Poets Corner Reading Series



Poetry for the New Moon: April’s Reading at Poets Corner

Posted on behalf of Evelyn Schofield

On April 19, under a new moon, poetic souls gathered at FDU in downtown Vancouver and around computer screens in distant places to enjoy an evening of fine poetry. Our two featured readers for the evening were Jane Munro and Jan Zwicky, two beloved “grandes dames” of the west coast poetry scene, who both read beautifully and generously from their recent works. But, right from the start, you could tell it was going to be a special evening when our Open Mic introduced us to poems that spoke of all manner of things: blowing up a building that reminds us of a past that we are no longer comfortable with, recognizing the entitlement inherent in beach umbrellas or the incongruity of a nuclear sub patrolling scenic waters, appreciating the sublime serenity of a Bach cello concerto, or protesting the injustice of reacting to people based on the colour of their skin, or their sex.

In the poems that Jane Munro read, she voiced grief for what is lost, whether in ancient Pompei or present-day Vancouver, whether a lifetime of memories lost to dementia or plant and animal species lost to extinction, whether the passing of one dear friend or scores of indigenous children lost to the cruelty of residential schools. She read several poems from her newly published False Creek, which draws on her studies in decolonial esthetics and biodiversity to chronicle the transformation of False Creek from an abundant wetland, so teeming with life that it was a virtual marketplace for the indigenous peoples, to “an abused body of water, inlet to the heart of Vancouver”.  She likens False Creek to a “keel of grief” but tempers the bleakness of that assertion by offering that “grief is something to steer with and keep us upright”. In ‘Walking home from Vanier Park’ she thinks of the longhouses that were once home to thousands in the exact same spot where she had just watched a performance of King Lear. In ‘Nursing the Moon’ she offers humour and the possibility of hope by speaking of cycles that ultimately bring renewal.

Jan Zwicky began her reading with the poem ‘Courage’ which exhorts “Come, step close to the edge, then. // You must look, heart. You must look.”  The poems that she read challenged her audience to summon the courage to truly observe what is before them.  For example, in ‘My Mother’s Dream’ she describes a scene of a table and two chairs in shack, chairs which are “radiant with emptiness, replete with it, so empty that they’re full.” Her poetry reflects her intellectual interest in philosophy and in particular the study of ontology which examines the nature of being. Her most recent publication is Sixty-Seven Ontological Studies which consists of a suite of 49 Poems accompanied by 18 photographs by Robert Moody. She described how the two of them worked independently and then matched up images with poems when they sensed connections between them.  She read a number of poems from this book, and stepped aside for some that were paired with one of Moody’s photographs projected onto a screen. ‘Effervescence’ was accompanied by an image of Japanese cherry trees in full bloom; ‘String Quartet’ was followed by an image of trees and an old stone wall.  In ‘Waking’ she asked “Sleep, what pulls us from you?”

It was difficult to break the spell and pull ourselves away from the poetry, but there were buses to catch and dogs to let out, so at 9:40 we dispersed into the night, under a new moon, inspired to see the world more acutely and make new beginnings.

Le cafard and the poet | March Reading at Poets Corner

Posted on behalf of Evelyn Schofield


On March 15, we gathered again to share a love of poetry in its many forms. At our open mic we were intrigued by poets who explored subjects as diverse as rehab, the 9 to 5, polyamory, and 13 ways of looking at a subway. Of particular note, Alexander Formos read an excerpt from Eurydice in Love, a “poetry play” which will be performed live in Vancouver on April 8 – tickets are available on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/eurydice-in-love-tickets-539585222927B. Break a metaphorical leg, Alexander!

Both of our featured readers for the evening have new collections of poetry, hot off the presses of icehouse poetry, the poetry imprint of Goose Lane Editions.  Dominique Bernier-Cormier read from Entre Rive and Shore, a collection of bilingual French-English poetry in which he explores his Acadian heritage to discover “a future dont on se souvient déjà.”  The poems were inspired by two significant events: his ancestor Pierrot Cormier’s escape from jail on the eve of expulsion to Louisiana in 1755 and a much more recent road trip Dominique took to the US to find his Cajun cousins and discover what is left of French culture in Louisiana.  Although he describes the experience of reading bilingual poems out loud as like “2 raccoons fighting inside your mouth,” his poetry moves fluently from one language to the other and ingeniously articulates what it is like to have “one foot dans ce monde and the other dans l’autre.”

Next up, Kim Trainor read from A thin fire runs through me, a collection of her poems based on the hexagrams of the I Ching. These poems were written during a period of her life when she was struggling to cope with many personal challenges in addition to the relentless barrage of disturbing events in the world at large. In Hexagram 53 she avows that “poetry is the cockroach of the arts” which we take to be a testament to the resilience and adaptability of poetry.  Her fourth collection, A blueprint for survival, will appear with Guernica Editions in Spring 2024 and continues her examination of climate change and ecological crisis.  She concluded the evening with a viewing of Lentil, her “experimental poetry film on the sixth mass extinction and the importance of eating lentils” in which images and spoken poetry are accompanied by a soundscape composed by musician Heather Fairbairn. You can watch it here – and you really should: https://vimeo.com/792000822/9525c31ebd