This article was published 21/4/2018 (1001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At the inception of National Poetry Month in 1996, a good portion of Manitobans were concerned with the pending exodus of the Winnipeg Jets.
Two decades later, the Jets are in the playoffs for only the second time since returning to the city.
And two decades later, whether because of the efforts of the League of Canadian Poets, or because of the immortal staying power of poetry itself, we received a multitude of submissions for this year's annual April overview of poetry in our province.
We selected 14 poems highlighting interpretations of this years's theme, Anniversary. The poems we selected come from emerging and established poets, ranging in tone from mourning to celebratory, and taking on events that range from the interpersonal to the international.
Go, Poets, Go!
-Jason Stefanik and Ariel Gordon
The Poets Get Together And Create The World
By Patricia Robertson
The poets invented fire
by imagining flint and spark
Flint and spark danced together
brought flame to the world
Flame summoned people to sit round
warm their hands
Speak of when this happened, when that
of how the turning year turns
How a mind-day was needed
reminding each birth, each death
Each dance, each breath
each spring, each fall
The poets invented fire
imagined it all.
Patricia Robertson came to Winnipeg from the Yukon as the 2015-16 Writer-in-Residence at the Millennium Public Library. Her work has been nominated for the BC Book Prizes for Fiction, the Journey Prize, the Pushcart Prize, and the National Magazine Awards.
Just a Sliver
By Louella Lester
That car window is open
just a crack
a sliver of time
enough for a cigarette
and its smoke
to escape and mingle
with the exhaust
like whispered words
Louella Lester writes and takes photos in Winnipeg. Her work has appeared in Prairie Fire, Lemon Hound, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, The Antigonish Review, and in CBC News Manitoba Online.
By Rebecca Danos
Seceded from the world’s wilderness
a murderous manic depression
and wary wakefulness
but not the words you bequeathed me
—inspire an eye—
in the wild winds
—to center and quiet the breath—
Rebecca Danos is a PhD physicist and emerging author, mathematician, and avid pianist. She pens a blog, published in The Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, and read one of her poems on CTV. @RebeccaDanos
By Sally Ito
Above all, let this day
be about death. The searching
for words of comfort for the grieving,
the hushed silence of the landscape
pierced only by the sounds of the winged
and fleeting. How else find a way
to discover and name
Sally Ito is a writer and translator who lives in Wolseley with her husband, two children and a dog. Her most recent book of poetry is Alert to Glory, published in 2011.
By Amber O’Reilly
premonitions recapitulate this planet
that don’t do it justice
everything will come to an end
this will be a blip in satellite existence
when all the rest engulfs tired earth, when
only dystopia remains
the heat, infernal will disperse
a sigh before sleep, catharsis
and the rabbits
will jump into slowmo orbits
float beyond logic
slam through ozone fragilities
boulder waves in tow
a fierce light
turning up the stars
Amber O’Reilly is a multilingual poet and spoken word artist. Born under Yellowknife’s midnight sun, she has lived in Winnipeg since 2013. Amber soaks up art and life. Her writing has been published in Oratorealis, L’Aquilon and La Liberté.
By Michael Minor
One year after Barbara Kentner was fatally hit by a trailer hitch thrown from a passing vehicle.
As he stirs his coffee
he tells of plans to bring cast-off
x-ray machines, scanners, hospital beds
to grateful Caribbean islands.
Meanwhile on Simpson Street
a woman stands
on the corner.
The game is called spoons
when the white boys from the university
drive around with teaspoons
in their drink holders just in case
but in a pinch, they’ll use anything at hand:
You are supposed to hit her
but if you miss, you have to get out
retrieve your spoon.
They slow as they approach
roll down the rear tinted window.
The teaspoon hits her leg.
by tires starting on snow as they escape.
But he has seen none of this.
With palm trees on repeat,
he stirs his coffee.
Michael Minor teaches Writing Skills for the Inner City Social Work Program in Winnipeg’s North End. This poem is from his debut collection, Learning to Love a River.
Found sound resounds
By Ted Landrum
upon the same round table
it comes from within or
as it’s said between
words lines images people
sometimes share things
that do not speak that
speech can’t say
ears can’t hear
to distant past
to noise and news
to accidental music
city songs in time
Ted Landrum launched his debut book Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems in 2017. Ted teaches architecture at the University of Manitoba, and is a co-curator for Winnipeg’s annual Architecture + Design Film Festival (April 18-22).
Night Roads, Long Exposure
By J. Robert Ferguson
Pull back the camera, the tripod,
the body from the freight train’s path.
Foothills winter in condensation
rising from trickling rocks. A general
store in the woods, the husk of a world
today’s ventures won’t fill. Churches,
farmhouses conceded atop hills are painted
time and again to adorn retirement homes.
Here a residential school left ablaze,
a village named for old barns abandoned
when redcoats came, somehow standing
decades before joining the common litany.
Here are cabins left behind, photo albums intact,
an airstrip’s guardian the lonely chain slack
across broken concrete, an old highway’s rimae—
and over rime-crusted roads, you
with camera, plastic bags in shoes, the night being yours,
frame forms that endure the negatives.
J. Robert Ferguson is a transplant from Nova Scotia to Winnipeg. His poetry has most recently appeared in The Dalhousie Review and CV2, and is forthcoming in filling Station.
Prairie Watch Tower
By Kristian Enright
We prairie dwellers refine augury:
if the groundhog sees his movie
"Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray,
upon his peering and possible pirouette and
simple turn his shadow will not suffice; the
movie would reduce his potential dimensions
as is and his judging
the weather in our time
of global warming will seem
less dull, indeed, to adapt to and perform:
or sense our sun the superhero is smothered--
he sees our shadowy behavior grow.
At this point, we see him do something animal
that is somehow beautiful, as with Rilke’s
sense of angels who are terrifying
the animal only needs to do something communal
to exceed us: their conscious actions
moves into a high rise tree
eats less food like on a diet, and becomes the
hipster mad about acorns. Yet, how can
they evade future class conflicts when looking
at birds and down on insects as they create sculptures
in the dirt like socialist monuments
and a mausoleum for shadows.
Kristian Enright is a Winnipeg writer interested in moving poetry into Praxis. He resides on the periphery of downtown where he observes the city’s awakening soul like a modified flaneur.
By Conni Cartlidge
What do you mean CHF?
Congestive heart failure.
Is that what she has?
We’ll take care of your mom now.
Go home. It’s late.
Collapse into bed
Think of dad
In his own room
With his own nurses
And his own CHF
As staff so casually refer to it.
Sixty-eight year marriage.
Their hearts broken.
When Conni Cartlidge was little, her mom took her to the library weekly and her dad read to her every night. Now she curls up on the couch with her grandchild and his favourites. She writes at: http://conni-smallboxes.blogspot.com
Touch / stone
By David Yerex Williamson
On the 52nd anniversary of my birth
wetting my boots
I picked a small yellow stone
from the Dargle waters
of Wicklow County
Its absence there fills
an empty pocket here
straggling the boreal forest
wearing my skin as
I tramp twists in travel
I’m told that my father’s father’s father’s
family came from Wicklow
I’m not sure what that means
Some days my presence
comes from various
places atoms of the thinnest memory
in the fissures
of the earth we mark
On the 53rd anniversary of my birth
those same boots dried kick
restless leaves murmer along a ravine
settle precariously among fragments
of precambrian shield
I’m uncertain from where I came
or to what stones
I may belong
David Yerex Williamson is an academic administrator, instructor, and poet living in northern Manitoba. When not teaching, writing or drawing, David shovels snow, cuts wood, and chases his dogs along the banks of the Nelson River.
North End Love Song
after Katherena Vermette
Things have been mighty colourful
In North Point Douglas lately!
Roses and violence
I mean roses and violets
Pink and blue
Red and white
Me and you
Cats in hats
Black as night
Raccoons in the attic
Fly away fly
On purple unicorns
With silver wings
To Rainbow Mountain
Where everything sings
Fly back again quickly
So we can eat fries
And sing this poem to you guys
This poem is by children of the Little Bear Children’s Club: Rosalie Thomson, Credence Hart, Malaya Desjarlais and Serenity Desjarlais, with Di Brandt, Winnipeg’s first Poet Laureate (2018-2019).
By Sarah Ens
That summer we wore too much black and sat on the heaters in the hall, stood in fields with boys named Jake and Brett and Cole and invited them to our parties. We lay on the trampoline sucking freezies, the plastic wrapper flapping sticky across our cheeks, our thighs and feet hot on the black nylon. We ran up piles of gravel with slurpee straws in our mouths, slid all the way down in dust. The small stones made our hands soft.
At summer’s end, I put my arms in your coat and everything felt memory: how we’d screamed into silos over and over—laughed, our own echo something startling, old, tender as stars. How I wrote No Doubt lyrics on your jeans, pressed in thumb ink heartbeats.
You’d rubbed holes in the knees.
Sarah Ens is the editorial assistant at Turnstone Press and will begin an MFA at U of S in the fall. Her work has appeared in several literary journals and her poetic collaborations with Balto, her cat and muse, can be found on Instagram at @balto_thesleddog.
The Woman in the Window
By Kim MacRae
Inspired by an image of a woman standing at the edge of the open wound caused by a plane in the World Trade Center.
She stands on the ledge by chance not choice,
slumped against the open ragged window edge.
She found her way through fire and wreckage to the cooler open air
in hopes of being saved.
Surely if she made it through the horror inside, she would survive.
She stands, waiting, in the heat, hoping for help.
From down there.
Ninety floors below.
She hears screams yet no one has joined her.
Was she wrong to head toward the open air?
A burning plane blocked her way to the stairway
she did not realize had already melted away.
Her sense of time falls away with pieces of the building,
but she knows concrete and steel don’t collapse.
Skyline buildings don’t fall.
Another piece falls, and another—this one wearing clothes.
Sickened to her core, she turns away, knowing she cannot do that.
This cannot be how it will end, standing alone,
leaning against what was the side of a window,
in the open air, up so high.
What saves her, through the fire and smoke,
is the bluest sky she could remember,
and the astonishing view from this ragged window on the world.
Closer to heaven than the hell inside.
Every September, on the second Tuesday,
this woman haunts a stranger who weeps for her still.
Kim MacRae keeps trying to write a play but all these little poems keep popping out, some of which she performs annually with jazz musicians at the Thin Air wrap party.