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    The Trouble with Poetry—Billy Collins in Calgary

    by Janice - 0 Comment(s)

    the trouble with poetry is
    that it encourages the writing of more poetry

    ~from "The Trouble With Poetry" by Billy Collins


    An Evening with Billy Collins

    Whether you're a fan of poetry or not, you're sure to enjoy listening to former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins at the University of Calgary. Collins has been praised (and sometimes derided) for his "accessible" poetry—that is, poetry that the average Joe or Jane can read and enjoy whether or not they have a graduate degree in literature.

    Collins' poems frequently examine everyday life, often with sly humour and astute insights into human nature. During his tenure as Poet Laureate, Collins created Poetry 180, a program designed to bring poetry into the lives of high school students.

    The Calgary Distinguished Writers Program is bringing poet Billy Collins to Calgary as the 2012 Calgary Distinguished Visiting Writer. Collins will give a free public reading and lecture on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. at in the Ballroom on the 3rd Floor of MacEwan Hall, MacEwan Student Centre, University of Calgary. Click here for more information.

    If you're not familiar with the work of Billy Collins, we have several collections of his poetry (click on the book covers to see a few) and many of his poems are online in both text and audio format:

    Billy Collins biography and poems on the Poetry Foundation site.

    Two audio recordings of Billy Collins:

    Best Cigarette website

    Billy Collins on The Trouble with Poetry
    All Things Considered, NPR, November 6, 2005

    Collins Values Approachable Poetry, Not Pretension
    Talk of the Nation
    , NPR, April 6, 2011

    Best Cigarette is a audio collection of Billy Collins poems read by the poet and available for free download.

    The Library of Congress Poetry 180 site and two books include poems chosen by Billy Collins and designed to be read by high school students (or, anyone):

    “Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives. Poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race.”
    From Poetry 180.

    Since my life has been recently touched by issues of memory and forgetting, I'll post a Billy Collins poem that has particularly resonated with me:


    The name of the author is the first to go
    followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
    never even heard of,

    as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
    and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
    and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

    something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
    the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
    it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
    not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

    It has floated away down a dark mythological river
    whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
    well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
    who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

    No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
    to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
    No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
    out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

    ("Forgetfulness" from Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes.)

    The following video includes Billy reading three of his poems including, with much audience laughter, "Forgetfulness":

    Billy Collins Reading in the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival

    And for something completely different (but still laughter)—here's Billy's pal Bill Murray doing a reading of the above poem:

    Bill Murray reads "Forgetfulness."

    Say what? A poet with a sense of humour? Go figure.

    "If you find yourself as a writer thinking about posterity you should probably go out for a brisk walk or something."

    ~Billy Collins interview in Guernica Magazine.

    Calgary's First Poet Laureate

    by Phil - 0 Comment(s)

    Six names have been shortlisted for the honour of Calgary's first poet laureate. It's hard to say exactly what this means, as this city has never had its own poet laureate, but that's the exciting part. We get to find out!

    The six poets will be appearing on Thursday, March 1 from 7:00 to 9:00pm at Hotel Arts (119 12th Ave. SW) for a showcase of presentations and conversations hosted by Russell Bowers of CBC Radio's Daybreak Alberta. Until then, place a hold on the titles by clicking the book covers below, and decide who you think deserves to wear the crown of all Calgary muses.

    Derek Beaulieu

    Derek's blog


    Diane Guichon

    Diane's Harbour
    Publishing Bio


    Daniel Bennett,
    a.k.a. Transit

    Transit's Mypace


    Tyler Perry

    Tyler's website


    Kris Demeanor

    Kris's website


    Sheri-D Wilson

    Sheri-D's website


    Click here for complete information on the showcase, as well as in-depth background on each of the poets on the laureate short list. RSVP to attend this free showcase here.

    Nine Questions for Garry Ryan

    by Tyler Jones - 0 Comment(s)

    With each new book in his Detective Lane series of mysteries, Garry Ryan's readership and reputation has grown. The quality of his writing combined with the realistic portayal of a homosexual protagonist earned him the prestigious LAMBDA Literary Award in 2007. While many readers comment on how a novel allows us to travel to far-off locales, the books of Gary Ryan offer an even more rare opportunity to Calgarians; the chance to see our own city through the eyes of another.

    Visit Garry at his website:

    This past September saw the release of the fifth book in your Detective Lane series of mysteries. I am curious to know what you have learned about writing since you began writing the first one. Is there something you know now that you had wished you knew then?

    Two things. One is that I really need an editor. I miss mistakes when proof reading/rewriting and need another pair of eyes. The second would be marketing. It’s an entirely different field. With Malabarista I hired a great publicist who works in Calgary. She really helped to get the word out.

    Calgary, despite being home to over a million people, is not the setting for a great many works of fiction. Do you think there is something special about Calgary that readers outside our city will find interesting?

    Definitely. I’ve lived in Singapore, visited cities like Toronto, Red Deer, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa, New York, San Diego and Guadalajara. Calgary has a unique culture and some quirky habits. It’s those quirky habits and characteristics that make it interesting. And there are some really good coffee shops in this city!

    You were born and raised in Calgary. What changes have you noticed in the writing community here through the years?

    It’s getting bigger. WordFest is becoming a remarkable event. There are incredible independent bookstores in the city. Pages is the one I like to frequent.

    What was it like to win a LAMBDA Literary award?

    Going to New York was something I never really expected to do. Finding out how friendly New Yorkers are was a very pleasant surprise. Winning the award was a huge surprise and then an even bigger responsibility when I learned what the people of LAMBDA had overcome and accomplished.

    How much of writing is inspiration and how much is perspiration?

    That’s a tough question. In some ways it’s like a job. A writer learns by writing and it’s work. It’s also fun to be able to enjoy that fictional imaginary world. That and the fact that some of my inspiration comes from walking the dog. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that gets the imagination going. The walk brings perspiration and inspiration.

    Has anyone given you advice that has been particularly helpful in your writing?

    Stephen King’s On Writing, Simone Lee, W.O. Mitchell, Meron Chorny, Samantha Warwick, Clem Martini and Cheryl Fogo. Each of them has said something that turned out to be an essential truth about writing. Meron Chorny taught me that bullshit baffles brains. It’s really important in writing to be able to separate the chaff from the kernels of wheat – to get to the essential truths.

    Is writing something that has always been part of your life?

    It’s kind of like breathing. Something I always had to do. You know how the air tastes different in different places but tastes especially fresh the closer you get to the Rockies? That’s probably not the answer you were expecting. It wasn’t the one I was expecting either. And that’s why I like to write. It’s full of little and large surprises.

    Is it important for you to follow a certain schedule while you are writing? Do you always write at a certain time or in a certain place?

    I think so. Mornings work well for me. I write in a cluttered office in the basement away from whatever else is going on in the house. It’s necessary to be away from as many distractions as possible.

    Then there are the contradictions. I bought and iPAd and use it for writing when I’m on an airplane, at an airport or just away from home.

    What do you do if the words don’t come?

    Walk the dog. Read. Think. Go to a movie. Try and be patient. Trust in the fact that the ideas are percolating and wait. That is very easy to say and very difficult to do when the words are slow.

    10 Ways to Kill Your Writing

    by Janice - 1 Comment(s)

    Writers' Weekend 2012

    Did you make it out to Writers' Weekend 2012? Leave us a comment if you have any program or presenter suggestions or requests for Writers' Weekend 2013!


    Susan Toy's 10 Ways to Kill Your Writing program, in which she examined the 10 vital elements of marketing and promotion, was especially popular.

    If you missed out on Susan's presentation or if you'd like her recommended reading list, Susan has graciously posted both her notes and booklist on her site:

    Susan Toy's 10 Ways to Kill Your Writing

    Susan Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishing sales representative, a literacy teacher, and is now a writer and promoter of fellow authors and their books through her company, Alberta Books Canada.

    Susan is in the process of setting up an ePublishing company called IslandcatEditions and will be publishing the first eBook this spring.

    You Made Our Day

    by Phil - 1 Comment(s)

    As we wind down from the months of preparation put into Writer's Weekend, we are already looking forward to the 2013 installment of our day dedicated entirely to Calgary's writers. We need your feedback! If you were one of the hundreds who joined us on February 4th please let us know what you loved about the programming, or what was missing, so that we can bring you an even better experience next year.

    Please leave a comment below, or even better, come visit us at any branch of the library. While we can only offer such an onslaught of information once a year, remember that your local library is the best resource for writers 365 days a year. Not only do we have all the information writers could ask for in terms of research, but libraries are also a great place to get some writing done.

    Just in case you weren't able to attend all of our Writer's Weekend programs, here again is our list of partners and presenters, linked to more valuable information they provide.

    Alberta Books Canada

    Alberta Playwrights' Network

    Alexandra Writers' Centre Society

    Book Publishers Association of Alberta

    Calgary Association of Romance Writers of America

    Community Heritage and Family History (from 'Finding the Facts - Research for Writers')

    Crime Writers of Canada

    ELSEWHERE (Marcello Di Cintio's blog)

    Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA)

    People's Poetry Festival

    Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

    Susan M. Toy

    When Words Collide Conference

    Writers' Guild of Alberta (WGA)