Sunday, February 04, 2018

2018 Winter Edition of Big Pond Rumours e-zine


The 2018 Winter Edition of the Big Pond Rumours e-zine published by Sharon Berg in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada  is now available online.

I am glad to be present in this issue with six poems from a cycle of poems called “Barn” – they were written for a poetry reading on “Canadian rural poetics” organized by Mr. Conrad DiDiodato.

The imaginary barn I chose as a backdrop for my poems is located in an iconic winter-to-spring transitional season with which so many of us in Southern Ontario are familiar:

It's a wet, late spring that makes its way
across Lake Ontario through freezing rain,
barely unravelling snow from tree tops.

The six poems in the "Barn" cycle are:

I- Barn Door
 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The "Canada Bowl"

 The Gardiner Museum, located at 111 Queen's Park in Toronto is Canada's national ceramics museum.




The museum  houses an impressive collection of fine porcelain and ceramics that spans centuries and civilizations - from the Ancient Americas to modern and contemporary ceramics. 

On the first floor of the museum, by the entrance into the European Procelain of Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries Collection, the "Canada Bowl" is on display.




The "Canada Bowl" - front view 

 It is a Meissen porcelain bowl, manufactured around 1724-25, and painted by Johann Gregor Höroldt which depicts some of the earliest scenes of Canada on porcelain - according to the museum's presentation.

It is also one of the museum's most prized artifacts.

As noted in the presentation - the scenes on the "Canada Bowl" are inspired by engravings of Canadian clothing at that time  published by Carel Allard in 1695. 






The "Canada Bowl" - view from the back. 

On the same floor there is an interesting  collection of porcelain exhibits that bring to life other images of past centuries in Canada:



The Gardiner Museum is open on July 1st and the admission is free on this date - yet  another opportunity to celebrate Canada 150!


Monday, June 12, 2017

The Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Reading - 2017



Telus Center for the Performing Arts, Koerner Hall, Toronto

Koerner Hall in Toronto has been the venue for the Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlist Reading in June 2017, as it has been the case in previous years.




            Canadian winner Jordan Abel (center) and International winner Alice Oswald (left)  arriving at the event.

For those interested to learn more about this prize,  here is the link to  -> The Griffin Poetry Prize website which contains a wealth of information.  




It indicates that The Griffin Poetry Prize is the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in English.

Ushered in with trumpet sounds, heralds of a much aniticipated poetry gathering, the audience streamed in for a quick pause in the hallways, whose glass walls project outward into a verdoyant evening universe.




A glass of wine or champagne in hand, wandering off into the small balcony while quickly reading through this year's Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology - a fitting introduction to the readings. 



I was part of a cohort of spectators that received a free copy of 2017 The Griffin Poetry Prize anthology - and I would like to say 'Thank You" to the organizers for it.
(My copy has grown dog-ears and it will continue to do so.)




The first part of the readings was dedicated to the four international finalists:

Jane Mead
Donald Nicholson - Smith for the translation (from French) of the poetry of Abdellatif Laâbi 
Alice Oswald 
Denise Riley

After the intermission poet Frank Bidart was The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award. 

Then it was the turn of the three Canadian finalists to showcase their poems:

Jordan Abel
Hoa Nguyen
Sandra Riley

It was an animated evening, with a keen audience that  reacted to words and lines in the poems and to the overall dramatic effect of the performance. 

Here are a few lines from Injun, a book of poetry by the Canadian winner, Jordan Abel:

"he played injun in gods country
where boys proved themselves clean
...
he played english across the trails
where girls turned plum wild

garlic and strained words 
through the window of the night. "

- From Injun by Jordan Abel.

And here is a quote from Alice Oswald's book Falling Awake - the winner in the International category:

"This is the day the flies fall awake mid-sentence 
and lie stunned on the window-sill shaking with speeches
only it isn't speech it is trembling sections of puzzlement which 
break off suddenly as if the questioner had been shot 

this is one of those wordy days."

- From Flies by Alice Oswald. 

Somehow, after the reading,  it did not feel right to go straight home. 

Instead, I followed other fellow spectators,  walking east on Bloor St.  going gently into that good night. 




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jack pines, the poetry of Horace & three lessons learned



Jack pines are a common occurrence in landscapes that come into focus and then fade away. 



And their raggedy, weird solemnity was made famous in the  iconic painting "The Jack Pine" by Canadian painter Tom Thomson

On spring mornings, Jack pine shapes align well with Horace's verses Diffugere nives  (Ode VII, book IV).

Here is the beginning of this poem, a poem which for centuries has run havoc in the classical departments of universities around the globe:

"The snow has fled, grass is coming back to the fields 
and leaves to trees,
the earth is making its change. Rivers are going down
and flowing between the banks."

from Diffugere nevis by Horace  - in the translation of  David West.

Diffugere nevis is a poem of serenity and change.

It's also a poem that can be hugely motivating.

Here are three lessons that we can take away from it:

1. Everything changes either at a moment's  notice or in a more predictive pattern. 
Serenity and reflection help us understand change and deal with it. 
Reading poetry (of any ilk) enhances our ability to meditate. Through its intrinsic rhythm, poetry contributes to balance and creativity.
We are able to pace ourselves, gain inner elegance and lightheartedness.

2.  Everyone has limits
Understanding and accepting our limits frees us up from the pressure of everyday day life.
It makes us resilient. 
Be stubborn in the face of adversity, your detractors and your own limits - they make you stronger.

3. Mental toughness should be with us every second
Mental toughness is about clarity of purpose and the will to push forward. 
Reading poetry helps disconnect us from the extraneous and focus on the essential. 

- And yes, let's fit the jack pines somewhere in between.



 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

A Morning with Squirrels


A relaxing weekend morning.

Two close acquaintances drop by for coffee and share the following story, which I thought to translate.


The Parrot and the Squirrel - a fable by Mr. Jean de La Fontaine


A young parrot was talking more than a woman
and sometimes he was even more eloquent.
"The renegade," they whispered, "is sure to have a soul,
No doubt he can speak with his eyes."

Although his cackle was much admired
the parrot did not have the gift - so rare -
to be liked.
Everyone hated the parrot of the house.

An agile squirrel,
hopping and tumbling about
- almost a clever monkey -
made himself much loved by all,
including the marmot in the yard.

The parrot said:
"Dear fellow,
How do you go about being liked?"
"I beg you - tell me your secret."

The squirrel, who thought the parrot pathetic,
said wisely:

"My chatty friend,

I'm never feared,
I'm playful

- and always mute."



Credit: Wikipedia





Sunday, April 23, 2017

On The Bat's Back


My day was supposed to take on a well planned course.

But here it is - thanks to social media & compliments of Twitter - it is now going in a completely different direction. 

It's going "on the bat's back".

Checked Twitter this morning pour prendre l'air, as the French say - or in layman's terms - just to beat a bit around the virtual bushes and found out that #ShakespeareSunday is trending. 

It is Shakespeare's anniversary's today, as it has constantly been over the past 400 years this time of the year...so why all the fuss that suddenly stirs me up?

Nothing material. 
Somewhere in between my organized list of to do's for the day and the focus needed, a truant disposition (Horatio's words in Hamlet) has inserted itself in my brain and viciously flooded it with these lines:


On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily:
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.”
(The Tempest, Act V. Scene I).

My chores and timelines for the day are beginning to fade. 

I am on the bat's back now.

Flying high.

Merrily, merrily. 




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