Sunday, August 7, 2016

Love Poetry Festival in Honour of Milton Acorn and Gwen MacEwen

Let us sing the praises of the wonderful Canadian poets Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen ...

Poets Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen
The Love Poetry Festival was the brainchild of the poet George Elliott Clarke, Canada's seventh national poet laureate. Co-organizers George and Michelle Alfano, Founder of the (Not So) Nice Italian Girls & Friends Reading Series, worked together to create the first annual Love Poetry Festival in honour of Milton Acorn and Gwen MacEwen to be held on Centre Island, where the couple lived for a few years in the 1960s, on August 6, 2016. 

The event was held at the historic St. Andrew by the Lake Anglican Church before a generous and appreciative crowd which filled the beautiful church.

Our venue, the beautiful
St. Andrew by the Lake
George Elliott ClarkeCanada's seventh national 
poet laureate, explains the origin of the Festival
The poet and essayist
Trevor Abes starts the first set ...
Karen Mulhallen, force majeure
and Canadian literary icon
Whitney French, writer, storyteller
and multi-disciplinary artist
Honey Novick, singer, songwriter & poet
A musical interlude with the
talented pianist Roger Sharp
Poet, singer/songwriter Robert Priest
leads the second set
Anna Yin, Mississauga's 
Inaugural Poet Laureate

George concludes the second set

Roger ends the reading with another beautiful set

An appreciative crowd

Rob Fujimoto, art director & Festival poster designer, and 
Michelle Alfano, Festival co-organizer & emcee,
sail into the sunset ... 

I Shout Love ~ Milton Acorn

I shout love in a blizzard's
scarf of curling cold,
for my heart's a furred sharp-toothed thing
that rushes out whimpering
when pain cries the sign writ on it.

I shout love into your pain
when skies crack and fall
like slivers of mirrors,
and rounded fingers, blued as a great rake,
pluck the balled yarn of your brain.

I shout love at petals peeled open
by stern nurse fusion-bomb sun,
terribly like an adhesive bandage,
for love and pain, love and pain
are companions in this age.


Poems In Braille ~ Gwen MacEwen

all your hands are verbs,
now you touch worlds and feel their names -
thru the thing to the name
not the other way thru (in winter
I am Midas, I name gold)

the chair and table and book
extend from your fingers;
all your movements
command these things back to their
places; a fight against familiarity
makes me resume my distance

they knew what it meant,
those egyptian scribes who drew
eyes right into their hieroglyphs,
you read them dispassionate until
the eye stumbles upon itself
blinking back from the papyrus

outside, the articulate wind
annotates this; I read carefully
lest I go blind in both eyes, reading with
that other eye the final hieroglyph

the shortest distance between 2 points
on a revolving circumference
is a curved line; O let me follow you,

with legs and arms I make alphabets
like in those children's books
where people bend into letters and signs,
yet I do not read the long cabbala of my bones
truthfully; I need only to move to alter the design

I name all things in my room
and they rehearse their names,
gather in groups, form tesseracts,
discussing their names among themselves

I will not say the cast is less than the print
I will not say the curve is longer than the line,
I should read all things like braille in this season
with my fingers I should read them
lest I go blind in both eyes reading with
that other eye the final hieroglyph

Monday, July 4, 2016

Love Poetry Festival honoring Milton Acorn and Gwen MacEwen

Trevor Abes is a poet and essayist with a penchant for conceptual art. As part of the Toronto Poetry Slam team (2015), he represented the city in both the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and the National Poetry Slam. He is currently theatre critic at The Theatre Reader.

George Elliott Clarke is Canada's seventh national Poet Laureate. From 2012-2015, he was Toronto's 4th Poet Laureate. Revered for his poetry, he has published fifteen volumes, including three that have won prizes. In addition, he has poetry books translated into Chinese, Italian, and Romanian.

Whitney French is a writer, storyteller and multi-disciplinary artist. She's been published in a couple of places and written a few collections but she takes more pride in the community she builds than the things she produces. She is the founder and co-editor and of the nation-wide publication From the Root Zine. She also created the successful workshop series titled: Writing While Black, an initiative to develop a community of black writers, which is presently on tour, travelling to audiences in Montreal, New York and Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Detroit, and Halifax.

Karen Mulhallen’s new book of poems, Seasons in the Key of J, will be published in Spring 2017 by Tightrope Books. Her most recent book of poetry is The Code Orange Emblazoned Suite (Black Moss Press, 2015). Code Orange was published in English and in French, with translations into French by Nancy Huston. It was launched in Toronto and in Paris in the Fall of 2015.

Honey Novick is a singer/songwriter/voice teacher/poet. A full member of the League of Canadian Poets and 2015 Member of the Year of the Ontario Poetry Society. Sanguine Encounters with Greatness (2016), was published for the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival, Cobalt. Please visit

Poet and singer/songwriter, Robert Priest  has performed his exciting mix of poems and songs all over the world. His words have been debated in the legislature, turned into a hit song, posted in the Transit system, released on numerous CDs, quoted by politicians and widely published in text books and anthologies. "The content is frank and often erotic, but the leaven of laughter is never far away.... Magnificent, profound, religious and challenging.” Canadian Book Review Annual 

Anna Yin is Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate and has six poetry books, the latest entitled Seven Nights with the Chinese Zodiac (Black Moss Press, 2015). Anna won the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, two MARTY Awards and the 2013 Professional Achievement Award from CPAC etc. Her poems have appeared on Arc Poetry, New York Times, CBC Radio, China Daily, etc ...

With emcee ...

Michelle Alfano served as an Associate Editor with the literary quarterly Descant until 2015. Her novella, Made Up Of Arias, was the a winner of the Bressani Award for Short Fiction. Her short story “Opera” was a finalist for a Journey Prize anthology. Her fiction and non-fiction work has been widely published in Canada in major literary publications. She is currently at work on two projects: a memoir entitled The Unfinished Dollhouse and the novel Destiny, think of me while you sleep.

With music by ...
Roger Sharp has been playing piano in churches since he was a church-going lad, as well as playing in a jazz band with his friends since they were teens. But for the last five years, he has had a home here at St Andrew-by-the-Lake doing the only job he's ever loved, and mostly restricts his jazz-playing to the island as well, be it here or at the Rectory Café.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Amazons of the Mediterranean

Michelle Alfano (also known as A Lit Chick) served as an Associate Editor with the literary quarterly Descant until 2015. Her novella, Made Up Of Arias, was the 2010 winner of the Bressani Award for Short Fiction. Her short story “Opera”, on which the novella was based, was a finalist for a Journey Prize anthology. Her fiction and non-fiction work has been widely published in Canada in major literary publications including Descant, Prairie Fire, The Capilano Review, The Antigonish Review, Event, A Room of One’s Own and in seven anthologies. She is currently at work on two projects: a memoir entitled The Unfinished Dollhouse and the novel Destiny, think of me while you sleep.

Sandra Battaglini is an award winning stand-up comic, actor/writer and made her directorial debut with Chinatown. She is the 2013 Canadian Comedy Award winner for her solo show, Classy Lady, directed by Phil Luzi, which premiered in Toronto in 2012. Past performances include, Hard Headed Woman (Canadian Comedy Award Winner 2007), Small Battalion of Soldiers (Canadian Comedy Award Nomination). She's toured with Yuk Yuks and Absolute Comedy and co-hosts one of Toronto’s most alternative comedy nights, Family Slides and The Sal & Sandy Show with Phil Luzi. Sandra appears in David Cronenberg's latest feature, Maps to the Stars that premiered at TIFF in 2014. Her and comedy partner Phil Luzi are developing a new web series with CBC and Frantic Films called Knitterati. See more here:

Carmela Circelli was born in Southern Italy and grew up in Montreal. She moved to Toronto in 1976 to study philosophy. She has been teaching, on contract, in the Humanities and Philosophy departments of York University, since 1990.  She also has a private practice as a psychotherapist in Toronto. Recently she published a philosophical memoir called Sweet Nothing with Quattro books.  And currently she is working on a novel, tentatively titled, The Last of the Daydreamers.

Erika de Vasconcelos is the author of two novels, My Darling Dead Ones and Between the Stillness and the Grove, both published by Knopf. Her work has appeared in various publications across  Canada, and been translated into several languages. She lives in Toronto.

Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews has written five collections of poetry: The Whispers of Stones, Sea Glass, The Red Accordion, Letters from the Singularity and A Jar of Fireflies. Nature and one's place in it, as well as memory and social justice are her muse. Her poems "The Red Accordion" and "Emerald City" were shortlisted for Descant's Winston Collins Best Canadian Poem Prize and The Malahat Review's Open Seasons Award respectively. In 2015, her poem "Ghost" received first prize in Toronto's Big Pond Rumours Journal Contest. Josie is the author of two non-fiction books: How The Italians Created Canada and In the Name of Hockey. She lives, teaches and writes in Oakville.

Silvia Falsaperla is a graduate of the University of Toronto and teaches English to international students. She lived in Florence, Italy for many years where she worked as an English teacher, travel journalist, translator and assistant to a literary agent.

Eufemia Fantetti is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s MFA in Creative Writing. Her book, A Recipe for Disaster & Other Unlikely Tales of Love, was runner up for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and a winner of the 2014 F.G. Bressani Prize.

Michelle Ferreira is a writer and editor of Portuguese descent currently living in Toronto. In the past, she has worked for Dandyhorse Magazine and Descant Magazine and continues to write and edit as a freelancer. She obtained her honours B.A. from York and her M.A. from Ryerson, where her studies centered around the works of the modernist Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.

Carole Giangrande is the author of eight books, including the award-winning novella A Gardener on the Moon and her new novella Here Comes The Dreamer. She's also worked as a radio journalist for CBC and her poetry has been published in Grain and Queens Quarterly. Her novel All That Is Solid Melts Into Air will be published in 2017.

Bianca Lakoseljac is the author of a novel, Summer of the Dancing Bear, a collection of stories, Bridge in the Rain (Guernica Editions, 2012, 2010), and a book of poetry. She has taught at Humber College and Ryerson University, is the recipient of the Matthew Ahern Award in literature, and holds an M.A. from York University. Her writing has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Canadian Woman Studies, York University; and 50+ Poems for Gordon Lightfoot. She is past president of the Canadian Authors Association, Toronto, and has served as juror for various literary contests. She sits on the National Council for the Writers Union of Canada. Her second novel, Stone Woman, a family saga of five women whose lives are bound by a Vietnam-War draft dodger, set in Toronto, is being published by Guernica Editions in the fall, 2016. or

Darlene Madott is a family-law lawyer and award-winning writer of 7 books, whose fiction celebrates family in anarchic ways.  She has twice won the Bressani Literary Award, once for the title story of Making Olives and Other Family Secrets, (Longbridge, 2008), and in 2014, for her collection Stations of the Heart (Exile Editions). “Waiting: An Almost Love Story,” was shortlisted for the Gloria Vanderbilt/Exile short-fiction prize, 2012.  “Vivi’s Florentine Scarf”, widely anthologized, won the 2008 Paolucci Prize of the Italian American Writer’s Association, 2012.

Tina Tzatzanis is a teacher-librarian at an elementary school in Toronto. She is taking next year off to complete the first draft of her first novel about a young woman in a small Greek village during the 50s and 60s whose life, altered by the Fates, frays into three distinct paths. She is of Greek and Irish descent and lives with her husband, her two almost adult children and a cat that thinks she is theirs.
Our musical accompaniment

Nigel Barnes

I've known him since he was a teenager growing up in Hamilton. He's 5'9" but tells everyone that he's 6'3". Most people are polite and don't disagree, which he finds disappointing. He's always ready to argue the point, even though he can't get the tape measure to agree either. These days he spends as much free time as he can  with his grandson, his companion (which, as we've learned from The DaVinci Code, literally means spouse), and his music. I hear there's  a recording in the works, but nothing concrete yet. He may play a few of the songs that are up for consideration for us today.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Roman Style Bacchanalia ...

In Roman times, Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry was celebrated at events called Bacchanalias. Some historians think it originated in the south of Italy (southerners know how to par-tay). At this Bacchanalia, eleven writers and poets and one singer were invited to read, recite and sing ... to celebrate ecstasy, revelry and intoxication. Here''s how they did it ...

Dom Capilongo, poet & co-emcee
We start with a bang ... with slam poet Trevor Abes
The writer Arif Anwar, travelling
from the wilds of Mississauga
The ever expressive poet Valentino Assenza
John Calabro, author of
An Imperfect Man
Dom Capilongo leads the second set 
The poet Rocco De Giacomo
The inestimable Paul Fowler
reading his short story
Poet, publisher, force majeure ...
Luciano Iacobelli
Paul Salvatori, reggae singer
Poet & founder Justin Lauzon 
La Poetessa (and pinch hitter) Cathy Petch 
There is a Sicilian expression you use when someone special
comes into the room: "Ca sono i sordi (Here comes the money)..."
That's Toronto poet laureate George Elliott Clarke

An appreciative crowd ...
Emcee and organizer Michelle Alfano

I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving, contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;
I do not think the performers know themselves—but now I think I begin to know them.
That Music Always Round Me ~ Walt Whitman.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Roman Style bacchanalia ...


Trevor Abes is a poet, arts writer and member of the Toronto Poetry Slam Team. Find his interviews and essays in The Toronto Review of Books, Torontoist and Sequential. Find his poetry in untethered magazine, (parenthetical) and The Toronto Quarterly. Say hello at

Michelle Alfano was most recently the Associate Editor-in-Chief with Descant and the Founder of the (Not So) Nice Italian Girls & Friends Reading Series. Her novella Made Up of Arias (Blaurock Press) won the 2010 Bressani Prize for Short Fiction. Her short story “Opera”, on which her novella Made Up of Arias is based, was a finalist for a Journey Prize anthology. She is currently at work at a new novel entitled Destiny, think of me while you sleep and the memoir The Unfinished Dollhouse. You may read more of her writing at

Arif Anwar works for the government and writes in his spare time. He is currently nearing submission for his first novel, The Storm. Arif has more degrees than he knows what to do with and an unhealthy interest in cricket (the sport). When not walking into traffic while staring at his mobile phone, Arif can be found in Mississauga, where he lives with his partner Sandra and a dog that bears an uncanny resemblance to a meerkat.

Valentino Assenza is a published poet and spoken word artist who's writing has mainly been based out of Toronto over the last 20 years.  He has performed all across the Canada and the US, has four chapbooks of poetry, and numerous pieces of poetry published in journals such as Descant and Labour Of Love.  You can hear Valentino Tuesday nights as he is currently a co-host of the radio program HOWL on CIUT 89.5FM

John Calabro is an educator, publisher, cultural entrepreneur, and fiction writer. His first novella, Bellecour, was published in 2005 by Guernica Editions and named by the Globe and Mail First Fiction Reviewer as one of the "Top 5 First Fiction" in 2005.  Calabro’s short stories, essays and reviews have appeared in many journals and anthologies. His second novella The Cousin was published in 2009 by Quattro Books, and its French translation, Le Cousin, was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award. An Imperfect Man is his third novella.

Rocco de Giacomo is a widely published poet whose work has appeared in literary journals in Canada, Australia, England, Hong Kong and the US. His work has recently been accepted for publication in Juxtraprose Literary Magazine and Ottawa Arts Review, and has most recently been published in Queen’s Quarterly. Rocco’s poetry has also been featured on the CBC. He is the author of numerous chapbooks including, in 2008, Catching Dawn’s Breath. In 2009, his first full-length poetry collection, Ten Thousand Miles Between Us, was launched through Quattro Books. His forthcoming collection, Every Night of Our Lives, will be published with Guernica Editions.

Toronto-based writer of fiction and poetry, Domenico Capilongo is also a high-school teacher and karate sensei.  His first three books almost won several literary awards.  Although he usually writes for adults, he is also working on a children’s book about a boy that hates kissing old ladies. His next book of poetry is about the way we communicate and is forthcoming with Guernica Editions.

George Elliott Clarke hails from Nova Scotia and has won a bunch of laurels. He is the current Poet laureate of Toronto, and is revered. He has taught at Duke, McGill and Harvard, and is the E.J. Pratt Professor of Can Lit at UofT.

Paul S. Fowler grew up in in small town Labrador and medium town Newfoundland, and currently continues to grow up in big town Ontario.

Luciano Iacobelli is the author of numerous chapbooks, 3 full length poetry books, and he is one of the collaborators of The Emu Dialogues.  His book The Examined Life is due to be published in 2016 by Guernica books. He is the co owner of Quattro Books, and the publisher of Lyricalmyrical Press.

Justin Lauzon is the Founder and Operator of, Canada's Word on Writing. He is a writer, web designer, and reviewer, working as the Digital Marketing Intern for The Word On The Street Toronto and the Literary Coordinator for Hear Here: A Creative Salon. His writing has been featured in untethered Magazine, The Rusty Toque, and on the Descant Blog.

Paul Salvatori is reggae artist and performer. His original music celebrates the joys of love while also expressive of the pain of loss. Paul is also a documentarian interested in the struggles as well as heroism of rare or marginalized individuals, recently placing in a TVO film contest for his documentary, "Short On Short", about a modest-statured gentleman's search for romance. His upcoming documentary work will explore the significance of graffiti in different youth subcultures internationally, coinciding with his area of focus as a researcher at UofT.