Category Archives: Poetry

Communication: Avoid a Breakdown!

The Writer’s Midwife is currently undergoing changes! Ch-ch-ch-changes! However, we are still conducting local workshops as we design the online courses. If you would like to stay current with us, please go to http://www.thewritersmidwife.com/ and sign up for our emails. We are sending weekly newsletters with many awesome tips for writers and would love for you to stay part of the community!

 

Thank you for all of your support!

 

~Samantha

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Being Published. A Call to Celebrate.

There is cause for celebration for this midwife! This month alone not one but two of my poems were published. They have yet to emerge into the world but the approval has happened and one will appear online and one will be in the winter edition of one of my favorite literary magazines, Freefall. A lot of writers have told me along the way have minimized what it is like to be published. Almost as if it is a mere blip in life’s excitement meter and then it’s back to the grindstone. I agree that there is still writing to be done after a poem has grown wings and made its way into the world, but there is also reason to celebrate. It is a milestone. It feels like I’ve been put on the map and for some reason it makes me want to write more and more.

Perhaps the recognition is situated in that egoic place we all have, but it still feels good. I, for one am going to enjoy it to the fullest. After all, it’s all temporary anyway. I was also asked by the founding member of the RE: act collective in Calgary, Dymphny Dronyk, to be a featured reader in this years Poetry Shuffle. I was honoured. The Poetry Shuffle is a unique event where we start in one part of the city and make our way for 5 km to another part of the city, stopping along the way and listening to various poets at various venues. The theme this year was poems about Calgary and the flood. We followed our beloved Bow river all the way down to Inglewood where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet. Most of the places we read at were affected by the flood and at the time of some of the poems the construction on the river played like an orchestra in the background. For me, it was a pilgrimage and with every step we took, I fell more and more in love with this city. As we followed the river I felt a lot of healing taking place on many levels. It wasn’t just a poetry event.

Poetry shuffle reading 2 Poetry Shuffle reading

I had the pleasure of reading in the Central library that was flooded in June and opened it’s doors only a few short weeks ago. This particular venue had a microphone, which intimidated me a little, but it also had coffee and cookies so it all worked out in the end. I was so nervous the yoga teacher came out in me and I had to get the audience to take a couple deep breaths with me. They willingly obliged. As synchronicity would have it, I also had the pleasure of reading with my long-time mentor, Richard Harrison. I have been working with Richard for almost seven years now and he was my professor in many of my English classes in University. There were some moments that felt surreal for me.

Richard Harrison and the Central Library Crowd

Richard Harrison and the Central Library Crowd

Fall 2013 Poetry Shuffle 323

Today,  I am still riding the high from that event. I feel changed by the poetry community, by the river, by this beautiful city. I am so glad I am a part of it. Tonight let’s raise our glasses to milestones, to recovery, determination and community. Calgary, thank you for being my city.

The Bow 10th St. Bridge

The Bow 10th St. Bridge

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A Poetry Reading in yyc: Leave the Children at Home

Saturated with literature about women’s voices and a call of the return to wildish natures, I am questioning everything I believe about freedom of speech. Does my belief in women’s voices being heard have limits?

On Wednesday night I was invited to a local literary event about hearing the “feminine voice.” It was a collection of twenty local female poets, wine, cheese and soda water. Some of the poets were moving and breathtaking, some were hilarious and freeing. All spoke about varying  women’s issues. Toward the end, however, the talent took a turn. I happened to be at the event with my mom and her friend, who were blindsided by the closing act. The last story was a fringe piece about “fisting” or “brachiovaginal insertion”. I recommend you google it, dear reader, for I am not proceeding further on the definition. Besides the risk of lacerations or perforations, I was truly disturbed by the content of the story and not only did I have trouble sleeping that night, but I woke up thinking about it. Was I disturbed by the mere idea of this sexual act? No. I was disturbed  by the delivery. Whether autobiographical or not, I was disturbed by the fact that the character was in pain, I was disturbed by the fact that this act was committed by a strange man (a mechanic) who did this in a room full of onlookers while her “boyfriend” held her hand, and I was especially disturbed by the message being that women are capable of pushing through pain to reach pleasure. I’ll be honest, I certainly have my own personal issues surrounding that often slippery definition of consent, therefore, it may have coloured by experience and my opinions. However, when is a piece like that appropriate and does it count as art? When do audience and atmosphere play a factor into when and where a person reads something and when is it best for it to never see the light of day?

Photo via rapgenius.com

Photo via rapgenius.com

We are in very liberal times; the sexual revolution started fifty years ago. I am all for women’s freedom to express themselves sexually without judgement. Or am I? That piece was something that put a whole damper on my evening and well into the sleeping darkness of my psyche. Does this mean that I am all for women’s freedom? Do I believe in censorship? Could I have left and chosen not to listen? Absolutely. I would have had to be very disruptive because the chairs were so close together that I would have had to sit on someone’s lap and awkwardly step on people’s toes, hitting them in the head with my purse on the way out. Not to mention, a small group like that would have noticed my abrupt exit and I wasn’t looking for that kind of attention. So I listened. Without consent.

The women I was with were equally disturbed, but chose to believe that the content of her piece was fiction. I’ve talked to quite a few of my writer-friends about this issue and they all agree that it comes down to time and place. There is a place to read work that may be deemed as inappropriate. It is not at a seniors home, it is not at the Baptist church down the street, and perhaps it may not even be in a quiet, classy book store in downtown Calgary. My advice: survey the room before you read something questionable.

Photo via stopabortioncensorship.wordpress.com

Photo via stopabortioncensorship.wordpress.com

Ultimately, this was a piece about rape culture. This was a piece about how patriarchy is still so prevalent that we insert things into our vaginas by the mere calming voice of a man telling us to breathe through the pain. None of these things were addressed in the piece. What does this say about women? Where were the women’s voices that night? The ones that thought this was inappropriate? Perhaps, drowned out by the polite clapping which ensued afterwards? I believe censorship causes blindness. However, in this case there were no political undertones or feminist commentary that whispered between the lines. Alice Osborn, an American poet who has published three books of poetry, has tips before reading at a poetry reading. Number one is about thinking hard about your audience and what they will appreciate. Do I think a everything a woman (or anyone else, for that matter) writes should be heard? My conclusion is simply, no.

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Poetry Does Float

During my vacation in Penticton, B.C., I met a woman who owned a clothing store and after a small hiatus from writing, she pointed me in the direction of The Courage to Create by Rollo May. I was able to get this 70’s gem from the library and am in the midst of carefully reading it since it is in rough condition. Rollo May speaks of the ways we limit ourselves and how we can stop. I haven’t read that far into it, so I don’t have the answers yet. However, the desire to release any limitations in my writer-self has brought some strange experiences my way…

I was fortunate enough to volunteer at When Words Collide, an annual Calgary literary event. As I spent four hours at the Alberta Writer’s Guild information table, not only was I surrounded by delicious looking books, but I was able to meet many interesting people/authors while I was there. One of the women who greeted me was a poet and she bravely asked if she could recite a poem for me. I willingly obliged and she began to read me a poem titled, “Body Image”. I have had my fair share of issues on this topic and here before me was a woman reciting to me with everything she had about how she was reclaiming power over her curves. I grinned from ear to ear as I listened and gave her wild applause when she was finished. She had brought together an vulnerable topic, brought forth through a vulnerable form of art and she walked up to a total stranger and expressed herself fully. I felt as though her poem was speaking directly to me, and I made a connection with her that day. We exchanged information and she graciously gave me her published book of poetry.

My view at When Words Collide

My view at When Words Collide

Yesterday, I was able to go to a free all-day workshop with our poet laureate, Kris Demeanor. It was called, Poetry Floats. My friend notified me about it at the last minute and the Universe conspired to get me there, including the availability of babysitters. I spent all day writing poetry, talking about form and was able to release it to the fountains at Olympic Plaza. I was in the company of a variety of people who had life stories better than fiction. A room full of people searching for creative freedom, and at the end of the day, one of them approached me. She was someone who translated poetry from the 1500’s into English and set it to classical music. She had her training in classical music and works at the conservatory in the museum. She asked me how long I had been writing and said she could tell that my work was more mature than the others she thought. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised, since I thought everyone in the room had amazing talent. Earlier in the day, she had mentioned a quote that said:  ” To finish a painting is to kill it.” She also said that there was a tradition where ladies of a particular culture leave one mistake in the quilts they make as a gesture to be humble before God. In that moment, I realized I had been trapped in perfectionism. Perhaps the poems I write will never be finished and that is OKAY! It was a revelation. All of this time I have been trying to meet the caliber of the other poetic voices that float around in my brain that aren’t mine. All of this time I have been trying to perfect each poem, instead of getting it to where it asks to be. Right now I am abandoning “not good enough” and transforming it into “this is art”, “this is enough”, “I feel great creating!”.  In little more than a day, this has opened up a part of me that is filled with poetry and I cannot get the words out fast enough like a flood, and you know, poetry does float.

Poetry Boat Stays Afloat

Poetry Boat Stays Afloat

NOTE: Registration for our workshops is still OPEN! If you want to register, comment on this blog or email us OR if you want more information check out the workshops tab on the home page.

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YOGETRY: Where Yoga and Poetry Collide!

Yogetry is here!!! The new workshop has a home at Samadhi Yoga and Wellness Centre! You’re invited to join us and get your downward dog on to the sounds of Leonard Cohen. After Savasana, we will traverse down the poetic rabbit hole with some writing exercises. This workshop is open to anyone regardless of your yoga or writing experience. See the poster below…

Yogetry workshop

Yogetry workshop

 

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What the heck is Poetry?

When Bob Stallworthy graciously spoke to the Skin  & Stories workshop this past Monday, he really cemented the magic of poetry for me. Bob Stallworthy is a poet, although he was speaking to all genres. Naturally, the first question that flew his way was, “What the heck is poetry, anyway?” With that question I immediately was transported to this place of wondering how I would write poetry if I had no idea how. More importantly, how do you teach poetry to someone who has never dabbled in the genre? After pondering this question for some time, I realized one of the most important things a person can do who wants to write poetry is to READ it! High Schools have ruined many future poets with their boring worksheets on “elements of poetry”: personification, metaphor, simile and alliteration. Poetic devices. No one reads poetry and thinks, “Oh! There is some personification!” Unless that person sets out in search of those devices, they don’t usually surface that way. Poetry works as a whole. Poetry is an experience and we get the pleasure of seeing a poem work the magic of language.

Poetry has been one of those forms that I naturally gravitated towards but never knew what I was doing. Even now, when I workshop a poem (get it critiqued),  people will notice something such as a line break or the placement of a word that created an effect I had no idea was there. My unconscious mind wraps itself around poetry quite easily and it isn’t until I rework a poem that I get to ask myself what just happened.

 

Currently, I am  reading a book called, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield which is indispensable when attempting to ask the question: What is poetry? Hirshfield defines it as, “the clarification and magnification of being.” My mentor, Richard Harrison, would define it as “the dramatization of a voice” whereas, a short story as the “dramatization of a character” and the novel as the “dramatization of a world.” For me, poetry is less about emotion and feeling and more about a focus and a dance with language. Poetry gives you very little space to move around in, so everything has a purpose. Every comma, period, line break and combination of words had its own meaning that also works with the poem as a whole. Rhythm emerges in the cadence of the speaker’s voice. Lastly, it is about experience of an event which Bob pointed out to us. I always look at poetry as a ride through someone else’s gaze, someone else’s lens. I get out of my own head for a while when I read poetry. I want to be along for the ride!

If you are attempting to write poetry for the first time, try to abandon everything you were taught in high school and write about an experience…I have the most fun when it is seemingly inconsequential such as your fish swimming around on the mantle or my baby girl kissing the spines of books in the shelf. These apparently insignificant memories trudge up meaning when set to poetry…you might be surprised what you find.

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For the Love of Canadian Poetry

Last week my writer’s group surprised me with a surprise poetry reading in honor of my University graduation. The members of the group brought my favorite poets as well as their favorite poets and I noticed something startling. Almost every poetry book that was brought was Canadian. I have often pondered this idea of what we represent as a culture and as I stared at the poetry books strewn across the table and listened to the words ease out of the tongues, I knew. Canadian poetry has a specific flavor that I cannot quite pinpoint. It is almost as if it is close to the ground. Earthy and colloquial. A language and cadence that reminds me of wheat fields, simplicity and northern breezes.

 

One of the members of the group, a children’s writer, whose first language is not English had some trouble reading the likes of Ann Scowcroft. It is almost as if she expected the rhythm to zig instead of zag. The key she needed to read it was to just let it flow and allow the language to take her where it wanted to go. As I scan around my house, my poetry section is overwhelmingly Canadian. Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Rumi are a few names that stand out among a sea of Canadiana spines. Because I have trouble figuring out what makes Canadian poetry Canadian, I decided to create a mosaic poem province to province, coast to coast and maybe you could help me figure it out:

In deep sand a beetle shoulders

her way toward paradise

I think moth and the Miller moth

appears out of my mind

it sits on the kitchen windowpane

between pieces of smutty wings

I’ve smashed on the glass.

Maybe it was the way we became animals.

The rusty smell of turning meat on the grill,

the private urges of the bedroom, memory

the summer heat and the women arriving

in his truck night after night.

 

Obviously, if you’re suffering from what that old Negro woman

in one of Faulkner’s stories called “the mizry,”

better stay away from the hives.

Canadian bees, especially (like Canadian men), are comfortable

with three periods only (and occasionally a fourth or fifth in the spring),

but not one of these is menstrual.
The Mackenzie’s mouth became

it’s own channels.

The beluga whales swam into the

delta waters

as if to watch a river boat wade

out to salt sea.

 

We could ascend

For a sky dive drive, convertible down

Down the west coast fault line

Big Sur, down the magnetic incline

For a joy ride on the edge of tectonic cataclysm

Abysm deep as a sorcerer’s paroxysm

At eleven million miles a minute

We could hang onto precarious cliffs like a couple

of unresolved endings.

India opened zero and gods

crawled out. Then everything else

fell in. Became, in falling, infinitely lovely, lit

with presence. Light in the still-life, spark in the field

we angle toward, odd-numbered

in a wonky sorrow, sight-lined to the vanishing point

with no end to speak of.

 

Everything about the place

demands affection…

In Edmonton, they are cursing

ancestors and old Volkswagens, shovelling

themselves into cardiac events.

In Churchill,

snow is an animal.

 

That hollow, hurried sound

feet on polished floor

and in the dollar store

the clerk is closing up

and counting loonies trying not to say,

I hate Winnipeg!

and your geezerly sofa slouch and snore bring to mind

Greek men sunning themselves on

Parc Athena benches.

 

In the long open Vancouver Island room

sitting by the indoor avacados

where indoor spring light

falls on the half-covered bulbs.

When I think travel, I think shed–

As in this skin into which I pour my life

by drop or downfall away away with the day-to-day,

the uninhabited rituals of morning,

the neediness of even a coffee cupm

with the hardened dust of fine grounds

just beneath its rim where milk foam lifted

but did not deliver them to your waiting mouth this morning.

 

This is the way of heaven and I try not to forget

as two miniscule clouds drift by     almost motionless

carrying their single glass of water        afraid to spill it.

In close-up, and in memory,

the tree frog wasn’t really credible,

a translucent elf from some outer space,

splayed, finger pads extended,

on the porch screen. I gaped at it,

it gaped into the wide night.

The tao that can be spoken

is not the true Tao: so the sage,

who probably did not exist, and with

exquisite paradox, began.

I slipped off to fetch the camera

and when I got back it was gone.

 

An offering of my collection. A mosaic poem. Stanzas from Patrick Lane, Lorna Corzier, Rosemary Griebel, Tim Bowling, Robert Kroetsch, Sheri-d Wilson, Karen Solie, The Weakerthans, Carmine Starnino, Michael Ondaatje, Ann Scowcroft, Don Domanski and Don McKay respectively. Perhaps you, too, can see why I devour the Canadian stuff.

xo
Samantha

 

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