National Poetry Month is over for another year and what an amazing month it was. My first full-length book of poetry, Fishing for Mermaids, was launched and reviewed in The Vancouver Sun. I was pleased to see my poetry mentor and teacher Patrick Lane and hand him a copy, inscribed especially for him, and I met some new poets – new to me – at various events.

A gala evening with Dinah D, Allan Brown and Patrick Lane on April 17th was part of the Isle of the Arts Festival on Gabriola Island. I’ve joined the Gabriola Arts Council so I’ll get early notice of next year’s events which include an amazing array of workshops and presentations.

I went back to Gabriola to do a reading myself for the League of Poets and Poetry Gabriola at the Old Crow Café. Heidi Greco, Surrey’s resident poet for 2012, and Marion Quednau, from Gibson’s, also read that night. We had a grand time with an enthusiastic Gabriola welcome thanks to Janet Vickers, Lisa Webster-Gibson and other Poetry Gabriola board members.

And on April 26th, the monthly poetry circle I’ve been offering,  took place at Bethlehem Retreat Centre in Nanaimo. Poetry as a Doorway In . . . and a Welcome Home is an opportunity to spend a day with poetry including a labyrinth walk. The circles are small so we are able to make intimate connections to one another through our own reflections inspired by the poetry of others.

Patrick Lane’s poem, “Apples in the Rain,” inspired our theme for the day: What Else But Song.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPatrick Lane has been my mentor and teacher for eight years and I was pleased to see him at the Isle of the Arts event at Surf Lodge. Lorna Crozier, Patrick’s wife and fellow poet, was there too and both were wearing their Order of Canada pins – Patrick’s on his pullover and Lorna on her jeans jacket.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Patrick recite his poetry. Susan Yates gave him a magnificent introduction. As Patrick said, he created a world he started fifty years ago. He looked out at the audience and said he could see the smiles, the quizzical looks, the acceptance.

“Like making love,” he said. “Right, Lorna?” Lorna was sitting in the back row. All his love poems are written for her.

Patrick read some old favourites like “Albino Pheasants,” “Dominion Day Dance,” and “The Garden (1992).” A few new poems included “Limbo.” You can read “Limbo” in the New Poems section on Patrick ‘s website:

After his reading, Patrick said poets ought to memorize some of their poems so they can look at their audience and meet them eye to eye.

beforethedarkAllan Brown, from Powell River, opened for Patrick. I was glad to meet Allan, one of my fellow Leaf Press poets, the evening before as he was reading my book. His new book is Before the Dark (Leaf Press, 2014).

Allan said he started t to write accidentally, almost. That was back in the fifties and since 1962 his work has been collected in twenty-three books, chapbooks and several anthologies.

James Joyce’s Ulysses was an important book for him as was Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. (Interestingly, Lowry spent some time on Gabriola Island and wrote a book called October Ferry to Gabriola, published in 1970.) Allan’s poem, “Borderlines,” was written for Lowry on June 27, 1957, the day after (it is thought) he committed suicide.

One of Allan’s poems is for Lawrence Ferlinghetti from whom Allan bought a book at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. (It was co-founded by Ferlinghetti in 1953 and the publishing house was launched in 1955. Both seem to be going strong.) Other poems in the collection are for Ezra Pound, musician Benjamin Britten, and P.K. Page.

Before the Dark a “triad of poetic meditations, written from the liminal places of loss and grief, demonstrates a finely tuned attention to the natural world,” Susan McCaslin writes in her endorsement. The book is dedicated to Allan’s wife Pat (1932 – 2011).

Patrick Lane and Allan Brown are two of our poet elders. (Patrick has also written tributes to various poets, among them late, male poets we continue to learn from: Al Purdy, Alden Nowlan, Earle Birney, Milton Acorn and Irving Layton.)

dinahdDinah D got the evening off to a rousing start in Heritage Hall at the Surf Lodge.  She’s Gabriola’s grand diva of Swing and Blues, playing an upright bass with “laid-back vocals” that you just have to sing along with. Now I’m feeling like one of those society columnists: A spread of superb appetizers along with a buffet of heartier fare, was supplied by Woodfire Grill.