Friday, April 17, 2015

An honourable mention in Mayor’s Poetry Challenge

Results from the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge have been announced and my entry “Eight stanzas for Radial Trail” has picked up an honourable mention! As of yesterday I knew that meant attending Hamilton’s Council meeting on April 22nd and meeting Mayor Fred Eisenberger, but today’s media announcement revealed so much more. 

John Terpstra has won for his poems “The Highway That Became a Footpath” and “Giants”, while other honourable mentions went to Chris Pannell (for “Night Slides”) and Paddy Chitty (for “Burlington Heights”). It’s hard to describe what it means to be grouped alongside poets whose work I pride on my bookshelves, so I'll just say I'm humbled and grateful.  

Since I won’t be speaking at Wednesday’s event, I’d like to thank Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for issuing this nation-wide challenge, Fred Eisenberger for answering it, Pam Mulholland and everyone at City Hall for running it, and the jury (comprised of Paul Lisson, J.S. Porter, Kerry Cranston-Reimer and Amanda Jernigan) for making my National Poetry Month.

If you’d like a refresher on what the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge is all about, click here. Otherwise feel free to read today's full media release right here. (Updated 04/21/15: More information on the finalists.)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Curious links for April 2015 (NPM15 edition)

1) Happy National Poetry Month! April is always brimming with opportunities to connect and share in our love of literature. Among those celebrating (formally or casually): AngelHousePress is curating some beautiful visuals under the banner, the New York Public Library is rolling out 30 Days of Poetry (wherein library staff are recorded reading poems they’ve selected), Chaudiere Books is publishing new work every few days, Apparatus Magazine is posting 30 inspiration prompts and then there are countless others taking the poem-per-day challenge in various ways (including myself). I reckon the best way to navigate National Poetry Month is by following hashtags like #npm15, #nationalpoetrymonth, #poetrymonth and #NaPoMo for an unpredictable hodgepodge of videos, poems and encouragement. 

2) Locally, National Poetry Month culminates with gritLIT, Hamilton’s Readers and Writers Festival, which takes place April 16th through 19th! It'll be another stellar line-up of readings, workshops, lectures and events, featuring the likes of Kathleen Winter, Richard Swift and Christine Fischer Guy, among others. Just as exciting are the pre-festival partner events, such as Hamilton Poetry Centre’s reading with Gary Barwin and Deanna Young on April 9th at Homegrown Hamilton, and Lit Live’s roster on April 12th, including Janet Hepburn, Michael Lista, M.A.C. Farrant, Stephen Smith and Elizabeth Bachinsky. I've barely scratched the surface, so check out the full itinerary here.

3) But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Poetry Month is young and gritLIT has barely warmed up. There’s still time to submit a poem for the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge, a project spearheaded by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi that selects local poets to read their  winning poetry during a city council meeting in April. So far nearly 70 communities around Canada have enlisted, so read the submission rules and apply by your city’s deadline.

4) BookThug's Spring 2015 launch is happening April 23rd at Toronto's The Garrison, celebrating new books by Mike Steeves, Pearl Pirie, Carellin Brooks, Lesley Battler, Daniel Karasik, Jimmy McInnes, Jake Kennedy and kevin mcpherson eckhoff. Full details are here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The sulk crow cull (#NPM15)

I was first drawn to poetry at the age of sixteen. Not through Plath or Cohen, although they came later. It was poetry’s elemental nature — words arranged on paper — that provided my first spark of interest; a means to channel predictable, teenage concerns into needed affirmations and defences. The results were no less predictable: pages, then whole volumes, of horrid verse. 

Writing was as much about getting to know myself as it was creating a “self”, a poet with a capital P. Although fuelled by pretensions that seemed novel at the time, writing became a not-quite secret dimension in my life. Instead of playing video games all night as I’d done before, I’d stretch over my bed, piecing together stanzas about girls. I’m grateful I developed confidence so effortlessly in this regard, given how low my self esteem was in virtually every other category, because had I known the lousy state of my writing, I would’ve stopped.

Fast forward another sixteen years and I’m faced with all of that old poetry — rough, finished and abandoned drafts of six collections. My adolescence, in about 200 poems. Handwritten in the days before I had a computer. Half-resurrected in the same storage container once stacked in my parents’ basement. I’m too paranoid to put five years of navel-gazing in the recycle bin, but just as unwilling to bury their incriminating bricks in yet another basement. It isn’t a matter of being unsentimental but rather keeping things tidy, current. 

I’d been working to self-publish a manuscript of marginalized prose-poems for National Poetry Month, but it isn’t ready. So instead I’ll undertake these journals and post an erasure poem, based solely on my teen vocabulary, for each day in April. This, too, may seem like navel-gazing on an almost meta scale, but I see these budding scraps as small commemorations to the ego, manic and unfulfilled. Overblown reflections distilled to thirty-something indifference and then, finally, released. 

For the first week, at least, I’ll cull from the period of 1999 through 2001 — the most challenging source material because I’d barely discovered imagery. This early stuff is also the most foreign, a fortuitous cheat. The idea of journeying into my younger self, as well as it’s “self”, brings no satisfaction. But I believe anything worth keeping for sixteen years deserves to be utilized, somehow. 

I’d walk away from this, if I were you.