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

Oxygen for an Accidental Poet

A first draft poem is applied to the page similar to how an artist lays down an underpainting. Next comes a stroke of colour, an emotive word that does the work of three. Lines are spoken aloud to test their rhythm and musicality. Only the right words in the right order will do. There’s much chiselling before the structure of a poem emerges.

I’d love to tell you that I’ve been writing poetry since I dropped from the womb, that as a child, I spoke in metaphor and screened phrases for iambic pentameter—but I’d be lying. Actually, I just Googled iambic pentameter.

The truth is that I stumbled into writing poetry by mistake. A few years ago, I signed up for a master writing class to be led by Shannon Webb Campbell. The words “reconnect with lands and waters” leapt from the course description. At the time, I was embarking on my current novel set in 1836 Ottawa Valley so this environment-based writing focus excited me. Imagine my surprise when I took my seat, flipped to a fresh page in notepad and realized I was seated inside a scrum of poets with Ms. Campbell, a poet highly acclaimed on a national scale. I must confess a fleeting paralysis. How possibly could I write poetry—the haute couture of self-expression—on demand?

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The day’s session lit my interest in poetry. Through the inspiration of readings by instructor and attendees coupled with the warm flow of writing exercises, I produced work centred around themes and scenes in my novel. In fact, elements from one of the poems appears in the opening of chapter one. The experience of writing and listening to other people’s poetry was cathartic. I began to understand poetry as conjurer of emotional or sensory experience, an invitation into a familiar or foreign moment. In the following days, I yearned to write more verse and to seek the companionship of other poets.

Poetry is my gateway to enriched prose. The exercise of writing in verse has taught me that economy of language can live on the page alongside inventive word play. It’s pushed me to be present in my characters’ experiences and to burrow deeper into their inner worlds so I can discover aspects of themselves they’ve secreted away.

In the past, I’d seldom written poetry and then only when ideas struck like lightning. Now I find the pleasure in purposefully setting out to write poetry, in capturing snapshots of emotion and experience. The shift in practice allows me to be more mindful, to savour a moment or spend time considering an injustice that requires broadcasting.

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A poem does not pour from the pen a perfect thing—at least not for me. I’m learning the process of brain gymnastics performed over several drafts of sheets scribbled upon by multiple colours of ink. My thesaurus and stationery supply serve as creative co-conspirators. A first draft poem is applied to the page similar to how an artist lays down an underpainting. Next comes a stroke of colour, an emotive word that does the work of three. Lines are spoken aloud to test their rhythm and musicality. Only the right words in the right order will do. There’s much chiselling before the structure of a poem emerges. I must know when to stop. One line too many and something magical is lost.

I’ve discovered poetry as therapist. Similar to journaling, writing verse is an inward journey. What arrives on the paper is often revelatory to me. I’d no idea I thought that or felt that until the exercise of writing poetry excavated that deep place.

Poetry’s most unexpected gift to me is friendship. So many of us work closeted away with ink stained fingers and sore shoulders. In coffee shops, we note other writers hunkered over laptops. We share a silent nod, much like joggers passing each other on the roadside. But there’s no sharing of ideas or way-to-go pat on the back. For that sustaining creative fuel, real conversation is required—preferably with those who are equally excited by punctuation placement and alliteration. The Brooklin Poetry Society is oxygen to my poetry writing. The members are my friends and mentors without whom I’d only swim in the safe and shallow end of poetry.

      To know the hearts of human beings,
Dissect pain and passion,
Read poetry
To escape the knife point of grief,
Raise a mirror in which to gaze
Write poetry
To be counted and understood,
Remove isolation from the vernacular
Speak poetry

Gwen Tuinman

June 2019

“May” we announce our contest!!!

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April was an exciting month for us at Brooklin Poetry Society! We hosted another amazing poetry workshop at the wonderful Whitby Public Library https://www.whitbylibrary.ca/ and we also showcased our wonderful anthologies and work by our members at the Brooklin branch of the Whitby Public Library in celebration of National Poetry Month 2019!

Our members also participated in various events, including The Wild Nellies’ https://thewildnellies.com/ event in support of the Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre Durham https://www.wmrccdurham.org/ as well as the Stellar Literary Festival!

As we move forward through May, we are pleased to announce that we are launching our second annual poetry contest! Our judge this year is the wonderfully talented David Stones https://www.davidstonespoet.com/ who was our first place winner last year.

Details about the contest can be found on our “contest” page https://brooklinpoetrysociety.com/contests/. Deadline to submit is midnight on July 31st, 2019.

We look forward to receiving your work. Please direct any questions to: brooklinpoetsoc@gmail.com.

Happy May, and happy writing!

Renée M. Sgroi, President

April’s blog blooms

What is a blog? Why do we do it?

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No poet coined such a stone of a word, a blotch of ink that we invite others to step in so they can seep the world from our colour. Feet in ink. A bodiless soup and swimming.

What would e.e. cummings do with the word “blog”? Perhaps something like this:

the bodiless blanket lets me sleep, it is my bed, my waking, the warmth that pulls me from the hushed hello of all darkness and creaking forest mystery, to the tinkering tatatata of eyelashes brushing day, of you and wonder and word and yes and word and yes…bodiless blog of thinking, trying to catch the river in its net of words to say:  “here here here…  is beauty, is living, is the never-again-crystalized moment of wonder.” Where we meet has always been sacred space.

The Brooklin Poetry Society …  and all places where poets, writers, artists, lovers meet is sacred space. My hope is that we all venture into such sacred space. It graces us with a kind of divine presence and sharing that together is beautiful.

I joined the BPS I forget when now which is a comforting thought, like so many family visits: you forget who brought the casserole two years ago.

It is my first poetry club and this, my first blog.

And April.

New beginnings, the pushing of new growth through crusty bark, stiff limbs, dormant heavy soil, feeling newness leak in…  a kind of calling that says you can grow, you can be more.   Poetry is like that too.  Poetry is April.

I suppose you could say poetry is the raspberry that sings like opera in your mouth in June…  the room that keeps you warm in winter, the letting-go leaf that shows time has come in Autumn. So alas, poetry is for all seasons, all reasons and why not especially now, in the surge of Spring?

April will ask us to heed new voices, new branches, to let go of what is past, and to flower each and every one of us in whatever colour/shape/size/space we come upon; let us flower.

We always welcome new members to the BPS, perhaps this will be the April of our Club too. And April is #National Poetry Month.

And the first step to celebrate that is with our own feet, our voices, our attention, our own participation.

Check out the League of Canadian Poets for events: 


Our own BPS poetry workshop on April 9th at the Whitby Public Library (Central branch) On April 9th: https://www.whitbylibrary.ca/ (to register:

The Griffin Prize:


Open Mike Calendar:


And finally, some Poets Born in April:

George Herbert 1593-1633

Maya Angelou 1928
William Wordsworth 1770

William Shakespeare 1564-1616

Vladimir Nabokov 1899
Walter de la Mare 1873-1956

Seamus Heaney 1939

Annie Dillard 1945

More poetry please!

Jenny Sorensen

Welcoming March

by BPS co-founder and long time member, Theresa Donnelly

With just days to go, our guest readies himself to depart. I usher him to the front hall with feelings of gratitude for the open-fire rooms that filled us with ourselves; the fragrance of a ginger and cardamom infused kitchen; pristine larger-than-life snowflakes; the lunar eclipse of the Blood Wolf Moon and yes, even the cracks and peels of February’s feet.

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I welcome this month of March: the bridge between two seasons; changeable as it may be, for a variety of reasons. The main one being it was the birth month, many years ago, of our eldest son John. That was the month in which my understanding of what it was like to love unconditionally began; it was the springboard that catapulted me on a journey of exquisite encounters with the power of love, selflessness and awareness.

For many of us March signifies the return of the light: resurgence of curved radiance over skeletal trees and withered vines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote ‘Life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.’

We can thank March’s windy reputation throughout the years for blowing some much-loved poets into our lives: those born during this blustery month include some of my favourites:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Mar.6th 1806 Light tomorrow with today.’

Jack Kerouac: Mar.12th 1922Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.’

Lady Augusta Gregory: Mar.15th 1852 ‘The way most people fail is in not keeping up the heart.’

Robert Frost: Mar. 26th 1874 ‘A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.

Tennessee Williams: Mar. 26th 1911 ‘The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.’

This month usually finds me returning home, visiting with much loved and greatly missed family members and frequenting favourite places of my youth. One such place is an old bookshop, in an even older part of the city that, much to my delight, continues to remain open in this ‘Digital Age’ where all too often; too many small bookshops have closed their doors forever.

Crossing the threshold is like entering Narnia. I glide past latest editions placed high on centre tables. I swerve around deeply engrossed customers; wave a quick hello to the Brendan-Behan-lookalike cashier and find my way between aisles to the very back of the shop to the creaky elevator that will take me to the second, often third-hand, poetry section. It’s windowless, usually stuffy with the scent of moth balls and old lace. The shelves bend under the weight of books vying for my attention. My eyes and fingertips compete as they run over still vibrant, multicoloured spines. With an abundance of titles written by well and lesser-known authors; I always say the book chooses me, not I, it.

Armed with my collection, I head to one of the worn-leather armchairs and ready myself to enter the poet’s world, where the poem can be a simple storybook or a reflective journey to the deepest caverns of the poet’s mind. Always an expression of emotion engaging the heart; it can help me see the world from an entirely new perspective. It can stretch the imagination. It can send me on a delirious dance; beckon me to a dimly lit attic; have me walk through a dubious fire; deprive me of a justifiable ending; have me spin myself into a black hole; make a saint or sinner of me; allow me feel compassion for human anguish: grow intoxicated on the scent of an overly-ripe mango or a misty Monday afternoon.

To me, poetry is bread. Bread is life; each mouthful nourishment for the naked soul. ��y�

Falling into poetry

For this month’s blog, we here at Brooklin Poetry Society took an online look at poems written about the month of February. There were the inevitable poems about Valentine’s Day, and even one about February 29th, that elusive extra day. There were poems written by Boris Pasternak, Anne Bronte, Hilaire Belloc, Denise Levertov, Coleridge, and Margaret Atwood (to name just a few).

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For those of us living in Canada, February can be bleak. Snow, cold, sometimes sleet, or an endless number of grey and cloudy days. But there’s always poetry. And there’s always time to fall into poetry in a way that is similar to falling in love.

So while the snow may fall around you, or your thoughts may turn to that special someone, we challenge you to spend some time falling into poetry. What poems will you fall in love with?

PS: here’s a link to that February poem by Margaret Atwood: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47787/february-56d2288025b1e

Welcoming a new year…

2019 marks the start of the second decade of the Brooklin Poetry Society, and we’re thrilled to continue creating a presence for poetry in the Durham Region!

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We have more exciting projects and plans for this coming year, including another free poetry workshop in April at the Whitby Public Library to celebrate National Poetry Month! We’re going to continue improving and updating our website in 2019 (thanks to our fabulous webmaster, Mr. M!), and we’re also planning to host another poetry contest (details to be posted on the website soon).

We also have plans for more readings, more events, and more poetry at our regular scheduled monthly meetings! We hope to be able to celebrate with more publications by our fabulous BPS members, and to that end, I wish to direct you to BPS poet Patrick Meade’s inspiring short story, “Swimming With Sharks as a way to begin your 2019 writing life on the right foot!

Most of all, we look forward to the start of another amazing decade of sharing and building a community of poets and poetry on the GTA’s eastern edge. So, from all of us at the Brooklin Poetry Society, here’s to a 2019 filled with poetry!

Renée M. Sgroi, President

Poetry plaudits

December is such a good time for festivities and celebrations, so for this month’s blog, we thought we’d celebrate what we’ve accomplished in 2018!

2018 proved to be a busy and exciting year for us. Our first major accomplishment was the publication of our latest anthology, Written Tenfold. This was our first anthology in several years, and we were thrilled to be able to publish another anthology.

The spring saw  our first poetry workshop at the Whitby Public Library in celebration of National Poetry Month (#NPM2018), as well as the official launch of our anthology in May.

Of course, another of our major accomplishments was the launch of our inaugural poetry contest this summer with our fantastic judge, Debbie Okun Hill (http://www.theontariopoetrysociety.ca/Memberprofile009.htm).

In addition to our society’s accomplishments, several of our members had their own accomplishments in 2018. Former president John Di Leonardo saw the publication of his debut poetry collection, Conditions of Desire, published by Hidden Brook Press (http://www.hiddenbrookpress.com/author/john-di-leonardo/?post_type=publication).

Both Renée M. Sgroi and Gail M. Murray had their work published in the latest anthology of The Banister (http://canauthorsniagara.org/poetry-contest/), as well as other publications.

Bradley McIlwain and Graham Ducker published work in Buried Horror (http://buriedhorrormagazine.blogspot.com/)and Patrick Meade’s previously translated work is set to be published in a dual language edition by poet, Anna Yin ( http://www.annapoetry.com/)

Of course, all of our poets have continued to write poetry  (an accomplishment in and of itself!) and to share their love of poetry through readings and events, including our monthly meetings. 

So, for this month of celebrations and festivities, we here at the Brooklin Poetry Society raise a glass to poets everywhere. Whether you’re published or not, a first time poet or a seasoned one, kudos to all those who continue to believe in the importance and relevance of poetry and its creation!

Time for poetry contests

President’s note: When we decided to host our Inaugural Poetry Contest this year, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of the submissions we might receive, or the number. As our contest judge, Debbie Okun Hill, wrote in our October blog, the quality of submissions was outstanding, and I think it reflects on the quality of persons who took a chance and submitted to our contest.

Our contest winner, David Stones, is one such fine person. Not only has David generously returned the proceeds from the 1st place award back to our organization, but he also surprised us recently by attending our October monthly meeting. What a pleasure to meet our contest winner in person!

For our November blog post, it made sense for us to ask David to write some encouraging thoughts about poetry writing in general, and about entering poetry contests. David has obliged us with a small vignette of his personal poetry experiences , which we’re so pleased to share below. 

Once again, to all those who submitted, we thank you for entering our contest. We hope you find David’s piece encouraging, and we urge all poets to make time for entering poetry contests, and most importantly, make time for some poetry writing!

Renee M. Sgroi                   


I won my first poetry contest in grade four. I was a nerdy and shy British lad just learning to let my pen do some talking. My creative efforts earned me an entire nickel, which I hastily flipped into 15 tooth-destroying, soot coloured candy spheres fittingly and lovingly known as Black Balls. Never had candy tasted so sweet. I had put some words on a page, won praise and got paid for it. I was exhilarated…and I was hooked.

That was a few years ago. I’m mostly retired now, still putting pen to paper, still shipping my work around, albeit on a limited and strategic basis. Poetry contests provide great opportunity for artistic gratification, quality/ professional feedback and, who knows, even a few bucks now and then. I really encourage my fellow poets to give them a try. It’s always a little daunting to have your work judged, to say nothing of sobering, but the rewards sure outweigh the tension.

So hearty congrats to the Brooklin Poetry Society on your inaugural poetry contest. Thanks for acknowledging  Landscapes…and a bigger thanks for bringing back for me that delightful sense of grade four exhilaration.

David Stones, Brooklin Poetry Society Inaugural Poetry Contest Winner                             

David Stones reading his award-winning poem at the BPS monthly meeting

David Stones (centre) with BPS poets at the October monthly meeting




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”


 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