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I was thrilled to be able to join the on-line Art Bar Poetry Reading Series on November 2nd, 2021.  I taped a twenty-five minute video! The Art Bar Reading Series is based in Toronto and they will be hosting in-person events beginning in December! My last Art Bar reading was in 2016 for the launch of my poetry collection Hyaena Season published by Quattro Books of Toronto.


Read about my next ten-day generative poetry retreat in 2022 at La Romita School of Art, Terni, Italy.

Read a review of my book Hyaena Season in Image Journal’s Good Letters blog by author, anthologist and long-time Image contributor, Peggy Rosenthal.

I recently posted my video about Poetry as Prayer, from the Logos Project, as well as the full article, and watch here for my upcoming Poetry as Prayer retreats.

What a time we had! La Romita Poetry Writing Retreat in Italy – Summer 2017

A community of poets and painters, great food and creative expression! And lots of laughter! What a time we had! You can check out my Facebook page for pics and blog posts by Sheila, one of the retreatants! Another retreatant, Tonya, wrote this about her experience:

Being at La Romita, in the hills of olive groves, within the deep history of Umbria and the story of the once-Capuchin monastery itself, was enchanting. I’d worked briefly with Richard Osler once and knew he would bring big energy and a head and heart full of poetry. He did that and more. The more is in his uncanny ability to enable people to find their own poetry. He invites, supports and nourishes the opening of inner channels of communication with the people we’ve been missing in ourselves, who all have so much to say. Richard gives poetry and while we received it and worked hard to learn to hear it, we also had an incredibly good time.

Read all about it!

hyaena-season-coverMy new collection of poems, Hyaena Season, launched last Fall! More than ten readings in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria and Calgary. And sold lots of books!

The poems in Hyaena Season touch on the intimacies of a wide range of human experience from the killing grounds of Rwanda and DR Congo, to settings more familiar here in Canada.

Hope to do some more readings in the upcoming months! Here are details on past readings! Launches and readings during the past year. Thanks to all those who came out to hear me read!

You’ll find a complete list of my works here.

Here’s a short piece on what this site is all about.

If you’re wondering where my page of readings has gone, it’s just moved – from the home page to its own place inside the site. You can always reach it from the main menu under “Richard Reading”.

Upcoming Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.

A Stunning Debut – Linda K. Thompson’s 2021 Poetry Collection – BLACK BEARS IN THE CARROT FIELD

B.C.-based poet Linda K. Thompson: Photo Credit: Alberni Valley News

Pete Sillanpaa Never Loved the Moon

Aino died first and Pete lost heart.
Spent his last years at the Finnish rest home in South Vancouver.
The farm by Punch Creek: two small fields along the road,
the gooseberries, the sauna,
the green and white house with the steep pitched roof,
all sold off to someone from the city.

He said he and Aino walked together through that last night.
The moon stepping ahead, always ahead of the shadows,
lighting the rags on their shoulders. Aino’s shredded kerchief.
They came down through the birch and the pines by the river.
No lights, not a sound.
Not a horse or cow or dog.
No nightjar, no owl, no whip-poor-will.
Just chimneys, like bones of a long dead beast,
strewn before them. the stink of of everywhere.
And the moon, Pete said, the moon.

Pete had worked all over. Came to our place for digging.
Tossed hundred pound sacks all day.
Ate black bread with linden tea for lunch.
Told us about the old country. About the war.
Told us how the Russians marched his village
off to a work camp, and when they let them come home,
thaose that were left, the village was gone.

He said he and Aino walked together through that last night.
The moon stepping ahead, always ahead of the shadows,
lighting the rags on their shoulders. Aino’s shredded kerchief.
They came down through the birch and the pines by the river.
No lights, not a sound.
Not a horse or cow or dog.
No nightjar, no owl, no whip-poor-will.
Just chimneys, like bones of a long dead beast,
strewn before them. the stink of of everywhere.
And the moon, Pete said, the moon.

Linda K. Thompson from BLACK BEARS IN THE CARROT FIELD, Mother Tongue Publishing, 2021

This poem. How it looks to the past but also foretells the horrors in Ukraine. At the end of WWII so many stories, as in this poem, of razed villages and towns in Finland and other countries in Europe. And their citizens shipped off to work camps. And, now, the same thing happening in Ukraine. Ad these striking, haunting lines:

Just chimneys, like bones of a long dead beast,
strewn before them. the stink of it everywhere.

And the brilliance, too, not just of the moon in her poem but the title of Linda’s poem: Pete Sillanpaa Never Loved the Moon. How it sets a stage and takes anything sentimental or Hallmark-ish out of the last line: And the moon, Pete said, the moon. One of the most original takes on the moon I ever seen in a poem. Turns the old tropes of a romantic or beautiful moon and turns them on their heads. The utter surprise of a disdained moon in a poem. The so-many droll surprises in the poems of Linda K. Thompson.

This is my second blog post featuring Linda. Here is what I wrote at the end of my blog post on  February 19th, 2019:

I am grateful to Linda Thompson. My world is richer for her people and places she brings so alive in her poems. I hope some publisher gets real smart, real fast and snaps up Linda’s manuscript. It will be a strong book for sure!

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Poems by Frank O’Hara and Roger Reeves and Another Poem by Ocean Vuong, Plus a Generative Writing Adventure for Anyone Who Wants To Try It

American poet Frank O’Hara (1926-1966)


They say I mope too much
but really I’m loudly dancing.
I eat paper. It’s good for my bones.
I play the piano pedal. I dance,
I am never quiet, I mean silent.
Some day I’ll love Frank O’Hara.
I think I’ll be alone for a little while.

Frank O’Hara from The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1972

I have been enjoying the Fifth Living Room Craft Talk by marvelous American teacher and poet Ellen Bass. On Friday she shared , among others, two poems by American poets Roger Reeves and Ocean Vuong. These two poems I featured in a generative writing adventure I prepared for a ten-day poetry retreat at the La Romita School of Art in Umbria in 2017. Both the Vuong and Revves poems owed their genesis to the lovely lyric poem by Frank Hara above. Here below is my 2017 discussion of all three poems and a writing adventure at the end.

“Often, a line from a poem becomes a great launching off place for your own poem. This is where the mystery starts to take place. The place where you let go of control. The place where another voice meets you and becomes yours. Sometimes it is the line, only, that is what you are left with. At other times it is the whole poem that becomes a template for your own. An echo of form, of line break, of syntax but your own words. Some call this po-jacking.

Back in the 1960’s Frank O’Hara, an art curator and a key member of the so-called New York School of poets wrote a small poem in the voice of a small girl, a daughter of a friend. It’s not one of his better known poems but it has come into notice through two contemporary poems published in the past few years that have po-jacked O’Hara’s poem, have used the line, Someday I’ll love Frank O’Hara or part of it, as the title in theirs.

A few months ago I came across the poem Someday I’ll Love – by the gay Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong and saw that it was after (based on a line) a poem of not just O’Hara but also Roger Reeves, an African American. Sent me scrambling to find both the Roger Reeves poem as well as the O’Hara poem. In that scramble I discovered that both Reeves and Vuong turned the O’Hara’s poem into a more personal lyric journey about their lives whereas in the O’Hara poem it is Katy, the eponymous narrator of the poem who says someday I will love Frank O’Hara.

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His Body is his Last Address – A Poem by Ocean Vuong from His Latest Book: TIME IS A MOTHER

Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong. Photo Credit: The Oxford Student

from Reasons for Staying

The October leaves coming down, as if called.

Morning fog through the wildrye beyond the train tracks.

A cigarette. A good sweater. On the sagging porch. While the family sleeps.

That I woke at all & the hawk up there thought nothing of its wings.

That I snuck onto the page while the guards were shitfaced on codeine.

That I read my books by the light of riotfire.

That my best words came farthest from myself & it’s awesome.

Ocean Vuong from TIME IS A MOTHER, Penguin Press, 2022

This excerpt from Ocean Vuong’s poem Reasons for Staying: what an ultimate wakeup call the poem is that begins with the excerpt above. And the poet,  the gay thirty-four-year-old Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong, is being celebrated, truly, as one of the important new voices in American poetry.

Ocean won the Narrative Poetry Prize in 2015, the year before his first full-length poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds was published to great acclaim and won the prestigous UK T. S. Eliot Prize and the American Whiting Award.. His follow-up book On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, an epistolary novel with many echoes from his own life, was cited as one of the top ten books of 2019 by The Washington Post, was a finalist for the 2020Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction.

I heard Ocean read Reasons for Staying on a live on-line reading last week hosted by Georgia Tech and the co-host, Ukrainian American poet Ilya Kaminsky. I was so taken by it. By its courage and healing outreach. And its raw honesty. A poem, from Ocean’s recent 2022 poetry collection, that comes out of Ocean’s history of dislocation, addiction and that feels like a response to suicidal ideation. That suggestion in the title: Reasons for Staying.

Yes, this is a raw poem that includes a lot of potentially triggering references including a graphic sexual reference. This is why I begin with the excerpt before sharing below the full poem and what what could be triggering lines for some. But, and this a huge but for me, what a crying out for life, for living in this poem! What great poems do.  The poem vibrates with authenticity and emotional vulnerability. What a call, what a prayer for saying yes to life. And to someone, a reader, facing some of these challenges Ocean or his speaker has faced, what hope in this poem. That Ocean has survived his challenges. This encouragement to someone else that they too can survive!

Here is a quote that says so much about Reasons for Staying and Ocean’s overall poetics:

The language we use to communicate with one another is often one of distance and hyperbole. The risk is that we end up dismissing or, at worst, shunning the particularities of an idiosyncratic life…poetry creates a space where we don’t have to clear our throats, where we can be as strange and obsessed as we actually feel. And someone can read these thoughts and hopefully recognize their own strangeness and uniqueness as a human being. In this way, poetry is the side door to our inner selves, where we can see one another, without shame, more closely. Because maybe it’s these things that make us care for another: when we can recognize each other’s fears, vulnerabilities, joys, and histories.

 — Ocean Vuong from an interview in Split This Rock, Feb. 16th, 2016
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The Guest Poetry Blog Series # 4 – Canadian Poet Juleta Severson-Baker Features Dene/Métis Poet, Photographer and Writer, Tenille K. Campbell – Part Two of Two

Dene/Metis poet, photographer and writer, Tenille K. Campbell. Photo Credit: Flare


the snow fell
light white flakes
melting on contact
fading away
like old stories
after dawn

the country twang
of heartache and loss
white noise
as I listened
to your heartbeat
echoing my own

my hand in yours
we swayed back and forth
under street light

I need a woman like you, you said
I’ll eat you alive, I said

Tenille Campbell from #IndianLovePoems, Signature Editions, 2017

Tenille K. Campbell is a Dene/Métis writer and photographer from English River First Nation, Saskatchewan. I stumbled across her book #IndianLovePoems in the remarkably good poetry section of Mobius Books in Port Alberni, B.C.while on a holiday in April, 2022. I read a few poems right there in the store and, by the way my heart started racing, I knew I needed Tenille’s words in my life. She writes with an exposed sexuality, a great delight in delight, toothy humour, power and punch. I devoured the book.

The final line of the epigraph poem for this post, #807, I’ll eat you alive, is the kind of self-aware and hungry female voice Tenille offers her readers all through the book. It feels exciting even if it is, strangely and sadly, surprising to read such a clear and potent claim in a world where women are still enmeshed in painful chains of inequity. Tenille is a poet who stands very clearly in her personal and political power. She finds much of that power in delight and in her own body.
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The Guest Poetry Blog Series #4 – Introducing the Fourth Contributor, Canadian Poet and Teacher, Juleta Severon-Baker – Part One of Two

Canadian Poet and Teacher Juleta Severson-Baker

My Wild Body

happiness of the world
came to me again.
My body effervesces,
I think with my body which effervesces.

-Anna Swir, trans. Czeslaw Milosz &  Leonard Nathan

At 15, all the happiness of the world
was a horse and my best jeans, halter in hand
and boots with a one inch heel, every morning
a July morning in the foothills; the sun unfurled nothing
but promise over each day. Girl heart, horse heart
who could say whose was more huge?

Woman heart, man’s, your hand on my back
reveals old pain where the old camp horse bucked
me off, vertebrae smashed. Evenings now we sit around
and age and call it love while our bodies remember risk
and ache a little. But I am the same girl at heart and wildness
comes to me

again. I think and I am. Riding at dawn
hard down a cutline, alone
but for time-lapse grass growing
a never-newer sun, rushes slowly offering
seeds to the breeze. I am finite. Nevertheless,
my body effervesces.

I was meant for horses,
the scent of them, hay sweet and yeses.
Lub-dub is hoof beat and horizon,
heartbeats connected. Time is a trick of lonely so
I think with my body which effervesces.

Juleta Severson-Baker, 2022, from her upcoming  book ‘Antecedent’, Frontenac House Press, fall 2023)

Hello, Recovering Words readers! I’m so happy to have been invited by Richard to write for his richness of a blog. This week I’ll introduce myself and in my next blog post I’ll introduce another poet – Tenille K. Campbell.

So…who am I, where am I, what has created and shaped my poet self?

I situate myself in the milieu of art-makers who turn to their very bodies and the personal histories lived therein for whispers of muse. Coupling introspection (which I experience best as a physical process, as body-spection, if you will) with a close listening to the friendly voices of birds, the secret language of wind, the abiding mysteries of rock and the wriggly chatter of little creatures in the soil and you have some idea of from whence words come to me.

I grew up as a city girl in the suburbs of Calgary, Alberta in the 1970s. Descended from Norwegian farmers and English labourers – chauffeurs and mechanics – who worked for the landed gentry, I heard stories of my Dad’s childhood on a Saskatchewan farm, and my maternal Grandfather’s days hunting rabbits around his English village in the years between the world wars and romanticized their connection with the natural world. Truly, I longed for a life in the country. I ran and danced around a soccer field near my house at dusk imagining I was Laura Ingalls Wilder playing on a midwestern prairie with no neighbours in sight. As soon as I could, I cajoled my parents into paying for horseback riding lessons. While on horseback I felt ecstatically at home in my wild body.
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How Fiercely Have You Loved Your Days? The Searing and yet Uplifting Latest Poetry Collection by Susan Musgrave

Canadian poet Susan Musgrave and her new poetry collection: Exculpatory Lilies

SEPTEMBER 14th, 2022

The day you are cremated, a girl modelling a black hoodie
like the one I’ve chosen for you to wear, lights up my Facebook page:
I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire
around me. I hear you laugh at the irony as they fire up the retort,
a laugh dragged through the ashes of a thousand cigarettes, tokes
of crack, my sweet dangerous reckless girl, what could I do
but weep, the way I did when you were four, butting out
a Popeye candy cigarette you scored from the boy next door
for showing him your vagine through the split cedar fence.
I told you, next time baby, hold out for the whole pack, trying
to be brave, the way only a mother could. Now I carry you home
in a plain cedar urn, the remains of all you were reduced
to this smaller, portable size. Not even you could survive
the fire this time, your light in ashes now,

Susan Musgrave from Exculpatory Lilies, MCClelland & Stewart, 2022

A mother’s extraordinary ability to name what is so awful to name. Addiction and a death of a beloved daughter. A death, so often dreaded, that finally arrived. The searing beauty of these lines:

….Not even you could survive
the fire this time, your light in ashes now.

A little more than a year ago, with great sadness,  I wrote a blog post honouring Sophie Musgrave, the subject of the poem above, who had recently died of an accidental drug overdose. Sophie is the daughter of Susan Musgrave,  truly, one of Canada’s keystone poets of her or any generation.  I do not say this lightly.  Musgrave is one of our greats. And she just launched (Oct. 29th, 2022) her latest poetry collection, Exculpatory Lilies, in Haida Gwaii, where she lives and runs a famous guest house.

Her book: a cry of grief and sorrow but much more. A woman living each breath, fiercely,  as she says in a poem, loving her days. Imagine, as I do as I write this, a woman standing on a rugged Hadai Gwaii beach, drenched in rain, her hands raised to a pouring sky, yelling: and yet and yet I live, I am here!

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The Poetic Heart of the Columnist and Scientist Yangyang Cheng. How She Captures The Fraught Spirit of Our Time

Chinese American Columnist and Scientist Yangyang Cheng

A Found Poem

I cannot recall

when I entered a state

of perpetual mourning. I grieve

for the country I left

with no certain prospect

of return, the direction

it’s heading in, the plight

of the world, the foreclosed possibilities. Sorrow

tears into my organs

and gnaws at my bones.

But what I fear more

than pain is numbness:

to give in to the powers that be, and give up

on imagining otherwise.

Yangyang Cheng from The Guardian, Tuesday, October 25th, 2022

A scientist with a poet’s heart. And a woman who captures the spirit of our time is such a heart-wrenching way! Or at least that is how I experience the Chinese American scientist and columnist, Yangyang Cheng. What a discovery when I read her recent Guardian column this week. There she refers to Xi Jinping’s custom-breaking third term as China’s supreme leader and reflects on what it means to the world and to her, someone who left China many years ago. And in that reflection I came across the lines I took the liberty of lineating into a poem.

I was struck on the breastbone by her words. Not just on China but the world. And how, too, I have been mourning so many things. Extreme climate, a rise of autocracies and iron-fisted rulers and on and on. How this scientist makes so real the fears that assail me daily and how I so need to be reminded not to go numb.

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The Guest Poetry Blog Series # 3 – Canadian Poet Tonya Lailey Features U.K. Poet Naomi Jaffa – Part Two of Two

U.K. poet Naomi Jaffa. Photo Credit: The Poetry Society

Poem for Wednesday

Oh, humpback of the week,
yardstick of productivity,
all to play for, seesaw pivot
of possibility. Is your gaze
holding mine for fractionally
longer than necessary
a sign of desire or disgust?
Will we even make it
to the weekend together?

Sometimes, Wednesday.
I wonder why I bother.

But then again it’s market day
in town, Matt and his fish van
are back – fresh from brain surgery,
his scalp fuzzy with new growth –
and here are plump scallops
glistening on their bed of ice,
and oh Wednesday, I think,
come on, let’s go for it,
let’s be lavish and splash out.

Naomi Jaffa (1961 -) from Driver, Garlic Press, 2017

So much to say about the UK based poet Naomi Jaffa. But first how I discovered her! Through her rockin’ poem above, posted by Anthony Wilson on his charmingly intermittent blog, Lifesaving Poems. I originally discovered Wilson’s blog when looking up Derek Mahon’s poem, Everything is Going to Be Alright. So, I came to Jaffa’s poems via a trip of serendipities – the best way in my mind. To see Anthony’s website and blog please click here.

Naomi Jaffa was born in London, U.K., majored in English at Oxford and was in classical music management before  joining the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 1993 where she was director of the festival for many years and also a director of its parent organization, the Poetry Trust, until 2015. Currently she is the co-founder of Poetry People, a new organisation set up to run the Suffolk Young Poets Competition and other community projects. With so much of her focus on the poetry of others she has only published two poetry chapbooks: Driver in 2017 and The Last Hour of Sleep from Five Leaves Publications in 2004.

So what is it  about Poem for Wednesday that so struck me? It’s the simple, quirky address of the draggy middle-of-the-week day. I’ve always disliked the term “hump day”. Jaffa makes it a humpback and I hear whale and hunchback and I’m listening. It’s, also, the surrender. Her way of saying, here I am, it’s Wednesday and I’m doing my best, being as open as I can, talking to what’s before me. And the speaker is clear that she doesn’t quite know what to make of this Wednesday character. What a question: Is your gaze….a sign of desire or disgust? This tack feels honest, not striving for anything specific – always a good place to write from.

I love the ease and humour in the question: Will we even make it / to the weekend together? It’s true, we don’t know what’s next. And, wait, is the speaker dating Wednesday? Why would Wednesday be going with her, all the way to the weekend? Jaffa introduces this odd possibility – so great! – and gets me thinking about my own relationships with the days of the week. But it’s the turn in the third stanza that presses on my chest. The speaker wondering why she bothers.

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The Guest Poetry Blog Series #3 – Introducing the Third Contributor, Canadian Poet and Sommelier, Tonya Lailey – Part One of Two

Calgary-based Canadian poet Tonya Lailey

The Cat Comes to Me

—after Heather McHugh

The future looks like death to me from here
standing behind you, in the musty basement
where the cat is cornered.

You think on your feet, quickly
engineer a noose from a sponge mop and silicone rope –
medieval design, cheap modern materials.

The cat protests wildly, we call it crazy and laugh,
but it knows its boundaries. Instinctively,
it knows this is cruel.

I ask you to wait, to let the cat be calm,
to approach it later, gently, with kindness.
I do it later myself, alone in the house.

The cat comes to me easily,
I hold it for a bit,
then give it out to the neighbourhood night,

quietly out,
like I had been wanting to do
and would much later, finally.

Tonya Lailey, 2015

I came, truly, to poetry on my knees in my forties, having forgotten a lot about myself, having lost the belief that I could love what I loved, could live that way. I was in a week-long program at a drug and alcohol recovery center: the Discovery Program at Cedars at Cobble Hill in B.C. I went there to begin to learn to recover from my addiction to the addict in my life – my former husband, the father of my two daughters.

Here I met others in similar states of codependence, bearing broken relationships with themselves and others. I also met a man with wild, curly white-grey hair, dramatic arms and a regular HA! that leapt from him with the punch of a Pop Rock’s explosion. His whole being seemed to bounce – with joy and love for what he was doing. What he was doing was sharing poetry and providing the encouragement and safe space for us to write our own poems, an exercise that might encourage our healing. This man, HA!, was Richard Osler.

The epigraph poem above is the main one I wrote in that session with Richard during the week of November 29, 2015. The poem still makes me cry, which tells me how much work it did and is still doing for me. It was the first poem I had written in probably ten years and one of the few I had written at all.

Richard’s prompt was a line – the last one – from Heather McHugh’s fabulous poem: From 20,000 Feet. That line: The future looked like death to it, from there. I adapted that line at the time for my purposes. Here is Heather’s poem:

From 20,000 Feet

The cloud formation looks
Like banks of rock from here,
though rock and cloud are thought

so opposite. Earth’s underlying nature
might be likeness – likeness
everywhere disguised

by wave-length, amplitude and frequency.
(If we got far enough away, could we
decipher the design?) From here

so much goes by
too fast or slow for sight.
(Is death a stretch of time in which

a life is just a flash?) Whatever
we may think, we only
think that we will lose. The foetus,

expert at attachment, didn’t dream that
cramped canal would open

into sound and light and love –
it clung. It didn’t care. The future
looked like death to it, from there.

Heather McHugh (1948 -) from Hinge & Sign, Wesleyan University Press, 1994. (McHugh, a much celebrated American poet, nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and a National book Award has written thirteen books of poetry, essays and translations. She also won a Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002 for her co-translation of the poems of Paul Celan and in 2009 was awarded a prestigious US $500,000 MacArthur fellowship or so-called genius grant.)

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The Guest Poetry Blog Series # 2 – Daniel Scott Features Canadian BIPOC Poet Chantal Gibson – Part Two of Two

Canadian poet Chantal Gibson with her visual art in the background. Photo Credit: k.-b.-kadanoff

( EDITOR’S NOTE: Please excuse the distortions in some of the photographed images of Chantal’s poems in this blog post.)

Chantal Gibson from with/holding, Caitlin Press, 2021

Although we have a rich and vibrant poetry community in Canada with voices from a wide range of social locations, perspectives and poetic genres represented, we do not have a significant media presence to bring these voices to a national audience. We do not seem to have a national sense of poets – with a few notable exceptions.  Poets and poetry are regional and local. It is great strength but also a weakness. It does mean we have a lot of poets writing and being heard by their regional audience but we do not have a vibrant national interplay of voices.

My first challenge in writing this guest blog post was to decide whose work from my stacks of poetry books would I  present?  My choice: Chantal Gibson and her break-the-mold 2021 poetry collection with/holding with its innovative use of unusual layouts and design. And, also, because of the focus of this book and her visual art as she describes below from her website:

Working in the overlap between literary and visual art, her work confronts colonialism head on, imagining the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Colour] voices silenced in the spaces and omissions left by cultural and institutional erasure.

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