It’s a wrap!


 

30 days
28 featured guests
485 party goers
Wasn’t that a party!!!

 

What a rich time this has been, one which has me realizing again what an incredible creative community (online and off) that I get to participate in. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about each one of you, and appreciate how candidly you’ve answered my questions. I can’t think of a better way to celebration National Poetry Month!

Below is our NaPoMo Poetry Party Featured Guest List, with links back to each guest’s post. So continue to enjoy and follow up with one another. Learn more about these incredible and unique creative beings who bring light to our needful world.

And if you find yourself mysteriously drawn to pick up a pen, or a paintbrush, or a camera, again for for the first time, I encourage to follow that inkling. Every art form is a gateway. Enter in, dear one.

With deep gratitude to each of you who have graced us with your presence.

Blessings, good health, and creative adventures,

Lesley-Anne

NAPOMO POETRY PARTY
List of Featured Guests

Joel Clements

Barbara Colebrook Peace

Karen Connelly

Gary Copeland Lilley

Brigitta Davidson

Chris Hancock Donaldson

Daniella Elza

Lesley-Anne Evans
(and again)

Malcolm Evans

Lowell Friesen

Malcolm Guite

Rawle James

Amanda Kelly

Deborah Lampitt-McConnachie

Anne Linington

Margaret Macpherson

Susan McCaslin

Nygel Metcalfe

Norm Millross

Richard Osler

Sally Quon

Jason Ramsey

Carmen Rempell

Harold Rhenisch

Robert Rife

Hillary Ross

Christine Valters Paintner

Bernadette Wagner

NaPoMo poetry party last call


Me

The last day of April brings us to our final guest at my NaPoMo poetry party. If you’ve been following along each day (if not tomorrow’s wrap up will help you catch up), you’ll know our scope has widened a bit from strictly poets to meeting with a handful of visual storytellers – photographers. This morning we are joined by Malcolm Evans, a photographer and someone very dear to my heart; my son.

Tell us a little about yourself, Malcolm.

Malcolm: My name is Malcolm and I currently work as an Outreach Navigator with the Canadian Mental Health Association. In May I will begin working on my Master of Public Safety with Wilfrid Laurier University.

As all of you are also experiencing, my life is going through some unprecedented changes. Not only has COVID-19 changed where I live, how I work, and what I do in my spare time, it has also shifted my ability to focus on what matters most to me as an individual. As I find myself distanced from family and friends, there is a heightened sense of priority in my life. The things that matter most to me have been solidified by their absence.

I find peace in this.

We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Malcolm: I tend to be the kind of person who does as much as possible, whenever possible. Since I am an essential worker, the only thing that has changed for me is the time that I spend outside of work. Luckily, a lot of my daily activities already abide by social distancing requirements! If anything, I’m saving money by spending less time in breweries and restaurants, and more time out in nature. The biggest thing that has changed is my ability to spend time with my family. I do my best to find activities that allow us to be together from a distance but it’s never the same.

Why is art important?

Malcolm: Art has always been a form of therapy for myself. The world tends to melt away when I am outside with my camera. Photography allows me to focus on things that have minimal impact on my life and yet, carry significant beauty. Finding beauty in the world continues to be an important source of happiness in my life. I think it’s important for everyone to discover a way to see beauty. Art is a lens that helps us achieve that.

What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Malcolm: I ran out of peanut butter today. It happened a lot faster than I expected. I love peanut butter!

You have chosen several photographs to share this morning, and they are striking examples to me of how form, texture, light, and shadow can be crafted into a emotive compositions completely devoid of colour, and yet my perception is somehow not limited to shades and tones of black and white. I wonder why? There is metaphor in this for me.

Thank you so much for coming by today, Malcolm. Your work is masterful. I wish you all the best with MELK Photography, the business you are developing that will specialize in black/white photography. Maybe you will share more about that another day. And thank you for the helping work you do on the front lines. It is a good work, and you have a good heart.

 

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And thank you, friends, for dropping in today. Come back tomorrow for our wrap up session where all of our amazing guests will be back for one more fond farewell.

“May the road rise to meet you, may the sun be always on your back, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.” (Irish Blessing)

Peace to each of you,

Lesley-Anne

NaPoMo poetry party.28


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Good morning good folk. A dear friend who was going to drop by and share some work today has had a family emergency. I pray all will be well with them and that they can return one day to be with us.

(I’ve been giving some thought to a regular poetry party here at Buddy Breathing; what do you think?)

I hope you’ve been enjoying the daily visits with so many beautiful and inspiring people? I’ve intentionally steered away from any sense of promotion as I wanted to honour each guest as a person, and to simply sit and spend a little time getting to know their hearts. Please jump in on the comments and let me know how it’s been for you. Let me know if you want to come by one day and share too.

You heard from me once before this month, and here we are again. What shall I say? I think I’ll just share a wee bit from my life in hopes it encourages someone else on their creative journey. It’s a complex mess at times, but today I feel I’m being exactly who I am. With integrity. Truth. Purpose. Providence. With a splash of should-I-be-saying-this-out-loud and do I sound pretentious?

This week I went for a walkabout and installed some poems in my neighbourhood in a process I’ve called “Pop-up Poetry.” I keep another blog all about it HERE. I had a surprise encounter with boys on bikes that you might like to read about HERE. Two front line medical workers affirmed what they called my immeasurable gift, and this at a time when I’m questioning the helper in me. Each time I step out with my poetry and receive a response from anyone, I sense something that feels like a quiver of certainty. This is how I help. This. Poetry.

Eight years of doing Pop-up Poetry and it never gets old. I step out in a mixture of angst and fear and embarrassment (reverse pride) and come back lighter and almost free. I think there’s something about doing what I can, and sharing what I have, that carries me. Pop-up Poetry is woven into my life now.

I’ve been working with the brilliant editor Harold Rhenisch over the past couple of years. He is mentoring me, unleashing me, helping me to believe in my voice and to allow poems to be born through me. It is so difficult some days as I feel my intellect stretched past what I think are my limits. Sometimes I rise with understanding. Sometimes I write and it is complete crap. Sometimes I enter into a flow and a few words string together into a luminous line. I remember the day I asked Harold if he might take a look at my poetry and see if there was something worth doing there. From that day until now is pure gift. Harold inspires me to be like him; to come gently and humbly alongside others in their creative journeys, to speak life into them, and to be a friend.

I’ve also been giving myself to a vision I’ve carried for years, to create a place of refuge for those seeking solitude and soul refreshment. It has meant moving homes. It has meant enfleshing ideas and building things and refining the vision. This place we’ve landed, this place we’ve lovingly named Feeny Wood, has brought me to tears of frustration and joy. When COVID happened, it meant the very first booking in our Bothy (forest prayer hut) had to be postponed. Carrying a vision for hospitality in a time of staying-in-place has me wondering and asking what’s this all about, God? I keep stepping in.

Today I will sit down with my husband to talk about plans for our courtyard contemplative garden. I’ve planted a line of blueberries, transplanted some wild strawberries, and wheeled in 4 yards of lovely black earth. One step at a time. In due course our bans will lift, and our doors will open, and people will come. Maybe it will be you?

I’d like to share another poem with you today, one that arrived this week. She is new and saying something I’m still straining to hear. In other words, more edits are likely :)

May this day bring you bright spots, and a laugh or two,
Lesley-Anne

My Son as the Captain of A Tall Ship

That gentle trough
of sinew and skin like velvet
seems an odd design
for a boy's neck or a horse’s nose.
I want to rest there. I feel faint
at the thought.
When you are absorbed in Lego worlds
I will walk up behind you
and wait. Imagine how it might feel
to float once again in the swirl of hair
on the top of your small head;
drift there for a while — a buoy
in the current of our story.

From above I will tip over
and touch your neck — here, now;
a hint of sweat; your hand
brushing mine away.
I am a channel marker.
You are long gone to sea.

NaPoMo poetry party.27


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Our guest today is Gary Copeland Lilley who lives, teaches, mentors, and flourishes as a poet and musician in the idyllic seaside town of Port Townsend, Washington. Gary is the author of eight books of poetry, and is published widely. Gary generously serves and creates community through initiatives like his Writer’s Workshoppe where poets are invited to “do your poetic thing with a focus on the crafting of poems, and on not judging poets.”

I met Gary several years back when he was leading faculty at the Centrum Port Townsend Writer’s Conference. It was a joy for me to sit in Gary’s presence, listen to tales of poetry and his days in the Navy, consider his rich insights, and stretch myself in a new context of American poetry culture. And the icing on the cake was hearing Gary play the blues at our evening open mics. (Hey friends, if you ever have a chance to attend Centrum, go!)

Thanks so much for honouring us by being here today, Gary. I’m excited because we get to experience you reading a poem (via video), and you’ve brought another poem in print. There’s something very special about hearing a poet read their work, I think.

If folk would like a taste of a little more about you, or purchase your poetry collections, they can start HERE, HERE, and HERE. As we have become accustomed to doing each day, we are going to ask you three questions;

Lesley-Anne:  We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Gary:  I am spending my time with the guitar. I love singing. I’ve written a few songs that I’m still working on. Also, I’m learning some good songs to cover. Woody Guthrie songs and Wobblie (International Workers of the World) songs. These are hyper-political dust-bowl type of times, and, for me, that loops right back into writing poems.

Lesley-Anne:  Why is poetry/art important?

Gary:  Hmmm, a better question for me is when has it not been important? The beauty of the expression of things within our lives is one of the greatest joys of humankind. It is truly a gift from God to be shared with others.

Lesley-Anne:  What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Gary:  Today, in my small town of Port Townsend, WA a woman from somewhere else and in a hurry to get where she was going was honking her horn in the sparse traffic. That never happens here.

We’ll move now into the world of your poems. In a time when we can feel distant from one another, I’m grateful for this month’s poetry party that was for me a drawing closer. Thank you for spending this time with us, Gary.

Peace, and poetry,
Lesley-Anne


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NaPoMo poetry party.26


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Joel Clements is a graphic designer, documentary photographer, and widely involved creative soul who lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario with his fabulous wife Andrea, and two adorable cats. I have witnessed the exceptional work of Joel’s hands in his woodworking, cabinetmaking, and renovating. His vintage canoe is one example of his loving and meticulous process of preserving things of beauty.

To have a creative conversation with Joel is best enjoyed with a cold craft brew in your hand and a good chunk of time to sit and wonder together. For now I’m just going to imagine the day that will happen again, and enjoy our virtual chat.

Joel is my brother, and my friend. Welcome to Buddy Breathing, JC. Your websites HERE and HERE are great resources for folk to dig in and find out more about you, and experience more of your work. Today you’ve brought us a poignant poem, and a photograph, but let’s dig first into the answers to three questions.

Lesley-Anne: We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Joel: I’ve been a self-employed creative for almost 14 years, so working from home hasn’t required an adjustment besides adapting to sharing the house 24/7 with my wife. Social distancing and travel restrictions are definitely having an effect on my photography. Last year at this time I was preparing for a month long documentary assignment in Malawi. I have taken the opportunity to play a little – with my Polaroid cameras and some mixed-media art projects. I take a little time out of work each day to do some art for art’s sake.

Lesley-Anne: Why is art important?

Joel: Creativity is central to my being. I love to create, and experience things that other people have created.

Lesley-Anne: What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Joel: I received a request to submit a poem to Buddy Breathing.

Your photo and poem are gifts that seem so well suited to each other. Thank you for taking us here.

Love and hope,
Lesley-Anne

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Downtown Toronto under lock down.

Grief Moved In

Blue sweatshirts,
sweat-stained,
darkened,
sled labelled boxes
down the hall
jammed with
box-spring skeletons,
and grunt
a piano up
the stairs

The sofa rests hard
on soft shoulders,
carried away
from an empty
shrunken room.

We sit hard
on hardwood floors,
listen to squeals
of dolly wheels
rolling up plywood
ramps, eat
fried chicken
from the bucket,
sharing memories
with deaf walls
as grief moves in.

 

NaPoMo poetry party.25


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I’m excited to introduce you to Susan McCaslin, who says she can often be found walking along the Fraser River or among local forests outside historic Fort Langley, BC.

You can learn more about Susan at her website. A wide representation of Susan’s poems from her various volumes of poetry can be found in  Into the Open: Poems New & Selected (Toronto: Inanna Publications, 2017).

Welcome, Susan. Interestingly, a forest is what first drew me to you, through your poetic activism “Han Shan Project” in which you put out a call to poets to assist in saving the greater part of what was then called McLellan Forest East and is now the Blaauw Eco Forest in Langley from development. And it worked! Over a two-week period, you received over 250 poems from across Canada (mine included), and then you, your husband and other invested souls gently tied the poems in the trees, raising awareness that led to a private donor (Mrs. Anne Blaauw) stepping forward with the funding needed to save this ancient ecosystem. What power poetry carries within.

What a joy to sit (virtually) with you this morning, Susan, and to introduce you to my blog community, Buddy Breathing.

Lesley-Anne: We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Susan: The current pandemic in its strange and deadly way has forced me to reflect on time. What is it? How does it relate to what I was taught as a child about eternity, which by definition is timeless? Isn’t it hazardous to ourselves and our planet to live out a dualism that separates time and eternity? How many of the details of our lives do we retain as we move through the cycles of planetary life, and how much do we eventually shed like a flaked-off skin when we die? What aspects of our consciousness survive death? What, for that matter, is death, and how are death and rebirth bound together in the cosmic scheme of things? We are certainly more than our ego envelope, the small self, the outer shell. Yet aren’t these temporal, idiosyncratic aspects of ourselves, even our masks and socially constructed selves, important too? I have an intuition that the part of us that lives in and though love will continue to evolve in mysterious ways. I am an introvert who needs inter-connection. I have developed a capacity to distance from the world around me when the going gets tough, to escape “elsewhere,” sometimes into worlds of thought and imagination. For me, thinking, dreaming, feeling, and being present in my body are not separate, but an interplay of faculties. So, I affirm and embrace embodiment, incarnation. Yet I must confess that, like most people at this time, I’m experiencing fear and flitting from one unfinished project to another.

So, to return to Lesley-Anne’s question, “How do I spend my time differently during the pandemic? I find myself pausing from our collective ride on the “progress machine” by taking long walks. The Anna’s hummingbird sipping from our feeder holds me spellbound. I am transfixed by flocks of Canada geese and the elegant curved necks of great blue herons nesting nearby. I walk each day with Rosie, my canine companion. Like so many others, I try to reach out to friends and neighbours who might need a hand or a “check in.” Because I’ve been “retired” from teaching English Lit. since 2007 and am turning 73 soon, being alone a good part of the time, writing, reading, thinking, have constituted much of life. Therefore, my days aren’t as drastically changed as they are for many others. For the opportunity to reflect, I feel privileged and enormously grateful.

Lesley-Anne: Why is poetry/art important?

Susan: Poetry and art aren’t frills or embellishments to ordinary life. They aren’t an elitist endeavor intended only for a few, but essential to our common psychological health and spiritual survival. Poetry and art have been present from the beginnings of human life on earth. The Paleolithic drawings and imprints on the walls of caves in Lascaux and other places in the world suggest our early ancestors opened themselves to vaster worlds, the earthy, planetary and cosmological realms where trees, deer, and our fellow creatures are deeply interconnected. Women, men, and children cooperated to imprint art in the depths of caves, participating in a mysterious cosmic ritual, a visual enactment of the interplay of all things. My sense is that everyone has within them this potential to engage a vaster, more inclusive sphere of being, and that poetry, because of its oral/aural origins, is akin to music, enacting a dance between the known and the unknown, speech and silence.

Lesley-Anne: What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Susan: A dear friend of mind and fellow poet, Antoinette Voute Roeder, contacted me by email to remind me of a book I had read several years ago by the poet Stanley Kunitz (in cooperation with Genine Lentine),The Wild Braid, in which he discusses the relation of gardening and poetry:

“The poem is not just language; it is in itself an incarnation …. When I’m reading Hopkins aloud, I feel I am actually occupying his selfhood and speaking out of it, not simply reciting the words, but somehow merging into his bloodstream and nervous system.”

During my daily walks during the pandemic, I sometimes reflect on how reading a poem invites union with the consciousness of the poet who wrote it, and also becomes for the co-creator, the reader or hearer, a mini-re-enactment of the presences and processes that inspired the poem. A poem so received can become a reservoir of healing and regeneration. It lives. This is what makes poetry at its best what my friend Antoinette calls “a sacred art.”

Lesley-Anne: We are in for a very special treat today in the form of your newly completed poem “Corona Corona.” You describe it as “a “crown” or corona of sonnets in which the last line of each poem becomes the first line of the next, and the last line of the last sonnet is the same or similar to the first line of the sequence. I have kept the 14-lines, but am using free verse rather than the traditional rhyme and metre.”  What a delight, thank you so much.

And as we go out carried by the lines of your insightful and poignant poem, I wish everyone safe shelter and enough peace for the moment.
Lesley-Anne

Corona Corona

What kind of crown bears death?
What kind of queen hefts quarantine?
You’re not even alive, 
just a spikey shell
unaware of the damage wreaked.
Our economies forged dark streams,
pathways for your kind of havoc.
We check our devices
listen to the newscasts
watch our Netflicks flicker
hunker in the void 
co-avoiding physical contact, 
incarnate and encapsulated
dreaming new modes of being. 

Dreaming new modes of being
I wonder why I’m addressing you.
You’re just one of many sub-streams –
Sars, Spanish flu, Bubonic Plague.
We sit with storytellers, re-configure
Boccacio’s Decameron, clutch Julian of Norwich’s 
Revelations of Divine Love, ponder Dicken’s 
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” 
self-isolate with Camus’ Plague,
knowing nothing’s new under the sun.
Stranded in para-doxology, we give thanks for 
this contemplative pause 
from compulsory progress, Gaia’s chance
to take a breath as the wild creatures return.

Taking a breath as the wild creatures return,
we peer through the global membrane,
ears cupped to a hermit thrush’s spiraling song
held in the arc of a great blue heron’s flight.
When poems interweave
with light and dark they sing, stranded 
between lament and praise
thanksgiving and trembling,
our vast unknowing graced by love,
small acts of compassion,
heartwork of the justice imagination,
prayers for collective transfiguration. 
Can we uncrown ourselves as lords of creation,
since heavy crowns bear death, not regeneration? 

 

NaPoMo poetry party.24


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Jason D. Ramsey
has a creative capacity and reach that is wide and unstoppable. I’ve been enriched by Jason’s generous friendship for many years through his online arts community Altarworks, and most recently through his literary initiative Barren Magazine. It’s amazing to me how connected you can feel to someone without ever meeting in person, and so it is with Jason.

Jason lives halfway between Detroit and Chicago, and serves as Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Barren Magazine. His essays and poems can be found in Parentheses Journal, Tilde Literary Journal, After the Pause, Isacoustic, and more. Jason is also a visual storyteller.

Thanks for making time in your full life to join our poetry party, Jason.

Lesley-Anne: We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Are you spending your time differently in view of our current world challenges? If so, how?

Jason:  I take too little time as it is for the important things in life. I’m always on the go. My mind is always racing. I manage a respiratory care department at a regional hospital in Michigan, run Barren Magazine, and have five kids under 13 at home, so I stay plenty busy. The current world challenges weigh heavily on me. Not just the coronavirus pandemic, which I am in the thick of, but all of the world challenges. I can’t be on Facebook for more than five seconds without being saddened or disgusted. With that said, though, I am spending what little free time I have differently. Instead of being wrapped up in whatever the latest news articles spew out, I’ve been spending more quality time with my kids. It has been cold, but we’ve played ball in the yard, played board games, worked on schoolwork together. I feel like, somehow, we’ve grown closer as a family as a result.

Lesley-Anne: Why is poetry/art important?

Jason: Poetry, like all art forms, is a way for us to express the profundities of life in ways that challenge us. In particular, poetry is among the most emotional art forms. It’s is also one of the most difficult. It’s hard to find something new to say in an original way. Poets have always tried to be one step ahead of everyone else in terms of worldview, whether successful or not. I believe a new wave of great poetry will surface from our current world state. It has to. It’s intrinsic in our human nature. It’s our life blood. It’s all around us, not just as pretty words on a page. It’s our first thought when we look at a newborn; the air we breathe when we’re walking outside; the hands that raise in protest; the hands we lower in love.

Lesley-Anne: What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Jason: One surprising thing that happened to me today was my oldest son’s attitude when I laid out his new 6th grade online classwork. Michigan schools are closed until fall, but our district is moving forward with online learning. He’s in 6th grade, and he has to juggle six classes. Middle school has been a rough transition for him, and he has had a very challenging last few months. Ironically, the poem I’ve included here is about him, last summer, when we were on vacation in the Appalachian mountains. The poem is mostly true in detail, but completely true in message. He has battled depression, ADHD, ODD, and more for years now. Getting him to do his schoolwork is often the hardest part of my day. But, tonight we sat down, went through his material, and organized things to set him up for success. He even found some joy in it. And we bonded a bit. Now, that’s poetry.

You can find Jason online at:

facebook.com/JasonDRamsey
twitter.com/JasonDRamsey
instagram.com/jasondramsey
barrenmagazine.com

This has been a lovely visit, and we will leave one another now with your poem, ‘In the Blue Hue of Morning’ as it was published in Parentheses Journal (Fall 2019). Thanks so much for spending time with us today, Jason.

Stay safe, and blessings for the care you lavish on bodies and souls,
Lesley-Anne

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