Fresh Voices 26

Welcome to the twenty-sixth 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 26 features poetry by: Marion Lougheed, Dharmpal Mahendra Jain, Vilma Blenman, Justyna Krol and Zayn Ojoawo.

Why do people love the broken people best By Marion Lougheed A dilapidated wall crackles with cold air, more dear, more precious than the sturdy, steadfast floor the roof that keeps the rain off the window pane that patters softly in the night – but no the cracks and stains and broken bits receive the loving care for striving to recover in the wake of all the damage they have wrought Bio: Marion Lougheed is a writer, editor, and anthropologist who grew up on three continents. She remains hard to pin down. Her work was selected for the 2021 Poem In Your Pocket Day series (League of Canadian Poets) and won the 2021 Prime 53 Poem Summer Challenge (Press 53). She runs Off Topic Publishing and spends a lot of time mulling over words - her own and those of others.

On Lake Ontario Dharmpal Mahendra Jain It should have been a sea. In no way is this lake less than that. As far as I can see, there is no distant shore. But this does not change, which abides by its own set of rules when configuring the earth into blocks. I stand on the sand bank, hold you back when you stumble, get drenched by the leaping waves their perfect feel of the sea. Later, you giggle when I float flat stones on its waves. Why is the sun in such a hurry to set! Birds have just started to chirp. This lake is larger than the sea, and more charming too. Why should this evening go no further? Why must it stop right here? About the author: Dharmpal Mahendra Jain Born (1952) and raised in tribal reserve of Jhabua, India, Dharm is a Toronto based Author. He writes in Hindi and has seven published books- five collections of satirical essays and two collections of Poetry. He is a columnist for three prestigious journals Chankya Varta, Vishwa gatha and Setu. His works have appeared in prestigious Hindi journals across the world. He is currently working on a full-length collection in English and seeking a publisher. FB: Web page – His poetry in English has been previously published in Poetry Pause, Fresh Voices, Harbinger Asylum, Akshara, Impspired, Piker Press, Scarlet Leaf Review, Dissident Voice, and Setu.

Meeting Anne Shirley By Vilma Blenman I first met her reading in line standing by the boxes-of-books-library built in a corner of a classroom. I saw her clearly in Chapter 2 as I flipped pages and breathed hard, saliva-saturated fingers flying off paper sounding like a hurricane coming. Hurry up, chile, the stone-faced teacher said then snatched the book to record its title just as Matthew Cuthbert said to Anne, “Come along.” * I was turning ten and she was eleven, this white orphan girl from far-off Canada coming into my island haven, into my book-shaped heart. I knew we would not part. I cried true tears for the girl, her hair as red as ginger lily blooms, her small face mottled as a mango ripened with a thousand sun dots but she was sassy, sunny, so full of words. I loved her the minute she told Matthew she’d named the pond, “Lake of Shining Waters” and the gravel road with cherry blossoms, “The White Way of Delight.” I renamed our red dirt yard, “Hibiscus Heaven.” I loved living there. * I followed Anne all the way to the “Bend in the Road” breathless to know—will she stay or go? Will Marilla go blind? I wanted to read forever. When I found the final pages missing— taken by moths and mice who had eaten well, I cannot tell how many questions came. Would the river where we washed clothes and caught crayfish disappear some night? Where might it go? How will I know? You can’t get blood outta stone, my mother said, seeing my sadness. So I ate a mango and made up my mind to make up endings, beginning with the unfinished copy of Anne of Green Gables. Anne and I—still fabled friends. Bio: Vilma Blenman is a Jamaican-Canadian poet, a registered psychotherapist, a teacher and a mother of two millennials. She considers her poems dispatches from the diaspora where she’s both observer and participant on issues of race, identity formation, Black history, and the wonder of landscapes that speak to the soul. Vilma published her first chapbook, First Flight, in 2013. Since then she has written poems and prose pieces for the Canadian best seller anthology series, “Hot Apple Cider,” published by That’s Life! Communications. She was recently published in “Ekstasis” and is a contributing poet to the Toronto Crossings Arts Exhibition, 2022. A two-time winner of the WCDR (Writers Community of Durham Region) Slam Poetry Competition, Vilma also taught at-risk youth to write and perform poetry at an annual community Poetry Café. This spring she led workshops with teens on the power of poetry to process grief and loss. A regular poet on the podium at her local church, Vilma also performs at Black History month venues and fund-raiser events in the Greater Toronto Area. Vilma lives with her family and tends her garden in Pickering, Ontario.

How to Become a Morning Person When You’ve Already Tried it Every Other Way By Justyna Krol Snap awake. Force your way outside. Look at flowers made sheer by the sun Make your glare the lens of your fury— let its fire make the morning your own. Hold a grudge. Eat peanuts on the balcony. Watch neighbours open their blinds, slow blinking at the same courtyard. How can they not see it, the lacuna made by your scorch: the lawn patchy, still straggled with winter’s hungover blear. They don’t know what you’ve stared down to get here, what you’ve had to burn away just to force your way out of bed. Now bring your palm up against that spear of day. Register your objection. Let others keep themselves lax, vagrant, dreamily diurnal. Mark the disorder of birds. Match their cries with your own. Watch a gull disfigure a bench. Get inspired. Smear mustard over bread, your napkin, the cold cement of your third-story perch. Plant your feet in the mess of it, your face bare to the air you distrust. Take satisfaction as it’s whizzed through by cars in habitual haste, that persistent sense of destination. Claim your right to be reckless. Yes here, on this narrowing ledge with no space between action and consequence. Walk into the warm blaze the cat has already claimed. Ask him for forgiveness, knowing he will never grant it. Let his refusal scour you clean. Let it shine from your pores, like a searchlight. Bio: Justyna Krol is a writer and graphic designer born in Lublin, Poland, and now living and working in Vancouver, on the traditional and unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil- Waututh First Nations. Her non-fiction has appeared in Hayo and Sad magazines and she has a chapbook of poetry published with Frog Hollow Press.

Mother’s Songs By: Zayn Ojoawo My mother sings her loneliness to the night sky, In a language my tongue is forgetting. My mother misses home. She tells me of the busy marketplace where a shiny coin could be exchanged For an afternoon of laughter. My mother teaches me the songs her mother taught her, There are no songs like these in this country, Songs that teach the tongue how hungry the stomach is, Teach the stomach the taste of sweetness. My mother grew up in a home built on the carefully balanced lies that kept her parents marriage together, she learned endurance. Betrayal is an inheritance passed down in my family, From wife to wife, From mother to daughter, We are given men who will not stay. Our men die so young that to have one raise a family with you is already a miracle. Becoming a mother before a widow Is all we can ask for. When my mother speaks of home, She does not remember the burning in the silence, Only the smell of incense, She teaches me to braid my hair and smoke it over sticks of sage, “To hide the scent of empty” she says. “Men don’t want to be reminded of what they leave behind, You smell like home.” My mother is an empty shell trying to fill herself with anything that can take the shape of the man who left her. Sometimes, women give birth to their pain instead of children, Sometimes, it’s the only way it gets a name, Sometimes it’s the only way you get a name. I am my mother’s. When she looks into my face, all she sees is the smile of the man Who taught her what leaving was. Stay is such a tender word. We carry who stays in our blood forever, They stain our lives. They stain our children. My lies smell of my father. I carry him in my mouth like an empty promise. Before he was the man my mother loved He was a scientist. My father could logic love into a reasonable compartment, Put it away for a while. Pack it into a box, name it Zaenab. Name it beauty. My name means the apple of his eye. My name means raised by love. My name means answer to a prayer. means born to grace. means Grace, my mother is the fall, my father never learned how to catch. My mother sings me lullabies like eulogies, made me poet. My mother sings memories like love songs, made me homesick. My mother sings of home in a dying language, made me flowers on a grave. My mother buries me in her throat with her songs, Hopes one of us survives. The night carries my mother’s voice to me no matter how far away from her I am, I sing back to her, in my breaking voice, in my dying tongue, I sing back to her. I’m singing for home. Bio: Nigeria born and Scarborough raised, Zaenab is an unflinching voice telling the stories that are near and dear to them. Performing under the stage name “Zayn” they became the 2019 London Poetry Slam Grand Slam champion. Zaenab was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word poetry slam along with their London Ontario team. Zaenab went on to become the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Champion for the year of 2021. That same year, with the generous sponsorship of ArtworxTO, Zaenab became the Creative Director for “Stolen People, Stolen Land”, a year long mentorship project for Black and Indigenous youth poets in Toronto. Zaenab is a prolific writer, poet, and organizer with a vested interest in helping young people like themself find their voice and speak their Truth.