Brooklin Poetry Society is seeking video performances for its new YouTube channel. Open to non-members as well as members. Please send videos recitations of your work to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are uncomfortable including your own image in the video, you may provide an audio recitation with accompanying background images in the video, but a video component is necessary.
In your submission package, please include your cover letter, 1-3 videos, and a typed copy of your poems. Selected works will be published in text on the BPS website, with links to performances on the YouTube channel.
Previously published works are acceptable. Please cite original publication in your submission package.
No payment will be provided, but no submission fees are requested.
This month’s blog is by BPS member Natalie Fraser. She can be found on Instagram @thedeepriverdreamer.
Have you ever struggled to understand a poem?
You read it once. Twice. After the third reading, not understanding what the poet is trying to say, you cast it aside, grumbling that it’s indecipherable – or worse. But then, when you mention the poem to poetry-loving friends, their faces light up and they immediately extol its virtues, elaborating on how it moved them to tears. WTF?, you think, nodding your head, not wanting to admit the poem completely baffled you.
How much you appreciate a poem depends, in part, on how you relate to its opacity – its accessibility – how easy it is to grasp its theme. The appreciation of opacity in poetry varies from person to person, culture to culture and even era to era.
Once upon a time schools required pupils to memorize poems. Forced to stand in front of the class and recite poems such as Invictus, by William Ernest Henley, or Paul Revere’s Ride, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, students trembled in fear and stumbled through the lines. Some pupils appreciated the poems for the rest of their lives. But it remains debatable as to whether memorization helped the average student to penetrate the opacity of the poem.
The works of the master poet-playwright, Shakespeare, are classically opaque, with fresh meanings and interpretations to be discovered with every reading. People experiencing his language for the first time often begin with a fear of its opacity that diminishes, and then disappears as their delight in the story takes over. Many high school students roll their eyes in dismay when told they must study Shakespeare’s work, but then discover that they actually like it. His compelling universal themes continue to reflect the angst of life today, hundreds of years after he wrote about them, but first readers must pierce the veil of opacity – or even just their fear of opacity – before finding the treasures within.
Instapoetry lies on the other side of the spectrum. Its low opacity makes it instantly accessible. It showcases very short, personal, uplifting poems, often with illustrations or photography. Superstar Instapoet Rupi Kaur, a Canadian born in India, rose to fame in 2013 by sharing her illustrated poems on Instagram and Tumblr. Her debut book, “Milk and Honey” appeared on bestseller lists for over a year and sold over three million copies. Her very short, easy to understand poems and winsome illustrations appeal to people trying to make sense of a confusing and complicated world. Her popularity continues, along with many other Instapoets.
Some may deride the simplistic nature of Instagram poetry. But its low opacity level and easy accessiblity work to capture the imagination of young people today, who must struggle with love in the age of Tinder and jobs in a time of outsourcing – and a pandemic – as well as finding their way in a world ruled by social media. The constant, exhausting connection to social media and its accompanying pressures leads many to yearn for simplicity; and they may find that an easy, short, and uplifting poem restores their souls faster than more complex poetry.
While the appreciation of poetry’s opacity varies from person to person and age to age – from Shakespeare and Longfellow to Kaur and Instagram – poetry continues to move us and to help us make sense of our world.
The last half-year has seen tremendous change sweep the world, and we at the Brooklin Poetry Society have not been excepted from the upheaval. After the inception of quarantine, it became clear to us that meeting in person would be a health risk to the group and we, like many other organizations, elected to hold our meetings via Zoom. In some ways online sessions proved more efficient, with otherwise busy members able to attend as they might not have in person. Naturally, however, the move was also disheartening. We missed the familiar milieu of our beloved Brooklin teashop, The Goodberry,
its airy lightness and uplifting fragrance, as well as the chance to escape the sometimes too-familiar walls of home.
Those walls would become even more familiar, at times oppressively so, over the spring and early summer, as we sheltered in place for the public good. It was not until Stage Three of the quarantine was ushered into Durham Region that we were able to make plans for another in-person meeting. This was finally held in early August, and outside in Grass Park, Brooklin, rather than in a restaurant, to mitigate the continued possibility of infection. It was a delightful, open-air exchange of poetry and ideas, perhaps more enjoyable than most given our long anticipation, but not without adjustments, such as a need to sit far apart.
We also experienced a significant change in the group’s leadership. As she wrote in her last blog post, our hard-working and exceptionally talented society president, Renée M. Sgroi, decided that the time had come for her to move on from the BPS presidency. She enjoined me to assume leadership of the group, and I agreed to do so with her continued guidance. I headed my first meeting on that bright August day, and we planned for a second with optimism. If all goes well, we will meet outside again on the 13th of this September. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the news for outbreaks.
Some may say that in such dangerous times, poetry is a mere frivolity and not worth the risk, but I would not be one of them. I am all too aware that we live in a moment of profound uncertainty, of crisis suspended between a comfortable past and a murky future, yet I believe that the beauty and contemplation of verse may provide peace of mind sufficient to carry us through another strange and disquieting day. For this reason, we plan to continue to provide that solace and hold our meetings consistently. Whether amidst the ornamental clink and perfume of the teashop, in the fresh air of the park, or the convenience of the virtual connection, we will be there, and we invite all of you to join us.
Finally, I also encourage you to visit the website of our esteemed past president, here. Renee’s debut full-length book of poetry, life print, in points, is now available for order througherbacce press out of Liverpool, England, and we are all immensely proud of her.
We are so pleased with this submissions to this year’s contest! We had an outstanding number, and our contest was publicized by organizations including the League of Canadian Poets and the Canadian Authors Association, so thank you to all those who shared news of our contest!
A huge debt of gratitude to our wonderful judge, accomplished poet KV Skene, who was so generous both with her time and her comments. As KV told us: “Iwas immediately intrigued with the diverse interpretations of the ‘World of Poetry’ theme displayed by the entrants of the Brooklin Poetry Society’s 3rd annual Poetry Contest and totally impressed by the high quality of their work. This, I realized, was not going to be easy. Every poem was read, reread and read again and every day I changed my mind. Again. However, eventually, decisions do have to be made.”
Many thanks as well to all the poets who entrusted us with their poetry. Entering a contest can be a daunting task, and it takes courage to submit knowing full well that the risk of rejection can be greater than the chance of winning a small number of coveted prizes. So, to all those who submitted, we hope you’ll celebrate having taken the risk and congratulate yourselves on the general acrobatic act of writing poetry in the first place!
And now, for the winners. First place goes to Anna Yin for her poem, “Ask”. Here’s what our judge, KV Skene had to say about this poem: “A sad, sensuous poem — after Qu Yuan (Chinese poet, 340-278 BCE). Its otherworldliness suggestively envelopes you, particularly in the following lines:
“My heart is wrapped by leaves of reeds.
unfolding then closing –”
Its last stanza subtly evokes Eliot’s ‘April is the cruelest month’. Perfect. “
The second place prize goes to Bänoo Zan, for her poem, “Naming Ceremony”. In the words of our judge: “Divided intothree sections, Naming Ceremony is a meaningful, many-layered poem, beautifully executed as it keeps unfolding more and more of itself:
“her eyes round
of the forest
she has become – “
“Naming Ceremony” is a poem that greatly rewards multiple readings.”
Our third place prize goes to Marsha Barber for her poem, “Taking His Hand”. Here’s what KV had to say about this poem: “A deceptively simply poem that tells an all-too-familiar story for TTC habitués – and a great example of Coleridge’s dictum – i.e.‘the best words in the best order’, for instance:
KV also wanted to cite a few other poems that, while they didn’t win any of the above awards, were worthy of mention: Natalie Fraser, for her poem, “Silence”; Christine Lyons for her poem, “The Raging River”; and Debbie Okun Hill for her poem, “He Had the Face of Putto”.
Once again, thank you to our amazing judge, KV Skene, and to all who submitted. What a fantastic contest, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading the winning selections. Until next year!
We still have lots of summer left to enjoy, so we’re super excited to announce a shortlist for our 3rd annual contest! Thank you to all those who submitted, and congratulations to all those who were shortlisted! Winners will be announced towards the end of August.
All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes, and so too with the Brooklin Poetry Society.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
How time shifts beneath our feet
and all the while
“I am here.”
“I am here.”
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
Poetry, like all art, infuses
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.
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