August 19, 2019

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Sowing seeds

This year's selection marking National Poetry Month explores 'nature' as theme

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”.

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!

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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".

About the photography

Click to Expand

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

Future Colour

Kaelen Bell

Kaelen Bell

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.

 


 

Three Tanka

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.


Mourning

Lauren Carter

Lauren Carter

Gathering memory

like birds

building a nest, magpies

flying sticks, bits of slick

straw to the poplar

tree. That orb

they make,

and what’s inside?

A snug dark

where they feel the pump

of their hearts, the outside

world, infinity

of sky.

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.


Compassing

Erin O’Hara

Erin O’Hara

— For J.D.L. (1974-2016)

In that year’s thaw

you surveyed mine shafts

uncharted, you said,

for the old geologists had died

without mapping

the chutes behind them

Those mornings

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.


Glove

Green fingers on a fencepost, pointing

into the mist.

Fall. Frost

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.

Sheep-spun, wool-warm,

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.


Reunion at George Lake

Angeline Schellenber

Angeline Schellenber

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.


Arthur Lismer

Jonathan Ball

Jonathan Ball

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.


You Must be Gone by Spring

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.


magnetic midnight

Steven Locke

Steven Locke

 

firmament hands

 

crumple tinfoil

 

translucent palms

draw a billowing sail

 

across a breathless night

a dancing ephemera

 

kicks up its heels

 

in communion

 

with blue snow

 

never once

achieving

 

footfall

Steve Locke is a writer, spoken word poet, and arts educator living in Winnipeg / Treaty One Territory.


Nature to me now

Kerry Ryan

Kerry Ryan

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

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

yet.

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.


Eagle

Sarah Klassen

Sarah Klassen

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

Mike Deal
Photojournalist

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.

Read full biography

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