Fresh Voices 24

Welcome to the twenty-fourth edition of Fresh Voices, a project from and for the League’s associate members, edited by Joan Conway (Check out her personal blog!) and Blaine Marchand. The League’s associate members are talented poets who are writing and publishing poetry on their way to becoming established professional poets in the Canadian literary community. We are excited to be taking this opportunity to showcase the work of our associate members in this series!

Fresh Voices 24 features poetry by: Jonathan Bessette, Dagne Forrest, Carol Good, Samantha Jones, Norma Kerby, Josephine LoRe, Anthony Purdy and Vironika Wilde.

at outer edge of cliff Norma Kerby, 2021 at outer edge of cliff rock falls away with dizzying abruptness jagged lip fractured triggered to break in roar of calamity dog is not concerned he hangs by his toenails looking down here boy here boy we whisper hoping he will turn gently and come away void holds him mesmerized nose raised to smells rising from valley below here boy we whisper stomachs sick with fear cliff face riddled by cracks bat habitat or maybe cougar den along that ledge too steep for trees ferns tucked into pockets jumble of shattered boulders below unforgiving drop fifty meters or more here boy we plead here boy here boy   Biography: Norma Kerby has been published in journals, e-zines, magazines, and anthologies, most recently, the anthologies, Heartwood (League of Canadian Poets), Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem (Mansfield Press), Seed Dreams (Writers North of 54), and Tending the Fire (League of Canadian Poets), as well as her chapbook, Shores of Haida Gwaii (Big Pond Rumours Press). Nominated for a Pushcart Prize (Prairie Journal), she writes about environmental, ecological and social issues, in particular those affecting rural and northern Canada.  

Twister By Samantha Jones I expected suspenseful music when the skies turned green— that drumbeat, bassline, wind chime heart pound that could bury me under a silo, blown apart metal sheets, and the romance of getting into the centre where wind whips, wails stops to catch a breath before dragging me through the other side.   Samantha Jones (she/her) is a literary magazine enthusiast and contributor with poetry in CV2, Grain, MixedMag, New Forum, Room, WATCH YOUR HEAD, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Calgary, Canada on Treaty 7 territory and is Black Canadian and white settler. Find her on Twitter: @jones_yyc.

Thrum if you don’t know the words By Carol Good Your hum catches my ear as I kneel among weeds I freeze My hearing not as sharp as it once was I wait to be sure Twist and turn to track and trace your tell-tale thrum There Dipping and sipping along bee balm I pause in awe Your improbable existence a miracle mine too yet here we are You move on I stay on my knees speechless   Carol discovered her voice and the power of poetry in a writing group working through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way in the mid-nineties. She continued to write around the edges of her life—filled with family, “billable work”, too many cats, a house in constant need of repair, continuing education and community volunteering—until her decision to retire which was expedited by the pandemic. Now she makes her writing a priority.

The Woman at the Window By Anthony Purdy She watches from the window as we run round from the back of the house where we are supposed to be playing down the front path to the gate which clicks as we escape into the street under cover of the neighbour’s hedge. We think we are protected, invisible, and yet we know she is watching as we run hand in hand down the path and through the gate into the wide world where we know we shouldn’t venture. We are five and oh, the glory of it! Obedient children, we are nonetheless making a break for it down the path, through the gate into a world charged with menace and the thrill of defiance. She watches from the window of their bedroom. She fills the frame. If this is a memory, why do I also see, from the air like some passing bird, two small children running hand in hand? Or am I the one watching from the window? Does my memory encompass her vision as well as mine? Or is it just a dream of watching and being watched, of we saw she saw, the distribution of roles immaterial? Is this how we rehearse our life as grown-ups, with a mad dash for freedom licensed by a gaze?   Anthony Purdy lives on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, where he started writing poems and stories two years ago, around the time he turned 70. Recent publications include poems in The Goose, The Fiddlehead, Queen’s Quarterly, Prairie Fire, and The Dalhousie Review, as well as three stories in Queen’s Quarterly. His poem “mornings” received an honorable mention in the League’s 2021 Very Short Verse contest and appeared in the May 21 edition of Poetry Pause; “bakery” was shortlisted for the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Spring 2021 Postcard Poem contest; “The Annex” was longlisted for the 2021 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize (longlist of 14 from a field of 1,428 entries from 36 countries).

The Tea Set by Josephine LoRe I opened the box It wasn’t for me, it was for the kids but which kids, grandma? and would you, could you have known there would be no room in their lives for bone china? Not while they are deep in forest ten kilometers from dropzone Helicoptered in because of fire planting trees from a belt slung low A shower a luxury no cup of porcelain tea Not while they are scaling unnamed peaks snowboard and avalanche pack on their back Canoeing an evening glass lake Life simple, clean a girlfriend, a black cat Not while they are gearing down and riding up a mountain on a fat-tired bike Covering radiant body with tattoos and glitter blue lipstick feathers & rocks & bones & sticks in their hair So I serve myself a solitary breakfast on this gold-rimmed porcelain, scalloped edge, opalescent turquoise leaves like peacock feathers dropped into this Chinook city from which the fledglings have fled for the air & the sea & the peaks of BC You were born in a generation of manicured nails and careful coifs no-one saw your tears when your husband’s plane went down Like Jackie Kennedy widowed the week before you you bore your grief in silence Photos show only a world of black and white And I in this foothill land I call home although the last generation is in Ontario and the next on the coast swirl to the rim of the cup every day and fall asleep alone   Bio: a pearl in this diamond world … Josephine LoRe has two collections which integrate her poetry and photography, Unity and the Calgary Herald Bestseller The Cowichan Series. Her words have been read on stage and in Zoom rooms across the world, paired to music, danced, rendered into visual art and interpreted through American Sign Language. Her poetry appears in literary journals and anthologies in eleven countries including Canada’s FreeFall Magazine, Fixed and Free in the US, and Ireland’s The Same Page Anthology. She has been on the editorial staff of Parkland Poets and PoetryXHunger and has taught workshops through the Alexandra Writers’ Center Society, When Words Collide and the Wine Country Writers’ Festival. Poetry has been Josephine’s covid antidote.

Battery Acid By Dagne Forrest At dinner, my youngest begins to tell me what to do if someone has ingested battery acid. I set down my fork. Wait. Battery acid? It's as distracting to me as anything I've ever heard. So distracting, I almost miss his enthusiasm for all he learned about the PH scale in science class today. I find myself sharing how to neutralize an overdose with activated charcoal -- facts from his favourite aunt (who could tell him exactly how that works and feels) -- in detail he finds fascinating and surreal. It's not a mistake, we've always been open about the rogue states of mind that steal her from our lives at times. I just didn't think it would be like sharing an anecdote, now that I feel he's old enough to know precisely how the voices in her head tried to take her life this winter. Somehow he's ready. I see he knows. How she fought back by overdosing in front of her doctor. How they almost failed to save her.   Bio: Dagne Forrest's poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in journals in Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK. In 2021 she was one of 15 poets featured in Canada’s Poem in Your Pocket campaign. Learn more at

That Same Shade of Blue By Vironika Wilde At the corner of Queen and Dufferin, a village of tents, a small flag the words "Don't charge us with fines" painted in blue. A man with a Raptors hat, blue shoulder bag, focused expression, ready to smile collects bottles in a FreshCo shopping cart, glass on the bottom, cans in bags, ready to wave. A Parkdale corner covered in blue tarps cleaned by friendly hands. This is no city project. A few doors down, a sign, a notice of development the words "Social housing not condo" painted in navy over government blue— bleeding, crooked letters scream back; a war on matte rectangles, on ink just so. Buy that shade anywhere but you can't sell a revolution. Who keeps us safe, Toronto? A new blue has spilled over 2020. It has no belt, no badge. All we have is paint. —Queen Street West, north side, winter   Vironika Wilde is a poet, activist, spoken word artist, immigrant, tree hugger, and cat fanatic. Those who have read her poetry books, Love and Gaslight and the blood in her honey, call her raw, honest, and willing to spill tough truths about trauma, society, and the human condition. As a nomadic stage poet, she's performed many cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, Honolulu, Portland, Sydney, and Melbourne. Her debut spoken word album, Too Much For You, released in 2020 on all streaming platforms. When Vironika isn't writing, she loves getting lost, looking at the stars, dancing, and eating pickles (sometimes, all at once). You're welcome to visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

Born August 2nd, 2018 at 11:40:00 p.m. at my desk in our apartment, East Vancouver death, so there is room for other life;I have thought about you every night, a distant rhythm, sometimes closer, then, farther away Hummingbirds flicker in evening light, across potted plants.Breath collects in rainwater dams of grey clouds, an ocean ties itself to my earlobes, You whisper, even death has to be born Every heartbeat pounds nails into the coffin of yesterday’s me Somewhere I persist In the bath, we stretch every corner of ourselves to fill empty walls, but nighttime speaks shadows when I scream for light, saturating like suds in grout between grey tiles You blink, we overflow, forget a promise on the bathroom floor. I wash your feet because you are too weak to breathe,   Creeping through windows, wisteria stretches for our future tombstones, weaves around wet fingers, reaching for a glimmer on frosted glass. Staying, in water pooling, we would drown, I break free to outside, but doubt finds us, wind tickling follicles lazing against chain-link balcony Overlooking city lights, hours, days, months, we shared decomposition, mulch took shape Halfway through the threshold you pointed with a last breath, look! Paradoxes fell from sky,   Bio Jonathan Bessette grew up in Vancouver—the unceded and traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, səl̓ilwətaɁɬ, and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh peoples, and recently completed an MFA in creative writing at the University of Guelph. Jonathan is a white settler of French, Irish, Croatian, and Red River Métis background. Understanding the intersecting voices of these histories, as well as the landscape, politics, and magic of the Pacific Northwest, are regular themes and inspirations in his writing. He’s published fiction in TAR Magazine, nonfiction in Adbusters, and poetry in The Capilano Review. Twitter: @jm_bessette Instagram: @jonathan.m.bessette

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