Debbie Okun Hill confesses that she once went to a Halloween party dressed as a bookworm so she could sit in a corner and read.
“Call me an introvert with a thirst for knowledge. For the first five years of my life, I lived on the prairies in a three-room house with no running water or working toilet. That serene life (books, words, open rural spaces and unscheduled play) is something I still treasure. My interest in poetry developed much later.”
What started as a writing career in print journalism and public relations in her twenties and thirties has evolved into a poetic journey spanning over the last eleven years.
Today, she is a professional poet currently on tour with Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) her first full collection of poetry by a trade publisher. She is the Past President of The Ontario Poetry Society, a Member of The League of Canadian Poets, The Writers Union of Canada, Sarnia’s AfterHours Poets and the recipient of two Writers’ Reserve grants from the Ontario Arts Council. She loves promoting the work of other writers and for eight years she has been a co-host of a monthly open mic event in southwestern Ontario.
To date, over 290 of her poems have been published in over 110 different publications/websites including the Literary Review of Canada, Descant, Existere, Vallum, The Windsor Review, and Other Voices in Canada plus Mobius, The Binnacle, Thema, and Still Point Arts Quarterly in the United States. She has read her work throughout Ontario including the Fringe Stage of the 2011 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival and during the 2012 PoeTrain Express/Spring Pulse Poetry Festival in Cobalt. Several of her poems have won awards.
In addition to her Black Moss Press book, she has two chapbooks published by Beret Days Press and is part of EnCompass I, a 75-page anthology featuring the work of five Canadian poets. Between touring, she hopes to polish two new manuscripts. Next spring she will be editing Mindshadows, a 2015 membership anthology for The Ontario Poetry Society.
Follow her website/blog Kites Without Strings and on twitter @OkunHill.
Interview with Debbie
(Interview by Kevin Heslop for London Open Mic Poetry Night)
H: On the homepage of your website, Kites Without Strings, your make reference to Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. What does the phrase mean to you, and what compelled you to take “that road less travelled”?
O.H: For me, life is more about the journey than the destination. We can set goals and work hard towards them, but often along the way we encounter a fork in the road which forces us to rethink our original plans. In his poem “The Road Not Taken”, Frost writes about “Two roads diverged in a wood” but if you extrapolate this idea, and think outside the box, there are actually more than two paths a traveller can follow. For example, a person can turn right or left but an adventurous soul might sit on a stone fence, build a wood cabin and remain content with an inward journey without taking another physical step. Or she may forge a new route through the woods, dig a tunnel down to China or climb up a white pine tree and explore the skies. He might even go back home the way he came. For me, those are the roads or options that are often forgotten. Too often we see the world in black and white when in reality it is filled with not only shades and light of grey but also a multitude of colour. Look close, a leaf isn’t just green but includes streaks of brown, yellow, red and blue. I believe highly creative individuals like artists, poets, philosophers, and musicians are better problem solvers because they are not afraid to explore those roads less travelled. As for what compelled me to embark on this poetic journey, I would have to say it started off as strong nudge by a local writers’ group. For decades I hated poetry and yet, for the last 11 years, I’ve been a full-time poet. Today, I like to advocate: if you don’t like poetry, you just haven’t found the right poem yet.
Click here to read Debbie's poems and the rest of the interview
All poetry events in Toronto
We are now posting a list of all poetry events taking place in Toronto in the coming week, each week. In case you'll be there. Check our Upcoming Poetry Events page.
But what does it mean? See James' blog for his descriptions of how his drawings, including this one, evolve, and how he creates them.
New Poems by our Bloggers
i haven't heard anyone
use that word
in ages Read more
I wanted to check my privilege at the door
I wanted to check my privilege at the door
but when I realized
the door had been hung by male hands,
complications, needless to say, arose. Read More
When I was young
I wondered why the old
would never tell
what old life would be like,
but now, having arrived, I know.... Read More
From Stan Burfield Blog:
#1. House Fly Dancing to Mozart
(This is the first in a series of little stories of leaving hearth and home.)
I don’t know how old I was. Maybe four. Maybe five or six. I was sitting on the couch in the living room, feeling totally safe and cozy. My mother was sitting close on one side and my dad on the other. Mom was probably just sitting with Dad, who was reading his Braille, his fingers moving across the page and his eyes looking up into the warm air. I was feeling so good because I had never sat between them before. I know I hadn’t because I can still remember seeing the space there and wanting to sit in it, hesitating, then finally actually doing it. Read More
A nearly full house of 58 showed up Nov. 5th to listen to the poetry open mic and featured poet Julie Berry. For the second London Open Mic event in a row there were very few empty chairs in the terrace of Mykonos Restaurant.
The evening opened with the music of the folk/jazz/blues trio called The Aforementioned, consisting of lead singer/composer Noelle Hall with Dean Thompson and Helen Thompson.
Susan Downe, our featured poet from one year ago, introduced St. Thomas poet Julie Berry who read from her two collections to rapt attention and laughter from the audience. Her descriptions of school teaching and small town and rural life managed to combine simplicity, mystery and humour with a powerful sense of poetry.
Fifteen open mic poets from all ends of every spectrum read late into the evening, punctuated by the sound of forks on plates of Greek food and the sipping of wine.
Photos by Brie Berry.
Julie Berry interview and poems
Musicians’ bio for The Aforementioned
UPCOMING POETRY EVENTS
IN THE LONDON AREA:
(See the page, Upcoming Poetry Events, for more details.)
Nov. 24 to 30th: All poetry events In Toronto
Sun. Nov. 30th: FRANK DAVEY BOOK LAUNCH, WITH THREE OTHER AUTHORS.
Where: Mykonos Restaurant at 572 Adelaide St. North, London
Hosts: Mansfield Press publisher/editor Denis De Klerck and editor Stuart Ross.
When: Starting at 7:00 pm
Frank Davey will read from his new collection of poetry, as Mansfield Press launches books by four of its authors, including poets Nelson Ball and Laura Farina, and novelist Christine Miscione.
Tuesday, December 2: Penn Kemp's Gathering Voices Radio Show on chrw radio
When: 6:30-7:00 pm (R. December 9, 2014,
6:30-7:00 am). Featuring Trieze, a CD by Vivian Houle, BC sound
artist. As vocalist and improviser, Vivian deconstructs words into
sounds on remarkable journeys that include jazz vocals as well. With
Peggy Lee (cello), Lisa Miller (piano), Chris Gestrin (analog
keyboards) and Jesse Zubot (violin).
Wed. Dec. 3rd: London Open Mic Poetry Night
The featured poet: Debbie Okun Hill will read at 7:00, then a Q&A.
Open mic: 15 poets will read for 5 minutes each.
Where: The Mykonos Restaurant at 572 Adelaide St. North, London
RAFFLE PRIZES: Anyone who donates receives a ticket for a raffle prize.
More events coming: Email me any poetry-related event, any kind of poetry, it all goes here. firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to know what this is all about,
check out this Yodeller interview with organizer Stan Burfield
Interview for The London Yodeller (Jan. 31, 2014 issue) by Jason Dickson, writer, novelist (three novels published to date), and bookseller at Attic Books.
J.D. What inspired you to start a reading series?
S.B. Shyness! That may sound contradictory, but it’s not. My wife and I sold our flower shop and moved to London in 2008. I decided it was finally time to do something about my shyness, which had caused me endless problems all my life. I had tried to deal with it before by going on extremely difficult adventures by myself, to toughen up, so to speak, but I eventually realized that did more harm than good. So now, being semi-retired and having more time, I started going in a social direction. I joined a poetry workshop, then tried to read my poems in front of others when I had the chance, which wasn’t easy, to say the least. Anyway, I accumulated a couple poetry friends and we went to an open mic reading in Sarnia. On the way home I wondered why they could have a monthly open mic in the town of Sarnia and there wasn’t one in London, which is so much larger. The answer was simply that someone had to organize it. My two friends didn’t have the time, And I thought there was no way I could do it because of my shyness. But then, on second thought, what the heck, if I don’t do something drastic now, at 61 years of age, I never will. So I took the bit between my teeth. How did it work out for me as therapy? Well, now, after our first one and a half seasons, I can get in the elevator in our building and CALMLY chat with people as we go up. For the first time in my life.
J.D. Where was the first night held?
S.B. They’ve always been at Mykonos Restaurant. A local poet, Frank Beltrano, showed it to me as a possible venue. I had been searching through dingy bars and so on, and as soon as I saw this place I knew it was perfect. It couldn’t be improved upon. In good weather it’s a large square terrace open to the outside at the back. In winter it’s enclosed and well-heated. Beautiful Greek atmosphere. The tables hold up to 65. (We’ve been averaging about 45 lately.) Read more....
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Frank Davey: new interview and poems, for Nov. 30th book launch
Frank Davey will read from his new collection of poetry Nov. 30th at Mykonos Restaurant, as Mansfield Press launches books by four of its authors, including poets Nelson Ball and Laura Farina, and novelist Christine Miscione.
The four are beginning a tour of Southern Ontario. Davey will read from Poems Suitable for Current Material Conditions, Laura Farina from Some Talk of Being Human and Christine Miscione from her novel Carafola. (Nelson Ball won't be at this event. Someone else will present his poetry collection, Some Mornings.)
Mansfield Press publisher/editor Denis De Klerck and editor Stuart Ross will host the event, which begins at 7:00 pm.
FRANK DAVEY: Current resident of Strathroy, Ont., poet, former Coach House Press editor, co-founder of TISH newsletter in 1961, co-founder of e-mag Swift Current in 1984, editor of poetics journal Open Letter, 'author' of Bardy Google in 2010, author of the tell-much biography of bpNichol, aka bpNichol 2012. Davey, in Sept. 2014, was elected to the Royal Society of Canada, "the highest honour a scholar can achieve in the arts, humanities and sciences." The Royal Society said Davey is "an internationally recognized scholar and a leading figure in exploring alternative and experimental theories of Canadian literature. His critical studies have transformed our understanding of language and discourse in the study of Canadian texts. Professor Davey’s sustained efforts – as critic, theorist, editor and poet – to enlarge and redirect Canadian literature studies have been essential contributions to its contemporary diversity and self awareness."
London Open Mic Poetry Night's new interview with Frank Davey follows the poems below.
Five New Poems by Frank Davey
This is going to be a real game changer.
If you’re tired of the game you’ve been playing
or hunting or following
then this is the one for you. A ree-al
game changer. It will change
any game you want, baseball into crokinole
antelope into muskoxen
politics into table tennis—you remember that one
right? Even if you play the poetry game
with this game changer you can convert
villanelles to limericks, free verse
to conceptual verse, Galway Kinnell
to Ron Silliman. This is the one you need
a game changer to change all game changers
don’t get stuck in the same old game
this will change the game of bonds to the game
of derivatives, a bear market to a bull
equities into sparkling futures
parlour games into war games
sex games into video games
rupees into bitcoins
pyjama games into arcade games
X-Box into MP3
chess into Red Dead Revolver
it will change the game of thrones
to the game of deck chairs, the game of life
to the game of death, the game of love
to whatever you want, what could be better?—but wait
if you buy our guaranteed game changer in the next five minutes
we will send you our new life changer absolutely free
so don’t wait, change everything today
get a leg up on the future, be game not gamey, be protean, mercurial
be way far out ahead of the changing game
Calls for Progress
Substitutes recommended for religion.
New treatments tested for sex offenders.
Alternatives sought to racism.
New approaches considered for child molesters.
Answers suggested to suicide bombers.
New procedures mooted for terrorism.
Mother hits out against family violence.
New methods investigated for executions.
Solutions required for acid attacks.
New thinking needed for gang rape.
Other means considered for war.