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

How Do You Define Poetry?


If you have been writing for a long time your definition of poetry may have evolved as you have developed your craft. As someone who has been writing poetry for several years, I, too, find that my approach and understanding of poetry has changed. Poetry that presently resonates with me has less to do with story and more to do with feeling, so my current definition of poetry may be “the expression of genuine feeling through creative imagery.”

I feel it is essential for working artists/poets to be clear about what defines their art form for them personally. Clarity may serve well as a focus, strength, and a beacon when working long hours in that ocean of isolation and doubt. Many poets throughout history have defined “poetry” for themselves in order to sustain the dance with what is sometimes a capricious muse.

Here is a list of poetry definitions I’ve compiled. They are in no particular order. Peruse them, see which definition of poetry best resonates with you, make it your lighthouse…and enjoy!

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech” — Simonides (556 – 468 BCE)

“Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history” — Plato (427  – 347 BCE)

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words” — Edgar Allan Poe

“Poetry is emotion put into measure” — Thomas Hardy

“Poetry is the spontaneous outflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origins from emotion recollected in tranquility” — William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, 1802

“(Poetry is) a kind of ingenious nonsense” — Isaac Newton

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance” — Carl Sandburg

“Poetry is what gets lost in translation” — Robert Frost

“Poetry is a rhythmical form of words which express an imaginative-emotional-intellectual experience of the writer’s…in such a way that it creates a similar experience in the mind of his reader or listener” — Clive Sansom

“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds” — Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things” — T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

“(Poetry) is the lava of the imagination whose eruption prevents an earthquake” — Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)

“Poetry is the deification of reality. Edith Sitwell” — (1887 – 1964), Life magazine, 01-04-63

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood” — T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. Percy Shelley” — A Defence of Poetry, 1821

“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth”. Samuel Johnson

“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads in them” — Marianne Moore

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful” — Rita Dove

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Poetry: the best words in the best order” —  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Many of these quotes are from many sources, including Brainy Quote, Quotes about Poetry, Quotations Page, The Quote Garden, etc…

John Di Leonardo

February romance

President’s note: This month’s blog comes to us courtesy of new member, Gail M. Murray, an accomplished writer, and all around romantic.


Romantic Love in Poetry

Love – whether first blush, ardent passion or lost love – is a universal theme in literature. In the 13th century, Persian poet and mystic Rumi wrote “I open and fill with love, what is not love, evaporates/All the learning in books stays put on the shelf/Poetry the dear words and images of song, comes down over me like mountain water.” Portrayed here, love is all encompassing, overpowering. Love inspires him to write. Words flow naturally like a cool stream of water.

In the 16th century, with star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare immortalizes romantic love in iambic pentameter. His simple, memorable oxymoron, “parting is such sweet sorrow”, so often quoted it seems cliché, conveys the longing lovers experience when they say goodbye. The lovers’ intense emotions culminate in tragedy.

In the 19th century, poets reacting to cities and industrialization looked to love and nature for inspiration. Today with technology infiltrating our lives, is not the need for respite even greater?

When someone mentions romance to me, I think of The Romantics – Shelley, Keats, Byron, and Wordsworth. What woman would not be wooed by Byron’s “she walks in beauty like the night”? Not a brief text but something requiring thought, time, and preferably hand written is most likely to elicit the desired response. Who would not be touched by a love letter or poem, created just for them?

Since I first studied John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn“, he has been one of my heroes. His lovers are frozen forever in time. In my own writing, I endeavor to capture the moment.

From the 20th century comes e. e. cummings’ ethereal line “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)”, depicting how the lover’s world revolves around the loved one.

Pablo Neruda, known for his earthy and erotic writing, has my sympathy when he writes of love as a double edged sword. It can bring great joy and great pain as echoed in his “night is shattered and blue stars shiver in the distance…..my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.” This is taken from his poignant “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”.

In writing about love, poets pour out feelings in precise language with haunting images that tear at the reader’s heart. Wordsworth has the best definition of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling …..recollected in tranquility.”  Is this perhaps what we aspire to achieve? My best writing comes from the affective domain. It is not forced. After leaving it a while I must change hats, become the objective editor, and finally ask for my fellow writers’ assistance to critique.

So as florists stock up on roses, let us give a nod to our forebears and a vote of gratitude to our fellow writers.


Looking Back to 2017

What an exciting year 2017 was for the Brooklin Poetry Society! Not only did we launch our new website, Twitter feed, and Facebook page in 2017, we were also awarded arts funding from the Mayor’s Community Development Fund, Town of Whitby, which allows us to support our initiatives for the coming year. In 2017, our members continued to write, support one another, and share our work through competitions such as the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and The Banister (Canadian Authors’ Association, Niagara Branch), poetry associations such as the League of Canadian Poets, websites such as Buried Horror, and through the publication of our poetry manuscripts. Membership grew in 2017, and we are always happy to accept new members as we continue to increase and expand our presence in Whitby and the broader Durham region.

2018 promises to be an exciting year for BPS as we look forward to the publication of our poetry anthology, Written Tenfold, which will include the work of some of our newest BPS members! In addition, we will be hosting a poetry café with the Whitby Public Library in April, and, as always, we will continue to have our monthly poetry meetings that sustain our writing practice and our community of poets. Keep checking our events page for details about the poetry café and anthology launch!

Finally, as I look back and reflect on 2017, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from all BPS members in my new role as president. I especially wish to acknowledge once again my debt of gratitude for the continued assistance and guidance of Rod Stone and John Di Leonardo. To all BPS members, and to poets everywhere who have enjoyed reading our blogs and poetry in 2017, I wish you a happy and healthy 2018, and of course, much time for reading and writing poetry!

Happy New Year!

Renée M. Sgroi,


Poetry in December

Our December blog is from Brooklin Poetry Society founding member, Bradley McIlwain.

On one of my recent walks, I found myself in a clearing, fall’s fiery colours swirled around my feet, each leaf a line of verse or memory. I thought about what John Keats wrote, that “if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all.”

Then snow fell, creating a blank canvas. Like the seasons, it reminded me that poetry is always cyclical, and reciprocal. We are constantly changing and creating change through our writing. Words can instill magic, a sense of wonder of the mysterious magical language of nature and our place within it.

It is easy to imagine Romantic poets such as Byron or Keats, sitting alone in their study with little more than a candle and a decanter of wine, quill in hand, pouring out their melancholy in verse. But even Byron, mad, bad, and dangerous to know, needed company from time to time.

In 1816, Byron invited Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft to his home in Geneva, Switzerland and on a rainy evening, where Byron encouraged them to tell ghost stories. That evening planted the roots for Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein.

The story always fascinated me, and I realize that on dark, December nights, haunting cafés with my friends in Brooklin, poets gather, ideas are exchanged, stories created, tales told and inspiration is born.

Joining the Brooklin Poetry Society in 2008 has offered me an opportunity to grow the seeds of writing like Jack and his magic Beanstalk, and I have been continually inspired to seek the language of poetry in my daily life.


Poetry in November

President’s note: “This month, founding member Theresa Donnelly reflects on Brooklin Poetry Society’s origins, and on her own journey as a poet.”

In September of 2008, three poetic souls came together at # 6 Campbell Street in Brooklin, Ontario for the first meeting of the Brooklin Poetry Society. It’s hard to believe that here we are so many years later, still as passionate about poetry as ever. We have since grown in numbers and have tirelessly promoted the art of poetry in the region. So it was particularly satisfying to accept the grant from the Mayor’s Community Development Fund last month in recognition of that effort. We continue to move forward and it’s exciting that our second anthology is in the making and will be released for our very special 10th Anniversary in 2018.

When asked recently what does poetry do for me, a quote from  a First Nations’ Elder came to mind. ‘In your society everyone wears watches but no one has time’. Poetry allows me time. In an ever increasingly crazy-busy-world, my channel of creativity demands I offer it some part of my day or my week. Surprisingly enough, I usually find the time even when I think it’s virtually impossible!

My poetic journey probably began in my mother’s womb upon hearing the lyrical loveliness of her voice. When I was 10 years old, I fell in love with W.B. Yeats upon reading ‘The Stolen Child’. I was at the age when one is told to start to fold away childish things. That poem and others like it, gave me permission to hold on to the magic of childhood and honour what might be described as the purest place inside us. So as an adult, I could delve into the realm of imagination fervently.

I believe poetry, like the other arts, connects us to our humanity through beauty and emotional power. Whatever the style, whether it be colloquial, cathartic, evocative, elegiac, fervent, fanciful: poetry can help us deepen the relationship between mind, heart and soul. I believe it allows us to tap into the beautiful truth that lies within each of us.

It’s been said that man’s greatest fear is death, if so, let us be soothed with a quote from another favourite poet, Kahlil Gibran. ‘For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun, and when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance

Theresa Donnelly

Poetry in October

President`s note: This month, new member Ann Peacock blogs about the benefits of joining a poetry circle, and discovering her own love of poetry.

Ann’s October Blog Post for BPS website

“A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.” — W. H. Auden

As a new member of the Brooklin Poetry Society, I’ve discovered a friendly, welcoming group of poets. It’s an opportunity to grow as a poet through encouragement and feedback. This group provides opportunities to share my work, and express myself with other members as well as online. I look forward to our anthology to be published in the spring. Belonging to the BPS also allows me to enjoy the poetry of other members.

In school, I disliked poetry because it was dissected to death. As a young adult reading poems on my own, I felt a shift. Suddenly, some poems started appearing to me – MY own poetry. As time passed, I realized that poetry could express my feelings about a variety of things. I could reflect on life in a unique way. An exciting discovery!

For me, poetry is a musical way to communicate. It’s a way for me to move to the heart of ideas and feelings about life. Some poems are hard-hitting, some lighthearted, and some between these extremes. I use poetry to share a variety of feelings and moods as well as comment on important issues.

If you wait until every poem you write is the best it can be, you might never finish one. In fact, you might be too intimidated to even get started. Paul Valéry, a French poet and author said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Time for me to abandon this post and go write another poem!

Ann Peacock

Arts Funding Update

Brooklin Poetry Society is so pleased to announce it has received arts funding from the Mayor’s Community Development Fund, Town of Whitby!

Many thanks to past President John Di Leonardo for his work on initiating the request for funds, and especially to Don Mitchell, Mayor of Whitby and the Community Development Fund for their support of arts in our community!

mayor's community development fund

For information about the Fund, please go to: http://www.whitby.ca/en/townhall/Community-Development-Funds.asp