Van Isle Poetry Collective: Summer 2022 Vol. 4

Page 1


Volume 4

S pring/Summer Edition

Edi ted by April Hilland & Derek R. Swallow

C opyright © 2022 April Hilland

All poets, photographers, artists, retain the rights to their works in this publication.

All rights reserved





Elizabeth Adilman - p.12

John Beaton - p.11

Irish Browne - p. 5

Bonnie Davis - p.13

Bill Engleson - p. 7

Micki Findlay - p. 22

Neil Garvie - p. 9 D. Graham - p. 2

Michael Hammond - p. 6

Illana Hester - p. 20

Janis La Couvée - p.15

Derek Peach - p.18

Janet Pollock Millar - p.1

Emma Sloan - p. 21







Editor April Hilland:

The theme for this issue is Sustain{able}. What sustains our Earth, our home, our life, our family, our passion, our art? I wanted to place this call out to our Vancouver Island poets to meditate on this word and write about what Sustain{able} means to us. From the Celtic celebration of an early Spring to finding comfort in a worn chair repaired time and time again. Please enjoy this curated collection of works from the poets of this beautiful region.

April Hilland is a published children’s author and poet, as well as a teacher-librarian.

As I recently walked the shores of the Salish Sea, I felt the wind-whipped salt sting my cheek, inhaled the brash brine and seaweed scent, looked out on the Royal blue and white chop, and I experienced wonder, and also belief that those who know will drive onward, will not falter in the pursuit of the Sustain{able}. This, our volume theme, has many meanings. To me, the idea of balance and harmony comes to mind. In this compelling journal of poetry, our writers have approached this subject from many different angles – from direct to subtle - resulting in a rich mixture of interpretations presenting both challenges and creating badly needed hope.

Co - editor Derek R. Swallow : Derek R. Swallow is a published poet and fictionist, as well as a photographer and ESL instructor.


I leave the apartment without umbrella. The light dims but then the sun blooms behind me, turning its waxing gaze on the gunmetal cloud bank, pushes me onward past tidy front gardens salted with snowdrops straining to life through a fug of fresh manure, tiny bellies of felted magnolia buds curving with visions of lemon-scented goblets, the Mind behind it all cradling the germ of spring and finally: steel on teal as sky meets sea crashing on hard-packed sand in a froth of jubilation before retrea ting and roaring forth again.

1February 2, the celebration of early spring and the calving season in the ancient Celtic calendar.




Sun’s light has travelled over ninety-million miles to blaze on my page, warm my face, banish the night thoughts My fingernails are bright pearls, and the woolen blanket reveals its maker’s weave of blues and purples, reds and golds The leaves outside the window glow a burnished copper

The earth turns, the moon pulls, and the tides rise and fall Trees bud, blossom and fruit, and the fruit tumbles Iteration after iteration of the human family tasting the flesh, spitting the seeds back to Earth


Dark islands of cloud inch toward rain

The sky glows, ghosting the trees

Loose threads of smoke rise from the chimney two doors down


The clouds are blackish blue today, with hint of peach and lovely tangerine illuminated beneath the fulminate


The grey skeleton of a fish dabbed across the sky

The sun, cradled in a billowing nest of salmon pink, floating over the smoky-blue land

A purity of white scrubs the sky, stimulating something deep in the brain: The sky is a silver gelatin print; charcoal clouds shield us from the dazzle.



Swelling plumes of plum sombre the sky The land across the harbour a smoky mauve; the water, still

The Dogwood leaves have taken on a dusty yellow, and I wonder if I comprehend what ecstasy swelled in Cezanne, as he painted that pear

VII. Sugar rind, the sun emerges, boiling: a seeping tide of blood-orange lapping the band of robin-egg blue

The sun has breached the barriers Blue streaks dissolve to spill across the sky Details of roofing tile, skylights and chimneys

The leaves outside the window lift to rustle; Damp air oozes through the cracks How we dare to look at the sun, at the sky.



The light glints silver on the fruit trees, and I am transfixed by a crab apple, its branches heavy to the ground: first, by the individual apples, the small round densities of them; then, by their profusion. This one tree’s yield is staggering: hundreds of sweet, crisp tangibles; my lifetime’s harvest, a handful of falling leaves.



Clouds open, beaming light like Turner landscapes, and colours tone the sky.

Rivulets of sweat celebrate the heat and balance it comfortably.

Canoe shoulder strength finds compatibility with the heat of summer as fingers search out streams in deep valleys darkly wooded, darkly greened, -with anticipation as sharp as speckled trout.

As the peak of summer moves, farms and homesteads stand in their natural capital. Fields of sweetcorn form high walls to the close-up eye and apples hang careless on wayside trees.

Summer moves past me and I marvel at all it gives of itself. Peaches, cherries, plums, nectarines, and apricots of colour form the land, and of perfumes fill the air.

Pumpkins swell discreetly for October's orange climax and wide fields of sunflowers shriek girlish nods of sun-bright yellow. Even the people and the cows steady their pace to the heat, as the emerging harvest darkens with rich borders these images of the land.

I salivate to its beauty, summer's love, and I love you as you share it with me.



The city shimmers in the distance like a man-made mountain range, framed by a soaring bridge, its feet set in different worlds, One, leading to the wilderness tamed, the other a gateway to nature, primeval and unspoiled.

From high in the wooded hills a river washes the waters of the bay, cleansing its mirror so that the old and the new can be seen as reflections of each other.

Seals and salmon live in these waters unaware of the unique blend of man and nature, the delicate balance so easily upset.

We take for granted the familiar and only the traveler sees things as they really are. In time the wonder fades only to be renewed by more corners turned, new places seen, old memories revisited.

Sitting on the beach with the sound of people, ships and boats moving by in the morning mist carrying hopes and dreams. I wonder about what will be, my future here or where?

(2013 West Vancouver)



There is no undoing, no amends to be made, the words are spoken the tone, if its perceptible, tenders the point, and, perhaps, the emotion.

There is no retrocede gesture, no taking back. Hatred hangs in the air like a corpse in a Juniper tree, dangling for eternity The divide widens, there is no meeting point, no nostrum to swallow and correct the shape of it. Instead we burrow deep into our sinecures, cuddles of cures for palsy, our ill-gotten thoughts of superiorities

From my swivel chair, the old one with the busted armrest, duct taped together, even though I have a new chair out in the hall, which I sit in now to light the wood stove, roll up to the hearth, ponder the fire, wonder if it will catch (I’m batting about 900) enjoying the warmth, my aimless drivel,


then back to the old chair. It will fail at some point, disintegrate from use, the weight of me, but for now, I settle in, gadabout the Internet each morn, create, search, dream, revel in the isolation, somewhat enforced by law and time, happy with my lot, the old chair, a rickety friend not without its charm.




Little girl warns, the runnel’s gone dry, air has turned tetchy. Does Greta stand alone?

She describes slough beds and meadows of despair; dry stalks burst into flames on their own;

how on the horizon lay a shattered sun; pale petals behind windows, each one alone;

a field mouse darts from the paws of night; summer lasts forever, winter’s postponed.

How could she know for one so young? One voice above many, speaking alone.

Purse your lips, little one. From your soapbox raise your small voice. Dare brawl in tiny tones.

Little Greta pleads for the morning. How short is a lifetime? How long is alone?

With tales of a world spinning faster industry fibrillates, Mother starts to moan.

Dark eye of night, moon winces feverish. Do we believe in Greta? Or does she stand alone?

Author’s note. This poem is about child environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, who many times has stood up (sometimes alone) against a world of corporate, peer and adult naysayers.



when darkness closes in take a breath look around you’ll discover you’re inside a circle it’s moving around you there’s no hurry it won’t desert you when the moment’s right you will see the centre of existence a light full of warmth and comfort you’ve always been there the boundary is a reminder there is no beginning no end it’s a circle moving around you when it seems finished it’s a sign the end is the beginning you’re in the centre it’s draped around you there’s no hurry take a breath look around it’s never too late only you can see it’s always been there




The net-pen salmon swim around. The net-pen salmon swim around. The net-pen salmon swim around. The net-pen salmon swim around.

All migratory urges drowned, the net-pen salmon swim around. The net-pen salmon swim around. The net-pen salmon swim around.

All migratory urges drowned, no natal stream to be re-found, the net-pen salmon swim around. The net-pen salmon swim around.

All migratory urges drowned, no natal stream to be re-found, no swimming past Prince William Sound, the net-pen salmon swim around.

All migratory urges drowned, no natal stream to be re-found, no swimming past Prince William Sound, these pseudo-salmon now abound



My body feels off today stunned like the bird who mistook the window for the sky. Two lines tell me I have finally fallen, and the dog doesn’t understand, wants to play. Do dogs get Covid? I peck at my phone with more questions than there are birds here right now. I sit in the stillness of these trees Arbutus, Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar, Alder, and Maples. A seaplane overhead drowns out the Warblers and it’s too late for Ravens they like early morning, like me. Ah, but there’s one in the distance, scolding me with a gurgling croak. A Eurasian Collared Dove coos while I light citronella candles to try and ward off small mosquitos. Persistent, they sound like small skill saws close to my too warm body. I do not hear sounds of Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers or Harlequin Ducks; they live on the water, not me. I hear, instead, the steady turning of a butchered bone tumbling in the mouth of my yellow Labrador, like a rock being polished by the sea. I see a child learning to ride a bicycle, while another stands on the side of the gravel road cheering her on with bi-level glee the way kids do in July: Terrrr-eeee, Terrrr-eeee! A Robin suddenly here, pecks at the grass, then looks up at me with a tilted head before she takes three quick steps in succession, then stops and does it again. She moves closer, looks at me again, then gets down low and carries on three steps, stop, three steps, stop, three steps, stop until I can no longer see her at all. A light breeze waves the Cedar boughs and cools my fever down. I feel like the Death Cap Mushrooms we try to keep out of the yard so the dog will not eat them. Apparently, they are quite delicious until… I could sit here all day without moving headache widening now to form a cap. I turn to listen to my book, When Women Were Birds and am soothed by the sound of the author’s voice as I contemplate absence and presence. Later, I walk the dog at a snail’s pace to the ocean where we sit and regard Mt. Baker. Dusted all year long with confectioner’s sugar snow, it appears and disappears from behind stagnant clouds. Here, Canadian Geese paddle against the current underwater too dark to see. Then, a seal mimics the mountain, bobs in and out of the cloudy water absent, then present.




I look to the rafters

They aren’t here


A day or two late maybe

Little black discs swooping through open barn doors

Blue in the sunlight

But black in here where it’s cool

They’re a day or two late




moss exposed from trees removed browning in the unexpected sunlight hand to my eyes to block the rays cast them elsewhere the edges turn up curling away from the rock

from under the moss, dust dirt slides down the blue grey surface a trickle of dust not a trickle not even that mossy moisture

sunlight and dust and sun in my eyes



In winter when cold winds blow, I sleep under the weight of my grandmother’s love, cushioned beneath layers of carded wool, wrapped in sturdy fabric. Half a century, her care has cradled me through births and death, joy and heartbreak. A quilt practical like she was, without thought to fashion.

When I scrape the jar, run my finger along the edge of a bowl for the last smidge of batter, it is a memory nothing to be wasted: buttons cut off a shirt, sweater unraveled for yarn, seams unstitched for thread, flour sacks turned into dresses and tea towels, grease from a goose rendered for cooking and healing, slop fed to pigs and chickens, every vegetable or fruit pickled, dried, canned or stewed, put up against war, famine and tough times.

Her life a practice, sustained by love and faith, certain and unwavering I hear her whisper

“Я тебе люблю” “Ya tebE lyublYU” * the only words of Ukrainian I know.

* “I love you”




They were tough those babas and dedas

Lured to the New Country by promises of golden opportunity

Saved a dollar and didn’t purchase the mineral rights

Forty years later, hindsight

Harnessed children to the plow

No money for horses or oxen

Hurry, hurry, to get a crop in, or starve

Build a sod house, an outdoor brick oven

Drill a well and pray for sweet water

Haul buckets to the men in the fields

Once a week draw a bath for everyone

Pray for a harvest

Plant wheat, go to the mill for flour

Learn to blacksmith

Pray for a wife in labour, a sick child, rain

Get a mail-order bride when one woman dies

Glean native berries, pick mushrooms

Pray they aren’t poisonous

Tie children to a tree

Work in the vegetable garden

Tend the pigs, chickens, ducks and geese

Splint a broken leg, bind a sprain

Cure a cold with red flannel and goose fat

Pluck feathers, fill pillow cases and comforters

Ferment cabbage and cucumber in stone crocks

Dig a root cellar

Pray it doesn’t freeze too hard

Sow poppies for seed cake and piroshky

Have them confiscated

Reuse everything

Unravel the sweater, keep the buttons, unstitch seams for thread

Re-cut an old coat, sew dresses from flour sacks

Set up a still, make home brew and wine

Rejoice in tender green shoots, the rain cloud that passes over

Set an extra place at the table always

Share, collaborate, teach


Rest on the seventh day, but don’t forget the animals

When snows flies, gather around the fire, take care of equipment

Read the Bible, welcome family and friends

Make music, tell stories

Live through war, drought, displacement, disease

Keep the faith

Praise an all-knowing, all-seeing God

Fast and pray

Believe in a better life than the one left behind And me?

Safe in my warm house, 21st century homestead

Bake artisanal 18 hour no-knead bread

Turn on tap for water, knob for gas, switch for electricity

Button for computer answers to everything




Althoughthesepoemsdid notmeetthethemeofthis issue,theeditorsstillfelt thattheydeservedaplacein thisvolume.


Collective nouns are an intriguing form with etymologies at least as odd. How came a “murder" of crows? an "exultation" of larks? "conspiracy" of ravens? or a "charm" of hummingbirds?

For "prides" of lions, I say take our crows, or peacocks better still; though the latter foreign imports are more like a "cacaphony" of bullies in the gardens by the park. And it must be an "excrescence" or "persistence" of those omnipresent gulls rooting, looting garbage bins along the walkways by the lakes.

Though surely, there’s "delights" of children for the toddlers and the young in the playgrounds, water features or the lower limbs of trees, with a "benevolence" of elders holding camera attendance for their "carousels" of memories in the möbius strips of time.




We read night’s darkest pages in our golden twilight times, confront tsunamis on the gentle shores we walk, for ever over-shadows now our quiet innocence some distant yet inevitable loss.

Will we still read our love poems to tomorrow’s starry skies or breathe each other when we turn in restless sleep?

Hold hard the sight this evening’s rising moon, almost unbearable the clutch of hand-in- hand, the bodies morning intertwined, for cogs of time implacable are impotent yet to tear the softest memories we weave into the fabric of our lives.




I'm not a professional at life

But here's the forest and a large expanse of beach rocks

There, the ocean

Blossoming flowers and fluffy green every thing

Childhood abandon

Meals with laughter

Vitamins, fluffy croissants, apples and almond butter

Signs of life like huge soap bubbles in the wind

Hugs around the shoulders and hips

Walking and a calm knowing heart

Deep in the forest

To bring to

Chats at the table

Relearning pace and seeing speed

In the reflections of a horizon

Friend ships sailing

Archipelagos of islands




the morning light rises like carp from between the trees, slow-shining. eight paces away, in the clearing, the abandoned water reservoir juts up through the treetops, sodden with light. vines crawl across its cracked gray face, straining for the sun. the meadow that stretches out before lies still, not in waiting but in the sleep that comes after the waiting has been in vain. at the top, icicles of rust drip from its barbed wire gate.

there are grooves there, in the panels that flank either side of the gate; ghosts of our converse, our loafers, the slick-soled boots you wore on our first attempt to hoist each other over to the roof, onto the expanse of bits of broken beer bottles and abandoned pizza boxes and graffiti rubbed away by rain. the ghost of our laughter bubbles up from the concrete like the froth of a faraway river. there are shadows of our first meteor shower, our haloes of tea lights; afterimages of polaroid flashes and flashlights slicing white through darkness, your bare feet skimming the river as the rope swing arcs overhead. memories trapped in time like echoes, still rebounding off the surrounding trees.




dust off the shadows beneath the gray façade venture in through crusted corridors treasure is unearthed for the one who cares to listen she yearns for her story to be told

take the young girl’s hand as she leads you through the forest away from angry voices, embracing leafy limbs gentle, wind-puffed kisses caress her hidden bruises exposed by the moonlight, revealing secret sins

listen to her song, composed by fluid fingers polished ebon notes on weathered-wrinkled parchment an unfinished symphony swelling to crescendos echoing the rhythms within her ageless heart

watch her performance, commanding centre stage making love to her audience with tear-stained smiles bathing in the limelight, she wraps the crowd in stardust a million tiny goosebumps, frozen in time

honour the survivor who ceased to be a victim of toxic, broken beings – angry puppeteers rising from the ashes of shame to self-respect her voice no longer muted, her soul not chained in fear

breathe in the fragrance within her wilted petals silver leaves shimmer as she dances in the sun look a little closer, beneath the gray façade perhaps you’ll see her beauty and mine, for we are one



It happens every year how can I resist a familiar shiver travels up my spine as you tempt, entice and wrap me in your fiery cloak of crimson orange, saffron and gold I am smitten

I dare not close my eyes lest I miss a single moment of your bewitching charms nor can I pull away I must savour every glance, every sound every aroma that holds me captive as your russet tears fall softly upon the chilled, barren ground I am reminded that our season of ardour is fleeting but we will be together again I will be waiting in the shadows ‘neath the harvest moon how could I not for your smoky-sweet embers ignite me your scarlet kiss excites me your gusty breath revives me I am all-consumed I tingle in your embrace I am




Elizabeth Adilman is a Canadian author, singer and workshop facilitator inspired by nature the nature of who we are; how we got here and how to live fully with each moment. She leads regular writing workshops for women who endeavour to “write” their lives and to connect. In January of this year, she earned an MFA in poetry through the Solstice MFA program in Boston where she focused on the Japanese poetic form, haibun. Through its hybrid form of rambling prose and focused haiku, Elizabeth asserts haibun can be used as a tool to bring presence to the writing process. Her work is forthcoming or has been published in anthologies: Voicing Suicide; The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling; Island Writer Magazine, and Minerva Rising Press, among others. You can find her on Instagram at @eadilman


John Beaton is a retired actuary raised in the Scottish Highlands and living in Qualicum Beach. His poetry has appeared in media as diverse as Able Muse and Gray’s Sporting Journal. He wrote a monthly poetry page for the magazine Eyes on BC and he recites his poems as a member of the band Celtic Chaos. He authored a recently released book of metrical poetry titled Leaving Camustianavaig, a village on the Isle of Skye.


Irish Browne has published many short stories and poems for libraries, Boards of Education, and Social Service organizations, and she has just finished writing her first novel. She is also an established artist and has exhibited her large, figurative abstract oil paintings in England, Canada and the USA. Currently, Irish lives on Vancouver Island at the tip of the Peninsula where she also has her studio.



Bonnie Davis moved to Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island a year ago and has been feeling grateful to watch the slow and steady changes of the forest around her home. Bonnie is currently on maternity leave from her work as a children’s counsellor. Surrounded by fir, hemlock and cedars, Bonnie is a mother to three children and enjoys the company of her dog, horses and husband.


Bill Engleson, a Denman Island author, self-published his first novel, Like a Child to Home, in 2013. In 2016, Silver Bow Publishing released his collection of humorous literary essays, Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul. Besides writing flash fiction, essays, poetry, reviews, letters to the editor, and a prequel to his first novel entitled Drawn Towards the Sun, he is poised to publish a new novel, The Life of Gronsky. His website/blog is


Micki Findlay is a contributing author for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jazz House Publications, Goats Milk Magazine, and a columnist for Oasis Life Magazine where she features local artists making a difference. Micki writes her life stories to help others recognize their self-worth, find hope through difficult circumstances, and realize they aren’t alone in their struggles. She feels blessed to live on beautiful Vancouver Island, BC.


Neil Garvie is a retired teacher — born in Saskatoon, living in Comox BC. He is a member of the Comox Valley Writers’ Society and Victoria Writers’ Society. Neil is author of four recently published poetry collections: Silence Craves a Voice (Poplar Publishing, 2019), Mother Nature Eats Her Kind (Pod Creative, 2020), Jigsaw (Pod Creative, 2021), and Off the Wall (Pod Creative, 2022).



Deborah Graham lives on Vancouver Island, where she writes fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and nonfiction.


Lake Cowichan

English born and raised, Michael moved to Canada in 1966 and spent most of his working life as a Medical Diagnostics Sales Engineer

His poetry writing started in 1997 when standard letters to a loved one gradually changed to blank verse and developed from there.


Illana is proud to live and play on the unceded territories of the Qualicum First Nations and that of the Coast Salish people. When not writing, she is the Executive Director of The Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH) in Qualicum Beach and co-chair of the Creative Coast arts ecosystem lab project ( Her writing strives to create connection - at an interesting intersection in her life, after living in New York and working in the fast- paced contemporary art market for over 12 years, she now finds herself back in Canada on Vancouver Island, single parenting and pushing at the edges of self- discovery. She holds an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Queer Theory from UBC and a Masters degree from New York University in Visual Art Administration.


Janis La Couvée is a writer and poet with a love of wild green spaces, dedicated to conservation activities. Her writing has been featured or published by Paddler Press, Island Writer, Humana Obscura, Van Isle Poetry Collective, pocket lint, WordStorm Society of the Arts and New York Writers Collective. She resides in Campbell River on the territory of the Wei Wai Kum, We Wai Kai and Kwiakah First Nations



Derek has been many things in his life, but now finds writing poetry to be even more challenging than learning to live without cats.


Janet Pollock Millar is a teacher, editor, and writer living on Lkwungen territory in Victoria, BC. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Herizons, United Church Observer, and Island Writer. Janet works with both English first-language and multilingual students in the Writing Centre at Camosun College.


Emma Sloan is a Victoria-based poet, essayist, and journalist who works as a professional copywriter. Follow her at for writing updates and news.




Cover photos: Top left - "'Summit' lake, Sutton Pass" (HWY 4)

Bottom left - "Rotary lagoon rock reflections" (Campbell River shore)

Right side: "Ferns unfolding, Quinsam River"

Back cover: "Big Leaf maples, Burgoyne Bay" (Salt Spring Island)

Interior photo: “Fawn lilies, Campbell River”


Photo of Derek R. Swallow


Photo of April Hilland

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