There was apprehension that no one would come, that people in our locality were just disinterested, or perhaps a little afraid of poetry. We had five poets lined up to read out of the generosity of their hearts, no funding here, only the gift of their time to plan, and to come out, and to share their poems.
Two days before, the librarian sent emails to the poets asking if they knew of anyone else that was coming, as she had sold only one $5 ticket. (The tickets were to benefit Library programs.) Well, I responded, each poet has at least one partner, or relative. That will make five more in the audience…
The librarian, Meriah Caswell, had reorganized the whole back section of the library, lining it with those comfy red leather couches used for the evening on publishing, with table-clothed tables for books. There were flowers, mums and tulips, in the next room where the reading would happen, and chairs, lots of chairs. Cookies, fresh veggies and dip, and bottled water.
And then they came, the audience, filling the room to capacity. Gift chapbooks with one poem from each reader were passed around, while Meriah and the poets heaved a gentle collective chinook of sighs.
Two rounds with each poet reading for eight minutes each time worked well, with a break between rounds for mingling, looking at books displayed, snatching cookies and veggies. It was a great way to organize a reading. Thank you Meriah.
The content of poems read ranged from the serious to not-so-serious, from subtle murder mytery to parrot toes, from being hooked on computer games to details of living and observing in the high North, from the theme of beauty and the importance of trees, to French titles of poems that are from titles of Eric Satie musical compositions.
Here is the sampling of poetry by these poets taken from the gift chapbook POEMS THAT WOULD LIKE TO LIVE AT YOUR HOUSE:
by Carol A. Stephen
A Study in Scarlet Threads
After a painting by Mary Pratt
To cut around its crown, to slice slowly
along the ridges of its skin, to gently pull
the two halves open to the tiny jewels,
the deep cinnabar, its red heart.
Pomegranate, painted with such precision,
blood-toned juices pool crimson on a base of foil.
My lips purse, anticipate the sweet-tart taste. My tongue
remembers astringence, the tiny seeds, their bitter white.
So perfect the artist’s rendering. I reach out to
dip my fingers in the nectar, but I touch
only canvas ridge and crevice. Only a painted image,
yet so real to fool the eye, to tease the tongue.
by Dean Steadman
Snakes and Ladders
The kitchen table a sea
of abandoned board games and ship-
wrecked cereal bowls spilling their cargo
of milk and
the youngest yells as he runs for the bus
forgetting his lunch and schoolbag, again.
Sixes and sevens!
Sleep in an hour
and wake to snakes
on all your ladders.
Still, there’s no sense
when already the day has climbed high
above the back deck, and the finches, gold
and purple, are descending on the feeders
to breakfast in quiet on
They come and go, the flotsam
and jetsam of clouds, although perched
they could be accidental seraphim—
their sudden song
the ascent of silence into music,
a presence invisible and, by chance,
guardian, their ascent into flight a reminder
of a leaving that won’t leave you alone.
by Lesley Strutt
I take a breath decant the air smell
not sorrow not grief the damp is not
tinged with death it lasts
longer than my swift intake shorter
than my life
elegance is not what I am seeking
and yet here pungent deep and still
waiting where it always was
among the dying lilies steepled branches
under moss dark vines where
birches lean like thin men on a long journey
somewhere they have not reached yet
I cannot offer anything I think is valuable I’m useless
as a child’s sunhat tossed on the wind but look
how sudden is the red against that great blue
by Claudia Coutu Radmore
Knitting, crocheting and jam-making improve mental health, study finds
Fogo Island is the proof of it; these islanders aren’t
worrying, aren’t stressed. Here there are more
knitters, crocheters, and jam makers per square
inch than anywhere else. They are happy,
and there’s hardly a visitor leaves without
something, a warm pair of socks, hats or mittens
a scarf for Mom.
It’s like the years after the war when wool
could suddenly be other shades than grey.
In Fogo the dye baths have to do with
the bright paint on their houses and the
quieter colours of the rocks. It all harks
back to our mothers and learning to
knit and to pearl not as hobbies but
to keep us warm, quilts made from
old dresses and shirts in designs to lift
the heart in houses without running water
toys made with hammer and saw, a time
when preserving was to keep the family
healthy and to get through winter, when
painting and singing and crocheting nets
were your evening pleasures. Fogo islanders
hook that scrap into a rug, sawed-off ends
become tiny pink houses to put on keychains
for the tourists, that scrap of wool knits into
a bright spot on a hat. Here it is, the reality
show. Knit one, purl two.
Sweep the sawdust out the door.
by Cliff Bird
The Trouble with Poetry
He started talking to me, his deep raspy voice
mangling his French and I suspected he was
actually Jesus, wearing his clam-digger pants
and sandals, but something about his height
a hoodie that hid his eyes and his dark, perfect
period-correct beard hinted at possible salvation
from a man maybe thirty, but I understood
nothing he said at 2:00 a.m. February 2, 2018
at the 24/7 coffee and tea service on the inside
pool deck sailing to Martinique, except parlez-
vous francais? to which I mumbled, un peu
and I could tell he was not pleased, but he went
on so incomprehensibly to my blank stare
he may as well have been speaking Sumerian
and I was overwhelmed by my helplessness
in not understanding Jesus whose strident
message was meant for me only, and I cursed
my ineptitude in French, the loss of opportunity
a scary moment, but why had he returned as a
French speaker? Well, I supposed he had to
start somewhere and why so soon, this iteration
following others in ancient Egypt, China, India
Central America and more recently, in Palestine
clearly something was up and as I was squeezing
lemon into my tea he turned and walked away
and I had a notion that I probably should have
tried harder, but I had more a important task
to attend to
And so ended the evening amid books being signed, the last veggies eaten, and the last cookie, left there for me. Thank you Meriah, thank you poets, thank you wonderful audience/library supporters. Starting with the workshop in haiku also sponsored by the library, April as Poetry Month has been truly celebrated in Carleton Place.
We have discovered a raft of local believers in poetry. We never knew! We hope to spread the word, and perhaps poetry will be the thing to do, what people will want to read and hear again.