April’s blog blooms

What is a blog? Why do we do it?

Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

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).

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

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!

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

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



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

Our fall dates for monthly poetry meetings are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Renee Sgroi, President

Seeing August With A Poet’s Eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rod Stone


Celebrating Canadian poetry

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

We hope you’ll take inspiration from this list!

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

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

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

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

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

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