October, and here are our winners!

We are so excited to finally the winner of our inaugural poetry contest!

Many thanks again to our fantastic judge, Debbie Okun Hill, and to all who submitted and entrusted us with their work.

We had numerous entries, and we were so pleased with the number and quality of submissions. As always happens, though, decisions have to be made with regards to winners and honourable mentions. Below, you’ll find our judge’s comments on the winning poems, and the poems themselves under our “contests” tab. Thanks to everyone who participated, and best of luck for next year!

Renee Sgroi, President


And the winners are:

1st Place :  David Stones, “Landscapes”

2nd Place: Karen Sylvia Rockwell, “my local forecast is you”

3rd Place: Marcela Croituru.  “What remains”


Honourable mentions:

Marcela Croituru, “Maps”;

Carlina D’Alimonte, “Fissures”;

Laurie Smith, “chelsea on facebook and off”


JUDGE’S COMMENTS:

 Congratulations to all the award winners! Like you, I’m eager to discover which poets penned the top poems. Blind judging ensures that everyone’s work is examined fairly.

For this contest, I sought out poems that best resonated with the contest’s theme: “interrogating the local”.

As was suggested in the contest guidelines: poets were encouraged to reflect on such questions as “what does it mean to locate oneself in a given area? How significant are local communities in a globalized world? Why do we identify ourselves as local? How can we understand that term? How does the local speak to you?”

I was pleased to see such creative (outside the box) responses: such a wide variety of styles and subject matter in the submissions.

Initially, I read the poems several times; placed them in various piles and then read backwards according to a draft ranking.

When comparisons between different treatments made it difficult to be objective, I created additional criteria. For example, 1) was the poem unique? Did it include images and/or sounds that stayed with me for days? Perhaps the subject matter was unusual or it was written in a unique style or voice. 2) Did the poem move me emotionally? For example, did it make me laugh or cry or feel angry? 3) Did the words scan or flow well when read aloud? (Yes I did read them aloud.) 4) Did the poet use the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch? 5) Did the work include poetic devices such as metaphor or similes?

I read the poems again.

In the final analysis, the first place winner “LANDSCAPES” moved me both emotionally and intellectually. Not only did the first lines pull me into the locale of the rural landscape but they startled me. Rather than focus on the rebirth/renewal theme normally associated with a spring setting, this farmer’s mind laboured on death. Note the heavy layers of images: Annie with “her hands no longer fluttering”, the children “no longer willing or able/to liberate life from the laughing clay/gone now to the jeweled cities”, the skies “starless and immense as blackboards” and the powerful last line “life’s pull to stay     life’s push to leave”.  Talk about the dilemma of sitting on the rural fence! Even the 7-line stanza form reminded me of routine furrows in a plowed field or the furrowed brow of a worried farmer. Well done.

A haunting poem about change and the uncertain future of local farms and farmers.

The second place winner “my local forecast is you” appealed to me for a different reason. This variation of a found poem whirled and swirled with the rich language associated with meteorology and climatology. It raised love to the cosmos, which isn’t a new concept, but how could anyone forget these unique lines: “my windsock    will follow your eddys” or “you are the sun pillar of my twilight”?  The airy form with extra spaces within the stanzas added a breezy feel to the piece.

A fun, playful poem about a close relationship to the local weather and that special love.

The third place winner “what remains” is a great poetic example of how less is more. In fact, it is this minimalist form that reinforces both the title and the base, the last one-word-line surrounded by white space for emphasis: ‘home’. What a powerful ending! In a few lines, the poet has shown that despite the loss of words perhaps due to dementia (or the fire-induced loss of our possessions in this case the mind), what remains is our concept of home.  The symbolic fire can also be interpreted in several ways adding depth to what may first appear to be a simple poem.

A simple yet complex poem about the solidity and importance of a home.

The honourable mention poems should be treated equally, although, they are completely different.

“Maps” was selected for not only its strong sensory description of home but the way it nicely bookended the poem with the reference to a dot. Imagine home as a dot.  Here’s the line that elevated the poem for me: “a local piece of geography now marked/on her skin with just a dot”. A poem about the strength of a dot in triggering local memories. Wow!

“Fissures” painted vivid images of home, home life, and the “distant cracks approaching, threatening”. I especially liked the use of colour: red, red, white. The colour of Canada? The colour of blood versus purity? These are the subtle images or fissures I see hidden in this poem. A poem about changes to the home environment and what will be left for future generations.

“chelsea on facebook and off” pulled me into the poem with its eye-catching title and kept me reading with some humourous lines “everybody’s crazy, really,”, “mooning over posters of/donny osmond’ and “we wonder if there was some sort of/contagion that infiltrated the drinking water/in those public school fountains”. Long poems such as this one must be extra strong to compete with shorter and more concise poems where weaker lines can more easily be weeded out. However, in this five-page submission, the voice (more narrative versus poetic) was so strong, consistent, and unique compared to some of the other submissions that I had to include it. It was the strongest of the longer poems that were submitted. A witty yet thought-provoking poem about local drama: the harsh reality associated with popularity and/or the lack of it.

Once again, congratulations to the winners, plus a huge round of applause to all the poets who submitted original work to the contest. Thanks for sharing your poetic words.

Debbie Okun Hill, Contest judge for
Brooklin Poetry Society’s Inaugural Poetry Contest 2018

Debbie Okun Hill (colour websized) Photo Courtesy Melissa Upfold for The Calculated Colour Co.


Debbie Okun Hill,
whose work includes Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014), and award-winning chapbooks Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) and Chalk Dust Clouds (Beret Days Press, 2017). Ms. Okun Hill has published over 390 poems in over 140 different publications in Canada and the U.S., and is a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada, The League of Canadian Poets, and former president of The Ontario Poetry Society. You can follow her literary journey at: https:okunhill.wordpress.com

 

September

Brooklin Poetry Society is gearing up for another great year of poetry!

Our fall dates for monthly poetry meetings are as follows:

  • Sunday September 23rd
  • Sunday October 21st
  • Sunday November 18th
  • Sunday December 9th

As usual, we will be meeting at The Goodberry, on Baldwin Street in Brooklin, 12-2pm. We hope you’ll join us!

In addition, we are awaiting the results of our first Poetry Contest from contest judge Debbie Okun Hill!  Winners will be announced in the coming weeks, but we’d also like to thank everyone who submitted their work!

In the meantime, we hope you are enjoying the last few glorious days of summer reading some of your favourite poetry.

Please visit our page often for updates, and thanks for stopping by!

Renee Sgroi, President

Seeing August With A Poet’s Eye

What better way to start August than with “August Again” by Ruth Walters:

We slide into August without realising
though we’ve waited for her to appear
since the beginning of January.

Heat, yellowed grass, rain, muddied boots
are all common during her stay.
Such a mixed cup, fickle as the year.

Then, as we adjust to long, warm summer evenings
they darken again as August
slides away like a slippery girl

sliding out of our lives like a dinner date
climbing out of the ladies room window
when she can’t face desert.

We yearn for her still, but she’s off,
running like the Cheater until next year
when we meet again, blushing

August is just one month away from the season of mellow fruitfulness celebrated by John Keats in his beautiful Ode To Autumn. In our neck of the woods where the seasons are pronounced, August, as the poet Sandra Fowler says in A Call to August, helps us make sense of falling leaves, When death paints a rich picture of itself. Helen Hunt Jackson in A Calendar of Sonnets: August describes how August does this:

Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry / Of color to conceal her swift decrease. / Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece / A blossom and lay bare her poverty. / Poor middle-aged summer! Vain this show! / Whole fields of Golden-Rod cannot offset / One meadow with a single violet; / And well the singing thrush and lily know, / Spite of all artifice which her regret / Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!

Wanda Swim Strunk in August Is The Dying Month describes August this way – August is a butterfly crushed on a roadway / One side dead to the pavement / The other is still vibrantly flutteringly alive / Fighting to fly away but it’s fate is already sealed. Boy is that a melancholy view of August – the warmest and probably, with all the festivals going on,  the most fun-filled month of the year.  James Whitcomb Riley description of August isn’t much better:

A day of torpor in the sullen heat
Of Summer’s passion: In the sluggish stream
The panting cattle lave their lazy feet,
With drowsy eyes, and dream
.

Long since the winds have died, and in the sky
There lives no cloud to hint of Nature’s grief;
The sun glares ever like an evil eye,
And withers flower and leaf.

Upon the gleaming harvest-field remote
The thresher lies deserted, like some old
Dismantled galleon that hangs afloat
Upon a sea of gold.

Algernon Charles Swinburne on the other hand has a more positive vision in his poem August seeing an August afternoon as a time – Of music in the silver air; / Great pleasure was it to be there / Till green turned duskier and the moon / Coloured the corn-sheaves like gold hair.

Ah yes the moon. We must talk at length about the August moon. Some Native American tribes called it theSturgeon Moon because they knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this Full Moon. Full Green Corn Moon, the Wheat Cut Moon, the Moon When All Things Ripen and the Blueberry Moon were other beautiful Indian names for the August moon.

Here’s how Sara Teasdale in August Moonrise sees the blue Connecticut hills by  August moonlight – And the hazy orange moon grew up / And slowly changed to yellow gold / While the hills were darkened, fold on fold / To a deeper blue than a flower could hold. In the poem, she is willing to trade her life for such brief moments of beauty. In a lovely coming of age sonnet, August Moon Bonnie Collins takes us back to Remembering how to dive, wear lipstick, and / falling in love all in one summer’s august moon. Yes, August is as good a time as any to get romantic and fall in love like Edward Lear’s lovers in The Owl and the Pussy-cat, who go to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat and hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, dance by the light of the moon.

Speaking about spending time at the edge of the sand, Duncan Campbell Scott in Mid-August paints a beautiful picture of what it’s like to spend some magical time in August up by the lake, hopefully one with a sandy beach. Here’s a couple stanzas from that poem to give you an idea what you might see through the poet’s lenses:

Where the pine-linnet lingered
The pale water searches,
The roots of gleaming birches
Draw silver from the lake;
The ripples, liquid-fingered,
Plucking the root-layers,
Fairy like lute players
Lulling music make.

O to lie here brooding
Where the pine-tree column
Rises dark and solemn
To the airy lair,
Where, the day eluding,
Night is couched dream laden,
Like a deep witch-maiden
Hidden in her hair.

And how about this description of life at the lake by Katharine Lee Bates taken from her poem In August that alludes to the King Arthur story.

With Lonely Lake, so crystal clear that one
May see its bottom sparkling in the sun
With many-colored stones. The only stir
On its green banks is of the kingfisher
Dipping for prey, but oft, these haunted nights,
That mirror shivers into dazzling lights,
Cleft by a falling star, a messenger
From some bright battle lost, Excalibur.

What better way to prepare for the mundane busyness of September when the old rat-race routine kicks in again then to get lost in the enchantment of ancient romance. Or if you’re not really the poetic type, follow Paul Laurence Dunbar’s advice In August, When August days are hot an’ dry, / I won’t sit by an’ sigh or die, / I’ll get my bottle (on the sly) / And go ahead, and fish, and lie! Yes, I can  identify with that sentiment. But whatever you do in the August month when Heat still sizzles in the fields, don’t sleep through the month saying LEAVE me alone, for August’s sleepy charm / Is on me, and I will not break the spell. Edith Nesbit in August exhorts us to get a little exercise while enjoying the panorama of beauty that the month stretches before us:

I want to wander over pastures still,
Where sheared white sheep and mild-eyed cattle graze;
To climb the thymy, clover-covered hill,
To look down on the valley’s hot blue haze;
And on the short brown turf for hours to lie
Gazing straight up into the clear, deep sky,

I want to walk through crisp gold harvest fields,
Through meadows yellowed by the August heat;
To loiter through the cool dim wood, that yields
Such perfect flowers and quiet so complete–
The happy woods, where every bud and leaf
Is full of dreams as life is full of grief.

So open your senses to August’s beauty – August incense with fugacious wings / Bounty blooms, butterflies, bees are insane / Birds, crickets sing and the night listens / Summer’s sky, bright burst so clear / It’s the late August in summer’s fair – from Late August by Ency Bearis. Then at the end of August we might be able to say with some conviction:

Maya, you’re here with us,
and it’s like a bird who has just
learned how to sing, and he’s
singing and trilling, racing through
all the notes he knows, and suddenly
he realizes he’s flying! Maya, you showed us
singing and flying are the same,
and we need to do both,
because tonight we’re
losing August.

Losing August In Memoriam: August Wilson 1945-2005 by Daniel Brick

Rod Stone

 

Celebrating Canadian poetry

In the absence of a full-fledged blog post for July, and in honour of Canada Day, we thought we’d post a list of some of our favourite Canadian poets, or those Canadian poets whose work we’re currently reading.

We hope you’ll take inspiration from this list!

Bradley is reading Gregory Scofield (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/gregory-scofield/)

Gail is reading Rupi Kaur (https://rupikaur.com/)

Patrick is reading Alden Nowlan (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/alden-nowlan/) and Al Pittman (http://www.stu-acpa.com/al-pittman.html)

Renee is reading Canisia Lubrin (https://www.poetryinvoice.com/poems/poets/canisia-lubrin

Rod is reading P.K. Page (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pk-patricia-kathleen-page/)

Theresa is reading Jane Munro (http://janemunro.com/poetry-collections/)

 

 

A reflection on our accomplishments


For our June blog post, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on our accomplishments, as it’s been almost a full year since Brooklin Poetry Society launched its website.

We were finally able to celebrate our anthology, Written Tenfold, at the end of May (following the unexpected ice storm that prevented us from our launch during April’s National Poetry Month!) The launch was a great success, and it was wonderful to recognize our accomplishment (photos of the launch under the “events” tab). We were fortunate to have local Councillor Rhonda Mulcahy, who presented the group with a letter of recognition from the Mayor on our achievement, and as well acknowledged the value Brooklin Poetry Society brings to the arts community in our region.

We were also able to commit to our community outreach plans this year. In January, I delivered a poetry workshop to grade four elementary students at a school in Oshawa, and in April, in honour of National Poetry Month, BPS hosted an informative and engaging poetry workshop at the Whitby Public Library’s main branch.

Our members continue to participate in local and national poetry events. BPS poets will be reading at the Stellar Literary Festival to be held on the grounds of the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa on June 10, and two of our poets, who are Associate Members of the League of Canadian Poets, will be reading at the League’s new members’ event at Harbourfront on June 14.

We will be taking a well-deserved break from blogging and poetry posting over the summer, but I’m pleased to say that we’ve succeeded in contributing to the online poetry environment for the past twelve months, and that there is plenty of quality writing to be found on our site.

With that in mind, I wish you happy reading in these upcoming summer months, and I look forward to the fall and our plans for furthering the space for poetry here in Durham region.

Renée Sgroi, President

Brooklin Poetry Society

reciting poetry before an open mic

President’s note: This month, we are so fortunate to have the words of wisdom from MC and open mic organizer extraordinaire, Patrick Meade. Patrick most recently won a poetry competition organized by the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. In this blog, Patrick reflects on the experience and value of reciting poetry before an open mic:

           You will never get me up there. I once had those thoughts while watching speakers at an open mic poetry session. For some people, standing in front of others can be quite unnerving. But to stand in front of others and tell them how you feel, well, that is another world of turmoil unto itself. And that turmoil comes from within us. We are all spun of different impulses, ideas and talents. Most times we feel quite relaxed sitting around displaying those characteristics amongst friends. The back and forth ease of conversation seems never to be a concern. But once we are asked to come and speak in front of an audience that is when a volcano of nerves starts to murmur. Sometimes erupts. And as that lava starts to bubble and ooze it can cause our voices to crumble, our ideas to run away, our thoughts to be swallowed by the flow. Why is that? It is very normal I would think to have these uncomfortable moments happen to us. The idea of being monitored, assessed, or graded front and centre on the podium can shred the most vibrant orchid, strip it down to strands of pulpish fibre. And in those situations when we shudder, is it because we think we are being judged? Maybe we are but that should not keep us away from who we are. Certain thoughts crash about inside us: what will they think of my material? But more importantly it is what we think of our own creations. Other feelings may rush through as we wonder if we can defend our thoughts, our words. In time we can and will. But if we falter that is okay. To falter is human.

           Yes it takes time and practice to get up and recite poetry at an open mic. The practice may create buckets of sweat and a head full of stress. I, too, have stood in those shoes where my socks were so soaked that puddles were gathering on the floor. And all I could think was: I hope they realize that it is sweat running all about down there! Over time, of course, I became more comfortable when I spoke about something that I was familiar with. We all have memories and moments. We have all lived each and every one of them. A scar, a smile, a hug, a wish, a bouquet of kindness. If we can tell those moments and we do so amongst friends, why can’t we retell the same memories and thoughts via a poem or story in front of an audience? We can. I believe through practice and knowing our material, we become more confident, more alive. It will take some trials but as you get more comfortable at an open mic, you will find your voice, embrace your work and notice that the volcanoes of stress have gone to sleep. And that the pearls of art, of your love of poetry and narrative, are stirring. And, as a result, you’ll be eager to head back to that open mic the next time.

“imaginary gardens with real toads in them”

Picking up from last month’s blog about poetics I want to continue with this theme by focusing on the great American poet – Marianne Moore and her thoughts about what poetry should be. She says that poets must be “literalists of the imagination” who strive in their work to present to the world “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”. In the discussion of Moore’s poem “Poetry” from which these quotes are taken, Elisabeth W. Joyce in her book “Cultural Critique and Abstraction: Marianne Moore and the Avant-garde” says Moore means that the so-called “real toad” though an abstraction should not be too abstract or “so derivative as to become unintelligible” since “we do not admire what we cannot understand”.

I find that a good deal of post-modern poetry, especially that influenced by poets such as Gertrud Stein, are merely clever exercises in semiotics. Much of it is difficult to understand without special training in the techniques employed. Poetry of the “language school” I think falls in this category. Sometimes derivation works as in “How the Starling Came to America: a glosa for P.K. Page” by the Canadian poet Medrie Purdham which incorporates four lines from the P.K. Page glosa “Invisible Presences Fill The air” to conceive another wonderful glosa. A glosa, of course, requires that the poet use four lines from another poet’s work as an epigraph, and then to use each of those four lines as final lines of four new stanzas. It was Page who popularized this form in contemporary Canadian poetry. But I digress.

Moore teaches us that poetry should not be so complex or difficult that it connects only to our intellect. It should stimulate us through our physical senses. Page does this quite well, a good example being her wonderful poem “After Rain“. Moore also suggests that we should try to exclude the trivial and the insolent – these irrelevant and self-destructive elements you see in much failed poetry. Poets should also strive to be “genuine” (intelligible and reflective of our culture) through investment in imagination in the arts to escape from the world of the bourgeoisie with its pragmatic, materialistic lifestyles.

Moore finally in the concluding lines of “Poetry” suggests that poetry should have a certain rawness. “if you demand on the one hand, in defiance / of their opinion— / the raw material of poetry in / all its rawness, and / that which is on the other hand, / genuine, then you are interested in poetry”. I try to make the same point in one of my own poems titled “Epistle 2 – Carnivora” as follows:

Klaberjass and gin rummy,
feed the starving beast some yummy:
Raw meat, bloody meat.
Fred the lion’s got to eat – raw meat.

Jack the keeper is a joker.
All he does is play bad poker
While the poor lion in his cage
must live on snowy saxifrage

of bad poems, insipid poems.
Fred ain’t nothing but skin and bones.
Red meat is what he needs;
something on the page that bleeds;

something on the page that moves,
something with bewildering hooves.
Good poetry is a moveable feast,
a belly full of wildebeest.

Many other poets, as last month’s blog suggests, have had much to say about what constitutes “real” poetry. I’ll include a few lines from American poet and writer Archibald MacLeish’s “Ars Poetica”. “A poem should be palpable and mute / As a globed fruit, / Dumb / As old medallions to the thumb, / Silent as the sleeve-worn stone / Of casement ledges where the moss has grown— / A poem should be wordless / As the flight of birds“. In the last stanza of this wonderful three-stanza poem, he sums up his idea of what he thinks real poetry is: “A poem should be equal to: / Not true. / For all the history of grief / An empty doorway and a maple leaf. / For love / The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea— / A poem should not mean / But be.”

This is not just a matter of style as where the great symbolist poet Paul Verlaine in “Art poétique” says that music in poetry must be paramount and that the best song is the hazy song where vagueness and precision join “For we must have Nuance still / Not Color – nothing but nuance! / Ah! Only nuance can betroth / Dream to dream and flute to horn!” This is great advice for any poet but we’re talking about substance, about reality. As in life there’s nothing better than to be yourself; to eschew affectation that tries to make a good impression.

Instead, we should try to make poetry that is genuine and authentic. It is no accident that simple tangible objects such as bread, supper, and a cup are used to represent such a momentous abstract thing for the human race as the meaning of the crucifixion. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. ”In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:19-20. The incarnate Word and progenitor of all language used ordinary objects as symbols and parables from everyday life to illustrate profound truths. Good poets would be wise to follow his example.

Rod Stone