This time of transition

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

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


I’ve been thinking of the ellipsis . . .
Three dots that knit time and space and breath and thought together.
Held together in space like planets.
Orbit here, my love
my March soil.
 
Da da dum
Da da dum
 
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

A Roman February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

	from Shakespeare's, Julius Caesar

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

Creative resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all a very creative 2020!

by John Di Leonardo

Waiting for poetry

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

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

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

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

Photo by Adil Gökkaya on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com

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

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

Inspiration in November

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

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

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

But to me, November will always be…

Here are some poets born in the month of November:

William Blake, 1757

Oliver Goldsmith, 1728

Odysseus Elytis, 1911

Margaret Atwood, 1939

Thomas Weatherly, 1942

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

Contest winners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Thanks to our judge, David Stones!

Ode to September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here now are some poets born in September:

W.S. Merwin 1927

Dame Edith Sitwell, 1887

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle),  1886

Alfred Noyes, 1880

Elinor Wylie, 1885

by Fj Doucet

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?

Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Deeana Creates on Pexels.com

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: 

http://poets.ca/events/list/

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:

https://www.griffinpoetryprize.com/event/national-poetry-month/

Open Mike Calendar:

https://poetry.openmikes.org/calendar/ON/2019/4

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