Poetry Festival excitement

I am super excited to be reading at the Edmonton Poetry Festival today for Poetry Central 1 at City Hall, and honoured to be on the bill with four other poets I admire. The theme of this year’s fest is HomeWord, and I have tried to keep that in mind when I chose the pieces I want to share.

The fest actually kicked off yesterday morning with a BYOV (local poets organizing their own events at various city venues) called Poetry and Stillness. It was meditative and beautiful. The words were enriching. It gave me the focus and energy I need for the rest of the busy week.

Hoping to catch as many events as I can, and then finish with a workshop by Arleen Pare on Saturday. The Fest always puts on spectacular workshops.

Still plan to post the Poem-A-Day to finish out the month. If you’ve been reading any of my posts, thank you so much. And hopefully you’re poeming along too. The world needs your words. Poetry can be the force that makes us protect what’s important, and fight for the world we want. But Alice Walker said it better, with one of my favourite quotes about poetry:

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”

 

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PAD 2019 – Day 1

Today is the first day of National Poetry Month and the FIFTH consecutive year that I’ll be participating in the poem-a-day-challenge! I have been madly writing dark short fiction for the last few months, as part of a mentorship program with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (how lucky am I?!?!), but I decided to dust off the blog with some poetic blab too.

This year I’m aiming to write a poem every day in a local, closed group with other adventurous Stroll of Poets members, but when I can I will try to post here as well. I will also try to respond to the Poetic Asides prompt, or a combination if it works. Today’s prompts matched perfectly, with my local group suggesting “the streets at dawn” as a prompt and Poetic Asides asking for a “morning” poem. Clearly the darkness of all that horror fiction I’ve been writing and reading bled into today’s poem:

 

Morning Before Anyone Else

 

a kind of hollowness, the streets at dawn

apocalypse now — concrete world without people

 

rubble from winter melt desecrating this suburban crescent

windows of each house black and vacant, pupils of the dead

 

trees, budless and birdless in this limbo season

morning is a beginning and an ending too

 

uncovering all that lied in the dark

 

November PAD – Day 22

Today’s prompt asked for a ____ Day poem. All I could think of was “A Day”, and what a day it was, it was.

22.

A day seems so long when the sun’s still on its way, the coffee is hot, and you can almost see the blank hours ahead, like a long country road in summer. I was travel ready this morning, prepared and packed, motivation easy to reach in a mental carry on. How quick it all runs off course, when the phone rings, and crisis, small but real, is on the line. A different city, too far away to help, but close enough to think I should be helping. Somehow. The day is no longer enlarged by possibility, but crushed by those pointless words — wish and worry.

November PAD – Day 20

Today’s prompt asked for a “What I learned” poem. I suppose what I wrote is almost a found poem, discovered in dire tids and interesting bits on my morning email check and headline browse.

20.

The morning has barely broken, and already the internet enlightens me. Word of the day, ballooning, not blowing air and twisting latex into animal shapes,  but the work of a spider, when it throws out lines of gossamer, snags the breeze and sails on silk strands. Is there a name for the spot a spider lands? I try to invent one while I read more headlines: These popular toys could be putting your child in danger. Maybe the spot is called a cushion. Hate crimes in the United States have increased to a point not seen in recent history. Or the target. Charles Manson, murderous cult leader, dead at 83. Perhaps it’s just called safety. Impact of Arctic climate change being felt farther south, scientists say. It’s surely not Arcadia, but I’ll call it that anyway.

November PAD – Day 5

Five days in already! Time flies when you’re working words. Today’s prompt was to write a “self-destruct” poem. Hard not to go to the big picture of humanity place with the state of things, so I rolled with it.

5.

There are reasons to be hopeful. At this exact moment, a man in California is hearing his child laugh for the first time. Better, he’s the one making the child laugh. A woman is being pulled from the Mediterranean Sea, and will live. People are dancing in Helsinki. Imagination burns. Someone is inventing new ways to be or not to be at all. Lighting the slow burning match that sets off the self-destruct. The end of everything — except. Radioactivity subsides. Fauna revives. Flora grows. Winds blow. It lightens the heart, really, this universal resilience. Take a sip of tea. Dip your cookie. It all goes on just fine without us.

****

In other poetry news, I am so excited that my first ever haiga has been chosen as an honorable mention in the Second Annual Jane Reichhold Haiga Competition, photography category.  I took this photo at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village just outside Edmonton, Alberta. The poem didn’t come immediately, but I could tell those old gloves had a story or two. Please take a moment to read all the winning entries in this issue of Failed Haiku magazine, and see my haiga, as well as the judge’s comments below.

 

Comments from contest judge Linda Papanicolaou:

If senryu is about the human condition, old age can be an endless source of humor. This is a warm poem in the way it depicts an old man who retains the charisma of his younger days despite decrepitude. The image reinforces the poem nicely, illustrating line two with an image of boxing gloves. Its pale coloration evokes elderly skin while the empty space between the hanging gloves evokes missing teeth.”

Gratitude for public poetry – especially now

Something quite wonderful happened to me this summer. I was lucky enough to be one of four poets to have a poem featured on Edmonton transit as part of the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s Poetry Moves initiative. Knowing how many creative and talented writers there are in our community, I was surprised and flattered to be picked. Of course it’s great to have your work recognized, but the real reason I am excited to be part of Poetry Moves is because I believe so strongly in the value and need for poetry to be displayed in public places.

People are often skeptical of poetry because it can seem mysterious, elitist and even scary. How it scares and who it scares can differ.  Someone may dislike poetry because he or she has been made to feel, for a variety of reasons, that poetry is too intellectual or elusive. And then there are those who fear what poetry — and what all art — is capable of doing: inspiring hope. Public poetry is necessary both to welcome those who might not otherwise have access to poems, and to stick it to those who would rather not have poetry at all.

If you call yourself a poet, you’ve surely had the opportunity — I’d even say the pleasure — to defend poetry. Devoted as they may be to words, the poetry lover is still a  bit of a rare beast. So questions like, “What is the point of poetry?” or “Who really needs poetry?” or “Does poetry matter anymore?” do come up, even from fans of other forms of art and literature. A quick “poet quote” search provides countless examples of famous poets of the past, and not-so-famous-poets of the present, providing answers to these questions. Some of my favourites include:

“A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” – Salman Rushdie

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness” – Alice Walker

and perhaps my very favourite:

“Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.” – Pablo Neruda

These quotes have been especially resonant for me lately. Never before in my lifetime has the world seemed more in need of awakening, activism and awe. I do believe, as I always have, that exposure to poetry — and all forms of art — is one of the surest ways to spark the brain, open the heart and move the soul. It’s the reason art is so often hated and feared by those who possess, or strive to achieve, absolute power. Art promotes understanding and connects us, and for those seeking to divide and conquer, nothing is more dangerous than empathy and unity.

Though I am Canadian, a recent news story has caused me to spend a lot of time thinking bout that gigantic American symbol, the Statue of Liberty. During a White House briefing, one of Trump’s senior advisers,  Stephen Miller, got into a heated exchange with a CNN reporter about the meaning and importance of the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” which is inscribed on Lady Liberty. Many of us are familiar with the poems famous lines welcoming the world’s “tired … poor … huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to American soil. It’s easy to see why such a poem would be so threatening to the current US administration. And I was thrilled to see The Guardian newspaper publish smart, heartfelt and sometimes funny responses from 21 current poets.

As I began to read more about this story, and the origin of the poem, it was unsurprising to learn that self-described “alt-right” members have been calling for the poem’s removal for years. And I couldn’t have been more tickled to know that one sonnet — one public poem — was so very threatening to white supremacists. This is an example of a very famous poem inscribed on a very prominent symbol, but the potential exists for any public poem — even the seemingly non-political — to move people to action, understanding and hope.

This is why I am so grateful for programs like the one the Edmonton Poetry Festival continues to support. For many people riding the buses or the LRT this summer, the Poetry Moves picks might be the only contemporary poem they read this year. It might even be the only poem by a local writer that they ever read. There might be a line or a word that sparks a memory, an emotion, a bit of imagination in a reader that then ignites a desire to consume or create more art. That is how a poem can keep us all from going to sleep. That is how poetry can be an act of peace.

PAD 2017 – Day 23

Part of the fun of the poem-a-day challenge has been trying out new forms. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt called for a “double elevenie,” a form I’d never heard of before. I’m often drawn to the sparseness of micropoems, haiku & senryu, so I enjoyed trying to make something work within the form. I used the Writer’s Digest prompt of  writing a poem with a “Last ____” title as my starting point.

 

last call

 

boy

beer drinker

grimy dive joint

swallowing all his loneliness

again

 

girl

serving drinks

eyeing the boy

a bad idea, but

tempting

 

After my amazing day yesterday learning and writing with so many energetic poets at the Jane Munro workshop, I got to spend my evening listening to readings by current Edmonton Poet Laureate Pierrette Requier, Marilyn Dumont, and several great local poets who took part in the open-mic portion. Ms. Dumont is not just one of my favourite Alberta poets, she’s one of my favourite poets period. To see her read live is a huge treat, and she’ll be doing it again tonight with many other talented Indigenous writers as part of the final Edmonton Poetry Festival event, Beyond Reconciliation. Take a listen to her reading of “A Letter To Sir John A. McDonald” from her first book A Really Good Brown Girl.

But before that, local poets and poet fans get a chance to wrap-up the PoFest17 with the always delightful Cafe Readings. I’m so excited to be hosting one of the sessions at L’Espresso Cafe this year. If you’re in town, don’t let the snow win! Come downtown to take some poetry in!

PAD 2017 – Day 10

Travel was the theme of the Writer’s Digest prompt today. I clicked on that just after reading about another airline debacle, and another instance of physical force being used before reason or communication. I watched the video of a man being dragged from a flight, and listened to the outrage by some of the passengers. Yet, like people often do in these situations — like I would probably do in this kind of situation — people mostly sat by and watched. Interesting how we as humans are sometimes aggressive when we should be calm, and passive when we should take action.

Fly the Friendly Skies

 

Origins come up on planes.

Where are you from?

Are you flying home?

Stories offered, across

an armrest or an aisle.

A three-hour community,

at least for this leg.

The way we all lick pretzel salt

from our fingers, smile politely

at young parents wearing

twins on their bellies,

take our eyes off our books,

iPads or phones when the attendant

stands to talk about oxygen.

We breathe this air together,

recycled and flowing .

We stay sitting together,

when one of us is picked.

Dragged off before take-off.

 

The Alberta poem I thought of today manages to put a smart, political spin on the thrill of traveling to a place you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Check out Edmonton writer Ben Freeland’s “New Orleans is Clawing at My Bones.”