Fractures Song Cycle

I’m very excited to announce this project! Composer Frank Horvat has been working with soprano Meredith Hall to develop a thirteen-song cycle for voice and piano. One of my poems, “Alms” was adapted for one of these songs! (It’s been re-titled as “It Was an October Day”.) Frank and I collaborated previously on his SSAA choral piece “Helianthus” and working with him is always a pleasure.

Meredith will be giving a few workshop performances of these songs in the coming months, and they will all be recorded as a CD next year. I’ll let Frank tell you the rest!

Nothing quite like it

I got a package in the mail yesterday from Calgary, with no return address. It had my name on it, which was curious, because I haven’t bought anything much online recently, and I don’t know anybody in Calgary. So what an unexpected delight it was to open it up and find this little beauty inside:

This is the final anthology from The Anti-Languorous Project, a literary magazine that has sadly folded. But before they did, they published two of my poems in their digital edition. As compensation I had the option of choosing a print copy of the annual anthology in which my work appeared or the cash equivalent of purchasing it — and I’m so glad I chose the anthology. It’s a beautiful little book, with a lovely page and cover texture, and just the right size to slip into my purse.

And of course… this is always the best part. I love sharing my work in online journals, but there’s really nothing like seeing it in print. Here are my words, which I can hold in my hands, as can who knows how many people I will never meet. It’s just a little bit magical.

Antilang anthologies can still be picked up at their online store, although some quantities are limited: https://www.antilang.ca/shop

Helianthus

The thing about writing poetry is that it’s a pretty solitary experience. Mostly I just think about things quietly in my head, write them down, tinker with them until I’m satisfied and/or finished tinkering, and nobody else is involved except for when something is accepted for publication. Even then, there’s not a lot of back and forth — mostly just confirming availability, publication rights, and other administrative stuff. I miss working with other creative people. I miss the writing group I was part of ten years ago; I miss singing in choirs and, back in dinosaur times, playing in my high school band. Writing poetry is a balm for me, but it can be lonely too.

All of this to say — it was a real pleasure when Canadian composer Frank Horvat contacted me a week or two back, looking for text for a choral piece he wanted to write. Frank has been very moved (as have we all) by the plight of the Ukrainian people, and wondered if I had any poems in my files on the theme of peace? Well, I didn’t, so I wrote him a new one. And while I have had some of my existing poems set to music before, this was the first time I was writing a text specifically for that purpose. It was a fun challenge and I enjoyed collaborating with Frank!

The poem text is called “Helianthus,” which is the scientific name for sunflowers. It draws from a few different things: the language of flowers, specifically around poppies and their role in commemorating those lost in war; the sunflower as Ukraine’s national flower; and my own comfort throughout the pandemic and other turbulent times in my life in the knowledge that whatever else happens, the sun will rise and set, the moon will wax and wane, and the seasons will still turn from one to the next.

“Helianthus” is scored for a cappella treble choir (SSAA). The sheet music is freely available on Frank’s website, and includes the full poem text on the last page. I dearly hope to hear a choir sing it one day — but for now, I’m just very pleased that it exists.

A pandemic pantoum

Last spring, Perpetua’s godmother came to visit us when she was in my city for a weekend — a visit that was technically illegal under Ontario’s then-current pandemic restriction measures, which prohibited gatherings between people not of the same household. I don’t think I’d had a chance to be vaccinated against Covid-19 yet, but she’d had her first dose, and we sat inside with the kitchen window open and the back bathroom fan running so as to create a nice draft. It was the first social visit I’d had with anybody in many months.

I baked a cake for us. Later, I wrote a poem. It’s a pantoum, a form made up interconnected, repeating lines grouped in four-line stanzas. (So in a four-stanza pantoum, the first three would look like 1-2-3-4, 2-5-4-6, 5-7-6-8, with lines from the first stanza coming back around to finish: 7-3-8-1. Clear as mud?) Constructing a poem that made sense with all those lines moving around was a fun challenge, and its repetitive nature was perhaps especially suited to writing about the pandemic given the latter’s own Groundhog Day-style monotony.

“Pandemic Restrictions, Day 402” was recently published by Dunes Review, available for puchase here.

The Dickory

Many years ago, I started writing a series of poems that I would characterize as nursery-rhyme-adjacent. My inspiration petered out after three or four, but I kept them in my files and have occasionally sent one or two out into the slush piles of the poetry world.

It is my great pleasure to announce that my poem “Up the Clock,” a meditation (of sorts) on Hickory Dickory Dock, has just been published by Better Than Starbucks in their Children’s Poetry section. You can read that poem here. Print copies of this quarter’s issue of Better Than Starbucks are available for purchase here.