April is National Poetry Month and, for the fourth year in a row, the Winnipeg Free Press invited Winnipeg poets, new and established, to contribute their voices to the celebration. This year, the supplement follows the League of Canadian Poets’ recommended theme of "Nature".
The double-exposure photography of the poets accompanying this article was done in-camera by Free Press photographer Mike Deal using a Canon 5Dmk3 camera.
One of the most exciting things about reading poetry is its ability to plant a single word or image that blooms in the reader’s mind. We all pass through the same territory each day — beneath the same trees, across the same fields, down the same streets — but seeing that journey through another’s eyes, exploring alongside a new guide, can open your mind to the seemingly endless possibilities and vistas the world around us has to offer.
Take this paper out to your porch or your front stoop. Fold it beneath your arm and find a park bench where you can sit and breathe in the air while looking out at the greenery of a park or across the Red River. If you’re feeling particularly coordinated, take the paper for a walk with you and match the tempo of your footsteps to the rhythm of the text.
Either way, we hope that these poems will help you see the world just a little bit differently and help you hear the song carried on every gust of wind. We’ll see you next year!
— John Toews and Ariel Gordon
Pale tomatoes boil in the garden
A dirt soup, a meal for the sun
No colour, we ignore the fruit
When we pick bounty now we pick the leaves
Suck the green, we are colour desperate
In Kansas, in the grey outdoors
When we climb the trees
We ignore the branches
We reach for blue, touch
We swing our arms and shout
Dive, to the bleach blonde
Pulling combs through coral
And braiding for the doorframe
The kitchen, white wash walls
Outside is washed white, a cheek of snow
I brush my belly, reach in for some red
Pull it from me, something fresh
When we fish it isn’t for meat
It’s for pink tongues
A single scale of iridescence
Maybe green, a hit of orange
A touch of something more than death
Kaelen Bell is a 23-year-old poet from Winnipeg. In March, he released a collection of abstract poetry, Dog Star.
a gunmetal sky
hangs over pre-dawn silence
I long for beauty
while mist rolling across snow
turns trees to frosted art
one dry withered leaf
overlooked by autumn winds
hangs on the maple
I, too, am stubborn that way
clinging when I should let go
snow gives way in time
revealing last year’s decay
a dried stem pokes through
as if hoping to start over
but life doesn’t look backward
Christina Perry is a Winnipeg author who has been published in Northern Writers Vol. 6, Tanka Journal, and Page & Spine.
building a nest, magpies
flying sticks, bits of slick
straw to the poplar
tree. That orb
and what’s inside?
A snug dark
where they feel the pump
of their hearts, the outside
Lauren Carter is the author of Following Sea, a poetry collection, and the forthcoming novel, This Has Nothing To Do With You. She lives in St. Andrews, where she’s slowly turning an acre and a half into a paradise for birds.
— For J.D.L. (1974-2016)
In that year’s thaw
you surveyed mine shafts
uncharted, you said,
for the old geologists had died
the chutes behind them
warmed the Shield
and saw you sailing
over marsh and high grass
trailing orange tape
to mark softening danger
Had only you charted your own person then
circling orange your sites of sadness
Or turned to me in sunlight
Your voice a vein of minerals, unmined
Erin O’Hara was raised in Kenora, Ontario. Her work has been published in Geez Magazine, CV2, and the anthology GUSH: menstrual manifestos for our times. Erin now lives in Winnipeg, where she works as a labour advocate.
Green fingers on a fencepost, pointing
into the mist.
on the railroad ties, starburst creosote.
A fox took the other.
Trotted back to the den.
Wove it into leaf and loam,
a bed for the kits. Snuffling, blind,
they sucked at the green teats.
The smallest squirmed inside, slept
in a green womb.
flecks of human dander
on her red fur.
Patricia Robertson’s third collection of short fiction, Hour of the Crab, will be published next year.
This water-filled basin, a body surrounded.
We stretch out on the dock, waiting for nothing to happen. A flagpole whistles.
A wind. At once, a line of geese backstitches the far shore.
Their froth. The blast of trumpets.
We enter, relinquish gravity. Water fills the space between us.
Three raccoons wibble past, apples in their unwary cheeks.
The cut of loons through air.
A breeze rocks the water lilies.
Those we mourn, visible in our matching faces.
Angeline Schellenberg launches two new chapbooks this spring: Irises and Dented Tubas.
Our hands haul the buildings up
Out of the ground
Where they always knelt
Biding time under the surface
The felled trees always laid
By their ageless stumps
Machines and bright blades
Foundations and girders
The signage above
As the signage below
The signage of this life
The signage to come
All pulled out of black earth
By our darkling hands
Dirt filling our lifelines
Obscured and effaced
Our hands do not matter
Although we pretend
The world never mattered
Neither signage nor hills
When I open your mouth
And I ask for your name
These words will flow out
Stumble-falling like water
Jonathan Ball is a Winnipeg writer.
Where once the earth lay formless
Under mounds of snow and piles of Ice
Now stands a muskeg beside a parking lot.
Undulating, black mud,
Asphalt, slush and salt.
Winter hides the terrible tenant.
When the sun comes she’ll see
All this and shine.
Turn it all to life
Turn it all to dust
The muskeg and the parking lot
Raul Toichoa-Fulford is an undergraduate at the University of Manitoba who aspires to write urban and historical fiction.
draw a billowing sail
across a breathless night
a dancing ephemera
kicks up its heels
with blue snow
Steve Locke is a writer, spoken word poet, and arts educator living in Winnipeg / Treaty One Territory.
Pea gravel and carefully asymmetric Styrofoam
boulder with rubber hand-grips shaped like fossils.
The smell of wet wood chips is as close as I get to cedar.
Weekend hikes traded for tracked-in grit I push
from one room to another, sticky bits of leaf mulch
I pull from my daughter’s spring mittens.
Crow strained through closed window.
Our neighbourhood wildlife: the next-door cats
and their shit in my thawing garden. A greyhound
in lumberjack plaid.
I’m squared by city, by routine, the gaps between
naptime and bath time. Wild is a cracked sidewalk,
a tree out of step with boulevard chorus line.
The dark square of sky over the alley when I run
the garbage out to the bin: not a shooting star,
just slow-moving jet at cruising altitude.
Kerry Ryan has published two books of poetry, The Sleeping Life (The Muses’ Company, 2008) and Vs. (Anvil, 2010), a finalist for the Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry. She’s currently at work on a novel.
I have not loved myself well,
and it seems to me a soft tragedy
that the scent of the honeysuckle bush and
my love for myself are two circles of
fragrance which have not overlapped.
I have neglected to love myself deep into
the prairie dirt – dark loam generosity,
into the pond of untouched bulrushes (speckled),
deep into the gouache sky.
I bow to the small flowers alight on the grasses,
forever and before, on paths that coil with shallow roots,
and of course, the wax paper light which feeds
all things with time;
perpetual cycles of damp and dry and satisfaction and wellness,
not considering myself a part of them
Holly Smith is a Communications and English Literature student at Canadian Mennonite University with a deep love for reading and re-purposed love for writing.
A bald eagle in transit across the sky’s blue canopy.
The large bird turns and spirals elegantly down, down,
then, rising on currents of air, soars like an organ chord
across the river and lands on the branch of an oak.
If, as the song says, we’ll rise one day on wings of an eagle,
will those curved talons remain hidden, that sharp beak clamped shut?
Is it faith or imagination finds safety in the strength of a feathered span?
At the concert a woman in a sky blue dress moves her elegant hands
and draws from her instrument a melody pure as the human voice.
Not touch but motion lures music from a theremin. How gracefully
those skilled hands move. How doggedly
those eagle talons grip the gnarled oak branch.
Sarah Klassen’s most recent poetry collection is Monstrance.
Mike Deal started freelancing for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1997. Three years later, he landed a part-time job as a night photo desk editor.