Transformations

All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes, and so too with the Brooklin Poetry Society.

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After three wonderful and exciting years, I’ve decided to transition out of my role as president of the group.

It’s been such an honour and a pleasure being president. The Brooklin Poetry Society is such a lively and supportive group of poets, and it’s been an amazing opportunity to meet and work with fellow poets in this capacity.

I’m very proud of the accomplishments we at the BPS have achieved during my time as president. One of my first ideas as president was to launch a website, which has helped to increase our visibility both locally and abroad. I’m thrilled that as a result of our website, we’ve had some amazing poets join our community.

The website is also an wonderful showcase for our poets, some of whom can say they had their first poem published on our site! So it’s such an honour to be able to say that because of our website, we’ve created a space to encourage and support first-time and emerging poets.

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After seeing the success of our website, I also realized we needed to venture into social media. I’m happy that our foray into social media has resulted in a solid and ever-increasing following that has helped us to connect with poets and poetry groups around the country.

We also began offering an annual, free poetry workshop at the Whitby Public Library in celebration of National Poetry Month. I was extremely proud to host and run these workshops on behalf of our group. The turnout is always great, and the feedback even better!

We also managed to publish another poetry anthology, which I had the great honour of editing. The wonderful thing about it as well was that it celebrated the 10th anniversary of our poetry group, and it was lovely to see such inspiring work appear in this latest anthology!

And perhaps most exciting of all, during my time as president, we started an annual poetry contest, open to poets across Canada. Interest and submission to the contest continues to grow, and we couldn’t do any of these things without the support of the Performing Arts Community Development Fund from the Town of Whitby. I’m proud to say that filling out a successful arts grant for the first time is one of my accomplishments as president too!

So, while I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as president of the Brooklin Poetry Society, it is time for me to transition to other projects. I’ll continue to be actively involved with the BPS, even as I embark on some exciting projects of my own. Keep an eye out for some announcements from me in the next few months!

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To everyone who follows us on WordPress, on Twitter, and on Instagram, thank you for liking and sharing our posts. I hope you will continue to support us and our endeavours, especially as so much of our work right now takes place on the internet.

And to my fellow poets in the Brooklin Poetry Society, thank you for your support, your encouragement, and the love and gratitude you have shown me as president. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Renée M. Sgroi

Follow me on Twitter @RMSgroi and Instagram @renee_m_sgroi, or check out my website: https://reneemsgroi.com

A Ramadan Blessing

This month’s blog is by BPS member, Fj Doucet

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In a normal year—which is to say, any other year in living memory—May marks the beginning of spring, and we Canadians begin emerging from a long winter’s hibernation. In a normal year, the parks and cafés would already be full, the dark nights turning to almost miraculously clear blue days. But everyone knows that this not a normal year. We remain trapped—suspended — in the coronavirus pandemic, that oddly poetic moniker for a disease that has killed a quarter of a million people to date. As a result, parks are blocked off. Shops are still shuttered. Businesses, even international companies, have been forced to shut down, some forever. And though our feet and minds have grown almost unbearably restless, our orders from on high remain the same — avoid gatherings. Stay inside.

I cannot speak for everyone, but personally the longer the crisis continues, the more difficult I find it to connect with the sense of urgency that was impressed upon us two months ago. Especially now as the weather turns warmer, and we fail to find apocalyptic debris littering the streets, the urge to simply step outside and play has grown almost irresistible. From the appearance of neat avenues and clear sunshine, it seems that the world has not changed at all.

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But I must remember that it has. That it is only through an enormous collective effort that we have avoided far more catastrophic losses. And there is no better reminder of this than the simultaneous occurrence of another invisible, yet powerful event. Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, began at the end of April and will run through most of May. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise—about four-thirty in the morning—until sunset — close to eight-thirty at night. During these sixteen hours, Muslims take neither food nor drink, not even water. It is one of the foremost commands of the religion, and in this state of abstinence the faithful are meant to focus more intently on the active practice of worship. Far from merely staying inside to wait away the hours until sustenance is permitted again, these hours are one of intense mental striving, a full work-day in the pursuit of God’s blessing.

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Although on the surface the world has remained the same, Ramadan has deeply altered the worshipper’s universe —and so too especially with our pandemic lock down.  Yet the world seems to have changed little. Time moves forward. There are no chains upon us. The trees still grow and the flowers are blooming. And yet by staying inside we are not merely sitting and waiting for the government to give us the nod to go back to work— no, we are working now. By remaining focused and strong, by staying home even through the temptation to break our solitude—our fast—we are actively shaping the disease-free world we seek, just as this month Muslims are actively working for the blessings they desire.

So, let us count our blessings, and perhaps we might even use our solitude to write a poem or two.

Poets born in May:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012

National Poetry Month

We are so thrilled to be making contributions to National Poetry Month 2020!

At the end of February, the Brooklin Poetry Society applied to the Town of Whitby to formally proclaim April as National Poetry Month in our city.

We are so pleased that the Town approved our application, so that we can now proudly say that April is National Poetry Month in Whitby!

This time of transition

President’s note: In true poetic form, BPS member Jennifer Sorensen has given us a poem to contemplate March and the beginning of spring…

Make obvious this time of transition
   pubescent children
   growing old.
How time shifts beneath our feet
and all the while
one stammers
“I am here.”
“I am here.”
sometimes even
when the room is cloudy, “Goddamit, I’m here!”
 
The wind blows.
March talks to the soil.
Love letters of forgiveness
I’m coming home.
Things thaw and freeze, thaw and freeze, grow
differently.
 
Poetry, like all art, infuses
everything.
How we paint, sing, draw, dance, build
and touch with words.
I like how poetry has no rules.
Profoundly, you have no rules.
A propulsion to love,
spare pine trees leaning to the sun, to what is warm.
Savor sanctity.
Taste transcendence.


I’ve been thinking of the ellipsis . . .
Three dots that knit time and space and breath and thought together.
Held together in space like planets.
Orbit here, my love
my March soil.
 
Da da dum
Da da dum
 
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A Roman February

“February has a knack of returning us to winter, and drowning us in darkness”

The chill month of January has at last taken its leave, and we find ourselves in yet another February, weary of coats and gloves and cold floors in the mornings. February is a tease, the next month of a long season drawing out the torment of grey days like a frosted veil while its sharp winds moan  — a tease that this winter may never end. Our collective mood reflects the biting wind, our spirits as charged and restless. But then come brief thaws and nervous sunshine – a practiced treachery, as February has a knack of returning us to winter, and drowning us in darkness.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our calendar is a Roman one, and like Roman history, February offers its deceits. A spectacular example is what occurred in February 44 BCE. In that year, Julius Caesar refused the crown that Marcus Antonius pressed upon his head. Standing before crowds gathered for the annual Roman fertility festival of Februa, during the days of Lupercalia, the offer was recorded by Plutarch and later famously dramatized by Shakespeare. Many historians agree that the incident was probably staged by Caesar himself to gauge the wishes of the Roman people. Given his undeniable imperial ambitions, Caesar’s refusal strains credulity even now. But again, it was February, that teaser, that time of practiced treachery.

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Whatever he truly intended, we know that Caesar never was king or emperor. His deceit was a litmus test that served as an augur, predicting the fateful March that followed his final February. On the floor of the hallowed Senate itself, Rome’s mighty saw Caesar, the dictator, fall to the ground, betrayed by a friend. This time it was not the gold of Lupercalia that watered the earth, but blood. 

History bludgeons and blooms like the seasons, dragged forward by the momentum of change. So too, February blows hard, softens, then comes down again like a Roman sword. 

So, while February may plunge us into painful darkness once again, we can be like the ancient Romans and take charge of our lives – in our case by plunging ourselves into poetry.

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ..."

	from Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar

“A Roman February” is by BPS Member and accomplished poet, Fj Doucet. Check out her work on Instagram: @fj_doucet

Creative resolutions

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words” — Mark Twain

Over the holidays I have been thinking about my involvement in the arts over the years. I have been a visual artist and art teacher for many years, and have turned to poetry within the last decade. My experience teaches me that the imagined accolades I have at the beginning of a project do not necessarily materialize at the end of the undertaking. There is a hollow feeling that follows the months or years of daily focus on a creative project that some people have compared to postpartum depression.

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So what is an artist to do? Well, creating art is a part of the life we chose, or, for some of us who have come to art later in life, creating art is something that we are newly in the process of forging. Either way, we should enjoy the journey, enjoy the pleasure and joy of being in the moment, of exploring, of creating something that never existed, something no one else could have brought into the world but ourselves. No amount of monetary reward compares to watching a person react, perhaps a stranger moved to tears, by something you, the artist, have created.

The creative life after all is about discovering the artist within, whether as a painter, a poet, a dancer, or a musician. It is about paying attention to the spiritual experience the inner and outer worlds offer.

I leave you with a quote by M.C. Richards:

Appreciating poetry is probably like appreciating anything else. It means having the generosity to let a thing be what it is, the patience to know it, a sense of the mystery in all living things, and a joy in new experience.

Wishing you all a very creative 2020!

by John Di Leonardo

Waiting for poetry

President’s note: this month’s meditative blog comes courtesy of our longtime member and novelist, Patrick Meade

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Where does one start on writing a poem? How do we climb inside ourselves and end up creating emotion and imagery out of a group of words?  Is it like dipping a pail into a well and scooping out so many thoughts that they spill over into microscopic worlds then into a line, a stanza? Or is it like a cave with cobwebs and dust, covered thoughts and possibilities where we think, I know what I want to say but I can’t find the words. And so, we peck and persist until those moments of clarity arise.

For most I would think that whatever the process, it is a challenge. It certainly is for me. And maybe through patience, practice, and many bits of paper curled up in a corner (I save mine), a poem scribbles its way onto paper, even into a poetry book somewhere.

 Another approach to writing a poem is to give permission to ourselves that we do not have to be perfect. This could involve skimming the top or even accessing the waters even deeper. At least we are attempting.

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It is easy to be overwhelmed as we write but it prevents us from seeing through the debris in the cave. Maybe if we looked at the cave of imagination as a fun place to visit. An amazingly warm and trusting friend. And why shouldn’t it be? It is a veiled locker, a portal to our past. Which memories from it should we tap? Should we pause and sip whiskey and ponder yesterday in a stanza? Should we play in waves of rhyme, or free verse? Four lines or twenty-one? Maybe we can just experiment and see where that leads us. Sometimes, quite a few times in fact, I have started off in one direction and have turned around midway and have taken another more stirring approach to a certain poem.

Not being afraid to say how one feels is important. If I write only of pretty flowers and gentle breezes then I am only that until I am jolted. Tears and unkindness, torn pants, and sorrow happens. It is okay to write about hardships.

When I first attempted poetry, I hid behind clichés and overused words. Meeting other poets and joining poetry groups helped wean me away from the comfortable and safe shields of cliché. With that much armour on, I was having trouble hearing myself let alone reaching listeners or readers trying to understand me.

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Over time, trials and attempts at writing poetry have given me confidence. They have allowed me to go back into my own well, not someone else’s, and pull out my own thoughts. Mind you, many times ideas have refused to come to the surface. But I guess that is why we have a pail and we control how deep it sinks. We know the path.

I have discovered that through persistence and the invitation of a poem there is so much magnificence – so many trails around us – so many wells, even caves that have gone untapped, unsearched. Waiting.

Inspiration in November

November is a month abundant with both beauty and inspiration. In anticipation of cooler weather and the first dusting of snow, nature’s beauty is on full display in November. From leaves adorned with crimson and gold to caramel-kissed grasses it is the perfect autumn wonderland.

Like November, the language of poetry is beauty, inspiration.  Whether I am reading William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty”, these works of art still have the same heartfelt effect as they did when I first read them many years ago.  To me this is the power of poetry.

Last year, I joined the Brooklin Poetry Society where I was warmly welcomed into a group of fellow poets.  During monthly meetings they gather together to share, encourage and inspire each other through poetry and friendship.

But to me, November will always be…

Here are some poets born in the month of November:

William Blake, 1757

Oliver Goldsmith, 1728

Odysseus Elytis, 1911

Margaret Atwood, 1939

Thomas Weatherly, 1942

by Connie Pompilii. The artwork on this month’s blog is also by Connie!

Contest winners!

We are so pleased to announce the winners of our 2nd annual contest:

1st place winner: Jan Wood, “Annual Contention”

2nd place winner: Wendy Jean MacLean, “Boxes for Bluebirds”

3rd place winner: Jan Wood, “lessons in trilobites”

Honourable Mentions: Meg Freer, “The Significance of Snowdrops” and Ruth E. Walker, “Water Dreams”

Congratulations to all the winners, and a huge thank you to all those poets who submitted their work and shared their amazing poetry with us!

Our contest judge, David Stones, had this to say about the winning poem, “Annual Contention”:

In “Annual Contention” the poet presents a clear and comprehensible premise, buoyed by lively and imaginative depictions that bubble it along like a fine spring stream freed from the icy claws of winter. Prudent word choice and Wordsworthian genre images capture acutely the pulse and rhythm of spring awakening: “swaying willow skirts”; “hillsides in lush lime coats/wear dandelion boutonnières”; “a steam of trapped sap/pulsing in the veins of birch.” The juxtaposition of this natural turning with the “utterly insignificant greens/of carrots and beans” planted “deliberately,” is further reinforced with the use of a clever, subliminal rhyme scheme employing strategically positioned leonine (within the line) rhymes and rhyming couplets that lend a pleasant cadence throughout: “wear dandelion boutonnières/and home-sown greenery appears/in back yard plots/and pots on decks/nothing reflects the difference….” All told, a tight and accomplished piece of poetry: communicates well, entertains, sends a message and burns a few images into the brain. 





Thanks to our judge, David Stones!

Ode to September

“No longer quite summer and not yet the heart of fall, September is both heat and cold, dark and light.”

President’s note: We here at Brooklin Poetry Society are so happy to return to our monthly meetings and blog posts. We start this year’s blog posts off with this beautiful and introspective piece by one of our newest and accomplished members, Fj Doucet. We hope you enjoy this reflection on poetry!

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September! September! How like a poem is September! The first month of autumn, September lives ambivalently, tucked away in the liminal spaces of sense and memory. It is the start of a season as disorienting as a confession. No longer quite summer and not yet the heart of fall, September is both heat and cold, dark and light. The lush greenery of August, set aflame, falls to the ground and becomes a textured blanket. Once settled, those delicate remains of summer emit a rich, inimitable perfume, one capable of summoning memories of the season long after it has surrendered to the blue chill of winter.

Perhaps that duality is why my childhood memories of autumn are so vivid. They exist in an uneasy place where the cooling air shook off the laziness of summer, but the afternoons could still turn oppressively warm. In the short evening hours between returning from school and the disappearance of the sun, I would often run through fields covered with long, dying grasses, straw-like protrusions burned gold and bowed to the hardening ground. Yet here and there my shoes would still trample a lingering flower, and at the end of the jaunt I was just as likely to throw my sweater away as keep it on.

And how musical those tumbles through the evening fields were, how filled with their own rhythm and natural poetry. The leaves rustled and crunched, flights of birds cawed from far overhead, preparing to follow the pull of blood and instinct to far-away places I could only dream of, and the wind susurrated like a chilly whisper in the encroaching dark. And it was often dark, for the autumn sky is more oppressive than a summer sky, even the bluest and most open dome touched by hints of purple and red. The brightest day is tense with the promise of night.

It must be a hunter’s month, September, the sky rich with game in those final moons before the cold, the rifle proffering a dark and heavy shadow to the horizon. And certainly, it is a poet’s season, perhaps more than any other, for meaning in poetry is most effectual when couched between what is said and what is yet to be said, between what has gone, and what is yet to come—between the dead and the living, between what is whispered and what is kept utterly silent, clasped to the breast.

As a child staring up at the sky, I did not yet have the words to express that ambivalence, but I felt it in my blood, even as the birds felt the call to the south. The ambivalent, indeed the unspeakable, appealed greatly to me on those haunted afternoons and stayed close after, to become a part of my nature–or perhaps it is true that a poet is not made, but born, and I have always followed what cannot, must not, be clearly expressed.

So here I am again in September, a poet still, and childhood far behind me. And though there is beauty to be found in every season, when I step outside late of a September afternoon, I am once more confronted by an inimitable, sensual tapestry, no less striking than when I was a girl. It’s time again to breathe in the perfume of dying flowers and chase like a hunter this blazing chromatic riot of beauty that is all the more affecting for its fleeting, dual nature. Here it is, cleaved in two parts, side by side like a mirror–gold in the sky and gold on the ground.

Here now are some poets born in September:

W.S. Merwin 1927

Dame Edith Sitwell, 1887

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle),  1886

Alfred Noyes, 1880

Elinor Wylie, 1885

by Fj Doucet