8th ANNUAL FRED COGSWELL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN POETRY http://rclas.com/awards-contests/fred-cogswell-award/
"Fred Cogswell (1917-2004) was a prolific poet, editor, professor, life member of the League of Canadian Poets, and an Officer of the Order of Canada." First Prize: Second Prize: Third Prize:
$500 $250 $100
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Book must be bound as a book, not a chapbook. Book length must be a minimum of 60 pages in length. Selected poetry must be written in English by a single author. No co-writes or anthologies. Book must be original work by the author (translations will not be considered at this time) Original date of publication falls between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. Book must be published in Canada. Book must be written by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident alive in submission year. Electronic books are not eligible.
Jónína Kirton is the judge for our 2021 Fred Cogswell Award For Excellence In Poetry. Reading Fee: $25 (all funds Canadian). Payment can be made through PayPal here http://rclas.com/awards-contests/fred-cogswell-award/ or by cheque or money order (payable to “Royal City Literary Arts Society”). If you pay with PayPal, please include a copy of your receipt with the submission package. Two copies* of the book must be submitted to the Royal City Literary Arts Society, along with the reading fee (or proof thereof), and must be postmarked no later than October 1, 2021. The society’s mailing address is: Royal City Literary Arts Society Fred Cogswell Award Box #308 - 720 6th Street New Westminster, BC V3L 3C5
Winners Announcement: Date TBA Winning authors & titles will be published in the RCLAS’s Wordplay e-zine. *Submitted books will not be returned; they become the property of the Royal City Literary Arts Society. *In case of any dispute about the book’s eligibility, the Society’s decision will be final. If any conflict of interest is to be determined the book will be deemed ineligible.
Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry Winners & Honourable Mentions
9th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry First Place Winner Natalie Hryciuk Without Warning Sipping hot tea from a thermos, faces lifted to the November sun, we share anecdotes about reckless stupidity, as if we are three wise women who have survived by design rather than chance, finding resonance in each other’s words, here, on a park bench, an island of respite after our usual walk on the trails, broken by a brief episode of terror when two teenagers bore down on us on their bikes, gleeful joyriders with no intention of slowing down. Walking three abreast, we teetered, struggling to stay afloat, like wooden hulls on the verge of being smashed to pieces on the shore, lurching to the sides of the trail just in time to let them hurtle past. Now, here on our bench, we try to put the spectre of wrenched sockets and sprained wrists behind us, three sisters speaking of infirmity, but not there yet. Late in the afternoon we bask in the sun’s glow until, without warning, a hand sweeps it off the western edge of the sky, leaving us suddenly chilled, diminished in its shadow.
9th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry Second Place Winner P.W. Bridgman Poetry Makes Nothing Happen, Or So It’s Said (For James W. Wood)
…But all the poetry I might whisper under my breath can’t help them to see [there is a world elsewhere.] “Poetry makes nothing happen,” remarked Ian, the old cardiologist, to Jude, the still older pulmonologist. They were lunching in the hospital caf over dry ham sandwiches. (Student memories of British Rail—of bread curling up at the corners like carpet underlay when freed from its cellophane—were revived.) “Or so it’s said,” replied the lung man, not convinced, pouring more tea for them both from a cracked brown betty. “But you know, my eldest sister thrived on poetry,” he continued. “She recited it fearlessly, at table and in competitions.” The heart man wiped away a crumb, then his smile slackened. “The first girl ever to catch my eye was mad for it,” he said. “I so hoped to kiss her but all the poetry I might whisper into that sweet little seashell ear only incited her to mock me more. ‘You’ve looked it up in books and you’ve got it all wrong,’ she’d say to me, laughing.” The lung man nodded kindly. “It was to be a vain effort in the end, I’ll wager.” The heart man, more wistful now, sipped his tea. “It was. And more’s the pity. I fell hard for that young colleen. She asked me once, ‘Don’t they teach you in medicine that the heart is not just a muscle?’ O, faire maiden! The Inferno hath no lash can leave a stynge like the poetical rebuke of a swete and clever gyrle!” The lung man crumpled the cellophane from his sandwich into a ball, put it on his tray, and then asked: “May I address you, Ian, speaking of Lethe, under my breath?” “Of course,” heart man said, suddenly impatient, wishing to move on. “Well?” Playing absently with his empty teacup, lung man paused awhile before continuing. “I’m told your abusive alcoholic—that Lord of Mammon in 302— signed an organ donation form last week. It includes the lungs. Somehow, he fit that into his busy schedule of conference calling, faxing, dictating and berating. He’s driving the nurses mad, you know.” Heart man listened attentively. Lung man continued: “Word just came through yesterday, though, that he’s a
tissue match for my brilliant violist, my expiring emphysema patient in 606. Can you imagine the odds? A million to one or more? It’s so very unlikely! We can’t help them to see the possibilities here unless you and I approach the ethics committee together.” Now it was heart man’s turn to take a painfully long pause. He shook what remained of his sugar packet into the dregs of his milky tea, since gone cold. Stirring quietly, staring into the whorls, heart man at last looked up: “You know this presupposes a particular outcome for the Lord of Mammon.” Lung man: “Yes, but it was just last week that you mentioned there’s only a 15% chance he’ll survive surgery.” Heart man: “But you know too it’s improper for us to discuss this.” Lung man: “No. I’ve looked it up in books.” Heart man: “Ha. Jude! The heart is not just a muscle, as I learned too late. Beware, there is a world elsewhere.”
This glosa takes its title (itself incorporating a quotation from Auden) and its source poem quatrain (its cabeza in Spanish) from the poem “Down the Drain”, which appears in James W. Wood’s Building a Kingdom: New and Selected Poems, 1989–2019 (Swindon: The High Window Press, 2019). Reproduced with permission.
The lines in italics attributed to Georg Friedrich Daumer, borrowed by Johannes Brahms for his Ein kleiner, Hübscher Vogel from Liebeslieder-Walzer, op. 52. no. 6. Title borrowed from the last line of Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem.
9th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry Third Place Winner Alvin Ens Joys of Golf Why do I golf? Let me count the reasons. Golfing is good exercise, I, of all men, benefiting most as I wander from left rough to right hazard and swing more frequently than most. On the golf course I learn to give compliments generously and to receive commendation modestly, and I learn additionally that it is most often more blessed to give than to receive. Golfing teaches me the physics of trajectory and the science of whether a ball may go beyond a best-guess location, the transfer of energy from club to ball and from candy bar to body. Further, golfing teaches me to exercise patience, especially that of my partners who search the rough for my ball. It teaches magnanimity in helping the errant counter to reconstruct his score shot by shot and lie by lie. Golfing offers me companionship at the first tee and again at each tee-off after the diaspora. Golfing gives those moments of superior feelings, moments frequently belonging to my brothers who mock those who chase a little ball to hit again until they lose it. And most of all, golfing helps me learn to keep my head down when I swing and especially when I’m asked my score.
9th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry Honourable Mention Madeline Ewanyshyn The Recipe
The grumble in my stomach reminds me of when you used to say “hey let’s play that game where we’re lost little girls starving in the woods” your woods your personal place to get lost in and I could come too if I wanted feast on mushrooms and fiddleheads savour salmon berries spit out the sour and run my tongue along my teeth picking out the twigs gargling the dirt it was then that I learned to crave hunger and to look but not touch in this place your kingdom.
You had a lifesize playhouse and a posse of plump chickens nibbling on sweet corn pigs swelling with slop and the sheep you named Barbara and Babette when I asked you what happens to the animals afterwards you pretended not to understand we clambered inside to sit by the air vent salivating at the scent of a 9 o’clock dinner playing with your porcelain dolls I knew you’d outgrow in a week I was lucky enough to help you throw them away like scraping off the food that clung to your dinner plate.
What I wanted the most were those things that made you beautiful those warm vanilla sugar lotion coca cola chapstick cupcake whipped cream lush bath-bomb snacks that tempted me like a finger in the frosting bowl I stole your secrets and even now when you pretend not to recognize me I can taste those crabapple sickly sweet swollen blackberries and the wild bergamot that grew by your woods where I learned that you were never really lost or hungry like me.
9th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry Honourable Mention Gerald Murphy Jack Jack, I have seen you writing down the cries, Like me, of the lonely waves at Big Sur. A Dharma bum riding the boxcar of life while singin’ the Haiku Blues Searching for the scripture of the Golden Eternity In a subterranean San Francisco New York world with Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs Eating a naked lunch, watching everyone watching you with a Black girlfriend Wondering if you are too conscious about it, Too manly a star football player to howl A poet as novelist, singing the French-Canadian Catholic spiritual blues with jazz overtones Moving to the syncopated black beat, one of the angel-headed hipsters worshipping at the altar Of the Goddesses of sex and drugs, always looking for the next trip on any road or any pill Frantically searching for the meaninglessness of the loneliness of life Finding oneness in the Friday night literary salon of Kenneth Rexroth or On the mountain watchtower looking for fires of the soul, learning how to meditate So you don’t have to think anymore, like a shot of heroin, you are a Bodhisattva Achieving nirvana, oh, so briefly, like me. Writing On the Road in spontaneous prose flowing continuously onto a 120 foot long single roll of teletype paper so you never have to stop to change sheets in a frenzied three week bender of benzedrine and alcohol, improvising a novel, like a bebopping symbolistic impressionistic jazz musician, I can’t do that. So shy, too shy, like me, you answer questions in a monosyllabic low voice head down TV interview, tapping your fingers until asked to read On the Road, then the words flow like life from the page into your voice, slowly at first, accelerating west with Dean across Colorado Into Arizona to see visions of America with its drive-in wedding chapels and dismal divorce bars While gulping a bottle of muscatel and seeing visions of God as Pooh Bear. On the road again with Neal Cassady, you, like me, not quite able to keep up, Until Neal is found on a Mexican railway track chasing after a train high on speed Never able to stop until his heart gives out.
You, like me, found peace with a Mexican girlfriend For a week. You, on the road, again, leaving behind the Mexico City Blues, a Desolation Angel On the road between the town and the city Finding satori in Paris, Like me, For a night. On the road, again, like me, Tired of it all, Heading home To Mom’s, Sitting in the living room, Feet up, Watching TV, Waiting to die. I understand, brother, But I can not do the same.
9th Annual RCLAS Write On! Contest 2021 Poetry Honourable Mention Diana Hayes Mister Raven and My Tourmaline Earring Oh ancient bird jaunty with two-footed hops moxie galore makes off with my tourmaline earring the one that belongs on my left ear and if you want to believe the paradigms of gemology you should first know how the world cooks up toxic waste—liver and blood spreads edema—ankles and feet sparks metal ions—prosthetics lying in wait this semi-precious stone will give you a leg up the mountain scree never cramping your freefall. Lucky Raven chortling his booty all razzle and gleam will flare the libido warbling for his solo mate just in time to swoop and roll clear out the beach stash all those tourists dropping talismans in sand maybe a diamond in a makeshift grave. I think our King of Corvid remembers all our moves face recognition he covets amethyst from my locket has an eye for polished silver rehearses his struts with every croak and caw, then clicks like a mystery clock lurking in branches whistles me to move along pleased with my good taste in earrings. Once I set my keys on a flat rock on a west blown beach in the middle of winter left in clear sight I was determined to get the best and last of the surf before night my camera eyeing the wilderness it was time to tempt the sea breathe without snorkel or gills. I returned to my rock and no keys. No keys. Clever Mister guardian thief Raven teaches me to bite my tongue hitch a lucky ride back to town turn and toss in a single bed tangled up in shadow down eyes of obsidian a fine master of time. I am awake now one tourmaline dream brush of black wings nudges my ascent see the bird passing through a cloak of trees out past dawn all lustre and preened keys and earring tucked in his craw. Go ahead bird. Fly away. Remember my dream. when you come back for more.
You will know me by tourmaline
2021 RCLAS Write On! Contest BIOS: Poetry Winners & Honourable Mentions
Natalie Hryciuk is a retired English and creative writing teacher who is finding her writing voice with the help of the SFU Creative Writing program. She thanks her fellow students for their encouragement. Natalie enjoys writing both poetry and prose, exploring a variety of themes, including displacement and identity. She has a couple of writing projects underway.
P.W. Bridgman’s third and fourth books—The FourFaced Liar (short fiction) and Idiolect (poetry)— were published in 2021 by Ekstasis Editions. His writing has appeared in, among other outlets, The Maynard, Antigonish Review, Grain, Moth Magazine, Glasgow Review of Books, Honest Ulsterman, Galway Review, LitroUK, LitroNY and The High Window. www.pwbridgman.ca
Alvin Ens was a high school English teacher. He calls himself a mentor, editor, poet, and writer of prose; he is a member of Fraser Valley Poetry Society and Fraser Valley Christian Writers and several clubs beyond. In 2005 the Abbotsford Arts Council awarded him Abbotsford’s outstanding literary artist.
2021 RCLAS Write On! Contest BIOS: Poetry Winners & Honourable Mentions
Madeline Ewanyshyn is an emerging writer who works at a library. In 2019, she graduated from KPU with a BA in Creative Writing. She has been published in literary magazines including pulpMAG, Sea to Sky Review, The Lyre, and High Shelf Press and is currently working on her first novel. www.madelinewrites.com
Gerald Murphy is a poet living in New Westminster. Gerald enjoys attending local Open Mic events including Poetic Justice and Poetry in the Park.
Diana Hayes was born in Toronto and has lived on both coasts of Canada. She has six published books, most recently Gold in the Shadow: Twenty-Two Ghazals and a Cento for Phyllis Webb. Deeper Into the Forest, a spoken word/music CD, was produced at Allowed Sound Studio in 2020. Her practice of year-round ocean swimming inspired the formation of the Salt Spring Seals. www.dianahayes.ca
2021 WRITE ON! CONTEST COMMENTS FROM OUR POETRY JUDGE ANGELA REBREC 2021 Poetry Contest Winners First Place: Natalie Hryciuk – Without Warning Second Place: P.W. Bridgman – Poetry Makes Nothing Happen, Or So It's Said Third Place: Alvin Ens – Joys of Golf 2021 Poetry Honourable Mentions Madeline Ewanyshyn – The Recipe Gerald Murphy – Jack Diana Hayes – Mister Raven and My Tourmaline Earring First Place Without Warning by Natalie Hryciuk This vivid and thoughtful poem addresses the transience of life concealed in a narrative about three sisters contemplating a near-miss collision with cyclists on a late afternoon walk. The poem moves swiftly with its long, fluid lines, and in one motion, we are drawn into their post-near-accident conversation where the women talk smugly about “reckless stupidity”, describing the incident in gross hyperbole, stating, “we teetered, / struggling to stay afloat, / like wooden hulls on the verge of being smashed to pieces on the shore”. Everywhere the poem alludes to life’s impermanence—from its mundane moments where the sisters share tea on a park bench in winter to its gorgeous imagery of a hand sweeping the sunset away. We sense an untethering in these sister’s lives, as though whatever grounds them—be it their walks, shared stories, or shared experiences—is insufficient to stave off that which is unpredictable and temporary. The poet has crafted a beautifully authentic poem, tightly focused yet far-reaching, one that stays with us like a vibrant sunset in the aftermath of reading. Second Place Poetry Makes Nothing Happen, Or So It's Said by P.W. Bridgman An ambitious narrative glosa (incorporating a quatrain from Auden), this poem plunges us into a lunch-hour conversation between two surgeons—artfully referred to as “the lung man” and “the heart man”—who debate a difficult ethical question regarding two of their patients. The poet cleverly veils the dilemma in the spitfire conversation between the two who dispute the merits of emotion (that poetry offers) versus pure intellect (espoused by science). The core message of this poem hinges in memory the “heart man” recalls, when, as a youth, he was spurned by a poetry-loving girl despite his efforts to recite poems to her: “’You’ve / looked it up in books and you’ve got it all wrong,’ she’d say to me, laughing.” The conversation is witty and sometimes ironic—as noted in the title—where we come to realize that poetry indeed can move people to make “things” happen, and illustrated when the “heart man” exclaims, “The heart is not just a muscle.” This is a smart poem—energetic, mentally and emotionally engaging— simultaneously making us grimace and smile.
Third Place Joys of Golf by Alvin Ens This self-deprecating account of a golf player extolling the benefits of the game is an uproariously fun read. Over the course of the poem we come to realise the player can neither play well, gracefully accept suggestions to improve his game, nor keep score honestly. The poet cleverly unravels the player’s story through subtle word-play and veiled statements such as claiming that golfing is great exercise because “I wander from left rough to right hazard / and swing more frequently than most.” There is such positivity in this poem despite the player’s failures and foibles, especially evident in the snort-laughable lines where he proposes how golfing provides moments of superior feelings “frequently belonging to my brothers / who mock those who chase a little ball / to hit again until they lose it.” The poem’s fluid-flowing rhythms and sounds juxtapose the player’s lack of grace in both his golfing abilities and truthfulness which further accentuate the poem’s comedy. The poet scores a hole-in-one with this gem of a poem—and that’s no lie.
Find the Write on! Contest Fiction winners in our Summer 2021 issue https://issuu.com/rclas/docs/june_summer_2021_ezine_issue_84 featuring stories by Anne Ramallo, Kimberly Aslett, Holly Quan, Alex Hamilton-Brown, Christine Cowan and Janaya Fuller Evans.
Watch for our 2021 Non-Fiction Winners to be featured in our next issue!
Poetry in the Park July 10 – August 21 Open Space Saturdays at Massey Theatre New Westminster
July 10th – Jeremy Stewart July 17th – Tanja Bartel July 24th – Lanika Yule and Katie Stobbart July 31st – Brandon Wint & Carolyn Nakagawa Aug 7th – Elliott Slinn Aug 14th – ALHS Aug 21th – Renée Sarojini Saklikar & Claire Matthews
Hello Everyone We did it! Poetry in the Park 2021 was another success! Happy 10-year Anniversary! To have made it this far through the pandemic, and then to be rewarded with live poetry, I was pleasantly, and thankfully, surprised. This year we made the change of location from the bandshell at Queen’s Park to the “Poet Tree” at Eighth and Eight beside Massey Theatre. We were warmly welcomed to the lineup for Open Space Saturdays. A big thanks to Jessica Schneider and Ronnie Dean Harris of Massey Theatre for including us in their weekly event. We had a blast! Many highlights this year include the wonderful features Brandon Wint and Renee Saklikar. I would also like to thank RCLAS President Janet Kvammen for all the work she does behind the scenes. Thanks to all who came out to join us, whether you just listened under the tree or braved the stage to read your work. Looking forward to it again next year.
In the meantime, be safe. Be kind. Read and write poetry!
Best Regards, Aidan Chafe Poetry in the Park Manager
Opening Day 2021 July 17 Featuring Jeremy Stewart
July 17th Featuring Tanja Bartel
July 24th Featuring Lanika Yule and Katie Stobbart
July 31st Featuring Brandon Wint & Carolyn Nakagawa
Aug 7th Featuring Elliott Slinn Poet Laureate of New Westminster
Aug 14th Featuring Poet ALHS
Aug 21st Summer 2021 Finale Featuring Renée Sarojini Saklikar & Claire Matthews
THANK YOU to Aidan Chafe for an outstanding summer of poetry!
Poetry in the Park 2021 Comments “It was the highlight of my summer. Thank you for the support and vibrant energy you bring to the community. It was so great to finally meet in person!” - Jessica Lee McMillan “You just made my summer!” - Pandora Ballard “I only missed 2 of the Saturday events. There was a great variety of poetic styles and forms. There was also a nice balance of local and regional talent. Too bad it's over for this year. Congratulations to the organizers.” “Everyone who attended was a winner. We all got to hear and share our creativity and to socialize in a safe environment.” - Glenn Wootton “Everything was excellent! ONLY thing was the venue. I liked Queen's Park better... hehe. But that is a minor thing. Excellent selection of poets and was so happy to see some of my poetry family! ” - Sherry Duggal “I went to two sessions, and had a wonderful time! It was so good to see so many friendly faces and physically be at an event!” - Stephen Karr
“I've missed dancing my poems to an audience! I have missed seeing & hearing poets read! Thanks Janet Kvammen & Aidan Chafe for running Poetry in the Park!” – Eva Waldauf
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON © Eugene
To thrashing away in panic, I had abandoned my breaststroke – those sequential amphibian croaker-styled swim moves: thrusting straight the body, prone with arms fully extended in front so the tips of my hands’ pointed fingers meet and my face just below the water line; pulling both arms down as my head rises out from half-submersion to take a breath; and frog-kicking as my head goes back down past the water surface and my arms pull down at the elbow before shooting out in front for a return to propelling the restraightened body like a cruising kayak. A few minutes ago, my legs pushed on the climb-steps of the floating platform far out from shore, off I went to swim solo back to the beach – the fine, light brown sand expanse of Hong Kong’s popular Repulse Bay. A tropical summer day had heated up a top layer of the sea; when I was floating upright in the water, the top half of my body felt a soothing warmth remarkably contrasted by a breezing coolness engulfing me from the waist down. It’s a comfortable sensation; I’m not surprised it comes from the same body parts responsible for a swooning bliss from a course of deep-fried ice-cream. I had not been a strong swimmer. There was nothing of my ability to execute the stroke – and I had only the breaststroke in my repertoire; instead, it’s a lot to do with knowing how I would involuntarily slip into thinking of drowning while I am swimming where my feet no longer touch a solid bottom. I had taken to heart scares about swimming from over-protective adults around me. Case in point is the accumulated fright from an oftimparted saying, You’d rather play the mountain than the sea – the message that swimming accidents are way more unforgiving. Embellished with the teller’s invariable exaggerations for effect, true stories had also cast fixed threatening shadows about swimming in my mind, such as those of how even the strongest swimmers would drown in the ocean when their leg muscles start to pull for all kinds of reasons. They characteristically lacked the kinds of details which could otherwise lend reassuring impressions in my young forming mind that mishaps of this nature were infrequent, preventable exceptions. So, I set off to swim back to shore – as always, nervously, trying to suppress the etched worry of drowning and instead, to force the assertion that I could of course make it back to the beach. My backstroke was not bad, a gracious efficient glide covering a good
distance on every bodily forward thrust out of the rhythmic frog-like arms-legs propulsion. Then, on one raise of the head above the water line for an obligatory breath, I let my gaze take note of the beach ahead. I could feel the coming of the inevitable; I struggled to contain my straying thoughts. The shore receded to a further place from my perception. I stopped in mid-stroke; I looked behind me; the floating platform was no closer than the shore. I am in the middle of nowhere. I was floating upright. I stretched my body taut, touching nothing but the bottomless depth of ocean. I was treading fast to the rate of all the frightful hearsays of swimming perils now flash-flooding my thoughts out of my control. What’s that feeling down there; are my calf muscles seizing up? I’m going to drown. No way, I can make it to shore. My heart was racing, beating out more fatalistic self-talk. I thought of yelling for help; pride? shyness? part of the lack of selfconfidence which got me in the predicament in the first place? Whatever was why I didn’t makes no sense under the circumstances. In my head, I was literally talking myself into drowning.
How I stopped long enough to bring myself to my senses for some long minutes so smothered by thinking of my imminent demise at sea is not remembered. However – thankfully, I was able to seize on the moment to steel myself on halting my dooms-day self talk and telling myself this is stupid...that I can continue and reach shore. I decided to stop thinking what’d been churning inside my head and to instead concentrate on doing what is needed to return to the beach. I switched to treading more slowly; as I did so, I started to tread more methodically. Having been over taken by an insurgent panic and lost in my disturbed consciousness, the warm-cool sensation of the vertical depth of the sea had now returned to engulf my submerged upright body for a feeling of soothing comfort. My calf muscles have no problem; I was just imagining. With a backward kick of the legs, I leaped forward to resume my breast stroke swim. As I was executing every sequential move, I also thought out loud a command for the move. Straighten the body...lower arms close to sides of body...shoot arms out forward...head up to breath... frog-kick...straighten the body...lower arms close to sides of body...shoot arms out forward...head up to breath...frog-kick...
The shore looked now much closer. I took a break from my swim; as my lower body slowly sunk, tips of my toes brushed lightly across a soft line of shifting matters. I have arrived! I swam a few strokes forward. I stood up on the soft sandy bottom of the subterranean shoreline, basking in relief of having made it to shore. On my own power – from finding my capacity to keep calm and carry on to get the job done. Most importantly, alive.
------------------------------------------------- Keep Calm and Carry On copyright Eugene Ip
GRACE AND THE LUMBERMEN © Jerena
Grace Pritchard was born in 1923, and grew up in Cedar Cottage, a community near Commercial and 22nd Street in Vancouver. She attended Lord Selkirk Elementary School, and later graduated from John Oliver High School in 1941, almost two years after Canada had declared war on Germany. In 2020, at the age of ninety-seven, she reflected on a time in her life when everything she knew as normal suddenly changed. As a teenager, Grace did not give much thought to life beyond high school. She simply enjoyed her life. She was a happy girl who made friends easily. “My mother never worried about me,” she said. “So long as she could hear me laughing from somewhere in the neighbourhood, she knew I was safe.” Harvey MacMillan, a former chief forester for the province of British Columbia, opened the Canadian White Pine facility in 1926. In 1935, the White Pine mill merged with an adjacent mill – Dominion Mill owned by Seattle lumberman Julius Bloedel since 1910 and continued operations under the name MacMillan Bloedel, which would later become British Columbia’s largest corporation. By 1941, most of the younger men in Grace’s community had enlisted to fight for the Allied Forces, resulting in dwindling staff for key businesses. The eighteen-year-old confidently determined that she could step into a pair of those empty shoes and began looking for employment. Not long after her monumental decision, Grace heard that the Canadian White Pine facility located near Boundary Road and Marine Drive was accepting applications for
employment. Grace promptly set out on foot, walking almost ninety-minutes to reach the employment office and complete an application form. Employment did not come readily. Every third Friday, Grace walked from Victoria Drive and Kingsway to the White Pine facility to ask whether she would be hired. On one occasion, the employment officer showed her an eight-inch pile of applications and told her that, when the time came to review the candidates, only six would be hired. In confidence, he told her that the jobs would likely be awarded to those who had a connection to the mill. Grace had no such connection, but continued to make the monthly trek, her hopes high. One evening in October of 1941, Grace decided to retire early. As she drifted off to sleep, she heard the telephone ring. A moment later, her mother knocked on her bedroom door. The caller – Mr. Ray Compton – was asking for her. Mr. Compton told her that the White Pine selection process had finally commenced and that, as he had suggested, five of the six positions had been awarded to young ladies with connections to the facility. The remaining position, he told her, was left for him to fill. He picked Grace, not only because of her dogged determination, but because she was tenacious, keen and spirited. Grace worked at the White Pine facility until 1947. She began work with the other five women and the remaining men who did not or could not enlist. Every two weeks, they worked one of three shifts – morning, afternoon or night. She enjoyed every shift. The work was fascinating and the people interesting. Grace was always pleasant and personable and the first to say that the volume of her voice and her laughter did not go unnoticed. Some of the older men teased Grace when she first started working in the mill, but they soon stopped when they realized that they had been schoolmates with her mother. Grace’s mother was a quiet woman whom the men respected. One of them often marvelled that Grace could be the daughter of such a stayed mother. Mr. MacMillan often toured the factory, usually accompanied by his right-hand man, Bert Hoffmeister. It was not uncommon for one or both men to stop at Grace’s
workstation and chat with her. They too seemed drawn by her vivacious personality. Initially, Grace worked on the assembly line that fabricated laminated spruce plywood, a key component in, among other things, the construction of planes for the air force. Working on the plywood assembly line, Grace learned to turn veneers of four-foot by six-foot wood cut from logs to a thickness of 1/16th of an inch. The size varied, depending on whether the log had knots. “Logs would come from the river, into the factory,” Grace said, recalling the work. “The bark was peeled off, then the logs were cut into lengths of veneer. The sawyer would plop a veneer sheet on my table, sending dust swirling from side to side. The air was full of fine wood particles that settled everywhere. The noise in the mill was loud and constant, with whining saws and other machinery. It never ceased. We had no protection for our eyes, ears, mouth or nose. No one thought about that sort of thing in those days.” Grace was part of a crew of six. Each veneer was fed into a dryer, then onto a belt for grading. Further along the belt, the sheet’s width was recorded. At the end of the belt four women (two to a side) pulled the veneer off and stacked it. Eventually, the veneers were fed into spreaders and cut into lengths. Then, the knots were removed, and the holes filled. “Next, we fed the veneer through rollers where the glue was applied before being sandwiched together with another veneer,” Grace said. “The glue smelled worse than rotten eggs. I’d often tease the fellow who had to mix and apply it, saying ‘Holy cow! Excuse yourself!’ “The work was hard on our necks, arms and backs. I’ve had problems with my back ever since. We had to hold the veneer up high to feed it through the rollers and glue. Then a man below had to lift another sheet and stick it to the glue.
“It was hard on the fingers too. At the end of the day, my fingers bent straight back and to the left from pulling the heavy veneers through the rollers. I’d have to straighten them at night.” If she happened to get ahead of the process, Grace often picked up a broom and started sweeping, singing ‘Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!’ as she did so. It made everyone laugh. Mr. MacMillan had a habit of starting his routine inspections at the end of the line and working his way toward the beginning. Along the way, he would stop and chat with employees. Whenever he was spied entering the mill, Grace’s colleagues would shout out that her boyfriend was coming. Mr. MacMillan seemed to enjoy his visits with Grace, and often stayed longer at her station than anywhere else. Feeling self-conscious of the over-long attention, Grace would make excuses to return to her work, saying, ‘I’d better get back to work or you’ll fire me!’ He’d laugh, then continue his inspection. Mr. Compton from White Pine’s employment office would occasionally stop by for a visit too. The facility had a lunchroom, but most of the men smoked. Several of the women opted to bring their own lunch and ate together, away from the smokers. “In those days,” Grace said, “The women were concerned about their weight. We often ate half a grapefruit with our lunch, hoping to stay slim. One day, one of the others said, ‘Grace, I bet you could get that entire grapefruit in your mouth!’, implying that I had a big mouth. So, of course, I had to try. It went in alright, but I couldn’t get it out. They all started to laugh, which made me laugh too. Problem was, I couldn’t get it out again. Eventually, I had to squeeze my cheeks together, which in turn squeezed the grapefruit to a size that I could pull out.” Many women left the mill when jobs became available at the shipyards. They could earn a dollar an hour working on the new ships, while White Pine only paid thirty-nine
cents an hour. “Eventually, I trained new girls. They liked working with me because I took the time to help them relax and learn how to do the job right. At first the men teased the new ones, sending them off in search of a non-existent veneer stretcher. It might have seemed like a right-of-passage to the men, but I disagreed. I told them to stop being mean, and they did.” The women took pride in their work. One of the things of which Grace was particularly proud was her ability to stack the veneers square at the corners as she piled them. “The men never took the time to do that. Their piles were always askew. We showed them up!” As the war effort wound down, Mr. MacMillan secured a contract to manufacture lumber required to build thousands of homes in south Vancouver for returning soldiers and their families. “Later on, I moved into the door manufacturing operation,” Grace said. “I was taught to use the circular saws, moving them around with big levers. I did a man’s job, and I loved it! “I worked on a crew assigned to build mono doors for those new homes. When we built the two-thousandth door, Mr. MacMillan hosted a celebration and picked me as Queen of the Mono Doors! By then Mr. Hoffmeister had returned from war as a General – one of Canada’s most decorated soldiers, no less. The two men presented me with a great bouquet of flowers and a photo was taken of the three of us. It later appeared in a newspaper, along with a reporter’s story about the event. “Years later, when the plywood operation was dismantled and shipped off to New Zealand, my brother-in-law brought the photo home for me . . . after all that time!”
After the war, Grace married, but continued to work until 1947 when an advancing pregnancy caused her to resign from Canadian White Pine. A second child soon followed. Grace never returned to work at White Pines despite infrequent visits from her former supervisor who would always ask when she would return. “My husband didn’t want me to work,” she said. “He wanted me to stay home with the children.” Grace may not have enlisted in the military when she graduated from high school in 1941, but she did her part for the war effort. She stepped into a void created by enlisting men. She helped fabricate plywood used to build planes for the air force. Later, she built doors for the homes that would house returning service men and their families. Grace considered her employment with Canadian White Pine as work that needed to be done, and she did it gladly. While it may have been just a job to her at the time, it too was a job done in the service of her country. It was also done in service of the soldiers who chose to give up their jobs to fight for the freedom that Grace and every other Canadian enjoys every day.
---------------------------- GRACE AND THE LUMBERMEN copyright Jerena Tobiasen
Poetic Justice Online Edition with Guest Host Sherry Duggal Date: Sunday SEPTEMBER 12, 2021 Time: 3:00 to 5:00 pm (Pacific Time) Poet Laureate Double Feature: pj johnson (The Yukon) Elliott Slinn (The City of New Westminster) Open Mic sign up starts at 2:30pm. Find more info on Poetic Justice Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/poeticjusticepnw RSVP to receive Zoom Link or contact Carol Johnson on Facebook
Elliott Slinn is a performer who takes listeners on a journey of the heart, with his songwriting and poetry. Slinn’s powerful voice carries an air of gentle melancholy and leaves listeners spellbound. His work has been described as immediate and accessible. He aims to engage the soul and transform his personal tales into shared experience. Slinn has performed at the Lululemon Leadership Conference, for LUSH cosmetics, the Vancouver and New Westminster Arts Council, and his first single “It’s You” was featured on Apple Music’s “Hot Tracks” list. He’s recently been appointed as the Poet Laureate for the City of New Westminster.
pj johnson lives and works within the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council
On Canada Day July 1st 1994, pj johnson the daughter of a Yukon trapper, became the first officially-invested poet laureate in Canada. Diagnosed with a learning disorder called ‘Nonverbal Learning Disorder’ or NLD in 2005, pj johnson encourages people with a learning disability to realize they can still pursue their dreams. The artist/writer comes from a northern storytelling culture. Her poems, stories, plays and songs have been televised and performed at various venues across Canada and around the world. Her creative works have been published in books and journals globally; translated into several languages and published widely. Active in the arts for decades as an oral/visual storyteller, mentor, and performer at various venues across Canada, johnson is also an author, playwright, actor, musician, composer, teller of stories and Yukon ambassador. – If it’s creative she’s probably been there. Known as the Yukon Raven Lady, in 1985 johnson led a successful campaign to have the northern raven declared the official symbol of the Yukon Territory. She is also a passionate animal rights advocate currently campaigning to protect the northern sled dogs. On Canada Day July 1st 2021 pj johnson celebrated her 27th anniversary as Poet Laureate of the Yukon. She is the longest-serving Poet Laureate in Canada. Her book “it’s howlin’ time!” about the life and times of a northern Canadian poet laureate is available at Mac’s Fireweed Books and on Amazon. Her Official Website: https://www.yukonpoetlaureate.com/ You can also join pj on Facebook and on Twitter! https://www.facebook.com/groups/400121743700394/
Poetic Justice Online Edition Date: Sunday SEPTEMBER 12, 2021 Time: 3:00 to 5:00 pm (Pacific Time)
RCLAS Announcements REMINDER COGSWELL AWARD DEADLINE OCTOBER 1, 2021
RCLAS presents In Their Words, Online Edition with host Ruth Kozak
Date: Thursday September 16, 2021 Time: 7:00pm Pacific Time Three Feature Presenters Bonnie Quan Symons presents Evelyn Lau (Canadian poet and novelist)
Robert Martens presents William Blake (English Poet, 1757 –1827)
Lauwo George presents Yewande Omotoso (South African-based novelist, "The Woman Next Door") Zoom room opens at 06:45 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada). You can RSVP by email email@example.com to receive ZOOM link. firstname.lastname@example.org You can also contact Ruth Kozak via Facebook.
Save The Date In Their Words is scheduled on Thurs November 18. We hope to bring ITW back in-person at Anvil Centre PLEASE check our website closer to the date.
RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition with host Angela Kenyon Feature Author Leah Ranada Date: Thurs Sept 23, 2021 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Zoom room will open early for open mic sign up starting at 05:30 PM Pacific Time Let us know on the Facebook event page if you would like to attend. https://fb.me/e/2EWLdtloD OR you can RSVP by email to email@example.com You will be sent the zoom link via email or Facebook message. The evening will include an Open Mic for short stories. Space is limited.
Leah Ranada’s stories have been published in On Spec, Room, Santa Ana River Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, emerge 2013, eastlit.com, and elsewhere. Born in the Philippines, she moved to Vancouver in 2006 and made writing her permanent home. She attended The Writer’s Studio (TWS) at SFU. Her debut novel The Cine Star Salon is a graphic and engaging depiction of the importance of women’s work and the loyalties that connect friends across oceans. The Cine Star Salon marks the entry of a vital new voice in Canadian literature. Release date: October 2021, pre-order from NeWest Press. Website: leahranada.com
Poetic Justice Online Edition with Host Carol Johnson Date: Sunday OCTOBER 10, 2021 Time: 3:00 to 5:00 pm (Pacific Time) Featuring: Claire Matthews Geoffrey Nilson Open Mic sign up starts at 2:30pm. Find more info on Poetic Justice Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/poeticjusticepnw RSVP to receive Zoom Link or contact Carol Johnson on Facebook. Please note that if have the link from last month it will work through January.
Claire Matthews (she/her, settler) is a bi writer and editor on the traditional and unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Her work has appeared in Arc Poetry, Plenitude, Grain, and CV2, among others. Her poetry was long-listed for the CBC Poetry Prize and short-listed for The Fiddlehead’s 2018 and 2019 Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem. In her spare time, she makes soap and drinks bourbon. This summer Claire was a featured poet at our Poetry in the Park finale event. Geoffrey Nilson lives in New Westminster on the unceded territory of the Qayqayt nation. A poet, editor, literary critic, and the founder of micropress pagefiftyone, he is the author of four chapbooks and his writing has recently appeared in Canadian Literature and Arc Poetry Magazine. Nilson holds a BA in Creative Writing from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and is currently reading towards his MA in English from Simon Fraser University. In a past life, he was musician, songwriter, and recording engineer for various solo and collaborative projects. Nilson is currently the BC-YK Regional Representative for the League of Canadian Poets.
RCLAS presents Tellers of Short Tales – Online Edition Feature Author Maria Reva Date: Thurs October 28, 2021 Time: 6:00 to 8:00pm Zoom room will open early for open mic sign up starting at 05:30 PM Pacific Time Let us know on the Facebook event page if you would like to attend. OR you can RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org You will be sent the zoom link via email or Facebook message. The evening will include an Open Mic for short stories. Space is limited.
writes fiction and opera libretti. She is the author of Good Citizens Need Not Fear (Doubleday, Virago, and Knopf Canada New Face of Fiction, 2020). Maria’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, McSweeney’s, The Wall Street Journal, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. She won a National Magazine Award in 2019 and was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada 2020 Fiction Prize. Her current musical collaborations include an opera with composer Anna Pidgorna (developed by Musique 3 Femmes in Montreal), as well as a song cycle with Shelley Marwood. Past collaborations include an opera libretto for ERATO Ensemble, texts for Vancouver International Song Institute’s Art Song Lab, and a script for City Opera Vancouver. Maria was born in Ukraine and grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas.