existential-dread-inducing amounts of beautiful expansive space. (A note from the author: I recently took a bus trip from Toronto to Whitehorse, and it was my first time in the prairies as an adult. I expected to be bored, because everybody told me to expect to be bored. But we left Winnipeg just before sunset and it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. Later, I woke up in the middle of the night as we were driving through a perfect lightning storm in Saskatchewan, and this remains one of the most incredible scenes I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. The sky in the prairies is incomprehensibly large–infinite–and there is something truly magical about the space this allows in your mind. I grew up at the bottom of three mountains. I didn’t know the power of the horizon.)

Saskatchewan certainly has more literary offerings than the few we’ve been able to round up here, so if you’re looking for something in your area we recommend starting at your public library! College and university writing programs are also a great resource for connecting with writers and finding local events. We also recommend checking out the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, a provincial cultural organization that represents writers in all disciplines and at all levels of achievement. It acts as an advocate to improve the status of Saskatchewan writers, encourages the development of writers of all ages and levels through educational opportunities and strives to improve public access to Saskatchewan writers and their work. Membership is open to writers and those interested in Saskatchewan writing.

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THE TRAVELLING TEAM

TPS 2016 team. Photo by Cathy Petch.

TPS 2015 team. Photo by Cathy Petch.

As a special feature for National Poetry Month, we sat down with some members of the 2015 Toronto Poetry Slam team to find out about how travelling–and travelling as a team–affects the creative process and psyche. The TPS team is determined each year by several months of competitions culminating in two rounds of semifinals and a finals night.

TPS is all about ideas, with one in particular: people sharing poetry for everyone to enjoy. You’ll hear pure honesty poured onto the stage, wrapped in an entertaining performance style you won’t see anywhere else. Best of all, anyone can slam! Just show up to sign up for 7:30pm sharp. Judges from the audience score each poem between 0 and 10, basing their scores on both content n’ performance. 12 poets are in the first round, then it’s whittled down to 6, and the a final 3 poets battle it out in the final round. Winners get $80 and a bye into the semis. Poets can also get points towards making the Toronto Poetry Slam Team.

The 2015 team was made up of Trevor Abes, Justin G, Kay Kassier, and SPIN El Poeta.

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HITTING THE ROAD: ALBERTA

Lake Louise, AB. Photo credit: Arina Kharlamova (https://akharlamova.com/)

Lake Louise, AB. Photo credit: Arina Kharlamova

We continue our virtual road trip today, cruising through BC into the Rockies–what’s up, Alberta? There are tons of festivals and literary goings-on here at the edge of the prairies, and as usual we will barely be scratching the surface of what they have to offer. We recommend checking out the Writers’ Guild of Alberta for a variety of resources, included an events calendar! All writers who are residents or former residents of Alberta are welcome to join the Writers’ Guild of Alberta–members include professional writers, aspiring professionals, and hobbyists.

Before we dive in, we’d like to congratulate all the writers shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Awards! Each year, the Alberta Literary Awards recognize and celebrate the highest standards of literary excellence from Alberta authors. Winners will be announced and awards presented at the Alberta Literary Awards Gala on June 4, 2016 in MacDonald Hall at SAIT in Calgary. The celebration will take place alongside the WGA 2016 Conference, “Creativity and Happiness.”

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: MELISSA BULL & BEN LADOUCEUR

For the fourth installation of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series, we meet Melissa Bull and Ben Ladouceur, whose books Rue and Otter, respectively, were shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award! Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visitpoets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

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HITTING THE ROAD: BRITISH COLUMBIA

grouse

From the top of Grouse Mountain, Vancouver. Photo by Nicole Brewer

After spending some time in Canada’s beautiful north, we’re driving south today to explore the literary offerings of beautiful British Columbia. BC is home to a wealth of poetry publishers, magazines, and reading series, and we will barely even be scratching the surface of the creative nooks of the province with this post. If you’re looking for ways to get involved with writing or poetry in your area, we suggest starting with your local library! Coffee shops and event-friendly pubs also often host regular literary events, so keep an eye out for posters for upcoming events. Writers in BC can also check out the Federation of BC Writers, whose membership is open to anybody who writes: published or unpublished.

Do you run a festival, reading series, press or magazine in BC? Let us know! Email admin@poets.ca with information, and we can look for ways to help you promote your work.

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: MARILYN DUMONT & ALICE MAJOR

For the fourth installation of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series, we meet Marilyn Dumont and Alice Major, whose books The Pemmican Eaters and Standard Candles, respectively, were shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visitpoets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

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READYING FOR THE ROAD


notes to self before departure

 —

pexels-photo-29619by Alessandra Naccarato

 

  1. Remember the first time you did this: Five years back, in thunderstruck winter, Montreal. It seemed like anything would be better than another month of unaffordable hydro, windows covered in frost, nights spent at Snack & Blues just trying to warm up. So you reached out to the prairies and the prairies said, sure, no one else wants to come perform here in minus 50. At that point, some part of you realized the fatal flaw in your plan. But you figured cold was cold and packed a bag for Winnipeg. You got bronchitis just before departure. Another woman might have taken this as a sign. Not you. You got on the train, just past midnight. All through the dark tunnel of night, watched the frost form on the window. Tried to sleep. Tried to stop coughing. By the next afternoon, things turned. In the car with a glass ceiling, a boy pulled out a banjo and you got your harmonica that you didn’t really know how to play. By nightfall there was whiskey, a poker game beside you, a circle of music. There wasn’t much more you could ask of Canada. The sky was enormous and pink. The snow dyed the same color. You were headed somewhere you’d never been before, and you’d heard even your nose hairs would freeze there.

 

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: RACHEL ROSE & DEREK WEBSTER

For the third installation of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series, we meet Rachel Rose, whose book Marry & Burn was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and Derek Webster, whose book Mockingbird was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award!

Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visitpoets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: ADEBE DeRANGO-ADEM & BRUCE MEYER

For the second installation of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series, we meet Adebe DeRango-Adem, whose book Terra Incognita was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and Bruce Meyer, whose book The Arrow of Time was shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award!

Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visit poets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

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HITTING THE ROAD: THE YUKON

Marsh Lake, YT (Photo by Nicole Brewer)

Marsh Lake, YT (Photo by Nicole Brewer)

This National Poetry Month, we’re taking a virtual road trip across this beautiful country to explore some great reading series, festivals, magazines, and publishers in each province. If you’d like to throw your poetry-related project into the mix, e-mail admin@poets.ca with a brief description of your project, including a website and how others can get involved! The smaller the better–we want to get hyper-local on this road trip, stopping at all of Canada’s cutest corners and finding as many hidden treasures as possible.

First up, we head north to the Yukon! Thanks to Joanna Lilley for bringing together this list of literary initiatives in Yukon Territory. Even though Yukon only has a population of about 37,000, there are writers working in all sorts of genres, from poetry and playwriting to speculative fiction and non-fiction, and a whole host of events and gatherings where writers and readers can come together. There is no writers’ guild or federation, but there is an active community of writers who find the time and energy to make things happen often on a voluntary basis. An informal group called Yukon Writers’ Collective Ink leads events from time to time and helps writers keep in touch with each other. A great place to keep up to date on Yukon literary goings-on is the Yukon Writers’ Collective Ink Facebook page.

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MEET THE SHORTLIST: LORNA CROZIER & MAUREEN HYNES

Welcome to the first installation of our 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series! Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visit poets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.

MEET LORNA CROZIER AND MAUREEN HYNES

Our first two poets have actually both been shortlisted for TWO of our book awards, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the Raymond Souster Award.  We were excited to find out more about their writing process and their great shortlisted books, The Wrong Cat and The Poison Colour.

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2016 BOOK AWARDS: SHORTLISTS

We are thrilled to announce the 2016 Poetry Awards shortlists for the Gerald Lampert and Pat Lowther Memorial Awards, the Raymond Souster Award and, together with the Calgary Spoken Word Society, the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visit poets.ca/conference for more details! Throughout April, visit our Community page to find interviews with and more information about all the shortlisted authors.

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ON NOT WRITING: POETRY AND TRAVEL ACROSS NORTH AMERICA

by JC Bouchard

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Poets constantly make creative and technical choices in their poetry. They also make choices in their lives from which, in many cases, their work is largely drawn. As a young aspiring poet earning a B.A. in English Literature at a small university in northern Ontario, I wanted to choose something visceral, unpredictable, and with immediate consequences.

One morning in a second-year English literature course, during a lecture on the satire of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, I suddenly packed up my books and left the classroom. That week I secured a refund of one semester’s tuition: a measly $3,500 that seemed like an enormous sum to a 20-something-year-old. Two weeks later I bought a camping backpack and a Greyhound Discovery Pass (now defunct) that granted me one month of unlimited travel in North America (except east of Montreal). The choice was simple: go west and see my country rather than learn about the people in someone else’s. It was a naive and impulsive decision that I would never take back. I never did earn that B.A.

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WELCOME TO NATIONAL POETRY MONTH 2016

NPM final SDOWNLOADABLE GRAPHICS | NPM16 EVENTS | FRANCAIS

We’re so excited to celebrate poetry with you this month! Here on the blog, we’ll have guest posts on poetry and travel from JC Bouchard and Alessandra Naccarato, as well as a virtual road trip across Canada with posts highlighting reading series and local presses from coast to coast! Throughout the month we’ll also be featuring all the amazing poets shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Raymond Souster Award, plus the winner of the 10th annual Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award for spoken word. You’ll find interviews, excerpts, and photos from each of the poets over the course of the next four weeks!

This year, we’re celebrating THE ROAD: the roads we travel, the roads we wish to travel, the roads we’ve found and made and cherished for decades. Since 1998, the League of Canadian Poets has been bringing together schools, publishers, booksellers, libraries, literary organizations, and poets from across the country to celebrate poetry in Canada—in 2016, we’ll look at the roads that brought us here, and we want to know about the roads most important to your literary journey. Even more, we want to know about the roads in your future, in our future, in the future of poetry in Canada.

We’re also excited to spread the word about what YOU have planned for NPM16! You can find a list of literary events celebrating National Poetry Month all across Canada on our special NPM16 events page, here; If you would like to include your event in this listing, please email admin@poets.ca with the following information: name of your event, date and time, location (including city and address), a link, and 1-3 sentences of description. Please do not include any visual materials.

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CELEBRATING POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY ACROSS NORTH AMERICA

The League of Canadian Poets and the Academy of American Poets Team Up to Celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day Across North America

As a special collaboration for this year’s National Poetry Month in April, the leading membership-based poetry organizations that sponsor the month in Canada and the United States—the League of Canadian Poets and the Academy of American Poets—have created a guide for families, schools, and businesses to inspire and assist with local Poem in Your Pocket Day celebrations. The guide features poems by contemporary Canadian and U.S. poets.

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REBECCA THOMAS NAMED NEW HALIFAX POET LAUREATE

>> From the Halifax Poet Laureate website.

Rebecca Thomas will become the Halifax Regional Municipality’s sixth Poet Laureate. The municipality’s Poet Laureate serves as an ambassador and advocate for literacy, literature and the arts, and reflects the vitality of our community through appearances and readings of poetry at a number of civic events and other activities.

“We’re very pleased to appoint Ms. Thomas as our next Poet Laureate, a position which will empower her to enhance our understanding of our region’s unique cultural tapestry through her work,” said Mayor Savage.

Rebecca will serve a two-year term as the municipal Poet Laureate, which will notably coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and Canada’s 150th birthday.

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CELEBRATING UNESCO WORLD POETRY DAY

“By paying tribute to the men and women whose only instrument is free speech, who imagine and act, UNESCO recognizes in poetry its value as a symbol of the human spirit’s creativity. By giving form and words to that which has none – such as the unfathomable beauty that surrounds us, the immense suffering and misery of the world – poetry contributes to the expansion of our common humanity, helping to increase its strength, solidarity and self-awareness.”

—Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

For UNESCO World Poetry Day, we’re celebrating poetry in translation from all over the world! Check out these five international poets, culled from the past several years of the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlists:

Colonies by Tomasz Rózycki (shortlisted in 2014)

Translated from Polish by Mira Rosenthal

Tomasz Różycki walks to work every day through the city of Opole, in the Polish region of Silesia, where he has lived since his birth in 1970. The fact that he is walking is important: the rhythm of feet on concrete and cobblestone, the familiar view across the Odra River, the regular length of time it takes him to reach his destination. Poetry has a long friendship with walking, good for pacing the flow of thought and establishing a strong rhythm. We are familiar with the idea in the Anglophone tradition from the late eighteenth century, when the Romantic poets transformed walking into a cultural and aesthetic act of taking pleasure in a landscape. For William Wordsworth, almost daily excursions on foot as well as longer walking tours functioned as a way to compose and revise poems that sprung from his meditations on the countryside. But what is important in Różycki’s daily walking is not so much any pastoral awareness it brings about but the fact that such rambling often leads to more sustained interest in the history of a place. Wordsworth’s pedestrian experience of the Lake District moved him to write a guidebook that traced the history of the region; so, too, Różycki’s paced knowledge of his part of Silesia roots him in a historical curiosity. In Colonies, his sixth collection, this curiosity blooms into an outright aesthetic obsession.

—from the translator’s introduction

 

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THE WRITING PARENT – THE STAGGERING REALITY OF PROCESS GONE MAD

by Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit. Find the first Writing Parent column here.

(I started writing this article on March 9th. These notes in italics communicate all the interruptions that happened as I was writing. And how long it [can]take to get one piece of writing finished. This article is about process – and sometimes – the process of writing one thing that could probably take two hours to finish, turns into something that takes weeks.

I can’t remember what time it was when I started writing this. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night…or when I showered last. What I can tell you is that since I started, the children have finished school and we’re into March Break. I had two meetings with my editor about my forthcoming book of poetry because we had to choose a title. I did two major literary events – one was out of town – and I wrote close to 25 poems. This article is always waiting patiently for me to come back to it.)

vanessa

This is the dining room when it’s clean. I just needed to show you (and myself) that it is possible to have a clutter free work-zone!

One evening after school, my son Jett said he had homework – to finish writing a short story (genre: fairytale). He’s in grade four. I felt a surge of pride rustle in my chest. My child is writing! Maybe he’ll be a writer like me! I kept my thoughts to myself so as to not freak him out with my extreme excitement (after all, it was homework to him). He was sitting at the dining room table (the Grand Central Station of our home…yours too? Interesting!) with my laptop open to an internet page.

He knew how to find the site. He knew how to sign in. He knew how to sit at the table and, well, think. I watched him, and he got the face he gets when he’s not telling me something. After a bit of explaining, the truth snuck out – he’d left his rough, hand-written draft at school. Hmm.

“But don’t worry,” he told me, “I remember every word! I’m allowed to just type it right in the program.”

Okay. I tilted my head to the side and made the face I make when I’m being a ‘mother’.

“So you forgot your rough draft at school then?” I asked him.

His face fell – literally. It fell into a red sadness and he started to cry.

“But it’s not important,” he urged, “I would have had to type it out anyway. But I feel nervous and…” He gulped in some air and coughed. “I feel like it’s gonna be hard to finish.”

I hugged him tightly. “Oh son,” I whispered, “I know exactly how you feel!”

It’s amazing how our children mirror our

(Monday, March 14th – Wrote this half sentence while sitting at the dining room table. 3pm. The girls (my daughter has a friend over) come to the table and tell me they’ve found a video on youtub e(the safe youtube on her tablet! Otherwise, youtube scares the hell out of me) about how to make playdoh. Can we do it too? Can we please? So I stop writing to gather ingredients – thank goodness I have them – and help the girls make playdoh. Then, the boys (my son has a friend over) hear all the squees of joy and they come and want to make playdoh too! Now all four kids are rolling balls of coloured dough around. And my laptop is somewhere under all the floury mess!

            Get the kids/table/me cleaned up. Tell the kids to go play outside. Wash the dishes because this stuff will never come off if I don’t do it now. Go to throw mucky garbage out but the garbage is full. Empty garbage (recycle too!). Bring bags outside. Put empty garbage cans away. Go back inside. Wash hands. FINALLY sit back down at 3:40 to continue working on this!)

 

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THE JURY’S IN – FIELD NOTES FROM A JURY JUNKIE

by Vanessa Shields

Jury Junkie 01I’m a jury junkie. There. I said it. I admit it.

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think about winning a major Canadian writing award. I’d still be lying if I told you I didn’t wish on almost every eyelash that falls onto my cheek that I receive a big-money writing grant too. But mostly, these awards and grants live in my ‘dream’ realm as far as my writing career is concerned. And sometimes, I worry that’s not enough – just dreaming, I mean.

The truth is, I’ve often felt out of the loop as a ‘Canadian writer’ (what does that even mean, anyway? Golly. That’s a whole other article.). My poetry doesn’t win big awards. I know you’ve more than likely never heard of me. It’s totally fine. I know I’m here and writing my heart out. I know I matter and I’m putting my energy into this wildly unique thing we call the ‘Canadian writer’s landscape’ by infiltrating the system in ways that aren’t overt. But how am I doing this?  How am I making the impact I feel I need to make?

I believe that a very excellent way for me to learn about, to appreciate, to be a ‘part of’ the Canadian writing landscape is to be on juries for awards and grants. Is that little voice in your head saying: that sounds like a lot of work – and for free to boot? Well…let me tell you how and why I’m a jury junkie. Also, know that it pays to be on some juries. So there’s that.

There are countless ways to get involved as a juror, reader, or judge, and every situation will have its own process for choosing who will be involved. Every organization will have a different selection process – the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) and the Canada Council for the Arts, for example, have a form you can fill out if you’re interested in being on a jury or being an advisor for any of their grants; Giller Prize five-member jury panel is selected by Executive Director Elana Rabinovich in consultation with founder Jack Rabinovitch and the prize advisory board; jurors for the Writers’ Trust prizes and awards are nominated by an advisory group. Some roles pay, others don’t. But I assert that whether you’re getting paid or not doesn’t change what it means once you’ve committed to being a jury member or an editor.

The heart of the matter comes in the work. It can be a cuss-load of work to be on a jury especially if there are a lot of submissions. I know that going in. I know that I’m going to have to read hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of poetry or prose if I’m on a certain jury. I have to look realistically at my life schedule and see if I can commit to it. If I can, and that includes shifting some things around or even stopping certain things (readings/guest speaking engagements/etc.) to make it possible, then I’m going all in.

Here’s the why and what concerning living a juror’s life.

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CAPTIVATING THE IMAGINATION

by Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Dear Poets of the League,

This first day of March and outside my office window, intimation of blossom, a set of cherry trees, the park below. Yes, it’s raining, again, in torrents—and I’m inside working on volume two of thecanadaproject, a long poem, The Heart of The Journey Bears All Patterns, commonly known as Thot-j-Bap, excerpts of which will appear in chapbooks this spring, published by two micro-presses I admire: Nous-Zot (U.S.) and above/ground (Ottawa).  I’m deep into my manuscript, first begun in 2008 and still continuing, a massive journey poem, with a vast amalgam of characters. Nothing like torrential rain to help seed the work inside—

Renee at an erasure poetry shop

Renee Sarojini Saklikar hosts an erasure poetry shop

As Laureate, two February events in Surrey, captivated my imagination: in Flux,  an open studio night at the Surrey Art Gallery featuring local live performance artists, crafters, and stop-animation workshops: you can see photos from the event here.

Thanks to the Surrey Art Gallery and Surrey Libraries, I was given the opportunity to set up an “erasure poetry shop” replete with a long table, lots of discard books and material, glue, scissors: happiness. The text cut, redacted, transformed. I worked with a straight edge ruler, ripped out pages, used heavy black felt-tipped markers to blot out text, in order to foreground new ways of seeing. Head bent, seated at the table,  I found a rhythm with gesture. And as I worked,  I welcomed people to drop in and join me: we talked about books, about words as material, working as we talked. There’s a vibe in making things, the way we reach out to books, hold them, before that still slightly taboo act: to rip a book, bend the binding, strike through and mark another person’s narrative, in order to create new things: list poems, new stories from old words. Later, at an open-mic, we shared our found poems. I loved watching the care with which people held their new-old-found-marked work. The way surface material changes, blacked-out, taken out, revived.

Later in the month, on a “dark and stormy night” I joined a poetry circle in Newtown at Friends of the Grove and their poetry night grass roots revival, the Cedar Bark Poets Gathering. Here’s a snippet from a beautiful article about the event, which I hope you’ll read, courtesy of the writer and community activist, David Dalley:

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THE WRITING PARENT – DANCING IN THE DUALITY

Guest post from League member Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column, “The Writing Parent,” is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit.

In this, my first column about being a writer and a parent, I think it only customary for me to introduce myself and give you a sense of who I am as a writer and a parent.

Take a look at this photo:

Writing Parent 01 - carMy car says a lot about my life. Beside my obvious love of stickers (which extends into every part of my life!), you’ll notice that the back of my car is busy. Each sticker says something about who I am and what I do in my life.

Shall we take a sticker tour then?

Let’s go left to right.

It’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a dog paw sticker that says ‘I Kiss My Dog On The Lips’. It’s true. Our Golden Retriever, Oscar, is just over a year old. I love him like he’s one of our children, just a bit hairier.

Beneath the dog paw is a sticker that says ‘Life Is Good’. The Life Is Good company is one that I believe in, and I also believe that about my life. It’s good – really good. I’m an optimist through and through. That’s not to say I don’t get down and dirty in the dumps…or even teeter on the side of the bell jar at times. Trust me, I do.

Centred on the rear window is a sticker that says ‘Love’. Ah, sweet love. It is at the core of everything I do and everything I write. I have the word tattooed above my heart as well. I’m pretty serious about this particular human experience. As a parent and poet, love informs everything.

Scooting across to the right of the rear window are those (somewhat trendy and possibly annoying?!) family stickers. It’s funny that I was able to find stickers that actually resemble our family! I’m married to a man who wears jeans and a t-shirt instead of a suit to work, and the sticker bears a striking resemblance to my true love–heretofore named ‘The Hubby’. Beside him is the ‘me’ sticker. My head is missing. So is my right foot. Okay, so I do have both feet functioning fine; however, the fact that my head is missing is so metaphorically correct it’s uncanny. You can often hear me say ‘I’m losing my mind!’ and most days, if I don’t make a list, I find I forget things because I’m just holding too much in my brain at once. Which makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. You get my drift?

The little flying superhero represents my son, Jett, who is a nearly-10-year-old mega-fan of all things superhero, Star Wars, Lego, and sports. He’s also a lover of films. (We all are.) Beside my superhero son is a sticker of a painting girl with a giant smile. That’s our Miller. She’s seven, and loves to write and paint and draw. We always say she’s made of rainbows and when she does her art and dances and laughs, I swear you can see colours bursting out of her.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens sticker below our family is there for Jett…and me too. We’re all fans – enough to slap a sticker on our car.

Above our sticker family is another sticker that says ‘Love’ – all hippie-psychedelic.

Moving your eyes to the bottom left, you’ll notice a pretty big sticker that says ‘WRITER’. Well, I am. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – in a journal, writing poetry, writing short stories. I love this sticker. It helps me feel good about my passion for the written word. I see it every day, and it always makes me smile. I made this bumper sticker and have gifted them to many a writer friend. You want one too, don’t you?

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Become a #PoetryCity | Devenez une #VillePoésie

MPCC

Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi has officially issued the challenge: Mayors across Canada can now take up the #PoetryCity challenge by inviting a poet to read during a council meeting in March or April. Last year, over 70 communities participated in the challenge. This year, we hope for even more! Find out more about the #PoetryCity challenge at poets.ca/poetrycity. Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke–a participant of the #PoetryCity challenge in previous years–has a message for all the mayors across Canada who want to get involved:

The essence of democratic politics is speech–inventive,
insightful, succinct, expressive, moving, memorable,
and colourful.  That the aforementioned adjectives also
describe poetry is a happy coincidence, for the best
political speech is likely infused with the beauty and
force of supple metaphor and subtle rhymes.  For this
reason, I salute Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi for challenging
all Canadian municipalities to invite a local poet to
address each council. (When I was Poet Laureate of
Toronto, 2012-15, the highlight for me was the annual
address to City Council.  Councillors told me how much
they appreciated the wit and wonder of verse in
describing, playfully, the concerns of the citizens.) Thus,
I join with Mayor Nenshi in propagating this challenge,
for the voice of the poet is a distinct voice of the people.
Councillors will understand better the aspirations of their
voters by attending to what poets believe is wise.  Thus,
Canadian mayors and councils, please do summon a
local poet to address your governments and hear a
voice, not crying in the wilderness, but singing the news.

Yours truly,

George Elliott Clarke, OC, ONS, Ph.D.

Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)

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National Poetry Month 2016

NPM final SPlanning for National Poetry Month is now well underway here at the League, and we’re excited to be preparing all of our visual promotional materials! Our theme this year is THE ROAD, and we can’t wait to see what journeys and adventures you’re all planning for this April. Established in April 1998 by the LCP, NPM brings together schools, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and poets from across the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in Canada’s culture. Here are a few ways you can get involved with NPM16:

Download our poster, bookmark, or graphics to use online or in print as you plan your month! (Click images to download.) Contact admin@poets.ca if you are interested in receiving NPM16 posters! Our bookmarks are now out of stock, but you’re encouraged to download our graphic to the right and print your own.

Plan an event! We are pleased to sponsor a limited number of readings and events across Canada for NPM. To be eligible, events must relate to the theme of the road, must take place during the month of April, and be free and open to the public. The deadline to apply for funding has been extended until February 29. For more information, visit poets.ca/npm. We are also happy to promote all events happening throughout National Poetry Month, not just those readings we provide funding for! If you’re planning an event for NPM16, visit poets.ca/events to find out how to submit to our listings. Make sure you check out the hashtag #NPM16 to find events happening near you!

Join the conversation! Follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and use the hashtag #NPM16.

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To share in the writing—

by Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Dear Poets of the League,

At month’s end, the new year, and it is raining—

I’m writing to you this afternoon having attended an ekphrasis workshop last evening at the Surrey Art Gallery. Alongside students from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and their teachers, award winning authors Jen Currin and Aislinn Hunter, we spent time with Graeme Patterson’s Secret Citadel, of which curator Jordan Strom writes, “it is…at once a portrait of the artist, ….also a revealing portrait of male identity and friendship…anti-selfie in self-absorbed times.”

Fascinating, to enter into an exhibit where instead of framed paintings, we are greeted by a series of installations made of found furniture, sculpture enlivened with stop motion animation. I asked students to look closely at the exhibit Grudge Match, comprised of video projections, a set of wood benches, bleachers, and a floor model of an old high school gym locker. Everywhere we saw, in those presences, absence.

Earlier that afternoon, absorbed in materials, I had printed a set of writing prompts–black ink on paper, torn into strips, my hands on a straight-edged ruler. The pieces then affixed to recipe cards with translucent tape. Time, that old watch-maker, an observer. Gratifying, to later give these prompt-cards out to the students who stood, sat on the floor, in conversation with art, writing—

This emanation, absence/presence is a continuing obsession, particularly when encountering other art forms: here’s an ekphrasis piece I wrote last year for the glorious online magazine, LineBreak, courtesy of subTerrain and LineBreak editor Shazia Hafiz.

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Le mois national de la poésie 2016

 

 

AVRIL 2016 — LE CHEMIN

Le chemin te mènera n’importe où.

C’est le moment de célébrer les chemins que nous voyageons, les chemins que nous souhaitons voyager, les chemins que nous avons découverts et créés et chéris depuis des décennies. Cette année, le Mois national de la poésie célèbre le chemin. Depuis 1998, la Ligue de poètes canadiens rassemble des écoles, des éditeurs, des libraires, des bibliothèques, des organisations littéraires et des poètes d’à travers le pays pour célébrer la poésie au Canada — en 2016, nous étudierons les chemins qui nous ont menés jusqu’ici, et nous voulons connaître les chemins les plus importants de votre aventure littéraire. Encore plus, nous voulons connaître les chemins de votre futur, de notre futur, du futur de la poésie au Canada.

Peut-être que, ce matin, vous avez marché au travail. Il se peut que vous avez conduit. Vous avez peut-être pris l’autobus à l’école; peut-être que vous êtes resté à la maison, en route vers la guérison. Vous avez sans doute voyagé aujourd’hui, du point A au point B suivant une carte de votre choix – au bureau, en franchissant une montagne, en suivant un détour ou à un arrêt de repos. Votre carte dévoile peut-être les pistes de vos aventures (vraies, imaginaires), les branches de votre famille (donnée, choisie), possiblement le chaos d’un chemin à déterminer. Mais vous avez trouvé un chemin, ou vous en avez créé, et vous avez voyagé de nouveau aujourd’hui; et vous voyagerez encore demain.

Venez nous rejoindre dans la célébration du voyage éternel de la poésie pour ce Mois national de la poésie. Prenez le chemin avec la poésie ou restez là et permettez à la poésie de vous promener sur les chemins qu’elle préfère. Indiquez les points saillants sur votre carte littéraire — endroit de lecture ou d’écriture préféré; ville natale de votre écrivain préféré, lieu de votre livre préféré; votre voyage préféré, réalité ou fiction ou invention. Aidez-nous à tracer la place vitale qu’occupe la poésie dans la culture canadienne, du classique au contemporain, de Victoria à Charlottetown à Iqaluit, des poètes officiels du Parlement jusqu’à vous dans votre fauteuil.

Veuillez cliquer ici pour télécharger l’affiche! (PDF)

Suivez-nous dans les médias sociaux avec le mot-clic #NPM16; cherchez la Ligue de poètes sur Facebook, Twitter, et Instagram.

Si vous êtes intéressés à recevoir les signets ou affiches NPM16, contactez admin@poets.ca.

Planifier un événement:

La Ligue de poètes canadiens est heureuse de commanditer une série de lectures et d’événements sous le thème Le chemin, qui auront lieu à travers le Canada pour le Mois national de la poésie. Un montant limité de financement est disponible de la LPC pour ces événements. Afin d’être éligible, les événements doivent se rattacher au thème Le chemin, avoir lieu au mois d’avril et être gratuit et ouvert au publique. La date limite de présentation pour ce financement a été prolongée jusqu’au 29 février. Pour obtenir plus de renseignements (en anglais), visitez poets.ca/npm.

Télécharger notre communique de presse.

 

 

GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE APPOINTED CANADA’S NEXT PARLIAMENTARY POET LAUREATE

>>From the Parliamentary Poet Laureate website.

January 5, 2016 (Ottawa) – The Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable George J. Furey, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Geoff Regan, announced the appointment of George Elliott Clarke as Canada’s next Parliamentary Poet Laureate, effective January 1, 2016. Mr. Clarke is the seventh poet to hold this office, succeeding Michel Pleau, whose two-year term ended on December 31, 2015.

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To travel the city, listening—

This is the second post in an ongoing series from guest writer Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Surrey’s first Poet Laureate. Find the first, “Being Laureate,” here.

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At the Olympia Restaurant in Surrey for Sound Thinking 2015

At the Olympia Restaurant in Surrey for Sound Thinking 2015

Friday night, November 28, 2015:

I’m on a Skytrain heading eastbound, Saturday night coming on fast: at Surrey City Centre, instead of my usual trek across the New City Hall plaza, I deke into an alleyway, remembering an old foot-path to the Olympia, legendary Surrey pizzeria. A nine-foot chain fence stops me and a double-back out the lot, and into the roadway of  a drive-thru bank, pausing long enough to change foot-gear: got to get my heels on for a cabaret, after all. The night features multi-genre readers: poetry, prose, spoken word, music, beats, and image projections. Behind us, the glitter of the Olympia sign, one I remember from a few years back.

At Olympia Pizza, home to community karaoke and arts events, including tonight’s literary cabaret: As the new Surrey Poet Laureate I’ve the honour of opening with a poem and some thoughts about Voicing the City/In verse: reading Surrey and the Super Suburb. The cabaret is part one of a two-day event held to help celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Surrey Art Gallery. With over 15 participating poets, novelists and spoken word artists, including a full day symposium with keynote speaker M.G. Vassanji, Surrey’s literary and visual landscape is contemplated and enacted. Readers include the legendary writers Leona Gom and Lakshmi Gill as well as Sadhu Binning and Tom Konyves. Founded in 2008, Surrey Art Gallery’s Sound Thinking symposium is an annual event, bringing together sound and visual artists, curated by Jordan Storm and Phinder Dulai. More information about all the performers and the contextual thinking behind the symposium can be found on their website.

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Being Laureate—guest post from Renee Saklikar, Surrey’s new Poet Laureate

“So many poets dream of such a position, or hold the same title with very different expectations…” –B. Erochina

Renee Saklikar, Surrey Poet Laureate

Renee Saklikar, Surrey Poet Laureate

Dear Poets of the League,

October 20, 2015: I am at the new Surrey City Hall, seated inside the City Council chambers. Far ahead, on a raised platform, the mayor and her council members.

Her Worship will soon announce the first poet laureate for the City of Surrey: and yes, that would me! And on that crisp October night, I’m glad to be accompanied by several dear Surrey friends and poets, students I’ve taught at the Simon Fraser University Southbank Writers Program, and many of the library and community representatives who’ve worked long and hard to create this position, including League poet Heidi Greco.

At the side of the hall, seated ahead of our group, two women, their hair sleek and dark, their skin the same colour as mine. They wear chunnis (long scarves) and baggy pants. They wait to speak on a Council matter. We smile at each other. It’s a reoccurring moment in my life as a poet in the Canadian literary landscape: moments of almost-connecting with women, with people, who are “outside” the community of writing and yet with whom I feel a bond, sometimes simply because of cultural signifiers. For the duration of our time there at the City Council chambers, I don’t quite find the moment to get up, to approach them—

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2016 Défi de la poésie | #VillePoésie

MPCC2016 graphic_FRPour ne pas alourdir le texte, nous nous conformons à la règle qui permet d’utiliser le masculin avec la valeur de neutre.

Vous pouvez télécharger le communiqué de presse pour le Défi de la poésie du maire 2016 ici.

Ce printemps, faites de votre ville une #VillePoésie en participant au Défi de la poésie 2016!  Depuis 2012,  des communautés de toutes tailles et du pays entier ont accepté de relever ce défi. Il s’agit de célébrer la poésie en mars et avril en invitant un poète local à lire une de ses oeuvres au début d’une réunion du conseil municipal. Ce février, le maire Naheed Nenshi lancera le défi à plus d’une centaine de communautés, les invitant à participer à la quatrième édition annuelle du Défi de la poésie.

Devenez une #VillePoésie!

Nous cherchons la participation du plus grand nombre de communautés possibles pour le Défi de la poésie 2016! Si votre communauté s’intéresse à participer au projet mais n’a pas reçu la documentation pertinente, vous trouverez sur notre site web la lettre du Défi du maire Nenshi, le guide pour les communautés ainsi que le formulaire de confirmation et un guide d’information pour les questions fréquemment posées.

Afin de participer, il s’agit de remplir le formulaire de confirmation et de nous le faire parvenir par courriel: admin@poets.ca. Votre ville sera ajoutée à la liste des communautés participantes sur notre page 2016#PoetryCity. Nous partageons aussi des photos et les biographies des poètes participants sur nos sites Twitter, Facebook et Instagram!

Confirmation de participation et guide pour communautés participantes

Questions fréquemment posées

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John B. Lee. The Full Measure (Black Moss Press 2015).

Reviewed by Anna Yin

 

In John B. Lee’s The Full Measure, the last line “Remembering more, imagining less” of the opening poem “Today I am remembering” kept repeating in my head. The whole book recounts stories about John’s childhood and his family. His sadness and helplessness toward his aged mother grasped me, as I too have witnessed loved ones losing their memories and wandering like a child in another world. I cannot help wondering when I become old, what will happen to me. “Remembering more, imagining less” might be the only way that John hopes to hold “the glass of hour”, or even stop its sand sifting. In his following poem “A Boy and His Dog”, the boy in this poem, “now has led a five-dog life”,
          beg the master
          of each dark and unresponsive night
          may all most serious stars
          that roam past calling
          hear me
          with the wishing
          and quietest whisper of prayer
          come home and come home and
          come home.
Yet in this world, sometime people unconsciously or unwillingly destroy their Home due to various reasons such depressions, wars etc. In his poem “Bringing the Farmhouse Down” he remembers
           as a world-weary
           nine-year-old it seems I knew
           even then
           there was a glass
           I emptied
           and one I filled
           both from the same deep well
           the drained glass always
           heavy with a second thirst.
This sad and brilliant ending line summarizes life itself. When we finally know about Life, can we refill the glass? With memory loss and time flying by, we all hope to remember more… Fortunately, for poets, more or less, we still have hope: we can take off with our imagination just as the last poem in this book does:
         where everything is brand new
          here in the cottonwood faith
          where even the trees
          believe in loving
          the way it melts away
          the way it stays.
The Full Measure can be purchased at the following locations:
Black Moss Press, 2450 Byng Road, Windsor, ON N8W 3E8

REVIEW: MARLENE DIETRICH’S EYES | BY ISABELLA COLALILLO-KATZ

merging dimensions coverEkstasis Editions | October 2014 | 128 pages | $23.95 | Purchase online
Review by Josie Di-Sciascio-Andrews

A child’s wide eyed beauty transforms into a woman’s gaze brimming with wonder. Innocence and artistic sensibility, tempered by life and the myriad waves of experience, chisel away at the superfluous skin of the soul, revealing the goddess: Inanna, Tara, Cassandra, Mary, Pythia, Astarte, Lupa, witchy Gala, Magistra, Lamia, Eve, Marlene Dietrich.

“Poetry is language in orbit,” wrote Seamus Heaney. Word upon word emerging in segments of blank space. A poet’s interplanetary imagination and memory etch life’s journey from birth through time, projecting dreams into the eternal. From the “balcony of [an] ancestral home” to the streets of Toronto, history and the circular meanderings of the self are interwoven with myth and the sonority of language. These are poems of reflection of things past, as well as contemplations of the present moment rife with possibility. Bound in the timeless metaphor and glamour of Marlene Dietrich’s eyes, this collection gathers within its pages, as in the cartography of a woman’s days, “glissands of truth” and “an ageless seeing.” The writing accrues from beginning to end forming an atemporal, holographic image of the feminine. Iconic blue eyes glance at us, as “she sits on a bed of sunlight,” ageless in a “corner of the universe.” A woman alone in time-space, cinematic, a star among human stars, like the goddesses she embodies, breathing in the beauty of eternity. The allegory of the quintessential feminine archetype takes shape within the perimeters of the poet’s own geographies, her biographical self, tethered to the people and places her heart houses. In sequence, the poems embrace the passage through time with its inherent beauty and pain of love and motherhood, encompassing the dissonance of “history’s dark clouds,” where “anger and hate become slogan.” Marlene Dietrich’s eyes “see clearly the tainted heart of her people.” Strength and determination in the face of adversity are her power. Silence in view of wrongdoing can be no option for one with the spirit of Diana. The sceptre of wisdom was always in Nimue’s pale hands, though kings and wizards claimed it as their own. Intercessor to the divine, she was “a woman who fought back, who never gave up,” and “who was never silent.”

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Picture This (Poetry)!

It’s difficult to pinpoint when most of my favourite poets entered my awareness. For many of them – Anne Compton, Anne Michaels, Rainer Maria Rilke, Michael Ondaatje, Hafiz, it is almost as if they have always been there. Like background music, they have set the timbre of my life’s landscape accompanying the joys and sorrows of living. xem bang do  But I know this isn’t factually true. There must have been  a moment of introduction between us, a moment when my eyes or my ears caught the language and swallowed it.

One of our goals here at the League is to nurture the advancement of poetry. Despite how official this sounds, I believe at its root this work is simple. We want you to love poetry and to be changed by it as we have been.

Allow me to introduce you to our Canadian poets, perhaps some magic is bound to happen between you. Follow us along on Instagram @CanadianPoets to meet the writers whose words bring our country to life, and share the images with others to keep the introductions going.

Today’s poets were all shortlisted for the 2015 Pat Lowther Award, with Sina Queyras winning for her book M x T.

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Verse du jour – A Poetic Feast on Nova Scotia’s South Shore

This year’s National Poetry Month theme of food brought forward some of the most creative responses we have ever received from hosts and poets all over the country.  Poets and lovers of poetry gathered over meals of food and words in restaurants, on farms, at fisheries, and in homes.  This event summary came to us from Nova Scotia.

20150418_151010The Editing Café was a popular spot for local poets and lyricists at South Shore Public Libraries’ celebration of National Poetry Month on April 18th. Poets, two with completed manuscripts, a young singer/songwriter with guitar, a songwriter with lyrics on a smart phone and several younger writers met with three established poets for one-on-one feedback at half-hour pre-booked appointments. Participants gave the Editing Café poets rave reviews for their encouragement and their critiques.

 For Alice Burdick, Carole Langille and Alison Smith, the Editing Café was a new experience and one they saw as valuable for them and the writers they met. It was surprising to all how much could be covered in a half-hour appointment.

20150418_143541In the afternoon the Margaret Hennigar Public Library hosted a Poetry Potluck, featuring readings by Burdick, Langille and Smith along with emerging South Shore poets Rachel Edmonds, Cory Lavender and Andrew Rhodenizer who made his poetry reading debut at the event. Two open mic spots were taken by poets Jonathan Meakin and Beth Munroe. An attentive, appreciative crowd of about 45 people enjoyed wonderful poetry to bring the event to a close.

Meanwhile over at the Library’s circulation desk, a group poem, An Ode to Local Farmers, began to grow.  Several patron and participants at the event each added a line. The opportunity continued until a week later when more lines were added by attendees at the launch of the Lunenburg County Seed Library.  The lines were then harvested by library staff and with the help of a high school volunteer and poetry lover transformed into a poem.  The final product which is below, will appear on the library’s website and facebook page and shared with local farmers’ markets. 

An Ode to Local Farmers

Keepers of the land from which water and food emerge from bended knee,

Rooting around in the ground to grow new roots.

Bees from flowers to apiary, brewing liquid sun,

Bring me your sweet greens, the tang and the grit of the earth,

The handful of promise held by the moon.

We see soon,

Paper thin seeds sewn into your gardens,

Waving strong as a flag when the sprouts appear, hear

The magic of the farmers’ whispers.

Feel their calloused fingers working wonders with Mother Nature,

Urging their crops to flourish, strong and well, we smell,

Lavender, grown half for our pleasure and half for the bees,

Our farmers are charmers and they have no haste, we taste

home cooked meals, planted as a seed to grow into plants and be harvested,

We thank you for all of those dinners,

Our farmers are winners, yet

A big farm comes with big debt,

So we know to keep it small and local, no sweat!

 

Thanks to the League of Canadian Poets and BMO Bridgewater for making A Poetic Feast possible.

Visit a branch of the South Shore Public Libraries in person or virtually here.

 

 

 

Micropress Mondays: Words(on)Pages

Micropress MondaysWelcome to our new reoccurring feature – Micropress Mondays. Have you read Russell Smith’s most recent article exploring the future of publishing in Canada? We all know that small, local presses are some of the greatest places to explore unique work. However, Smith suggests that their role in our Canadian market is about to become a lot more prominent. Whether his hypothesis lives the test of time, it is only polite (& smart) for us to get to know them better. From time to time, expect a Monday post featuring one of this country’s many industrious micropresses. Today we are putting the spotlight on some local-to-where-our-headquarters-are talent, Words(On)Pages. Take it away WoP:

We’re an artisan micropress with a focus on emerging artists. That is, we create hand-bound products that showcase the work of (usually) young and (often) previously unpublished writers. The main aspect of our organization that helped us find a place in Toronto’s packed literary scene is our bi-monthly literary magazine, (parenthetical). We successfully launched our first issue in May 2014, curated largely from Tumblr submissions, and we’ve somehow just kept growing from there: each subsequent issue is steadily receiving more submissions and our reputation as a literary magazine is growing. We’ve now been able to curate issues that showcase emerging and unpublished writers alongside some of Toronto’s (and Canada’s, for that matter) best poets and fiction writers.

It took a few months, but we eventually settled upon the mission statement of “for emerging artists, by emerging artists”, and that ethos dictates everything we do. More than just existing in a vacuum as a literary magazine, we’ve been able to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about emerging writers’ places in Canadian literature and the value of poetry—both culturally and monetarily. In addition to publishing (parenthetical), we host a reading series called words(on)stages, run a writing group, and facilitate workshops in universities (and hopefully, soon, more than just universities) about being an emerging writer and navigating small press culture in Toronto. Most recently, we’ve ventured out into chapbook publishing, with four chapbooks launching on April 16th and four more to come in the fall. From here on out, we’ll be publishing chapbooks every Spring and Fall.nicole & will

Our adventure has been an incredible experience with a non-stop learning curve. We tabled at Word on the Street and Canzine with our first three issues, then (amazingly, surprisingly) we were selected to table at Meet the Presses’ Indie Literary Market in late November. There, people started coming up to us and saying, “Oh yeah I’ve heard of you!”, which was entirely mystifying, and led to a lot of new friends—and that meant lots of new eyes reading our literary magazine, new writers submitting to us, and new readers at words(on)stages.

The learning curve has been made a bit less gruelling by all the amazing, encouraging people we’ve encountered along the way in a few awesome communities. We’ve been so encouraged that at the end of last summer, we decided we would venture into chapbook publishing. Our literary journal (parenthetical) is the hands-on manifestation of the community we set out to build, and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives—publishing chapbooks was a natural progression of that.

When we get to work with the incredible writers we publish, it’s unbelievably inspiring and refreshing. And it never gets old—we never forget that without these writers, we couldn’t exist. Readers are important, vital, yes, but they too would have nothing to read if it weren’t for the writers filling our pages, and it’s awesome to make a physical product out of this string of words they trusted us with. It’s humbling to know that these writers—whether they’re completely new to the scene, or they’ve already carved out a place for themselves—have sent us these experiences, entrusted us with their work, and want to be a part of what we’re doing.

IMG_3046At times it certainly feels like we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, and we make mistakes, but we just try to be honest about our process, about our learning moments, and we try to use that transparency to help our community of emerging writers—so that we can all learn from words(on)pages’ mistakes. Because we would be nothing without the people who help us pick ourselves up after publishing a typo, or running out of toner*, or mispronouncing a name, and we want to make sure we’re giving back to that unbelievable, supportive group of people.

*Special thanks go to readers and contributors in issue two: our printer was still new, and we had run out of toner for the first time, ten copies into our print run. Then we discovered toner for our particular printer is nearly impossible to get, which delayed the rest of the print run (including copies already ordered on Etsy or purchased by contributors) a solid two weeks.

NICOLE:WILLA great big thanks to Nicole and Will for sharing with us about their process, passion and growth. Words(on)Pages very recently celebrated their one year annivessary and we couldn’t be happier that they are on the scene! 

Happy Anniversary and thank you for doing what you do!

Visit with them on their website, their facebook page or follow them on twitter!

 

 

Where Fable, Narrative and Spoken Word Meet: Catherine Kidd’s Hyena Subpoena

As a spoken word artist myself, I am always excited to see other performance poets make it onto a shortlist for a poetry award. This is especially true when the poet is someone I admire and whose work has inspired me to take risks in my own creative process. I am honoured today to host one such poet on our blog, Catherine Kidd.

launchposterCatherine’s collection of poems and soundscapes is shortlisted for The Raymond Souster Award which is given for a book of poetry by a League of Canadian Poets member published in the preceding year. The award honours the late Raymond Souster, an early founder of the League of Canadian Poets. The award carries a $1,000 prize and its winner (Patrick Lane) was announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Winnipeg this past May.

This year’s jury was moved by the work, saying that this confluence of fable, narrative, and spoken word exhibits important messages about living in a harsh and bewildering world. Kidd shows a unique perspective in a deeply moving and wise way. Hyena Subpoena is moralistic and important for its carefully constructed use of language and sound play.

What inspired this book of poetry? 

It was less a single inspiration than a convergence of the What with the How. There were stories I wanted to tell, but their proper context would need to include some comment on the nature of power imbalance; the poems would focus on dynamics, not solely on an individual narrative.

In 2007 I was invited to a poetry festival in Cape Town, curated by great South African writers Antjie Krog (Country of my Skull) and Ingrid de Kok (Terrestrial Things). There were poets from all over Africa and over the world to meet and listen to, my learning curve mountainous.

0002915977_10Afterward, partner Geoff and I spent some weeks in famed Kruger Park, sleeping in a tent and spending days in our rental car, scanning the scenery for leopards, lions, rhinos, hyenas, hippos, giraffe, buffalo, lilac-breasted rollers and Marabou storks, dung beetles and mongoose, up close, or too close, as once with a peevish bull elephant.

To watch how different species interact among themselves and with each other was fantastic, and inevitably suggested social hierarchies, characters and narratives. Dynamics of predator vs. prey, individual vs. collective, freedom vs. captivity, are clear patterns in nature, yet are built of individual narratives, just as in human society.

I described Hyena Subpoena to a friend as a brick thrown through a window, then had to consider whence the brick was thrown. Someone was captive inside so she threw a brick, or someone outside was visiting the damned old place and threw a brick to mark the occasion. Urgency and nostalgia both.

I wanted to write about alienation, mental illness, how a life can spin out of control and fall through the cracks, or not. Why this might happen to one person but not another under similar circumstances; the element of chance, the injustice inherent in it. Why one young antelope gets picked off while another manages to escape; maybe one was faster, or maybe there is no reason.

The hyena is at the helm because of its bad reputation, that it laughs too loud at unfunny things. Despite its unique powers, it has come to represent liars, cowards, and cheats. Such ways of misreading are compelling to me, because they’re often responsible for exiling certain sectors of human society to the outskirts as well.

There are two young girls at the centre of the Hyena Subpoena poems, but one jof them (Molly) we never hear from directly. We learn only incidentally that things turn out quite badly for her. That outcome becomes linked with her voicelessness. The idea of stories begetting stories is deeply motivating to me; that hearing a story might make a hearer want to tell one.

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Month is food. If your book were a meal, what would it be?

Slow-roasted root vegetables.

308412_10150359541632206_511862205_8103798_133381313_n[1]You are this century’s Rilke composing your Letters to a Young Poet. What is your advice?

Be as porous as possible, such that every sense and synapse is a voluptuous organ breathing in and out truths and lies about the world. This state is so excruciating that it must eventually yield poetry, in the creation of its porous exoskeleton, intricate and perforated, built from bits of sediment the single cell has taken (see Radiolaria).

Practice penmanship, spelling, typing, and especially elocution. Find these fun.

Catherine Kidd is a Montreal-based writer/performer, best known for her zoology-themed performance poetry. A graduate of Concordia’s MA program in Creative Writing, she was twice recipient of the Irving Layton Award. She has taught writing at Concordia, through the Quebec Writer’s Federation, and also through the Fondation Metropolis Blue. Her writing appears in Matrix, This Magazine, Toronto Quarterly, Branch, and P.E.N. International. Her poem Human Fish opened the Spier Arts Poetry Festival in Cape Town, South Africa in 2007. You can visit with her online at www.catkidd.com

(No) Failure to Thrive

There is a certain kind of magic to hearing the announcement of a friend’s name on an award shortlist – a moment where suddenly you feel that truly anything is possible. Sometimes, this magic even takes place right here in our own office! The talented and extremely bright Suzannah Showler was shortlisted for her first book of poetry Failure to Thrive and I could not be more glad to have her on the blog here today.

Suzannah Showler book coverThe collection was shortlisted for The Gerald Lampert Memorial Award which is given in the memory of Gerald Lampert, an arts administrator who organized authors’ tours and took a particular interest in the work of new writers. The award recognizes the best first book of poetry published by a Canadian in the preceding year. The award carries a $1,000 prize and this year’s winner,  Kayla Czaga, was announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Winnipeg on May 30th.

This year’s jury had much to say and suggested that the message of this book would be immediately acceptable if we would only admit how easy it is to lie to ourselves about a cultural ill-health. Then, in double turn, while we’re reading and still deciding, Showler proceeds with craft and intellectual acumen from our collective lie and asks that we please don’t read anything as diagnostic, but prognostic. Poem to poem, without recovery time, Showler presents these alternative prognoses with an infectious dark gleefulness; the book is a resource of potential conditions under which we can offer ourselves a renewed, more difficult honesty.

What inspired this book of poetry? 

I just googled “what is inspiration” to help me answer this question, but it only sent me spinning down a corridor of thinking about what, if anything, anyone can know for sure is external to their own mind.

This is a pretty decent example of why I write poetry. Poetry allows you to work in territory that’s beyond you, to muck around with questions you’re not even remotely capable of answering. You don’t have to explain yourself, you can just be like: Look! Stuff! Looks like other stuff! One idea, another idea, the end. I’ve found poetry’s a good place to hang out if you’re prone to abstraction but lacking in clarity and logic.

Can you describe your writing process for us?Showler-headshot-small

I went on a jag this winter where I became obsessed with arm-knitting. That’s exactly what it sounds like: knitting using your own arms as needles. I’ve also got lofty dreams to try mega-knitting, which is where you coil over-sized strands of wool from a giant ball of sheep fluff and knit it into ginormous things with PVC pipes.

Other recent and long-standing obsessions that are definitely not writing: the space-ship-level fancy gym at Ohio State, running outdoors, roasting coffee beans in the kitchen, drinking all the coffee before Andrew wakes up.

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Month is food. If your book were a meal, what would it be?

I moved to the US a few months ago, and popcorn here is a whole other species. You wouldn’t believe the flavours they stick to exploded corn! Ideally, I’d like reading Failure to Thrive to be like accidentally consuming an entire bag of popcorn on your own: insubstantial enough that you keep shoving it in your face, turns your tongue numb by the end.

You are this century’s Rilke composing your Letters to a Young Poet. What is your advice?

Tune out the noise.

A couple of rapid-fire ones: 

Favorite food? all day breakfast

Favorite poet? botpoet

Suzzanah

Suzannah Showler’s writing had appeared places, including The Walrus, Maisonneuve, Hazlitt, and Joyland. She was a finalist for the 2013 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and winner of the 2012 Matrix LitPOP Award for Poetry. This is her first book. You can find her online here.

Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth – Senior Category

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Welcome to the second installation of our Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest publication of winning poems! Every year we hold the contest in honour of National Arts Week as a way of celebrating and encouraging young Canadian poets in their craft. The contest is named in honour of Jessamy Stursberg and “her lifelong love of poetry,” who passed away in 2008. She is the late wife of journalist and author Peter Stursberg. The contest’s categories consist of junior and senior age groups.  Winning poets in each group will be awarded a cash prize of $400 (first place), $350 (second place), and $300 (third place).

Today we are meeting the poets from our senior category and have the honour of publishing their award-winning poems here on our blog.

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Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth – Junior Category

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Did you know that National Youth Arts Week takes place in May? We take this yearly opportunity to celebrate and encourage young poets through the Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth. The contest is named in honour of Jessamy Stursberg and “her lifelong love of poetry,” who passed away in 2008; she is the late wife of journalist and author Peter Stursberg. The contest’s categories consist of junior and senior age groups.  Winning poets in each group will be awarded a cash prize of $400 (first place), $350 (second place), and $300 (third place). For our next couple of posts we are going to shift the spotlight from the established shortlisted poets we’ve been getting to know and instead feature the emerging voices of tomorrow’s poetic landscape.

Please welcome the winners of the Junior Category!

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An interview with the Academy of American Poets

In poetry circles , recovering from National Poetry Month is akin to the recuperation period that takes place after a Thanksgiving sized meal. We are full and happy and there are plenty of leftovers to indulge in.

StaffPhotos2014_Jen_FINAL_ColorToday, we are enjoying some of that post-NPM goodness by featuring an interview with Jennifer Benka, the Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets. We’re delighted to be in conversation and see how collaboration between our two poetry minded organizations will continue to nurture the growth of poetry and support of those who write it.

Jennifer, thank you for being with us on the blog today. What is the Academy of American Poets and how were you founded?

The Academy of American Poets was founded in New York City in 1934 by a young woman, Marie Bullock, who, upon returning from studying in France, was dismayed by the lack of support for poets in the U.S. For many decades, she tirelessly advocated for poets and the important place poetry has in our culture, and today we are the largest member-supported organization devoted to poets and poetry in the U.S., with patrons in all 50 states.

How did National Poetry Month begin in the US?

Inspired by the successful U.S. celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in April 1996. Today, National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the U.S. with millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets celebrating poetry’s important place in our culture. We’re thrilled to be sharing the month with poets and poetry supporters in Canada.tumblr_static_large-blue-rgb-academy-of-american-poets-logo

Every year you commission and distribute a poster in celebration of National Poetry Month. Can you tell me a little but about the process, and this year’s special poster?

The Academy of American Poets partners with award-winning designer Chip Kidd to commission a poster in celebration of National Poetry Month. We distribute more than 120,000 posters, which are displayed in classrooms, libraries, and bookstores, from coast-to-coast. This year’s poster was designed by National Book Award finalist Roz Chast and inspired by the poet Mark Strand.

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How do you plan celebrating once NPM is over?

In May we will be posting letters from students who participated in our Dear Poet project in April on Poets.org, we’ll be gearing up for our Summer Reading Series, and we’ll be continuing to publish new poems by today’s talented U.S. poets in our Poem-a-Day series.

Check out the Academy of American Poets on their popular website. Large-Blue-RGB-poets.org-Logo (Web)

Susan Paddon Writes Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths

As we approach Mother’s Day, I am struck by the myriad of ways to celebrate, honor and remember mothers and mothering. Motherhood is not without complexity and neither is the loss of one’s mother to death, illness or estrangement. Today’s featured poet, Susan Paddon takes on the task of writing about such grief in her book of poetry Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths.

TwoTragediesThe collections is shortlisted for The Raymond Souster Award which is given for a book of poetry by a League of Canadian Poets member published in the preceding year. The award honours the late Raymond Souster, an early founder of the League of Canadian Poets. The award carries a $1,000 prize and its winner will be announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Winnipeg on May 30th, 2015.

This year’s jury describes commended  Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths for offering a strong and original interplay between two narratives: her mother’s final months of pulmonary illness, and Anton Chekhov’s death from tuberculosis. Threaded with letters and voices of those around them, including characters from Chekhov’s plays, Two Tragedies exemplifies how literary forebears can live within us as solace and illumination. The language is allusive, restrained, intensified by the startling juxtapositions of the story. This is poetry without fireworks, entirely convincing.

What inspired this book of poetry? 

After having lived away for several years, I was living with my mother, who was ill. I was reading a lot of Chekhov and Carver and watching films by Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson. I was noticing threads from one work to another, and I started to feel connected to these threads in my own experience of death; I was living with someone who knew she was going to die imminently. In his story “Two Tragedies” Chekhov asks, “Can one life be more important than another? One loss greater?” The summer I spent with my mother, Farrah Fawcett was also ill. I remember standing in the grocery store line watching my mother read the headline, “Just weeks to live!” Some months after my mother died, I heard that Fawcett had died a few weeks previously. I thought it was strange I hadn’t realized when it happened, but then I found out Fawcett and Michael Jackson died the same day.

Can you describe your writing process for us?

I walk, I read, I listen to music and daydream in order to think and feel myself into a story. I make copious notes on whatever is available when I get a line in my head. Usually I will have one line that allows me in, and from there I write, often by hand, until I am ready to transfer it into a file that makes it begin to feel real. For this book, I listened to Philip Glass’s “Metamorphosis II” on repeat for months.

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Month is food. If your book were a meal, what would it be?Susan-Paddon

I don’t know. It would probably be a little all over the place. For some reason I keep wanting to say baklava, which isn’t a meal, but it keeps coming to mind. Baklava and coffee, after a green smoothie.

You are this century’s Rilke composing your Letters to a Young Poet. What is your advice?

I really don’t feel like I could give advice – I know I have so much to learn. But what has helped me is to drop the idea that I should have accomplished a particular thing by a certain age. I think this would be a destructive way of living for me. I also believe strongly in celebrating your contemporaries and to not feel like a failure when someone else has success. There is no joy in that.

A couple of rapid-fire ones: 

Favorite food? Watermelon

Favorite poet? Anne Carson

Susan Paddon’s poetry has appeared in The Antigonish Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, Desperately Seeking Susans, Eleven Eleven, Sifted, CV2 and Geist Magazine, among others. After attending McGill University, she moved to London, England, for several years before moving to Paris, France, where she met her husband. She writes poetry, short fiction and screenplays, and is currently working on a novel. She now lives with her husband in Margaree, Cape Breton.

Joanne Arnott & Poetry as Play, Discomfort and Coversation

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Today we will be chatting with Joanne Arnott, the author of Halfling Spring. It is shortlisted for The Pat Lowther Memorial Award which is given for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman published in the preceding year, and is in memory of the late Pat Lowther, whose career was cut short by her untimely death in 1975. The award carries a $1,000 prize and its winner will be announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Winnipeg on May 30th, 2015.

This year’s Pat Lowther jury had lots to say about the book. “Joanne Arnott’s love poems throw themselves with great courage and abandon, into lust and longing, wisdom and depth: depth of vision, depth of longing, depth of grief, depth of love. “I am a door you have opened/a passage you have entered….[i] let you all the way in/to my full self.” The satisfaction of these poems is not their stability or sense of permanence, but rather their willingness to give away everything, to fly to the end of world in search of real fiery lit up connection.” With a fiery recommendation like that – how could anyone resist picking it up for a read?

Let’s hear from Joanne herself.

What inspires you to write poetry?

What inspires me to write poetry is discomfort, a need to reconcile aspects of life that are in conflict; poetry is also a form of play, a method of communing with life that is much more broad than the mundane requirements of daily living. As the aspects of life that I must synthesize are both personal and collective, both mine and ours, the poetry is, as well.

Can you describe your writing process?

The poetry in “Halfling spring” came out with great force, several poems a day for months at a time. This marked an increase in my usual tempo, which is more occasional.

Writing brings together many months of what I have come to understand as ‘my research,’ delving into some topic for reasons unknown and reading widely, discussing and thinking about it, until the topic finds its way into the poetry.

Usually it feels like I am escaping into these fascinations, until the poem is writ, and then I understand the relevance that topic had in relation to my deepest concerns.

Joanne-ArnottWhat inspired this book of poetry?

In recent years I have been exploring the nexus poetry, conversation. One particular conversation took off, resulting in hundreds of poems, and this collection features that narrative arc of relationship, from glimmers and gust through doubt and play: roughly the first year of conversation. The poetry is companioned with sketches by Leo Yerxa, which underline the fundamental solitude of ‘an internet romance.’

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Month is food. If your book were a meal, what would it be?

I think that the book is less like a meal, more like a record of everything you’ve eaten for a week, the healthy meals, the guilty snacks, the social engagements like feast days and the days where coffee and cigarettes are all the fuel you allow. I do use the image of an email as a snack, and an email-based relationship as co-nourishing through the exchange of these small parcels.

You are this century’s Rilke composing your Letters to a Young Poet. What is your advice?

Poetry is a practise, a way, a path.

Joanne Arnott is a Métis/mixed-­blood writer and arts activist living in Salish territories, based on an island in the mouth of the Sto:lo River (Richmond, BC). She has lived in the lower mainland for thirty­-five of her fifty­-two years. Mother to five sons and one daughter, all born at home, she is poet, essayist, activist, mentor and blogger. A founding member of Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast, Joanne facilitated Unlearning Racism workshops for many years, and continues to apply peer counselling and storytelling strategies in her work in the literary arts. She has volunteered with The Writers Union of Canada (National Council 2009–2010), and currently is a member of the Author’s Advisory Group of The Writers Trust of Canada. She has published seven books, all well reviewed, with Wiles of Girlhood (Press Gang, 1991) winning the Gerald Lampert award. 

Food, Fishing & Farming Free Range Poetry Buffet

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As National Poetry Month has gone on, spring has sprung across a lot of our beautiful country (sorry NB, I saw posts from your snowfall this morning – that’s not okay). And with spring comes the season of planting and plenty of other farming work! Thankfully, we have poets engaging in the process by planting poetic seeds and putting their hands in the fresh new earth!

The Food, Fishing & Farming Free Range Poetry Buffet was an idea cooked up in response to the food and poetry theme of this year’s National Poetry Month. We cast the net out into local waters and hauled in a mighty poetic harvest.

BrianBrett_AuthorPhoto_CreditMichael SchoenholtzBrian Brett’s poetry is richly imbued with his fondness for the food he both produces and enjoys. His father was a fruit and vegetable farmer and he grew up touring many of the greatest farms of the Fraser Valley. His memoir Trauma Farm is a testament to rural living and has become something of a cult phenomenon in the world of local eating.  For twenty-five years he and his wife Sharon have worked at sustaining a small, mixed farm on Salt Spring Island. They grow everything from sheep to garlic to ornamental willows to eggs and supply florists with exotic plant material during the winter months.

DCReidAuthorPhotoDennis (D.C.) Reid, fisher-poet, is well known in these parts for his knowledge and passion for salmon fishing. A past president of the League of Canadian Poets, he has published six books of poetry, one novel and four non-fiction fly-fishing titles. His current collection, You Shall Have No Other, is a book of poems, written as a novel, pared down to a play and presented as web-based movies for viewers to download, change any way they want and send back out to the web. The reader is the writer. Every book is unique. Every movie a new possibility.

LindaRogersAuthorPhotoLinda Rogers, a past Victoria Poet Laureate and gastronome who punctuates her constant foraging with poems and stories made from organic ingredients. Almost famous for her bread and soup, she has caught large fish, raised sheep, grown many delicious vegetables and stalked the wild asparagus. Rogers believes in cooking and writing from the heart, wild things, no recipes. She’s a poet, novelist, children’s author and editor. Great Chinese food is featured in her new novel, Tempo Rubato, second in The Empress Trilogy.

RhonaMcAdam_AuthorPhoto300dpi_CreditAlexisWaltersRhona McAdam writes on food and agriculture, prose and poetry. She holds a master’s in Food Culture & Communication from Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, and is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She’s long tried to marry food with poetry, and finds this union recurring in many of her books. She’s published food poems with Jackpine (Sunday Dinners) and Leaf Press (The Earth’s Kitchen). She’s just starting up a nutrition business at Haliburton Farm and thought it would be a great setting for poetry, and an opportunity to bring more people to the farm to learn what an excellent if hidden treasure is flourishing in the heart of suburbia.

Haliburton Community Organic Farm is a nine acre parcel in the midst of a clutch of Victoria subdivisions. It was snatched from the jaws of developers in 2004 by neighbours who convinced the municipality of Saanich to purchase it, and has been operated ever since by a volunteer board of directors. The board allocates land to young farmers to allow them to learn to run an organic farming business in a community setting.

There are currently five farms, a greenhouse seedling business and a native plant nursery on the farm, all certified organic, and a biodiversity program that includes a wetlands restoration project and forested habitat. The farm offers a food box (CSA) program, a farmstand, and a strong educational mandate. The nutrition business will round out the food activities in the farmhouse, bringing a further range of complementary activities to the property.

2014OctFarmstandleriac (2)The event will take place in the farmhouse, and there will also be farm tours, farmstand sales and holistic baking that features some ingredients grown on the farms. There will be an opportunity for audience members to pick up a subscription to an organic food box along with assorted books of poetry.

Date: Wednesday April 29, 2015

Time: Arrive 6pm for farm tours and farmstand shopping; readings from 7 till 9pm

Location: Haliburton Community Organic Farm, 741 Haliburton Road, Victoria BC

Admission: By donation (to support the farm’s projects) – suggested $3-5*

(*plus similar for farm tour)

Honey, Hives, and Poetry in the City

Today on the blog, I am featuring a post from perhaps one of the most personable poets I have ever met.  Renée Sarojini Saklikar is joining us to tell us a little bit about a very sweet National Poetry Month event happening in just a few days.  I’ll let her fill you in…

“Next I’ll speak about the celestial gift of honey” ~ Virgil, Book IV, Georgics

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Dr. Mark Winston

 

From the slow press of hours in ancient times to today’s digital staccato, poets obsesses about bees. For example, there’s Stephen Collis’ bee poems in his award winning poetry book, On the Material as well as Carol Ann Duffy’s The Bees, and of course, famously, Sylvia Plath’s “bee sequence” in Ariel and Yeats’ Lake Isle of Innisfree.

Bee poems pop out everywhere once you start looking, and you might find yourself clipping poems to carry around in your pocket, such as Eamon Grennan’s  delightful “Untitled [back they sputter]. Start googling any poetry website and you’ll quickly discover poems about bees, bee-keeping, hives and honey. As well-known bee expert, scientist and author, Dr. Mark Winston says, “Art with bees energizes our capacity to imagine and deepens our attentiveness to the world around us.” His latest book, Bee Time, Lessons from the Hive, includes environmental analysis, memoir, and a lyric prose meditation on bees, art and culture. In the research for his book, Dr. Winston connected with Vancouver poet, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, author of a life-long poem chronicle, thecanadaproject that includes, among other things, bee-poems.

This year, Saklikar and Winston will collaborate on a lyric prose-poetry performance for which Saklikar has written a sequence of bee poems in honour of, and using text from not only Virgil but also Winston’s scientific data and publications. In preparing for performance, Mark and Renée were delighted to learn of Rachel Rose’s call to poets to investigate, explore, and celebrate food and poetry. As the new City of Vancouver’s poet laureate, Rose’s vision shimmers “bee energy.” She writes, “we want to investigate the ways in which food is ‘personal, political, sensual and powerful.’” Saklikar, a League member who studied with Rachel Rose at Simon Fraser University’s The Writers Studio, saw a nexus of community connections beginning to form: what might poets, community, and bees get going in Vancouver?

Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Elee Kraljii Gardiner

Elee Kraljii Gardiner

Together with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, Dr. Winston approached Vancouver Public Library and Saklikar reached out to TWS alumina, author, and activist, Elee Kraljii Gardiner, who directs Thursdays Writing Collective, a non-profit organization of free, drop-in creating writing sessions.  Collaborative artistic and literary work often helps illuminate and deepen existing ideas: along with poetry and community-building, why not give space to eco-efforts to help sustain bee-keeping in the city?

And so an event replete with concentric circles was born: “Honey, Hives, and Poetry in the City” will celebrate National Poetry Month by examining food and poetry as a means of cultural and social activism. In addition to poetry readings, there will be time for public response as well as displays about beekeeping in the city and a honey tasting, provided by Hives for Humanity.

The event, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m., on April 27, at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, is free, open to the public, and presented in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library and Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue. For more information see (http://www.sfu.ca/dialogue/news-and-events/archives/2015/honey-hives-poetry-apr27.html  As Elee Kraljii Gardiner says, “I’m excited because I’ve a poem specifically about supersedure and colony collapse and I have never had a chance to read it in public.” As for Saklikar and Winston, they are looking forward to hearing Poet Laureate Rachel Rose inaugurate what they hope might be a yearly event!

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Laisha Rosnau’s Pluck

There are poets in whose writing you see yourself. I first encountered Laisha Rosnau’s work while studying creative writing in university. She wasn’t well known enough to be on a course syllabus yet, so instead I found her poetry sitting on the nightstand of a close friend. I flipped the small book open, Notes on Leaving, and found there a poem that met me right where I was at that point in my life.

we knew/ how it felt to lie open to the night, /nothing holding us under.
– from Night Swimming

Moments like that, we do not forget.

PluckToday we will be chatting with Laisha about Pluck, her newest book of poetry published by Nightwood EditionsIt is shortlisted for The Raymond Souster Award which is given for a book of poetry by a League of Canadian Poets member published in the preceding year. The award honours the late Raymond Souster, an early founder of the League of Canadian Poets. The award carries a $1,000 prize and its winner will be announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Winnipeg on May 30th, 2015.

This year’s jury describes Pluck as magic well observed, well put into words, for the lives we lead. A humane mind meeting what life places in her way and elucidating it precisely for the reader. Kids, family, partners, the warmth of human bodies, ‘we call each other dude, as it suits some of us.’ And carries on in ‘the vernacular of one constantly agape’, a life ‘where nothing is more real than memory’, which, of course, is not real at all. The everyday oddness, the simple yet unique: ‘Peel oranges in unbroken spirals, prop the skin so it appears to be full.’

Welcome Laisha. What inspired this book of poetry? 

Writing Pluck was a way out of post-partum depression. Drafts were spots of sanity strung through late nights, which felt like the only time I could get on my own, despite the early mornings that always followed.  A strange clarity through the fog of sleep-deprivation. As I moved through transitions – from north-central BC to the Okanagan Valley; from house to house to condo to house; from pregnant to parent to pregnant to parent again – writing Pluck was way-finding, map-making, that shivering compass.

Can you describe your writing process for us?

Late nights, music. Early mornings, music, coffee.

Your process for avoiding writing?rosnau-photo

I avoided writing a lot more when I had the luxury of time. Now, give me some time and I’ll give you crappy first draft. Give me some more time, and I’ll rewrite and edit that crappy draft for three or four or more years…

I feel like rather than avoid writing, I consistently avoid real world responsibilities by writing – taxes due? Perfect time to write crappy first drafts! Freelance contracts run dry? Time to edit poetry! Driveway need shoveling, wood need stacking, garden need planting, weeding or harvesting? I’m researching a trilogy of novels! I then swing from guilt to guilt –write drafts of poems until I feel sick about not getting taxes together; read reams of research until we’re snowed in or the garden is overgrown & then I attend to the outside world. Alternate, repeat.

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Month is food. If your book were a meal, what would it be?

A bag of salt and vinegar chips and a bottle of red wine – does that count as a meal?

You are this century’s Rilke composing your Letters to a Young Poet. What is your advice?

Believe that you are loved and lovely. Believe that your voice matters. If you are writing poetry, you are probably also privelaged. If your know yourself to be privelaged (with time, dominant culture, gender, geography, etc.) be thankful, be gracious. If you are not privelaged and you’re writing poetry, shout it out – keep shouting! Or whisper – keep whispering! Your voice needs to be heard, over and over again.

Some rapid-fire ones: 

Favorite food? Aged cheddar, dark chocolate and fresh salmon sashimi.

Favorite poets? Avison, Gluck, Goyette, Olds, Queryas, Thesen, Waldrop

Any nicknames? Laish, Yaish, Geish, Hot Turkey Sandwich

Laisha Rosnau is the author of the bestselling novel The Sudden Snow (McClelland & Stewart) and the Nightwood Editions poetry collections Lousy Explorers, nominated for the Pat Lowther Award, and Notes on Leaving, which won the AcornPlantos People`s Poetry Prize. Rosnau`s work has been published in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia, and she was recently anthologized in White Ink: Poems on Mothers and Motherhood and Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. Rosnau lives in Coldstream, BC, where she and her family are resident caretakers of Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary. Learn more about Laisha and Pluck here!

Baconspiracy

What would happen if we were to combine the pure awesomeness of bacon with the pure awesomeness of poetry?  Toronto spoken word poet Bassam serves up a taste of his own “Baconspiracy”

Bassam is a two-time member of the Burlington Slam Project, and Canadian Festival of Spoken Word semifinalist in 2013. His poem, ‘Gastric Gehenna’, was published in English and French in the 2013 CFSW anthology “34 Poems in Translation”. He has hosted and featured at various poetry slams, events, festivals and fundraisers in Southern Ontario. A Jewish-Arab feminist, Bassam writes on a variety of topics, including body image, bullying, Middle Eastern politics, gender equality, and patriarchy. You can follow him on facebook or watch more of his poetry on youtube.

Jude Neale on Unexpected Joy

Happy Shortlist Monday! Today we will be chatting with Jude Neale, the author of A Quiet Coming of Light (New Leaf Press)It is shortlisted for The Pat Lowther Memorial Award which is given for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman published in the preceding year, and is in memory of the late Pat Lowther, whose career was cut short by her untimely death in 1975. The award carries a $1,000 prize and its winner will be announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Winnipeg on May 30th, 2015.

This year’s Pat Lowther Jury commended Jude on adeptly blending deep sensuality with the scars of love into a torn, yet delicious, palpable eloquence. “The Affair: ‘I knew what was mine when I’d found it. So did you – though you blackened my wings in your fire’; “Places Beyond”: ‘I see the sky unbuttoned by wishes’. The imagery in these poems is nothing short of excellence at its finest.

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What inspired this book of poetry? 

I have bipolar disorder and I know it is important to share my experiences with others. A Quiet Coming of Light was proceeded by its antithesis, Only the Fallen Can See. That book chronicled the flip side of mania and the labyrinth of deep depression and numbness I felt for years. I wrote of despair as a dangerous lover, a friend.

A Quiet Coming of Light speaks of hope, love, compassion and the luminosity of unexpected joy. I woke up one morning and wanted to press the light into a golden book of poems. Ones that would inspire others to be authentic, hopeful and empathetic. A Quiet Coming of light is summed up in these few words: …but just didn’t know/ if i had to shine in the darkness or hide in the light/ when you moved the scrim from my eyes, and took away night.

Can you describe your writing process for us?

My writing process has to do with a particular gift I have of seeing pictures with words. I suspect this is why most of my poems have mysterious imagery, even to me. I’m also deeply affected by cadence in the spoken word as I am a classically trained singer and appreciate subtle shifts in rhythm and overlayed  textures.

I write between midnight and five on a sporadic basis, depending on whether I’m writing for a reading, a manuscript or a competition. I’m goal oriented and will work weeks on a poem.

I start with a phrase like: in drawers with no handles/ and cuttlebone knives, and see where that takes me. In that case it took me to the title poem of A Quiet Coming of Light.

The theme for this year’s National Poetry Month is food. If your book were a meal, what would it be?

My book would be a seven layered salad with the peas being the nuggets of wisdom I’ve gained in my journey through mental illness. A Quiet Coming of Light is full of bite and colour leaving a melange of tastes on the pallet.

What is your favorite food?

Avocado

Jude-NealeYou are this century’s Rilke composing your Letters to a Young Poet. What is your advice?

Dear Young Poet,

To become a good poet you have to know that it’s more than a whimsical phrase that is going to hold your poem together. Metaphor, narrative, imagery, passion, observation and unsentimentality are the essentials to a fine poem.

Read your poem aloud as you write, pay attention to the breath.

Choose interesting line breaks that allow your reader into your poem. But most of all I would emphasize the need to edit continuously. Get rid of those words that are trite and cliche. Write as a foreigner in a foreign land might, exotic and simple.

Enter Competitions and send off your work.

Believe in yourself and rejections will not be important.

Write something that takes your breath away.

Jude Neale was shortlisted for the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize (Ireland), The International Poetic Republic Poetry Prize (UK), The Mary Chalmers Smith Poetry Prize (UK), The Wenlock International Poetry Prize (UK), and The Royal City short story and poem contest, where she placed second in both categories. She was nominated for the Canadian ReLit Award and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the book Only the Fallen Can See. Learn more about Jude or buy her book here!