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Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Crescent Moon

My poem Crescent Moon translated into Arabic by the gifted poetess Jouna Jou on a painting created for it by my publisher and dear friend Candice James. Collaboration is always where it's at!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Literary Writes Judge Renée Saklikar Offers Editing Insight

Literary Writes Youth Judge Renée Saklikar generously took time from her busy schedule to share insight into her poetry journey and tips for poets entering this year’s contest.

Cynthia: Who are your favourite poets?

Renée: So many! I’m always on the look out for local, BC and Canadian poets, particularly those whose poetics touch on “the urgency of now.” For example, I just reviewed a book published by Caitlin Press, by Vancouver author Onjana Yanghwe called The Small Way.

A few others: Ottawa poet rob mclennan; the late, great Peter Culley (from Nanaimo). American poets Rusty Morrison and Terrance Hayes. And I’ve a soft spot for poet laureates such as Vancouver’s former poet laureate Rachel Rose, having just completed my term as Surrey’s first ever Poet Laureate. Another big favourite: Indigenous poet Joshua Whitehead. Also Metis poet, Tristan Greyeyes, who is also a film/maker.

Cynthia: Who was your favourite poet when you were a youth? 
Renée: Walter De La Mare: my father would read me his poems: “Someone came a knocking on my wee small door” (from memory…)

Cynthia: When did you start to write poetry?

Renée: I’ve been scribbling away since I was a little girl…not really knowing that my love of sound and image, then my habit of jotting down words, was part of what poets and writers do…

Cynthia: How has poetry helped you in life?

Renée: Saved me! American poet Theodore Roethke, “in a dark time, the eye begins to see.” My first book, children of air india, un/authorized exhibit and interjections (Nightwood Editions, 2013), totally changed my life. 

Cynthia: What did it mean to you to be Surrey’s Poet Laureate these past three years?

Renée: Such a rich, rewarding, complex, experience! I learned so much about language, culture, identity, geography from connecting with teens, seniors, and everyone in between. An honour to be the first Poet Laureate for a large, fast growing suburban/Edge city. Huge props to the Surrey City Libraries who hosted and supported so much of the laureate program.

Cynthia: How does poetry help society in your view?
Renée: Maybe poetry and the making of poetry helps us to not look away from what is jagged, incomplete, hurting or abandoned. But that’s just a guess. Poetry just is. That’s its particular beauty.

Cynthia: How do you know when a poem is finished?

Renée: May the poem never end! I’m always wanting to re/vise, to see anew, to surprise. Restless for another way to make the page come alive. Also, perhaps paradoxically, maybe the poem stops and rests, and attains a kind of solidity, and then, if I’m attentive enough, I find a way to step back and give space to what the work wants/needs. The work will tell you what it needs.

Cynthia: What do you look for when editing and polishing a poem?

Renée: Pretty much everything, particularly what I call “unity of voice,” where all the parts seem to fit into something greater than the whole, but each poem and every poet’s poetics (theory of language/anti-theory) is so unique, that one of the things I look for is how the words and the language do more than describe or narrate: how does the language, how do the line breaks and the sounds and rhythms, and devices of the words, evoke and embody the secret dark heart at the centre of any poem?

Cynthia: What has most surprised you about poetry? 

Renée: Pretty much everything! The way that almost anything can be made into a poem.

Cynthia: Do you have any suggestions or tips for youth entering the Literary Writes contest? 

Renée: Sure thing: Golden Rule: try and leave time for revision; we all benefit from having a chance to take a second or third, or fifth look, once the poem has poured out of us… Let the words find their own space for a while. Then come back to what you’ve tapped out on your phone or scribbled in your bullet journal or scribbled on those scraps of paper crumpled up in your pocket: Time is your friend.

Canadian citizens and residents can submit to Literary Writes at this link, $15 per entry for adults, $10 for adult FBCW members, and only $5 for any youth by February 1, 2019: Enter Here for The FBCW Literary Writes Contest

Monday, 3 December 2018

Elegaic Haiku

her ashes sparkle
in frosted falling starlight
ripple through decades

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Before I Fall

letting go of fear
I step out
beneath the stars
and step in
to my life    solitude    calling
let this spinning world I don’t control
like it will
one day
without me

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Autumn Haiku

moon a quarter boat
on the cool mountain river
auburn hair let down

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Interview with Griffin Prize Winner Jane Munro

I recently spoke with The Federation of British Columbia Writers flash prose contest judge Jane Munro about her take on the craft of writing. These are some of her generous insights:

Cynthia: You’ve studied a variety of literary genres with your MFA in Creative Writing, MA in English and doctorate in Adult Education and gone on to publish many books and become a Griffin Prize winner. Could you tell us about your writing and editing process?

Jane: It’s slow, and – at best – surprising. I listen. Write down words as they come. Feel my way step by step: follow that thread through a labyrinth. Later – when I’ve forgotten what I wrote – I‘ll read it over. Tag what I like. Add bits, go further, explore, meet what’s hidden, recognize its structure, play. Eventually, when I’ve got something to print out, I’ll walk around the room and read it aloud. Finger hot spots: think. Finish it.

Ideally, I’ll then set it aside and work on something else. Often, when I come back to it, I’ll see what I hadn’t seen earlier.

I keep drafts. Once in a while, the piece will be best as it came first. Typically, I’ll find I’ve gone too far. Reading it aloud tells me a lot.

And then, there may be someone else’s response. It’s great to have a trustworthy reader who will raise questions and concerns. Are they valid? When I understand them, do I share them? Can I resolve them? Do the changes strengthen the work?

Yes, sometimes it happens quickly. But when that gift arrives, I may later notice how it drew on years – decades even – of reading, reflection, and writing. Learning. It might have started with a dream. I like to note dreams. Doing this connects me with parts of my mind that are less conscious. And, maybe, with imagery we share.

Cynthia: You write in both long and short forms. Is the process different when there is a tight word limit? How do you polish a short piece?

Jane: Even with long forms, each word needs to be essential. A tight word limit helps me focus. It’s a figuring out process. I’ll start long and pare down as I clarify the telling gesture. Or, gestures. What’s enough? What fits and works?

Cynthia: What advice has inspired you as a writer?

Jane: My grandfather – who was a painter, not a writer – used to say, “Art is suggestion; art is not representation.” I think this is true for writing, too. I’ve found it useful advice, especially for flash prose.

Cynthia: What do you look for when reading literature and what specifically grabs your attention in flash prose and other short genres?

Jane: It’s not always the same thing: insight – freshness – revelation of character – wit – swift depiction of a conflict – resonant language – a story’s power as an agent of change. However it does it, I’m looking for flash prose that will stay with me, that I’ll enjoy. Want to read aloud. Share with someone.

Cynthia: What role does structure play in flash prose, in your view?

Jane: I think of literature as architecture for imagination. So, structure is crucial. Flash prose creates a space for someone else to furnish. Dwell in.

What’s more, structure gives the writer’s imagination something to push against.

I knew an artist who made amazing weavings – huge, sculptural, striking. His rule was that he could not sew anything together. The entire piece had to be woven on a loom. Without that rule, he said, there were too many possibilities. Within its boundaries, his imagination could go wild.

Cynthia: Do you have any helpful tips for our members and readers entering the flash prose contest?

Jane: Trust yourself. Dance as if nobody’s looking. Then, make sure everything – each word, punctuation mark, decision you’ve made – fits and works.
Remember to get your flash prose story in by October 1st, 650 words or under, $15 per entry, $10 for FBCW members. First prize is $350 and publication in WordworksSubmit here by October 1