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

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