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.