Peggy Roffey is a Londoner, transplanted from Niagara Falls and Sarnia. She started writing poetry as a teen-ager, and, inspired by Western's first writer in Residence, Margaret Avison, and professor Stan Dragland, kept interrupting her essay writing to scribble down random poems. She interrupted her Undergraduate studies after two years to thumb around Europe with a friend, having various adventures in England, Scotland, Germany, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Egypt. She came back to London, married, had two delightful red-haired children and resumed her studies. She wrote her Masters in English Lit thesis on the works of London Poet, Colleen Thibaudeau, using a big sheaf of poems gathered from multiple journals by Jean McKay, London writer and one of the founding editors of Brick magazine. In 1978, the three-year old Brick Books publishing concern (operating out of the McKay farmhouse in Ilderton) put out a small chapbook of Peggy's poems, called From the Medley. A couple of years later, Brick Books also published The Renga, a collaborative poem, written in the course of one day, by Peggy, David White (London poet and Fanshawe professor), Patrick Deane (now President of McMaster University), and Sheila McColm (married to Patrick and happy horse-farmer, weaver, and fiction-writer).
After she had completed the course work and comprehensive exams for her doctorate, Peggy's four-year Canada Council Fellowship ran out, so, on her own with her two children by then, she entered a world of work quite inimical to poetry-writing. She worked on the Philosophy of Science Journal at Western, then became Manager of Educational Services at St. Joseph's Health Centre. While there, she married London fiction writer and Fanshawe Professor, Roy Geiger, had baby #3, and finally finished her PhD thesis, Technology and Reverence: George Grant and Dennis Lee. In 2000, she became Director of Learning and Development at Western, focussed on leadership development and culture change. At the time, old Renga partner Patrick Deane was Chair of the English Department. He invited her to tip her work load into the crazy range by adding a contract teaching position in the Department. While leading her team in Learning and Development, and teaching Leadership courses to Vice-Presidents, Deans, Chairs, administrative Directors, Managers, and Supervisors, Peggy also taught 19 courses in Renaissance Literature, Introduction to Literature, Contemporary Canadian Literature, and Shakespeare. She semi-retired from her "day job" in 2011, retired from it fully in 2013, and finally retired from her role in the English Department in May 2015. After being retired for a whole 5 months, she took on a little part time role at her nearby church, writing parishioner interviews for the newsletter and generally stirring things up.
While working at Western, Peggy often ran into friend John Tyndall, London poet and Open Mike featured poet. John bugged her about starting to write poetry again and invited her to write a poem and come as a guest to his poets' group, which has been going strong for over 20 years. Finally, in 2012, she wrote a poem, the group liked it, and invited her to join. Reading and commenting on poems and exploring great ideas with the likes of John Tyndall, Patricia Black, Susan Downe, Julie Barry, John B. Lee, Mark Tovey , Jennifer Hedeges, D'vorah Elias, Mike Wilson, and Alice Braun, has been nothing short of an utter joy. In fact, it's such a rich experience, she has also joined another group with poets Christine Thorpe, David White, Ola Nowosad, Kelly McConnell, David Huebert, and Frank Beltrano. Peggy writes poems mainly to explore her past and to try to hold on to moments in her present before they get scattered by "the whirly-gig of Time."
From THE INTERVIEW
Open Mic: Does the phrase ‘Canadian writer’ imply any specific obligations?
Dr. Peggy Roffey: I’m big on obligations; I was raised Catholic. I’d take the “Canadian” out and just say writers in any genre have an obligation not to be fake. We have enough ephemeral crapola in our culture already.
O.M: What do you make of the statement that every poem is a self-portrait of its author?
P.R: Hmmm. “Self-portrait” suggests the author writes to project an image of her/himself – to perform a paper self. I think that enters in, for sure. Even if the poet isn’t writing lyric stuff, even if it’s not about the ‘self’, isn’t the poem the result of choices and mind-contents, and perspectives, and a certain sensibility AND that magical thing called a “voice” – all of which convey something of the person behind it?
To read Peggy's poems, the rest of the interview, and for event info, click here
London open mic, Nov. 4: as always, an evening exuberant with words and company
At nearly every open mic, something unexpected happens, the kind of thing people carry home carefully, and talk about afterwards with a glow and a smile. This time it wasn’t one of the open mic poets, as diverse and lively as they were, many with truly amazing poetry. And it wasn’t the featured poet, Stratford’s Charles Mountford, who delivered several of his famed dramatic monologues, each describing an intriguing woman, with a delivery that was no less so.
No, the unexpected treat of the evening was Gavin Stairs, who introduced Mountford. He replaced his wife Penn Kemp, who couldn’t make it due to a slow-healing torn ligament. Gavin had Penn's notes to read, but ad-libbed his way through them, to outbursts of laughter from the audience. His first words were, "I'm Penn Kemp." With that, everyone settled back and opened up to his calm and comfortable sense of humour.
The November open mic split some of its usual audience with our second open mic of the month, set for only three days later (Sat. Nov. 7th at the Marienbad Restaurant, 122 Carling St downtown) at the Words Fest Literary and Creative Arts Festival. But still we managed an audience of 32, a respectable number for any poetry event. Sixteen poets read at the open mic.
See slideshow of Nov. 4th event.
For our videos of past events: the playlists.
From Frank Davey Blog:
1886 Vancouver in Ashes
Vancouver Is Ashes: The Great Fire of 1886, by Lisa Anne Smith. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2015. 228 pp. $21.95.
I’ve been reading this book primarily because my late wife, born Linda McCartney, was a granddaughter of 1886 Vancouver fire survivors, and our son and daughter of course their greatgrandchildren. Linda possessed a copy of the cover photo of this book along with a photocopy of the February 1886 petition her grandfather, Bahamas-born Alan Edward McCartney (1851-1901), and uncle, pharmacist William Ernest McCartney (1853-1900), had signed asking the BC government to incorporate the south-shore Burrard Inlet areas then known Granville as the city of Vancouver. From her and her father (William Edward McCartney, born in Vancouver in 1887) I heard a few anecdotes from that period, including one recounted here by Lisa Smith of the surgical skeleton found in the charred ruins of William Ernest’s pharmacy that was for a while mistaken as one of those unfortunates killed in the June 1886 fire.
Because Alan Edward McCartney was a surveyor as well as an architect and telegraph engineer, and because it was CPR survey and land-clearing crews whose activities had contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, some family members – including Linda – have wondered whether he had been part of these. Lisa Smith makes it clear that he had not. At the outbreak of the fire she finds him in his brother’s pharmacy, working on the financial records of Hastings Mill, where he was employed as both engineer and accountant. He is soon attempting to rescue his brother’s stock by carrying it to the nearby shoreline of Burrard Inlet. Her last news of him that day sees him vainly warning the patrons of the Hole-in-the-Wall Saloon of the growing danger and being entrusted by Henry Abbott, the CPR’s General Superintendent for its western operations, with a purchase order for “all the pails you can find.” (My hometown of Abbotsford was named after Abbott.)
Smith recounts the story of the fire in a collage of similar multi-episode personal stories that are developing concurrently as the fire spreads. Most of these are longer and more dramatic than the one about Linda’s grandfather, and often involve families trying to save their children or
London Open Mic Poetry Night has its roster of features filled part way into the fourth season.
Dec. 2, 2015: Londoner Peggy Roffey
Feb. 2016: Western's Student-Writer-in-Residence, Helen Ngo, and 2
fellow senior English students
Mar. 2016: no name yet
Apr. 6, 2016: Steven McCabe, a Toronto poet, who regularly performs
public readings sharing the stage with dancers, musicians, and
multimedia presentations featuring his artwork.
May 2016: no name yet
June 2016: no name yet
POETRY AT THE WOMEN’S PRISON: WE NEED HELP.
We want to set up a poetry workshop and open mic in the women’s prison in Kitchener. We need a few more women with the right skills to help with this.
London Open Mic Poetry Night has been doing its own poetry events in London for over three years. We are now thinking of working out in the community as well. We would like to start a poetry workshop, and later possibly an open mic, in a prison, where the writing of poetry could do wonders for inmates, in terms of self-therapy and rehabilitation.
Inmates have very little that is positive in their lives. Yet they have as much creative ability as the average person on the outside. Writing poetry is something they could do with the little they already have: literacy and a pen and paper. And the creative energy involved in working on a poem could temporarily free their minds from their harsh environment. Holding poetry workshops could be a way of getting inmates interested in poetry, and then of mentoring them and keeping them moving forward. Unlike other workshops, which are meant to allow inmates to let their feelings out in a controlled environment but for only a limited period of time, poetry workshops do just the opposite. They promote creative work between workshops, when the poems would be written. This could positively affect the entire emotional and mental lives of inmates. Our next step would be to convince the institution to allow a poetry open mic for the general prison population. At this event, the new inmate poets who read their stories in poetic form to the applause of their fellow inmates might get a very rare boost to their self esteem.
We have the beginnings of a committee now, consisting of three senior female London poets, one of whom is also a psychotherapist. But we would welcome other women who have skills that could be of help, for instance social work, or a knowledge of institutions, especially the prison system. Anyone else who would like to help is certainly welcome.
Contact London Open Mic organizer Stan Burfield at email@example.com
Videos from the Nov. 4th, 2015 London Open Mic
See entire Nov. 4th, 2015 video playlist.
It includes featured poet Charles Mountford’ of Stratford, along with Gavin Stairs' introduction.
Mountford is followed on the playlist by separate videos of open mic readers Joan Clayton, Stan Burfield, Martin Hayter, David Stones, Shelly Harder, Jennifer Chesnut, Andy Verboom, Jayme Arcimboldo, Rocco, Paul Branton, Kelly Creighton, David Huebert, Janice McDonald.
PLEASE HELP US KEEP MAKING VIDEOS!!
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