David Fraser was host at WordStorm on Tuesday, April 29th for the annual general meeting of the WordStorm Society of the Arts. David is co-founder with Cindy Shantz of WordStorm, Nanaimo’s monthly spoken word event.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThrough the years of its existence, WordStorm has had several homes. We’re now very comfortable at the Vault Café in an old building that used to be a bank. (The vault is still in the back of the café at 499 Wallace Street.) Amanda, one of the co-owners, has created a special ambience in the Vault and it’s become a hub of artistic and musical events.

I say “we” as I’m a board member and somehow got the title of secretary for the upcoming year. I do like to take notes after all.

Joining the board are some new members. We’re very excited to welcome: Bernice (Berni) Friesen from Comox, Philip Gordon from Nanaimo, and Shaleeta Harper from Nanaimo. Each of the new board members read at the open mike following the short AGM.

Berni put on a garment so her reading became performance art as she told us of the Astrackan lamb coat she inherited and transformed with black velvet from an opera coat, and black fabric roses. She had embroidered the words of the poem she read on ribbons that are sewn into the fur. It’s an amazing work of art. Gorgeous.

The poem Berni read (and embroidered) is called “Berenina” which means “lamb” in Ukranian.  The spelling in the Cyrillic alphabet is: Баранина. You can read about the Cyrillilc alphabet here(I know my Ukranian friends will appreciate this, especially you Stephanie!)

Berni is the fiction editor for Rhubarb magazine which features the writing and visual arts of “diversely defined Mennonites.”   And have a look at Berni’s website at www.bernicefriesen.com to see all her books, her blog and other fascinating offerings.

Philip Gordon and Shaleeta Harper have been working on a new literary print magazine. It’s an exciting venture and they’re looking for contributions. They’ll go to press in June for a September launch. Have a look at their concept and submission guidelines at www.textlitmag.com.

Another open mike reader was Shelley A. Leedahl, a newcomer to Vancouver Island from Edmonton who now lives in Ladysmith.  She’s a prolific, multi-genre writer.  Her new book forthcoming this fall is I Wasn’t Always Like This, essays, from Signature Editions in Winnipeg. You can read all about Shelley here.

EmilianielsenEmilia Nielsen was our featured reader. Emilia is a fellow Leaf Press poet who was born in Victoria and now lives in Squamish where she’s a teaching fellow at Quest University. She read from Surge Narrows, which has been nominated for the Gerald Lampman Memorial Award. Surge Narrows is an actual place on the south end of Maurelle Island, east of Quadra Island.  Emilia has an enthusiastic reading style and recited the details of the place and memories from childhood in the first long poem, “Surge Narrows”.

The next long poem in her collection is called “Pass Creek” and is about Emilia’s work in a boreal forest in northern Alberta when she was an undergraduate student in writing at the University of Victoria.  She worked as a fire lookout specifically at Pass Creek.

There are two voices in the poem: one an observational voice and the other, more introspective or interior.

How many wildfires
now burning out of control? Smoked in.
Every rise and crease blue-grey.

The last of the five long poems in the book is about a “spectacular relationship fail” as Emilia called it. The poem is “Vernacular Hearts,” offering some humour in a break-up.

The heart’s skinny dipping. It’s gone fishing. Glib. Glee.
Its dancing shoes are on. It’ll never be a wallflower. It’s
kicking up dust. Wants to get this party started. The heart
blesses all who populate its corners. It’s on a camp-out.
It’s sleeping under the stars. The heart has never surfaced
more queer.


One of our featured readers wasn’t able to make it so we board members read some poems: David Fraser, Judy Mayhew, Ursula Vaira and me!

Other WordStorm board members are: Andrew Brown, Madeleine Nattrass and Ann Graham Walker. (Yes, we’re all writers!)

The next WordStorm is Tuesday, May 27th with featured readers Derek Hanebury and Peter Such. Bring your poems and prose to read at the open mike! For more details, go to www.wordstorm.ca.