Fresh Voices 29

Welcome to the twenty-ninth 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 29 features poetry by: Maria Figueredo, Jessica Coles, Eric Hansen, Clare Bolton, Nancy Daoust, Allana Stuart and Obii Ugemba.

Feathers and Things by Maria Figueredo Bathurst Street, midday, phone in hand My hurried pace sways softer as I pass by elder leaves, flower beds laughing at my haste Feathers small in wistful breath on asphalt grind to a halt the shriek of rubber tires the usual sounds of rising, falling fade and all rests here. I stop. Catch their reflections in my iPhone net, but leave them there untaken. Some came home before, Some I’ve left for others, mainly so their wonders would flutter on freely: Spontaneous encounters, clear as kingdom coming! On my way back, exalted plume gardens trapped between street curves, signs of more construction, grinding halt at red lights, roars of leaf blowers... holding secrets at bay till the next angled click. My reign is won on paved paces interrupted. Short bio: Dr. Maria Figueredo is a poet, singer, songwriter, musician, writer, researcher and educator who was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. She has taught in language and cultural centres across the world since 1992, and at the university level in Canada since 1996. She received her doctorate in Hispanic Letters in 1999 from the University of Toronto. Her PhD dissertation focused on the relationship of poetry and popular music, with special emphasis on the case study of Uruguay. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies in North and South America, and Spain. She has published two chapbooks and in online platforms. She has been a member of various musical groups, choirs and bands in Canada, Brazil and has performed on stages in various countries. She currently teaches literature and Spanish language at York University. She has been an associate member of the League of Canadian poets since 2016. Website:

Ritual for feeling loved By Jessica Coles Wake up within the extravagance of peonies Lick the stars one by one, let their dust fizz on your tongue Submerge your toes in mud, harmonize with frogs celebrating rain Spin fresh herbs into thread to embroider healing potions over wounds Marvel at a child’s hand tucked in yours next to a roaring campfire Saturate your eardrums with the sizzle of onions frying in butter Lift your face to the sky, read your fortune in the absence of clouds Remember not all kisses come from someone’s lips Fall asleep in the shadow of your own heartbeat Dream Bio Jessica Coles (she/her) is a poet and editor from Edmonton, Alberta, (Treaty 6), where she lives with her family and a judgmental tuxedo cat named Miss Bennet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Fire, Moist Poetry Journal, Crow Name, Capsule Stories, Full Mood Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, EcoTheo Review, Stone Circle Review, and You are a Flower Growing off the Side of a Cliff (LCP Chapbook). Her chapbook, unless you’re willing to evaporate, is available through Prairie Vixen Press ( Twitter: @milkcratejess.

Drum for Blanche Gray By Eric Hansen I grew up being told I was Danish half Danish is what I heard that my Danish is what matters. There was a distant drum. The spit I sent away – a tidy lab kit A slice of the pie chart mailed back reveals twenty percent of my DNA is: Cree ancestors in my blood. There was a distant drum. I cannot find our Cree in Alberta records. I pan for data in the silt of mother’s history but her memory shifts Great grandfather Philip Grey or Gray raised by priests and nuns “ a boarding school where he was lucky to learn to read and write” – she says, because that was drummed into her. Now she is ninety-three years old. There was a distant drum. One blue day Grandma Blanche Gray was overdue to help my young pregnant mother with her first child, and sewing. A phone call got a neighbour drumming in winter’s cold at grandma’s door while mother waited on the phone, home bound across town. (Gray, Blanche / January 16, 1955 / Edmonton / F / Alberta Vital Statistics Index.) Blanche had hung herself — dead. It’s unknown if Cree vitality was ever caught in her throat. There was a distant drum. Mother cannot hear me “Truth and recreation?” Reconciliation. Truth and Reconciliation I start over… “Well, that’s more serious than recreation.” There was a distant drum. We cannot pull from the wind that takes our breath. My Cree is smoke from candles blown out. The wind carries, then – There is a distant drum. Bio Eric Hansen’s words are emerging from Victoria BC, he respectfully acknowledges living on traditional Lekwungen territory. He is a lyricist for Sheepskin Sound Reduction’s album: Trip Doctor. His writing explores the tension in mental health, his Danish, Cree, and Irish ancestry, the magic of nature's persistent beauty, and the force of love and dreams that imbue his blessed time in this place.

REMEMBERING BRIDGIE FLYNN By Clare Bolton Your eyes, the colour of the Cadbury chocolates you sent in a fancy-stamped, brown papered box, over the ocean every Easter. My sisters and I eating all the goodness in one sitting, declaring we would canonize you without papal permission. Our sticky fingers fumbling open the envelope that came with the parcel, seeing your face in the shiny holy medal of St. Bridget. I placed a magnifying glass over faded yellow paper, trying to find the village you were born — an invisible dot on the torn map of Ireland. I remember strolling with you past the farmer’s market, stopping to listen to a man playing a tune and you slipping him a coin or two. Later, sitting on Kavanagh’s bench, close to the Baggot St. Bridge, then walking along O’Connell St, through the car honking city. I wanted you to wear your hair tied loosely, on top of your head, in a French roll, like a 40’s movie star. But there you were — No-nonsense haircut framing high ruddy cheekbones, a hint of lipstick saved for Sunday high mass. The smell of incense at St. Patrick’s cathedral— candles flickering to organ music, sunlight dancing off three curved windows, stained-glass arrows pointing toward heaven. I hugged your soft square shaped body, kissed your clean scrubbed face, breathed in, the smell of the soda bread you made every morning over the turf fire, the whisper of your sing-songy voice saying the rosary, making me want to believe in something more than myself. make a wish Bio: Clare Bolton is a writer and Amherst Writers and Artists certified workshop facilitator living in Barrie, Ontario. Her writing soul is nourished by the “presence of wonder” found in the natural world, including the Canadian landscape, sacred stone circles, mystical dry-stone walls, and wild Irish gardens. Recently retired from working for over 30 years in the arts, Clare is devoting more time to studying and writing poetry. Clare is an Associate Member of the League of Canadian Poets.

what cuts the love between you and me a ceremony small as the bed we shared - a twin for two tall lanky frames twined bodies negating space hot as our summer nights - humid, dark stars beyond the milky way a Wiccan ritual - cord, scissors sage, an open window lineage as long as our string of time - spontaneous chemistry that downtown day until i no longer think of you a cut, exact as space or time might render it null - not void it exists, still an unheard song unopened book like that eyelash on your cheek By Nancy Daoust Bio: Nancy Daoust is a newcomer to the Canadian writing scene. Her writing often explores our relationship with nature and the place where we live. It is also influenced by her love of pop culture and music. She is an associate member of The League of Canadian Poets, belongs to the Sudbury Writer’s Guild and volunteers with Wordstock, Sudbury’s Literary Arts

Birthing Maple Syrup By Allana Stuart Three and a half hours in to the long heave and hard push she groans: “I don’t want to do this anymore.” That’s when she knows it’s almost time. Steam wreathes her head like smoke condensation drips down window panes the air fills with the smells of field and forest. Another hour of checking, checking, checking. A hand dipped in the damp. At last a gush of amber fluid. She celebrates the sweetness, cups it in palms still warm and sticky. Clutches it to her breast, beloved as a newborn child. Bio: Allana Stuart (she/her) is an award-winning poet and former CBC radio journalist. She won first prize in the 2021 Prairie Fire Magazine Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award Contest and was also longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize that year. Allana’s writing has been published in a variety of Canadian and international literary journals including Prairie Fire, Flo., Free Verse Revolution, and Orangepeel. Born and raised in Northwestern Ontario, she spent several years in Northern BC and now lives in Ottawa with her family.

Sprout By Obii Udemgba Rising through the cracks A dandelion sprouts from a barren wasteland Of concrete, intertwined with sleek steel pipes Which shiver at the sight of this new life. This flora, like a small child Scares the old with its new ideas The child’s thoughts of progress have seldom shone Through its ascent, it finds itself alone. The flora, cannot breathe It cannot hear It cannot find, what was once so clear Muddy waters fill its realm And drowns its Seeds unsown She’s lost her spark In the day, she bemoans Desperate to seek refuge In the ruins of what was once her own She wants to run But her roots are chained To the walls of the wreck That she now calls home. A dandelion dies in the wasteland Of concrete, intertwined with sleek steel pipes As it falls through the cracks The clouds bemoan a sweet somber song. Bio Obiajulu (Obii) Udemgba is a young poet, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who Is passionate about architecture, literature, and writing. She believes deeply in the importance of poetry and its ability to speak truth into everyday life, and she hopes to use her writing in order to leave a positive impact within her community."