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April is National Poetry Month. For the second year in a row, the Winnipeg Free Press is celebrating NPM with the help of Winnipeg poets. This year’s theme is "Time," and the eleven poems here represent a wide breath of experience.
This is Julian Day’s first publication, for instance, while George Amabile has had his work appear in ten books and more than a hundred national and international venues. It’s also timely to include the work of Angeline Schellenberg, who just this weekend won three Manitoba Book Awards for her debut, Tell Them It Was Mozart.
If you’ve spent some time with these poems and are interested in more, attend a reading at McNally Robinson. Or sign up for a subscription with local literary magazines Prairie Fire or CV2.
By this time next year, Winnipeg will have its own poet laureate, promoting poetry, literacy, and the arts. Now that’s something to look forward to!
By melanie brannagan frederiksen
breath slowly returns
after you drowned
after i re-read your letter
you & i walking down Bloor
laughing & crying, dancing
as the last chorus followed us
after the stories we lived
the pasts we survived, for a time
after we promised we'd show them all
after i find your letter
melanie brannagan frederiksen's poems have been published by Prairie Fire and The Waggle. She lives and writes in Winnipeg.
By Aisha Walker
Basement chills are chased
by chamomile with honey,
with blankets freshly warmed
in an old tumble dryer.
Yesterday’s cold still rings
in my ears, and yesterday’s dirt
will have to wait for me to find
the grit to face the shower.
I gently tap on the crown of my head,
or rub the space between my thumb
and forefinger, when I can’t afford
the magic to keep myself going.
Aisha Walker is a biracial trans woman who lives in Winnipeg with her life partner and five-year old daughter. She has had a deep love and appreciation for poetry her whole life, and finally began writing her own in 2014.
By Eileen Mary Holowka
eventually, you tell a story enough times that your tongue falls out.
this is what you’ll need to do: learn how to darn socks. you need to keep your feet warm. when you’re ready, stitch your tongue back on using the same technique. learn a new vocabulary. one with all the same words but none of the old uses.
hold on to your tongue. if it falls out again, repeat these steps.
Eileen Mary Holowka is a Winnipeg writer, editor, and grad student currently living in Montreal. She writes music and makes games. She runs Contemporary Verse 2's 2 Day Poem Contest and has published in Lemon Hound, CV2, and Little Fiction.
By Catherine Hunter
Rain falls on the plum tree
and the catnip patch. Rain
falls on the gravesite
of the hawk who crashed
into our window in July. Rain fills
the rain barrel and the wheel barrow
and the bird bath. But we're snug
inside, watching people on TV
watch people on TV watch
television: the presidential debates.
It's the autumn of 2016. Nobody
is really sure how close to death
we are. But Voyager 1 has long ago crossed
the border of the solar system.
Each day it's sailing farther
into inter-stellar space. Rain
falls on the garden gnome
the neighbours gave me for my 50th
birthday. That night my brother
and I clicked glasses, saying,
"how in the hell did we ever
get this far? How did we get in
so deep?" Stayed up till dawn,
counting the many friends
we had outlived. The hawk,
looking into our window,
must have seen the ferns
suspended from our ceiling,
must have seen the reflection
of the Scotch pine branches
in the yard, and above them,
the sweet eternal blue of sky.
Catherine Hunter is the author of seven books, including, most recently, the novel After Light. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Winnipeg.
By Jason Stefanik
son of a burr-
with bramble itch
in the armpit
of the continent,
on Labour Day.
Of all prairie
named for Queens
none as foul,
smelling as dour
whose wives are grand
as wheat elevators,
like that Lancaster
just a lucky
son of a plucky
lost on your plains.
What rural brains
or town knave said
melons on your head
would help you win?
It’s just a joke,
your goblin yoke,
to draw hornets
to your ‘Rider stench,
or it’s your way
on Banjo day
to block the Trochee
from the east:
"Go, Bombers, Go!"
you may view
Jason Stefanik is a second-generation adoptee raised in Manitoba’s Interlake. His poems have appeared in tart, Misunderstandings Magazine, Grain, Nashwaak Review, and Arc. He is the recipient of Prairie Fire’s 2015 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award.
By Méira Cook
In 1939 Georgia O’Keeffe was invited to Hawaii by The Dole Pineapple Company to create paintings they could use in their advertisements.
They want someone who understands the hard poke
of deciduous hunger. Or they want someone
who can turn stomach acid into the lost translations
of What a Woman. Bright, bright. Lots of nipples hanging off.
Might mention "the smell of cut fruit
on the blade of a knife" is the memo from the desk
of some ad exec to the effect of.
She paints engorged scarlet ginger hanging
off the sky’s blue tree. Paints the shuddering
inner lives of hibiscus and plumeria.
Oh! green crevasse tongued by silver streams.
Doesn’t paint a single pineapple so they send her home.
The desert tosses and murmurs around her,
wish you were, wish you were.
When is the sea larger than the box it comes in?
When is an idea too big for its fruit?
She finally paints it, her mild and doleful
pineapple of the mind.
Méira Cook's most recent book of poetry is Monologue Dogs and her most recent novel is Nightwatching. Her latest novel, Once More With Feeling, will be published this fall.
By Julian Day
This place has a cadence, a memory
encoded in blackbirds and tallgrass.
Wild rye, coneflower at the fringes.
Remnants of the world before
the Last Best West, railroad and rebellion.
The light cuts the stillness, wends through ash
and maple. In evening, the braking of trains,
a shrill plainsong. Birds in the rushes.
You listen for an echo,
a spoken word –
But there is only transience.
Sway of poplar, the long laugh of crows.
And now it’s in you:
beauty and grief,
your breath as wind.
Julian Day grew up in Saskatoon. He earned his MSc from the University of Saskatchewan, and now lives in Winnipeg, where he works as a software developer. This is his first publication.
By Joelle Kidd
And the pain, it punctures
and drains you.
Year after year after
the dulling magic of regeneration
makes scars, like paths crossing
your skin, as if ghostly fingernails
were dragged across the surface,
Here is my wound: which has faded
to a pencil-mark.
You tease your own blood out
for an examination.
Joelle Kidd is a food writer and editor by day and a writer of short fiction and poetry by night. Her work has appeared in The Manitoban, The Maelstrom, Halfway Home Anthology, and the Stoneboat Literary Journal.
By Angeline Schellenberg
Everything you’ve never been handed
on a platter: a shiver of mercury,
sliver of moon.
Sterling and refined, silver skates
around lampposts, snips
loose ends, holds manuscripts
Read Jean Valjean by candlelight,
Johnny Tremain by the crack
under the door.
It’s the spoon
you’re born into.
The marriage that lasts
until the children
have left home. The handle
on your coffin.
Lustrous: it’s the lining you’ve
been looking for.
The ebb and flow of time.
A vessel in the house of God.
A stirring under the frozen lake
of your pelvis.
Angeline Schellenberg’s first collection, Tell Them It Was Mozart (Brick Books, 2016), is nominated for three Manitoba Book Awards. Angeline lives in Winnipeg with her husband, two teenagers, and a German shepherd/corgi.
By Grant Guy
Tall prairie grass was in his language
The unending sky was in his blood
How he howled
He walked a path now his
(Walked by ancestors not his)
By virtue of blood dried atonement yet gained
How he howled
For the ghosts of those ancestors
For the ghosts of the living
How he howled
In the air In his soul
He wanted to dance the dance of atonement
He could not dance But he could not dance
How he howled
Grant Guy is a Winnipeg writer, poet, essayist, playwright, performance artist, video artist and a very bad maker of experimental films, stage director and designer, puppeteer, and producer. He has two books published, On The Bright Side of Down and Open Fragments.
By George Amabile
This is the time of day
after the sun goes down and before
the moon rises, when the light is thin
and very still, when it hardly matters
where we came from or where we might be
going, the air enriched by nothing
more than it can easily carry, and being
alive in this place is the same as being
anywhere where the first lights come on
in the valley, where birds return from dying
fire at the edge of the world, and sing
themselves to sleep in the tall trees.
George Amabile has published ten books and has had poetry, fiction and non-fiction in over a hundred national and international venues. His most recent publications are Dancing, with Mirrors (Porcupine’s Quill, 2011) and Small Change (Libros Libertad, 2011) both of which won Bressani Awards.
Join several of the poets for an evening of poetry at McNally Robinson Booksellers on Monday, May 1, beginning at 7 p.m.
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