Oxygen for an Accidental Poet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gwen Tuinman

June 2019

“May” we announce our contest!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Happy May, and happy writing!

Renée M. Sgroi, President

April’s blog blooms

What is a blog? Why do we do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And April.

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the League of Canadian Poets for events: 

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