Friday, May 25, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This

Joanna Streetly

photo credit: Joy Dube'

This is West Coast poet and author, Joanna Streetly, leaning against her floathouse in the Tofino harbour. Her faithful dog, Schooner, is seen contemplating life behind her. I wish I was able to put the wild beauty of Clayoquot Sound into words the way Joanna does. Joanna recently read this poem to Tofino Council on the night it was announced that she is now officially Tofino's very first Poet Laureate. You can see from her writing why she will be a perfect fit for this position. Our village is thrilled. We live in anticipation of literary events to come.

Joanna's nonfiction book Wild Fierce Life: Dangerous Moments on the Outer Coast has just been released, to acclaim,  by Caitlin Press. It debuted on the B.C. Bestseller List. I read nonfiction almost exclusively, and I have to say Joanna's book is my favourite of them all. She writes about fifteen experiences she  lived during her years here on the Coast and, while one reads, one lives and breathes her amazing wild fierce life right along with her. I did not want the book to end. It is one to savour again and again.

Wild Fierce Life is available here and here

Joanna grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. She had an interesting and exciting childhood with an artist mother, a mountaineering father, and four siblings,  then was schooled in England. She says, "My first serious poem woke me at two a.m. when I was fifteen."  Joanna arrived on the West Coast at nineteen and, as happens with many of us, fell in love with the wild beauty here and never left. She is a long-time member of the Clayoquot Writers Group, and was co-editor of the literary magazine The Sound in the 1990's. Joanna is also a wonderful artist. Her illustrations can be enjoyed throughout Wild Fierce Life.

The Mystery Yoohoo Raven
copyright Joanna Streetly

She has had several books published. Her bibliography can be found here. Joanna's life is lived on water: on her floathouse, where, she says, "the adventure continues", and on kayak trips through the Sound every chance she gets. She works at the small local hospital, freelances in writing and editing, and volunteers as an art teacher at the local school. She  is the West Coast rep of the Federation of B.C. Writers. And now she is Tofino's first Poet Laureate, a position for which she is infinitely worthy!

If you wish to know more about this amazingly talented young woman, her website can be found at the littoral zone(The littoral zone is where land meets water.)

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ A Tribute Poem

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” — Thurgood Marshall


“The czar was always sending us commands – you shall not do this and you shall not do that – till there was very little left that we might do, except pay tribute and die.” — Mary Antin

Midweek Motif ~ A Tribute Poem

For today’s Motif you are to write a Tribute Poem expressing praise for your subject.

The subject can be varied and is of your own choice. Select someone / something (an abstract concept will do too) worth celebrating and honor them in your lines.

A Farewell
by Lord Tennyson

Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.

Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river:
Nowhere by thee my steps shall be
For ever and for ever.

But here will sigh thine alder tree
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever.

A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever. 

Rose Aylmer

by Walter Savage Landor

Ah, what avails the sceptred race!
Ah, what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine.

Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
May weep, but never see,
A night of memories and sighs
I consecrate to thee. 

A Drinking Song
by William Butler Yeats

WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh. 

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
(Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Truth)

Monday, May 21, 2018


Today we are visiting one of our newer members, my friends. We are flying across the Pond to meet with Vivian Zems, who blogs at Smell the Coffee.  Vivian lives in North London. She is also a songwriter, and is sharing two of her songs with us, so let's pour a cup of Earl Grey tea, and dive right in.

Sherry: Vivian, as you are fairly new to Poets United, would you tell us a little about yourself?  Give us a little snapshot of your life on any given day, won't you?

Vivian: I’m so pleased to be able to share some of my life with you. I live in North London, United Kingdom. London is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city.  I liken it to a world stage; there’s always something going on.

I’m a dentist, and split my working life between dentistry and dental hygiene services….and of course, writing. As a mother of five ; four children and one German Shepherd (Zeus), I’m often asked how I find the time to write. My answer: if it’s your passion, you’ll HAVE to do it- it’s that simple.

My routine involves getting to work two hours early every day (it’s the only time I can write), then another half an hour writing/ blogging after work before heading home. I sort the kids out- somewhat (they’re quite big now), make sure Zeus been walked, watered and fed, then we have some family time before bed. At weekends, I’m invaded by teenagers.

Sherry: It sounds like a busy and happy life. You have a beautiful family, and Zeus is a sweetheart! In your  bio, I see you are a songwriter as well as a writer. Do you perform your music as well? Tell us a little about being a songwriter?

Vivian: Now this is a funny one.  I responded to an ad about converting poems to song by another blogger (Zoolon). And I had one poem ("Older and Wiser") that I really wanted converted. He was perfect and produced and sang the entire piece. For my second song (I’ve Found My Voice), I managed to hum the tune, and worked with another artist to produce it.

I’m completely new to songwriting, and I feel myself bumbling along….but I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve made youtube videos from these songs and hope to add a few more to my channel.

written and created by Vivian Zems

Sherry: Vivian, I am so impressed! You are a beginning songwriter, yet so accomplished. This is a very professional video. And isn't it wonderful how technology allows us a platform these days? I love that this song is about finding one's voice, as well as poetry! Let's look at another.

written and created by Vivian Zems

Sherry: How wonderful, Vivian! Bravo! There is a close connection between songwriting and poetry.  When did you begin writing poems? What do you love about it? What makes a poem sing for you?

Vivian: I wrote my first poem in February last year (2017). I don’t know where it came from- it just charged out. Coming from a science background, I’ve never been creative, but always harboured a desire to write fiction. So, it took my friends and family by complete surprise  when poetry made an appearance.

I write when I’m inspired. It may be another poem I’ve read, a sentence spoken - anything. It’s made me a better listener. With poetry, I’ve been able to speak from my spirit- unlike prose, where my mind is fully engaged.  When reading poetry, if it succeeds in transporting me, it’s accomplished its aim.

Sherry: I like that it makes us better listeners. A good observation. Is there someone in your life you feel had a significant influence on your becoming a writer/songwriter? Someone who encouraged your talent and your dreams?

Vivian: I’ve always been an obsessive reader. I have an insatiable appetite for fiction and, for years, have gone through countless audio books. I believe this has stretched the horizons of my imagination. My cheer leaders are my family and friends who encourage me constantly. Mind you, as this is all new to me, I feel like one who’s discovered buried treasure; I dig daily for inspiration and when I find it, stories and poems just roar out of me.

I’m grateful to God for this gift. Indeed it is a gift, considering that I never knew or enjoyed a line of poetry until last year.

Sherry: I enjoy your amazement. Smiles.  I see that you write prose as well. Do you have a different process for each?

Vivian: When I write prose, it’s to a movie that’s playing out in my head. I ‘watch’ the film, then I get to work. Poetry arrives by a different pathway. I call it my spirit - for want of a better word. I’ve really no idea. Mostly, it  begins as a burn on the inside, causing me to scramble for pen and paper or my phone...then out it pours. Other poems require some pondering; there doesn’t appear to be a pattern. My song- writing is simply a poem adjusted to fit music of a certain genre, tune and beat.

Available here

Available here

Sherry: I see you have three books out. Congratulations! The third is a book of poetry. So (this is a leading question, lol) which of the three books is your favourite and why?

Available here

Vivian: Haha! The poetry, of course!  With the first two - the Shoestring Budget series- I was sticking to facts  that I knew and decided to turn them into books. Shortly after, poetry arrived- and I discovered my passion. The poems in Waxing Lyrical were my first 50 poems after that first one in February they hold a special place in my heart.

Sherry: Three books and some songs is a wonderful body of work. Way to go! How long have you been blogging, and how has blogging impacted your work?

Vivian: I began blogging in January last year and haven’t looked back since. I believe that reading others’ work and having my writing critiqued has sharpened my skills. It’s also taught me that I’ve still got a long way to go.

Sherry: We all gain so much from sharing our love of words, don't we? Would you like to share three poems with us and tell us a little about each one?

Vivian: The three poems I’d like to share cover the topics of exultation ("Being Canny"), a warning ("Take Heed") and a hope ("Throes of Passion".)

Being Canny

It’s pure ecstasy
to run free within my mind
shutting out white noise
side-stepping anger’s pot-holes
steering my soul heaven-ward

"Being Canny" was born out of a feeling of exhilaration when I barely registered a recent storm of negativity. I’d lost interest fairly rapidly in whatever it was... and the words poured forth.

Take Heed

When your moral compass
goes astray
just about anything goes
-come what may
Jealousy and pride
become fast friends
anger and unforgiveness
pledge allegiance to the end
The road to destruction
seems paved with vengeance
while the fruits of life
lie rotting in decadence
‘Tis a sorry impasse
to lose one’s moral compass
Take heed and beware
lest you succumb to satan’s snare

"Take Heed" is a warning to myself and society, as a whole. Everyday we  face conflict; in our families, in our streets and in our schools, with devastating consequences. I felt the common thread was a loss of our moral compass.

Throes of Passion

If it doesn't whisper in your dreams
waking you up with a racing heart
it's not your passion
If it doesn't make you burn the midnight oil
creating more time out of the ether
it's not your passion
If it doesn't carry you through the air
as if riding a fire-breathing dragon
it's not your passion
If it doesn't resemble a form of madness
causing others to question your sanity
it's not your passion
If it doesn't consume or devour you
blinding you to all around
Do Something Else!
 it's not your passion

"Throes of Passion" hopefully speaks for itself. It gives a face to my passion. So if i sound crazy, hopefully you’ll understand.

Sherry: Not crazy at all. Truth. What other activities do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?

Vivian: Most things have paled in significance, but I still maintain my love for travel and exploring the world around me. Apart from being  an avid reader, I attend a regular poetry meetup where we share our poetry.

Sherry: It's wonderful to share our work with poetry groups in real time.  Is there anything else you’d like us to know that I don’t know you well enough to ask?

Vivian: Well, I’m working on my next book, a collection of short stories, and preparing the groundwork for a charity anthology for later this year - or early next year.

I’ve told my children, and now will tell the world; when I go to the great beyond, please make sure I’m buried with pen and some paper; for I’m certain I’ll see something I need to write about!

Sherry: Good idea! You are very prolific. It would be frustrating to find oneself without writing materials. Smiles. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Vivian: I enjoy this platform and love being part of this collective. One day..soon...if someone asks me what I do…. I hope I’ll have the courage to say “Poet!”

Sherry: You are already there, Vivian. You write wonderful poems, which makes you a poet! Not to mention your wonderful music! Thank you so much for this visit, and for your participation at Poets United. We are happy you found us.

Wasn't this lovely, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!