Transformations

All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes, and so too with the Brooklin Poetry Society.

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After three wonderful and exciting years, I’ve decided to transition out of my role as president of the group.

It’s been such an honour and a pleasure being president. The Brooklin Poetry Society is such a lively and supportive group of poets, and it’s been an amazing opportunity to meet and work with fellow poets in this capacity.

I’m very proud of the accomplishments we at the BPS have achieved during my time as president. One of my first ideas as president was to launch a website, which has helped to increase our visibility both locally and abroad. I’m thrilled that as a result of our website, we’ve had some amazing poets join our community.

The website is also an wonderful showcase for our poets, some of whom can say they had their first poem published on our site! So it’s such an honour to be able to say that because of our website, we’ve created a space to encourage and support first-time and emerging poets.

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After seeing the success of our website, I also realized we needed to venture into social media. I’m happy that our foray into social media has resulted in a solid and ever-increasing following that has helped us to connect with poets and poetry groups around the country.

We also began offering an annual, free poetry workshop at the Whitby Public Library in celebration of National Poetry Month. I was extremely proud to host and run these workshops on behalf of our group. The turnout is always great, and the feedback even better!

We also managed to publish another poetry anthology, which I had the great honour of editing. The wonderful thing about it as well was that it celebrated the 10th anniversary of our poetry group, and it was lovely to see such inspiring work appear in this latest anthology!

And perhaps most exciting of all, during my time as president, we started an annual poetry contest, open to poets across Canada. Interest and submission to the contest continues to grow, and we couldn’t do any of these things without the support of the Performing Arts Community Development Fund from the Town of Whitby. I’m proud to say that filling out a successful arts grant for the first time is one of my accomplishments as president too!

So, while I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as president of the Brooklin Poetry Society, it is time for me to transition to other projects. I’ll continue to be actively involved with the BPS, even as I embark on some exciting projects of my own. Keep an eye out for some announcements from me in the next few months!

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To everyone who follows us on WordPress, on Twitter, and on Instagram, thank you for liking and sharing our posts. I hope you will continue to support us and our endeavours, especially as so much of our work right now takes place on the internet.

And to my fellow poets in the Brooklin Poetry Society, thank you for your support, your encouragement, and the love and gratitude you have shown me as president. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Renée M. Sgroi

Follow me on Twitter @RMSgroi and Instagram @renee_m_sgroi, or check out my website: https://reneemsgroi.com

A Ramadan Blessing

This month’s blog is by BPS member, Fj Doucet

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In a normal year—which is to say, any other year in living memory—May marks the beginning of spring, and we Canadians begin emerging from a long winter’s hibernation. In a normal year, the parks and cafés would already be full, the dark nights turning to almost miraculously clear blue days. But everyone knows that this not a normal year. We remain trapped—suspended — in the coronavirus pandemic, that oddly poetic moniker for a disease that has killed a quarter of a million people to date. As a result, parks are blocked off. Shops are still shuttered. Businesses, even international companies, have been forced to shut down, some forever. And though our feet and minds have grown almost unbearably restless, our orders from on high remain the same — avoid gatherings. Stay inside.

I cannot speak for everyone, but personally the longer the crisis continues, the more difficult I find it to connect with the sense of urgency that was impressed upon us two months ago. Especially now as the weather turns warmer, and we fail to find apocalyptic debris littering the streets, the urge to simply step outside and play has grown almost irresistible. From the appearance of neat avenues and clear sunshine, it seems that the world has not changed at all.

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But I must remember that it has. That it is only through an enormous collective effort that we have avoided far more catastrophic losses. And there is no better reminder of this than the simultaneous occurrence of another invisible, yet powerful event. Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, began at the end of April and will run through most of May. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise—about four-thirty in the morning—until sunset — close to eight-thirty at night. During these sixteen hours, Muslims take neither food nor drink, not even water. It is one of the foremost commands of the religion, and in this state of abstinence the faithful are meant to focus more intently on the active practice of worship. Far from merely staying inside to wait away the hours until sustenance is permitted again, these hours are one of intense mental striving, a full work-day in the pursuit of God’s blessing.

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Although on the surface the world has remained the same, Ramadan has deeply altered the worshipper’s universe —and so too especially with our pandemic lock down.  Yet the world seems to have changed little. Time moves forward. There are no chains upon us. The trees still grow and the flowers are blooming. And yet by staying inside we are not merely sitting and waiting for the government to give us the nod to go back to work— no, we are working now. By remaining focused and strong, by staying home even through the temptation to break our solitude—our fast—we are actively shaping the disease-free world we seek, just as this month Muslims are actively working for the blessings they desire.

So, let us count our blessings, and perhaps we might even use our solitude to write a poem or two.

Poets born in May:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012

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
 
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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.

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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.

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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!

“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