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 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!

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