Interview with Julie Berry, Featured Poet for Open Mic, Nov. 5
Julie Berry’s first book, worn thresholds was published by Brick in 1995 and reprinted in 2006. A second collection of poems was published by Buschek Books of Ottawa in the fall of 2010. Her poems have appeared in a number of periodicals from Canadian Forum in the late seventies to most recently, The Malahat Review and Brittle Star, a UK publication. Julie’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies including Open Wide a Wilderness from Wilfred Laurier University Press (2008). Being an elementary school teacher for most of her working life has given her the gift of a child’s-eye view of the world. In 2007 she wrote and presented, with the help of Steve Wadhams of CBC, The Poetry of the Woods, an award-winning CBC production of Outfront and this experience has led to her present job producing children’s radio programs. She was long-listed for this year’s Canada Writes competition with an excerpt from a work-in-progress, I am &c. The Gilbert White Poems. Julie lives just outside of St. Thomas, Ontario with her partner, Jonathan and their dog, Guinness. Her four sons have grown and flown.
Interview by Shelly Harder for London Open Mic Poetry Night
SH: When and why did you start writing poetry?
JB: I started writing poetry in my early twenties. I was keeping a daily journal and sometimes the entries felt like poems. I was married before I was 20 and had two kids by the time I was 27. Four kids by the time I was 32. I began teaching school when I was 24. A busy time but whenever I found the time I would scribble poems into my journal. During a maternity leave (thank goodness for maternity leaves!) I sent a poem to Canadian Forum. I don’t think I’d sent anything out before that. I was very surprised when they accepted it. I can remember the day that I received the acceptance notice in the mail. I opened the letter with my second son in my arms. He was a newborn and he got a wild ride that day. I danced, I truly danced around the house.
So why did I start writing poetry? Because I liked playing with words and I liked making poems. I was reading a lot of poetry and I loved it, and wanted to do it as well as the poets I was reading. It was a thrill to have a line come for me, the perfect line. Writing was an escape from the chaos of mothering and teaching and living life. It was also in some mysterious way a direct line into those very parts of life. Kind of like being in a poetry-coma while hooked up to life support, where the life support is your daily life—the sick kids, the lesson plans, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Read the rest of the interview along with four of Julie's poems
Impressions of the Oct. 1st London Open Mic by Stan B.
Before Jef-something Brian Thomas Ormston (Jef) (who is much more humble than his name would lead you to believe) sat on his chair behind the mic and started playing that electric guitar like an orchestra of sound, a million bells, he said to anyone who was listening, “And now for my last piece”, and when that one was done, which was an astonishing rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon, with waves of notes scrambling, piling, sorting themselves out and upward, Jef said, again to anyone and no one, “Do I have time for another?” I thought, “He’s only started his set, what’s he talking about?” But big Bill Paul, London’s Town Crier, who has known Jef for ages, along with most everyone else in the city, leaned over and said, “Jef never knows how much time has gone by. It’s true. He really lives in the moment. You have to keep telling him he has more time.” I listened more carefully from then on, and yes got lost myself in some of those moments.
The sudden vocals on the next piece were a bit loud for some people, and I was scrambling to turn down the level when I realized it was one of my favourite songs from the Woodstock festival soundtrack, “Freedom”, which big, black, Richie Havens had opened the festival with, but which here was sung, just as deeply, by this scrawny little Jef-something. “Freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, sometimes I feel like a motherless child, sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from my home." Yeah. At home Linda and I listened to it again on YouTube. “Freedom is scary when you’re young, when you first have it,” Linda said, “but then when you’re older, after having so much reponsibility all your life, you can’t get enough of it.” Yeah that’s for sure. More, please.
Our new co-host for this season, Joan Clayton, (me being the other co-host), thanked Jef and introduced Bill Paul (who really is London’s official Town Crier, but who goes by the name Laffmaster Bill on Facebook, for anyone who might want him to host an event or provide entertainment, or who might even want to be interviewed on his radio talk show, Straight Talk with Bill Paul, which, after 39 years, is the longest running talk show in Canada, on 106.9FM.)
It’s undeniable that featured poet Roy McDonald holds some fascination for people. He’s a bit of an old leprechaun, and maybe reminds us of Gandolph in Lord of the Rings -- that combined with street person, hippy, but mostly, being old but spry, he’s the embodiment of the mystery of aging. As I watched him do his well-rehearsed thing on the stage, booming out those old poems, which he’s practiced so often busking on the sidewalk in front of Joe Cool’s Fridays and Saturdays, I wondered how all the so-much-more-normal lives in the audience saw him. The other older people, like myself, where and why did we get off the bus? And why did Roy refuse to ever change after he’d returned from Woodstock? Is he the better for it, or are we? And the young poets in the audience -- are they seeing wisdom in him that they somehow haven’t acquired yet? Or just some archaic remnant of an age long lost? I think each one of the 65 of us in the audience tried to imagine being Roy McDonald to some degree, living his very unique life. As we compared our own to his we all became a little wiser.
By the time Roy was into his Q&A, answering questions about the washrooms at Woodstock, (“you had to wait half an hour or an hour”), about his spirituality, about the influences on his poetry and his life, and about conversations he had had with Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen and so on, there were still stragglers coming in, but they were finding only standing room at the back of the big enclosed terrace of Mykonos Restaurant, while the rest of us sipped our wine and munched on souvlaki and Greek salad. We had never had such a packed house before and my mind couldn’t figure out whether to be happy about it or just more anxious.
The open mic section provided again all the pleasures I’ve come to associate with it: the huge variety of people, all displaying the equally various intimacies of their inner lives sculpted into their word art. There was every age, poetic ability, sex, kind of person, and of personality. And the audience was also a microcosm of humanity. The one thing everyone had in common was the enjoyment of poetry in this room together. At the end of the evening, open mic reader John Nyman, whom we will feature one day, told me how much he enjoys our events and compared them to the readings he attends regularly in Toronto when he’s there. He said he likes the strong feeling of community we have, whereas in Toronto there are so many events to choose from, a number of them every week, that none attract very big numbers, and they tend to be more specialized in one way or another.
I asked our new Internet Manager, Shelly Harder, for a few words on how the event went for her: "My first night at the Open Mic was all I'd hoped it would be,” she says. “Between the welcoming ambience of Mykonos, the pleasure of chatting with Roy McDonald, Joan's warm hosting, the passionate talent of the open mic readers, and Jef-something's guitar soundtrack, the evening was an exceptional one, and I look forward to many more!" And the rest of us chime in, “Me too!”
See Interview with Roy McDonald
Welcome Shelly Harder Blog!!
When Shelly Harder volunteered to help with our internet work, I had no idea about her poetry. For all I knew she wasn't into it. In fact I knew very little about her when we first talked except that, as became obvious very quickly, her fingers on her Mac seemed to be on some kind of high-speed cruise control. And her mind even moreso.
When I mentioned Shelly to Kevin Heslop the next day, it turned out he knew her from Eng. Lit at Western. He said she was a good poet. Well, he didn't use the word "good". Of course, he being a good poet himself, he wouldn't. I think he said "raw". But anyway, he had me waiting for my first glimpse. And now I can share it with you. Here's the first entry on her blog. S.B.
Here a space, hidden cavern receding from underneath the sliding skin of marching, second-ticked moments, tickled present dotted down the stretching line of time-spanned day.
There is a second in every day that, found, can never be quantified and lost, can never be discovered by those prowling, precise watch-fiends.
I have searched in the dells and behind the trees of Brescia hill: here is a labyrinth-bathed tree from up whose gorgeously-mottled trunk falls diffuse illumination.
There is a second in every day blooming into a vastness beyond day.
Fall off the path of accustomed treadings.
Forsake known ways.
Wander into gemmed grasses.
Shelly Harder's bio.
Clayton and Burfield to co-host season three.
London Open Mic will have two hosts for the first time, with Joan Clayton opening Season 3 on Oct. 1st and London Open Mic Poetry Night organizer Stan Burfield hosting the 2nd event on Nov. 5th. Clayton and Burfield will take turns hosting throughout the season.
Having two hosts will add variety to the reading series, but the main reason for Burfield taking on half of the hosting is that,“It’s time to take my shyness therapy to the next level.”
UPCOMING POETRY EVENTS
IN THE LONDON AREA:
(See the page, Upcoming Poetry Events, for more details.)
Tues., Oct. 21, PENN KEMP'S GATHERING VOICES RADIO SHOW on chrw radio
When: 6:30 - 7:00 pm. (R. October 28, 2014,
6:30-7:00 am). The show features circle of she by Moe Clark. Moe
received mentorship from Sheri-D Wilson, who helped launch her career
as a spoken word artist at the 2005 Calgary International Spoken Word
Festival. Moe has toured across Canada and internationally. See
Wed., Oct. 22, POETRY LONDON presents poets
Sadiqa de Meijer from Kingston and Adrienne Barrett from Woodstock.
WHERE: Landon Branch Library, 167 Wortley Rd., lower level
WHEN: 7:30-9 pm
All welcome; free admission
Book sale & signing to follow
Special pre-reading workshop at 6 pm (note the early start): Join us for a workshop facilitated by Poetry London's Tom Cull & Western's Manina Jones, that will focus on SouthWestern Ontario writers. Special workshop guests will include the evening's readers, Adrienne Barrett & Sadiqa de Meijer, and Manina Jones' Western students. Don't miss this one!
Fr. Oct. 24: LONDON POETRY SLAM
Where: The London Music Club
Featuring: Dia Davina
When: Doors, 7pm; starts, 8pm.
Cover Charge: $5
Sat. Oct. 25: Mark Henning's JAZZ & POETRY NIGHT
Where: The London Music Club
When: Doors 7:30, show 8:30
No cover charge
Readings by: Joan Clayton, Jennifer Chesnut, Carrie Lee Connel, Monika Lee, Frank Beltrano, Stan Burfield, Andreas Gripp, Kevin Heslop
Oct. 24-26: WORDS, London’s inaugural festival of creativity through the written and spoken word, is a weekend celebration of creative ideas, artistic expression, and cultural diversity. Join us this October as we explore world-leading ideas that spark debate and ignite the imagination.
Schedule of events
Sun. Oct. 26: POETRY LAB (Part of WORDS festival)
(Museum London Theatre) Free 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Featuring: Penn Kemp (in collaboration with Chris Meloche and Denis Siren), Laurie D. Graham, Andy McGuire, and Emma Blue
Wed. Oct. 29, “MEET UP WITH YOUR MUSE” Reading & workshop,
Where: London Public Library, Stevenson/Hunt Room,
Penn Kemp will read several scenes from her plays to serve as inspiration for your own writing, whether as dialogue or as poetry or prose, whatever form it may take
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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Words: The Interview
Tom Cull is one of the organizers of Words, London`s first literary arts festival. He was interviewed by Kevin Heslop for London Open Mic Poetry Night.
K: What is Words ?
Tom Cull: Well, Words is a creative and literary arts festival, the inaugural literary arts festival for London. For one weekend, from this Friday the 24th to Sunday the 26th, it brings together national and international writers as well as showcasing regional writers. There will be events all throughout the city, including readings, workshops, performances and panel discussions.
* Reading from www.wordsfest.ca * “Words is a new festival of all things wordy – books, poetry, song, children’s literature, writing for the screen and stage, new media, spoken word performances and much more.”
So, events will take place all over the city, and we can talk more about those specific events, but that’s the basics. The festival is the product of a partnership between Museum London, London Public Library, Covent Garden Market, and Western University - in particular the Public Humanities, English, and Writing Studies programs. Poetry London - with which I’m a committee member - came on board to advise on, and encourage, poetry-specific content. There are other poetry partners as well, including London Poetry Slam. And it’s ongoing and developing as we move towards the date.
K: Do you have a sense of what the impetus or the spur for this festival was? Whether someone heard people walking down the street using poor grammar, or whether a good example of this was observed elsewhere and it was decided it would be an interesting -
T: Well, that would be a good question to ask the original organizers. If I had to speculate, a city of this size, which has a vibrant literary arts scene and is an important city in Canada that produces writers, is due for something like this. That’s my perspective on it. We have a population of people who are consumers, creators, and supporters of literature and the arts in general, who I think are going to come out because they’re interested. Also, we have writers that need showcasing, and I think there’s a real desire for it, a real call for something like this. And of course other cities host literary arts festivals and I think they’re a fantastic thing for a city. So, we’re having one because we need one, you know?
Schedule of WORDS Events
From Frank Davey Blog: