A BIG TOAST TO SEASON 3 AND THE FUTURE
On June 6th, 2015, the last event of London Open Mic Poetry Night’s third season, a lively audience of 53 turned out to hear featured poet John B. Lee and the largest open mic section we’ve ever had: 22 very creative poets.
John Tyndall, in introducing John B. Lee, said Lee is Canada’s best living poet. I have no way of vouching for that but I can truly say that his poetry, and his reading of it, was very inspiring.
As Lee said in our interview with him, “I want to write poetry, to be in the midst of the thrilling impossibility of doing the thing we do when we surrender.” As was evidenced by the poems he read. They were not neat square boxes, measured, sawed and hammered. They were inspirations, hovering in the air around us. But they were also very available, written and delivered in such a way that we could receive them. Kevin Heslop, who read a lot of Lee’s work before interviewing him, not only gained an appreciation of his writing in the process, but said of his reading on the stage, “His lines, compact on the page, opened up when spoken, reminiscent of Dylan Thomas. Mellifluous. You can see Thomas' influence. Or rather hear it.” Our video of Lee’s reading will be up soon.
You can read Lee’s bio, four of his poems, and Heslop’s interview of him: http://www.londonpoetryopenmic.com/season-3-interviews-and-poems/interview-4-poems-john-b-lee-london-open-mics-june-3rd-2015-featured-poet
Now, at the end of three seasons, it is becoming obvious that we have something special going on here. Not only is the average attendance at London Open Mic, about fifty, quite large for a poetry event, but it tends to encompass all ages, genres and genders. By comparison, the much larger city of Toronto has many more reading series but each is far more specialized and attended by far fewer people. It would seem then that the main reason for the wide interest in our event is that there is no other such inclusive event in London in which poets and poetry lovers can participate. Well, good, if that’s what it takes to get this kind of magic. It’s just one more reason, if you need one, to love living in a smaller city!
After three seasons, each of which has outperformed the previous one, it would seem that London Open Mic Poetry Night is becoming an institution here. The question is, will it be able to keep itself going indefinitely as an amateur, grassroots, totally voluntary organization. So far, it’s relied mostly on the efforts of one individual, me, at first totally, but increasingly less so as other volunteers joined and began sharing the workload. I’ll be organizing for a maximum of two more seasons, but I’m confident that by the end of season five the group will be able to keep it going without needing one individual to run it.
But indefinitely? Well, I’ve noticed that at every open mic there are people in the audience who have never attended before. If that keeps up, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t, then there will always be enough young, excited newcomers on the scene to replenish the group and keep the open mic going.
We now are (in alphabetical order, of course) Stan Burfield, Joan Clayton, Frank Davey, Shelly Harder, Kevin Heslop, Carl Lapp, and our newest member: videographer Sebastian Rydzewski. And of course my lovely wife Linda.
One more peek into the future: On the last day of January, I became 65, which was a big surprise to me. It was a surprise because in order to not lose any income I was forced to cut back on my hours of work! As odd as that may seem. And I suddenly found myself with the time to pursue an idea I had had some time ago, to try and persuade the city to stamp poems in the fresh cement when they repair sidewalks. St. Paul, Minnesota, is doing this, with huge success. Each year they have a contest to pick the next year’s batch of poems to be installed, and so many people have been writing and submitting their work that the city had to set up a committee of seven judges to go through them all! In other words, poetry could become fashionable again.
Stan Burfield, organizer of London Open Mic Poetry Night
John B. Lee will be the June 3rd, 2015 featured poet at London Open Mic Poetry Night at Mykonos Restaurant in London, Ontario.
In 2005 John B. Lee was inducted as Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity. The same year he received the distinction of being named Honourary Life Member of The Canadian Poetry Association and The Ontario Poetry Society. In 2007 he was made a member of the Chancellor’s Circle of the President’s Club of McMaster University and named first recipient of the Souwesto Award for his contribution to literature in his home region of southwestern Ontario and he was named winner of the inaugural Black Moss Press Souwesto Award for his contribution to the ethos of writing in Southwestern Ontario. In 2011 he was appointed Poet Laureate of Norfolk County (2011-14) and in 2015 Honourary Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life. A recipient of over eighty prestigious international awards for his writing he is winner of the $10,000 CBC Literary Award for Poetry, the only two time recipient of the People’s Poetry Award, and 2006 winner of the inaugural Souwesto Orison Writing Award (University of Windsor). In 2007 he was named winner of the Winston Collins Award for Best Canadian Poem, an award he won again in 2012. He has well-over seventy books published to date and is the editor of seven anthologies including two best-selling works: That Sign of Perfection: poems and stories on the game of hockey; and Smaller Than God: words of spiritual longing. He co-edited a special issue of Windsor Review—Alice Munro: A Souwesto Celebration published in the fall of 2014. His work has appeared internationally in over 500 publications, and has been translated into French, Spanish, Korean and Chinese. He has read his work in nations all over the world including South Africa, France, Korea, Cuba, Canada and the United States. He has received letters of praise from Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Australian Poet, Les Murray, and Senator Romeo Dallaire. Called “the greatest living poet in English,” by poet George Whipple, he lives in Port Dover, Ontario where he works as a full time author.
1ST OF THE FOUR POEMS
the mind is soaked
in the fallen soldier’s sorrowful story
like dipping a book
into grey-paged water
there in the memory of weeping ink
only the sound of one sad horse
under the saddle shadow
of a weightless rider
a lugubrious clip clop
gone silent but for the
quietness of imaginary war—endless elsewhere
the absent master sits where he drifts in the light
like smoke above burning
his empty boots facing away from the mane
as though they remained
at the foot of his bed
where he dreams on in timeless repose
over unmeasured reams of moonlit darkness
his mount turned to stone
in a vanishing orchard of shade
where he grazes on grass jeweled with dew
see where he sips
at the blackening pool
of the soul of the man he has lost
in an autumn of strangers
when evening falls early and soon
and then in the hoar frost of morning
with its white-glazed grasses of dawn
we are late to remember
the losses of gloaming
and lest we forget
we lived and were loved in a short-lived blue
but for the woe of one horse called forever
with his sad fardel of funereal grief
know that he carries us all to the sun
like a lake in a shivering landscape of rain
KH: The brief biographical note in the final pages of your first collection of poems concludes with "… and hopes to write the perfect line." What did/do you mean by this?
JBL: “and hopes to write the perfect line ..." I suppose by this I throw my lot in with those who write poetry rather than those who aspire to be called poets. This latter ycleption seems something of a verdict. I want to write poetry, to be in the midst of the thrilling impossibility of doing the thing we do when we surrender. Henry Moore speaking to American poet Donald Hall put it this way, "The secret of life is to have a task, something to devote your entire life to, something to bring everything to, every minute of every day for your whole life. And the most important thing is--it must be something you cannot possibly do!"
KH: Describe, if you would, your writing process. Has it, or the degree to which you edit/re-write, changed?
JBL: I write when the first line comes. I rarely have any idea what I'm about to write. Intention has little to do with execution. When John Lennon wrote "Nowhere Man," he'd spent the entire morning struggling with silence and failing to write a song. In frustration, he went for a little lie down on the couch, and the song came flooding into his mind in whole cloth. That's my process. Distract the conscious mind, and let the poem slip through.
KH: Which author(s) or poem(s) do you continue to mine for insight, inspiration or instruction?
JBL: Right now, I'm reading an anthology of Peruvian poems. I'm fresh back from Machu Picchu, and my imagination is fevered by what I experienced there. The poets I'm reading, contemporary Peruvian poets in Spanish with English translations, fire my imagination at the moment. I've already written five poems since arriving home at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning. And it's now Sunday morning at 10:10. I revisit Dylan Thomas often. Recently I reread Yeats later poems. Reading poetry is my first love as a reader. Poetry, then essays, then non-fiction, then short fiction, finally fiction. I'm reading Wolf Hall right now.
KH: To what degree to do you value humour in your work and what, when maximally effective, may humour achieve?
JBL: Humour unlocks sorrow. If you want to make someone weep, first make them laugh. Humour takes us deep. I love silly jokes. Word play. I love to laugh out loud. I'm reading Lil Bastard by David McGimpsey. It's a book of what he calls 'chubby sonnets" sixteen lines long. I was reading it aloud to my wife at the airport on our way to Peru. And John Wing, he's a comedian by profession a poet by avocation. I recently read with him and he had the crowd laughing till they wept and their sides ached, and then he read an absolutely amazing and poignant poem inspired by his daughter who had recently given up on her dream of becoming a professional musician, a dream which she suddenly realized was her father's dream for her, not her own dream for herself. And the poem was not humourous at all. On the contrary it partook of the melancholia of disappointment when a child disappoints her father, and the father feels the burden of his own aspirations carried by the child. What made that poem go so deep in the heart, and hook itself there forever was the laughter that left us open to the sorrow.
KH: As a student, it sometimes seems to me that the humanities in general and languages in particular are viewed as "marketable" disciplines. I noticed recently, for example, in a corridor of the U.W.O. Arts & Humanities Building (formerly the Ivey MBA building) a poster which read, I think, verbatim: "Why get a degree in the humanities? Think Hire".
Articulate, if you would – and I realize this is a stupidly broad question, but – as an educator and a writer of long-standing, what is the importance of humanistic study for its own sake?
Read the rest of the interview and poems
Scroll down for James Wood`s 14th visual poem,
.....and 2nd of new caveman series
From Frank Davey Blog:
Usefully Misreading the World
The World, I Guess, by George Bowering. Vancouver: New Star Books, 2015. 145 pp. $18.00.
This latest poetry book from Bowering is a loosely assembled gathering of his recent writing, including half a dozen prose sketches and two or three series that appear undertaken to pass the time while travelling. As he writes in the book’s opening section about the unexpected visits made by Death, “So we fill our days / or allow them to fill / with inconsequence, not exactly planning / to continue till / to our surprise / the fellow is here” (17). But Bowering too can surprise, with his poems, even if filling his days.
It’s that opening section, one that is mostly about living in years in which “the fellow” Death often calls, that makes this book worth buying – at least it does for this reader who is close to those years himself. The poems here are especially disturbing because they come from a writer who for so long has seemed athletic and indestructible. But, as the cover image suggests, we live for a while only because others die, and eventually those others include ourselves, poor fish.
The second interesting aspect of this section, and of the poems throughout, is how much they are reminiscent of Louis Dudek’s final poem project, Continuation – similar random observations about "the world," similar reflections on humanity then and now, similar affirmations of the persistence of poetry despite changing times. Well, they were written at similar (st)ages.
The concluding section of the book, although a time-passing cruise ship exercise, is also strong. Bowering had taken a college anthology of Canadian literature with him on this cruise, and
Caveman #2: Reception Pencil work by London artist James Wood See James Wood's blog.
Caveman #1: Locking Up Pencil work by London artist James Wood See James Wood's blog.
Winners of the 2015 Poetry London Contest
This year's judge: Gregory Betts
1st Place: Kevin Heslop: "all of language is braille"
2nd Place: Penn Kemp: "As if you are leaping in the air"
Honourable Mention: Jeremy Nathan Marks: "Newport"
The winning poems were read at the March 25th Poetry London event, which featured poets Gregory Betts and Matthew Henderson.
MEET OUR NEW VOLUNTEER VIDEOGRAPHER
Sebastian Rydzewski is replacing Kenny Khoo, who resigned because he was finding himself called away on too many business trips on the first week of the month.
We will have Sebastian's first set of London Open Mic videos posted here tomorrow.
Sebastian Rydzewski's family moved to Canada in 1991, and has lived in London Ontario ever since. His passion is digital media and computers, and has taken Computer Science studies at Fanshawe College.
He is a self employed computer, media, and technology specialist and offers a variety of services to the general public of London and surrounding area. From web design to custom software solutions, video-graphing events/weddings to making your very own video DVD's, even home theatre design and setup, he can get the job done at most affordable rates.
For a more in-depth look at the offered services, visit his website or give him a shout at the provided information bellow.
Phone: (519) 878-9395
Sebastian is also a co-founder of the web-academic institute of "Academics Today". Their main goal: "Our goal is to make higher education available to everyone on the planet." How: "Using the internet, students sign up for free, with video lectures, peer reviewed assignments, online tests, and optional certificate for course completion. Instructors are able to create their own courses for free, and provide them to the community. We call this structure neutron learning, as it is learning, without charge." Their website is in Beta testing, you can visit them atwww.academicstoday.ca and find out more.
Featured poets to come
London Open Mic Poetry Night has its roster of features filled part way into the fourth season.
Season 4: 2015-2016
Oct. 7, 2015, will feature Madeline Bassnett, who teaches English at Western.
Nov. 4, 2015, will feature Charles Mountford, a Stratford poet and humourist.