Photo of the poet and writer looking up into the cherry blossom trees. They are wearing a grey jacket and a black hat.
Photo of the poet and writer looking up into the cherry blossom trees. They are wearing a grey jacket and a black hat.
Photo by Alyssa Ginsburg

One of the things I love about being a poet is that I get to be part of important cultural conversations. I’ve been in the room listening to the poets gather their first words after a celebration or after a crisis. It always feels like a privilege. I love the way that spoken word opens up space for important conversations. One of the conversations I’m listening closely to now is about what the new “normal” might look like.

Many of us are thinking of this time as a liminal space, as a time to evaluate what we bring forward with…

Since we put our first poetry slam online on March 14th, I’ve been fielding questions on how to move other events online. I’m happy to share what I’ve been learning — included here are my suggestions and reflections.

Take stock

Do an inventory of your online presence by asking these questions:

Does your organization have a Facebook, an Instagram, and Twitter account? Where do you currently have the highest engagement rates online? When people talk to you about your online presence, what do they say to you or your team? How many followers do you have on each platform? Have you provided…

The Toronto Poetry Slam organizing team cancelled our regularly scheduled slam at the Drake Underground on Saturday, March 14th because of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health social distancing measures.

I was signed up to be the host of that poetry slam. However, I am immunocompromised and had been watching this virus carefully, suspecting that I would have to cancel my participation as a personal safety precaution. I have been wondering what this time will mean for me, my family, and our communities.

The more I thought about the slam itself, the more it seemed possible and important for artists…

To grieve is human. We face losses and the big ones change us. The loss of my wife’s grandad hit me hard and we leaned into our family of friends. Poet Andrea Gibson writes, “It’s the most tender part of queerness — how we’ve all lost so much family, when we find people we call family, we’ll do almost anything to not let go.”

Grieving is hard and queer people have had lots of practice. It’s harder on your own, when others don’t understand or recognize the reasons for it. To feel alone even when you’re not having an isolated…

Photo by Brandon Griggs on Unsplash

Last year I had the privilege of co-facilitating a 20 week peer leadership program. Here’s what I learned: centring lived experience is a unique way to achieve health and well-being outcomes that are otherwise complex or difficult to reach.

I knew from experience that transformative communal learning improves our health and well-being. Not only had I seen the research about it in my last role at a community health centre, I had felt the impacts in my own life. I wish more organizations would train, support, and hire peer supporters. There are more and more peer support training programs available…

Having an engineering background makes me an unlikely poet. As an undergrad, I studied Geological Environmental Engineering at Queen’s University. I studied engineering because I wanted to help people. I became a poet because I saw a unique opportunity to be of service while using my creativity.

Engineering involves the study of risk; a unique preparation for the risks of being an artist. Risk taking and being a poet are inextricably linked in a culture that does not usually celebrate the arts with financial support. Telling the truth is the primary occupation of poets. It’s not usually a welcome siren…

Gertrude Stein said “To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.” It seems to me that this is a quote about practice. The more you write, the more you are a writer. Writing is an act, a way of spending time and you can do it anywhere. In any mood. I’ve written at my best and at my worst. I’ve written at home at my writing desk, in coffee shops, at work, in bed, on my laptop, but most of the time in a notebook…

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Designing a poetry unit scares some and excites others. Educators want to get it right and this age old art form can seem locked up like a scrambled Rubik’s cube in an ivory tower. There’s an art to making poetry accessible so that people are excited about it rather than scared off from it.

As with every design, ask yourself what questions will guide you and your students. I recommend replacing the question ‘what is poetry?’ with ‘how do you write poetry?’ Make the discovery process interactive. …

Tanya Neumeyer

Toronto poet and educator

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