Wednesday, August 13, 2014



Kootenay folk, this Friday we have a treat for you. Victoria poet, Yvonne Blomer, is going to be in town and she's reading at my house! 
7 PM
Ted and Linda's Place
932 Columbia Road
(really Ootischenia)
(250) 365-7434

Yvonne was born in Zimbabwe and came to Canada when she was two years old. Her first collection a broken mirror, fallen leaf was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Yvonne has also published two chap booksLandscapes and Home: Ghazals (Leaf Press, 2011) and Bicycle Brand Journey (JackPine Press, 2012). In 2012 The Book of Places (Black Moss Press) was released. Yvonne is the co-editor of Poems from Planet Earth (Leaf Press, 2013) out of the Planet Earth Poetry reading series, of which she is the Artistic Director. In 2014 her third full collection of poems As if a Raven was released with Palimpsest Press. In it Yvonne explores creation, destruction and beauty through birds and biblical references.

Reading from As If A Raven at the 2014 Cascadia Poetry Festival in Seattle

I'll be reading some poems, too, including new work from my week at St. Peter's Abbey in Saskatchewan earlier this summer.

There will be stuff to nibble on and beverages and fun people to talk to. And Yvonne is a very fine poet, so you should come!


Wednesday, August 06, 2014



This Saturday and Sunday (August 9–10) Ted and I are participating in the Columbia Basin Culture Tour. (That sweet little wooden bowl in the photo I borrowed from the Columbia Basin's Facebook page is one of Ted's).

This means that from 10 AM until 5 PM both days you can come see what we do where we do it. To that end, I've been busy making books, some of which are pictured below. 


Sewing a Coptic bound book

Ted will be turning tops and things in his shop and has lots of wonderful work you can look at (and even buy, if you're so inclined). More about him on the CBT website here. And to whet your appetite, here's a sample of what he does:

I will be busy sewing chapbooks and maybe even writing the odd postcard poem (it is, after all, August). More about that here

This is the first time we've done this so we have no idea what to expect but we're game if you are so come on by!


Sunday, July 20, 2014



If you've been thinking about joining the August postcard poem exchange this year, you've got six days to get yourself on the list. All the information you need is here

You just have to commit to writing an original poem on 31 postcards and sending them to the people who are below you on the list. This year we're already up to 350 participants. I've been doing this since the first year (2007) and it's been so much fun watching it grow. 

The idea is to write your poem directly onto the card. For the first few years I found this to be well nigh impossible. What if I got going and ran out of room? What if I got the line breaks wrong? What if it was too bad to send? What if I thought of a better subject to write about? Well, honestly, after a few years of sketching the poems in a notebook first, I came to realize that I could write directly on the cards and the world would't end. Now I love the process. I love surprising myself with what comes out of my pen. And there's something very satisfying about the physical act of mailing the card to someone — most often a stranger, and it's both amazing and gratifying that many of those strangers have become "friends" through Facebook. Many of us send the requisite number of cards to the assigned people plus several others to folk we've exchanged with in the past. 

And it's nothing short of delightful to open your mailbox and find a postcard poem just waiting to be read. 

Paul Nelson is compiling the list of names this year. If you want to be on it, get in touch with him no later than July 26th. 


Friday, July 11, 2014



A few weeks ago I had occasion to spend part of the day in Trail, so I headed up to Rossland to CafĂ© Books West in search of a copy of Almeda Glenn Miller's new book of poems, the wonderfully titled Begin With the Corners from Big Bad Wolf Press.  

The young lady who took my money said, "This looks interesting." 

"Yes," I replied, "and she's local!"

She studied the cover. "Really?" 

I didn't have the heart to tell her Almeda and her husband used to have that bookstore when it was called Gold Rush Books. 

The poems are rich and fruity and sparkle with Almeda's trademark humour coupled with intelligence. 

Coffee and poetry, with a river running by. Doesn't get much better than this!
Begin With the Corners was launched when I was still in Mexico, and I was away when she read from it in Castlegar, so I've not yet managed to hear Almeda read from this collection. I knew she's been presenting the poems with the local group Motes and Oats providing backup musical arrangements and I was dying to see how that worked, so you can imagine my delight when a CDBaby download card floated out of the book when I was reading it down by the Columbia River near Gyro Park in Trail. The card gives you a free download of five of the poems that appear in the book, including The Book of Failures which I really enjoyed, both on the page and through my speakers. You, too, can listen to these poems by downloading them at CDBaby or on iTunes. Or, for an even better deal, buy the book and get the download card!


Thursday, July 03, 2014



Lowell Murphree is one of the legion of poets I met online via that MOOC, ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry) a couple of years ago, then in person in Seattle at the beginning of May. One of our number, Jamie Zoe Givens, was slated for cancer surgery and Lowell wrote a poem for her that wound up in a lovely e-book, Bindings

With Lowell Murphree, at the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Seattle, May 2014

I know, I know, I'd still rather hold poetry in paper form, but the way this collaboration came together an e-version is absolutely right. Jamie wrote the introduction, Professor ModPo, Al Filreis, provided a foreword, and Jeremy Dixon, another ModPo enthusiast who happens to be Hazard Press in Wales, designed and edited it

You can read and/or download a copy of Bindings free of charge here through Dropbox. Neither Lowell nor Jeremy is making any money from this project, but if you're so inclined you could make a donation to Jamie's health recovery fund via this gofundme campaign.

                           Somebody else’s hands are
                           doing my hand’s work today
                           on a keyboard never mine
                           in a chair in a country never mine.

                           (from Diction of Unemployment
                                  by Lowell Murphree)

ModPo is happening for the third year this fall. If you're curious about MOOCs and you like poetry, check it out. Here's the link again.


Friday, June 27, 2014



Just came from catching up on Heidi Greco's blog, Out on the Big Limb, which so reminds me of this one the way she introduces it: "Warning: this is one of those blogs that goes all over the place. Poems, politics, gripes, praise. A little of everything from an avowed generalist." I can relate.
Heidi Greco
reading at the Cascadia Poetry Festival 

I met Heidi at the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Seattle at the beginning of May. She tagged me in something called "Blog Hop" in which I get to answer some questions about my writing process and tag other writers who will do the same thing. 

Let me introduce Judy Dykstra-Brown, a writer I met in La Manzanilla last winter at the weekly ad hoc writing group that meets there every Saturday morning. 

A quill of writers enjoying the sunset (and the odd cool drink)
La Manzanilla, Mexico
During April Judy and I were both writing to prompts for National Poetry Month and posting the results to our blogs. The first prompt was to write an ekphrastic poem and I chose a picture of one of Judy's retablos to write on. She's prolific; she writes poetry, stories, articles and a blog in San Juan Cosala, Jalisco, Mexico.  Her books may be found on Amazon. She says when she's not writing, editing, posting or otherwise fussing over words, she likes to fuss over the 10,000 plus small objects that she shuffles around, arranges and attaches to form retablos and mixed media sculptures. She blogs at

Jane Byers lives in Nelson, BC, with her wife and two children. She writes about human resilience in the context of raising children, sexism, lesbian and gay issues, local geography and the workplace.  She has had poems, essays and short fiction published in a variety of books and literary magazines in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. including Grain, Rattle, Descant, The Antigonish Review and The Canadian Journal of Hockey Literature. This spring saw the launch of Jane's first poetry collection, Steeling Effects. (I blogged about it here.) We're in a wonderfully supportive poetry group together. 

Jane Byers
at the Nelson BC launch of Steeling Effects
Blog Hop is the brain child of Kristin Butcher, whose blog about this "writer's game of tag" may be found here. She's interested in how writers write, and to that end there are four questions I'm to answer. So, without further ado...

What am I working on?

Lately, I've been writing poems with no particular theme. In April, during National Poetry Month, I wrote to daily prompts, so the forms and subject matter are all over the place. Four of those poems were just accepted for publication in the New Orphic Review next spring. I'm looking forward to going to St. Peter's Abbey in Saskatchewan at the beginning of July for a week of focused writing. I want to start shaping my next manuscript. Other than that, I just published a chapbook for Stuart Ross through my micro press, Nose in Book Publishing, and I'm participating in the Columbia Basin Culture Tour this August so I'm busy producing handmade books these days. This fall I'm going to walk half the Camino de Santiago in Spain with my sister. I expect there will be some poems arising from that, even if they're only of the oh-my-god-my-feet-hurt-so-much variety. 

How does my work differ 
from others of its genre?

It's not published in book form yet! But I'm hoping that will change. My first full-length poetry manuscript just started making the rounds. How do the poems in it differ from others? Well, they're mine. Written in my voice, from my point of view, which means that even though other poets may have tackled the same subjects, what I see through my window is just a little different. 

Why do I write what I do?

Because writing about various issues and subjects allows me to explore them and because I get right cranky when I'm not getting stuff down on paper! I like telling stories in verse — the economy of words in poetry insists that you find the right ones. I enjoy the challenge of writing to form, but most often write free verse. Sometimes I write things I don't fully understand for months or even years. 

How does my writing practice work?

Mostly, I write poems by hand for at least the first draft, although sometimes I can compose one on the computer. I've already mentioned writing a poem a day during April. Because of time constraints I composed several of the April poems right here on my blog. (April, for me, began in La Manzanilla, then I was in Vancouver for a couple of days before coming home, then, at the end of the month, I was back to the Coast, as we Interior people refer to the Lower Mainland, and my last poems were written on Vancouver Island.) It feels very different, writing a poem by hand vs typing it. At the same time, I can't imagine writing prose by hand. I sporadically keep a journal and I write in it by hand, and pity anyone who ever has to read it because I barely can!  

I've participated in the August Postcard Poem exchange every year since 2007 and have been doing the 3:15 Experiment since 2005. 

I keep notebooks handy to jot down ideas for poems. Sometimes I even refer to them! I don't write every day, but I do try to carve out slices of uninterrupted — uninterruptible? — time for myself to concentrate on writing as often as I can. I read poetry every day.


Sunday, June 15, 2014



Haven't posted for far too long. Put it down to: 
     a) taking a deep breath after April's daily poem extravaganza 
     b)  on book-making projects
     c) working on the garden
     d) on taking ever longer walks in preparation for doing half the 
         Camino this fall (yes; you read that right!)
     e) on my own writing

Notice what comes in last. Why is that?

In addition, I've been reading up a storm. As I mentioned in a previous post, I came home from the Cascadia Poetry Festival in Seattle with lots of reading material and I've been delving into that, very much enjoying the work of Marilyn Stablein, Joanne Arnott, Sharon Cumberland, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger, and Lyn Coffin.

Then there was a Nelson B.C. book launch with Vangie Bergum and Art Joyce, both books of creative non-fiction, both published by Hagios Press. I read a lot of poetry, so it was nice to sink into something different. I enjoyed reading both of them.

Vangie's book is Downstream: Bestemor and Me. I read the first few pages and was hooked. It's a braided story of a mysterious tragedy that happened in Bergum's family in the 1920s that, through the course of the book, she unravels, coupled with the story of how she trained to run the Great Wall of China marathon in 2008. It's a page-turner. Vangie Bergum really knows how to tell a story. 

Vangie Bergum reading from Downstream: Bestemor and Me

Art, who publishes under his full name, Sean Arthur Joyce, launched Laying the Children's Ghosts to Rest — Canada's Home Children in the West, an account of the history of the British children who were sent to Canada (and Australia) from 1869 into the 1960s to be placed with families, often on farms, often expected to work as labourers. 

While the subject matter decrees that this is not an easy book to read, I found it fascinating. Imagine children, some as young as four or five years old, being "rounded up" and put into care homes because their families had fallen on hard times and couldn't afford to look after them properly. Sometimes the parents turned the children over to these homes. Then imagine some of those children — more than 100,000 between 1869 and 1949 — being sent by ship to Canada where they were taken into homes and farms as labourers. Needless to say, it didn't always go well for these children. Nor, in fairness, did it always go badly, depending on where the children ended up. 

The author's grandfather was one of these "home children", and as is often the case when a child is traumatized, he never elaborated on his experience. Joyce was not aware of his past until, wondering what could have brought his grandfather to Canada by himself at age 16, he began looking into it in 2007.

On the screen is a photograph of one of the Home Children's success stories: Leslie V Rogers, who eventually became principal of the Nelson High School. He was lucky enough to have been placed with a family that treated him as one of their own, which was not always the case. The present Nelson high school bears his name.

Both books include photographs which very much add to the telling of the stories.