Niagara attracts excellent writers, and since 1983, the Canadian Authors
Association of Niagara http://www.canauthorsniagara.org/ has assisted writers by offering a mix of
workshops, guest speakers, writing groups, publications, networking opportunities and friendship.
Regular meetings at the St. Catharines Public Library feature guest speakers from industry who discuss areas of interest to writers - manuscript editing, journalism, scriptwriting, self-publishing, etc.
The Niagara Branch conducts annual poetry and fiction anthology contests -
The Saving Bannister: http://www.canauthorsniagara.org/Resources/PoetryContest.html and
Ten Stories High: http://www.canauthorsniagara.org/Resources/ShortStoryContest.html - open to
members and writers across Ontario. Here is a geographic sampling of Niagara poets.
The Post-Romantic Landscape of Next Morning
Those who would dine on each other seem surfeited but continue to enact certain gestures.
(Maureen Paxel on Pavel Skalnik's paintings)
Things are looking bleak
Take for instance
those two parrots
who only last night
shared a perch
& some bottles of wine.
They swung back & forth
Chattering & slurping & guzzling
beakers full of wine
(a great nose, hints of smoky oak,& cheery, cherry overtones)
until the perch lurched
went cock-eyed & down they slid
their red & green feathers tangling
into a ruffled duster
trembling with parrot passion.
Come morning & they cannot bear to share a perch.
One no longer drunk is shrunk
eyeing a blotchy morning
plagued with visions of bottles
cavorting in the sky.
The other is all awry
twisting away from the great cacophony in his head
leery of one night stands
not even peckish.
-from Sirens and Sailors by Elspeth Cameron, St. Catharines
A red fox follows the shiver of her whisker
under the silver of an urban moon.
The hurry hunger, the thrill of her chase,
sings to our feet, bare on a summer lawn.
Here, under the silver of a younger moon
a field smouldered while the farmhouse burned.
Two girls' feet fire-stung, night-dresses nipped, by sparks,
leaned into the bulk of a Heinzman piano.
A field smouldered as the farmhouse burned.
Hearts hammering, shoulders strung wire-tight,
two girls hauled 400 pounds of mahogany and ivory
from a blazing parlour and down the porch steps.
Before bed-time, hearts hammering, shoulders swinging
they had pounded out ragtime jazz and gospel tunes
but then prayers, a rogue spark, blind adrenaline.
The weight of it all could have crushed them.
At dawn, the youngest picked at the threads of a tune,
let it wind through the smoke, and settle on her hands.
The weight of it all could have crushed them,
were it not for the current of that ancient pulse.
On our tamed lot, you and I steep in the spell of a peony evening.
With dishes done and the trash curbed, we
slip into the current of an ancient pulse
with the red fox, parting fireflies to follow a song.
- Jane Garrett-Peat, Fonthill
Last autumn the new scarecrow at the end
of our driveway developed an attitude,
grew cocksure a few weeks into the job.
Planted amongst the chrysanthemums,
he was master of gesture and mood;
with a wisp of a breeze, he beat upon
his breast berating bikers and joggers
with insolent finger directions.
In a stiff northerly, he stood with his arms behind,
plaid shirt billowed, facing the gale with insouciance,
about to cast-off in his flowerbed launching
the neighbourhood into the Niagara River.
In a southerly, he greeted the strollers
with open palms and blessings,
an air of religiosity more common at the Vatican.
In November he saluted passersby and swung his legs
in a stiff march demanding title and stature,
a rifle and a guard's house.
It was difficult to tell him the work was seasonal.
- Elizabeth Glenny, Fort Erie
Sliver of marble
from the hills of Italy,
grain turning the colour
of new brass.
That's all he remembered,
and gulls skimming endless waves
to a farm below a tree fort -
lakes as wide as seas.
He sat in the clouds of boyhood
and divined fish-
carved his vitreous wedge,
his mirror of heaven.
The neighbour was sent for.
A quilt in her arms,
she stood at the dock crying
for the size of the sky.
Bricks stacked with mortar,
he learned to swear in English -
coins in his warm hand
brassed the marble.
They danced at weddings,
shook hands at funerals -
the face of memory
shedding dust in his pocket.
In the mausoleum,
a slab of marble, a brass plate
with the drawings of children.
- Keith Inman, Thorold
Sweet swift mango sugar, fleet dripping juice of peach;
firm, red allure of cherry, wise purple of the plum;
we taste time, wrinkled brown, waste time, feel olive's cool rebuke.
In that harem of hard hearts that work against your tongue;
rosary beaded black, processed, spit indulgences-
casual, a visitor endowing time.
Marvel at the risk of Eve who lusts for fleshy fruit;
she picks wild caps that pray alone in wood;
shrinks not from banishment, nor angel's fiery sword;
her hands sing in cool, dark earth with worm and slug.
In the uneasy garden of night where weeds tell tales,
I would be so brave to chance life as full as she.
Flies buzz cheer while form assembles down below;
a child floats in the salty sea, waiting to be born.
- Mike Keenan, Niagara on the Lake
Pick Up Sticks
gold crown king-size
three packs a day.
He sucked 'em like candy.
of mean little puffs
and ground with the heel
of his piss and vinegar boot.
Under daddy's yellow thumb
son dropped scooter and swings
toiled through new grass
gathered saliva tips
lawn memories linger.
- Sheila Laundry, Fonthill
You told me once
Behind the conspiracy of classroom walls
That when you dance
With eyes closed
You can forget the whole world,
Leave it all behind
And in the height of spring
When I watched you move, there
Eight inches tall and towering
Across my television screen
Limbs pivoting, swaying
Finding that point of grace
The spotlights searching
Every depth of your smile
But these days, you spin
Only in my head
Because I could never tell you
In the closest of high school tones
How I longed to take your hand
Trace its gentle contours
Unlock your hidden mysteries
Join in the dance
Now, these long years later
The only secret I've learned is
I am fire
Were the rain.
- Scott Leslie, Niagara Falls
Elspeth Cameron (St. Catharines) is best known for her biographies of noted Canadian literary figures such as Irving Layton and Earle Birney. Her biography Hugh MacLennan: A Writer's Life, was nominated for a Governor General's Award. She has also published volumes of poetry, the most recent Sirens & Sailors. She teaches English literature at Brock University.
Jane Garrett-Peat (Fonthill) spends as much time as she can with her inspirations: husband Chris and magical kitty cat Cleo. Jane's work has appeared in The Saving Bannister in previous years. Recently, her work appeared in Ascent magazine, and she was asked to read at the fringe stage of The Eden Mills Writer's Festival. Her poetry can also be found in an anthology of women's work called The Price of Eggs.
Elizabeth Glenny (Fort Erie) has recently been given the Award of Excellence for her years of support for the programs of The Fort Erie Public Library. Special mention was made of her promotion of poets and poetry. Elizabeth has been involved for many years in all phases of The Saving Bannister contest and the CAA Niagara publication. Elizabeth still lives in the family home on the Niagara River bank with the orange cat who answers to Sweetheart or any term of endearment.
Keith Inman (Thorold) is an award winning blue-collar poet with work in Studies: an Irish Quarterly Review, CV2, Event, New Quarterly, PrecipicE and robmclennans.blogspot. He's had two chapbooks published, garnered two grants, judged a few contests, and belongs to 2 writer's groups. Keith lives In Thorold, ON, near the twin locks of the Welland Canal, that guides ships both in and out of the heart of the country.
Mike Keenan (Niagara on the Lake) has published poems in several editions of The Saving Bannister. He writes a regular Saturday column for the St. Catharines Standard (13 years) and has turned to travel writing, published in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and many magazines. He lives in Niagara on the Lake with his wife, Diane.
Sheila Laundry (Fonthill) has published poems in several editions of The Saving Bannister and is currently working on some historical vignettes that will be performed at the Balls Falls Conservation Area this year.
Scott Leslie (Niagara Falls) is a professional member of the Canadian Authors Association. He has held several positions in the publishing, theatre and communications fields. His writing has also been featured in dozens of print, online and audio-publications including Vintage Books, Blackstone Audiobooks and the Niagara Falls Review.