Frank Beltrano starts his day with a gourmet cup of freshly hand-ground filter-dripped coffee, usually in a cup stamped with the word “create”. As he sips and writes his early morning pages, a drop or two of coffee slips between his lips and the lip of the cup, runs down over the word “create” creating a Jackson Pollack-ish masterpiece. Mr. Pollack rolls over in his grave, mumbles, “Great, you fucking thief” and Frank’s day moves on from there.
Lately his love, Marie-Claire Roussel, brings him a glass of “sunshine”, freshly squeezed orange juice sprinkled with coconut, in a glass decorated with Joan Miro-ish designs. Miro’s grave is not disturbed by this. The glass comes from a museum in Barcelona that honors him. It was given to Frank by his youngest daughter, Julia who greatly appreciates visual art and is a wizard with computers. Frank is not. Frank has another, slightly older daughter, Vicky who in turn has two daughters, Beatrice and Lucie. Vicky is an architect applying her skills to designing family and small structures in lego.
But we digress. The question has been put to us by Ms. Toy, “What and where has Frank published?” Frank pauses to let his busy mind wander… to 1981, the University of Toronto, Childe Thursday Press, Thursday’s Voices, 2 short stories, “Museum Piece” and if memory serves us well, “The Visitor” in Thursday’s Voices #2. That was so long ago, he was paid $10 for each, a fortune.
But wait further back in time Frank was a teen writer in high school for the Sault Daily Star. For 10 cents a word and $2 for a picture suggestion, he pounded out copy about local rock bands, high school drama reviews and other cool stuff pertinent to a teen crowd in a northern Ontario town.
More recently Frank has been published in numerous journals, Toward the Light (Editor’s Choice Award, and Honorable Mention), Geist Magazine 2nd place in their erasure contest, Carousel Magazine, twice in London Wordfest Zines, and in anthologies like That Other London and More Challenges for the Delusional. His poems have twice ridden the London, Ontario, buses. And after coming third in the Coffee Shop Authors’ Contest in 2011 he turned several of his poems into visual art and showed them at the Black Walnut Café and Bakery in Wortley Village, London and the Patina Studio in Bayfield, Ontario.
Susan Toy enjoying coffee with Frank Beltrano at the coffee shop where he wrote his contest entry.
Frank was born June 14th (same date as Donald Trump, Oh lucky stars) 1954 in Sault Ste. Marie, moved to Toronto in 1973 to attend the University of Toronto and earned a BA in liberal arts. He managed for many years to eek out an existence as a museum guard at the Royal Ontario Museum, as a Locksmith for more than a decade, and then he moved to London, Ontario where he worked at a Chapters bookstore for another decade and then 3 years at the Home Depot until he retired at 65 in 2019.
While in London Frank was an active member of the dynamic poetry community, teaching creative writing at art galleries after hours to adults, and reading regularly at Open Mics and other public events.
However, the time came to run away from all the fame, fortune and celebrity of the poetry world in London, Ontario, and run he did to Jupiter, Rue de Jupiter, Lévis, Quebec across the St. Lawrence river from Quebec City. Here to be closer to Marie-Claire’s 10 brothers and sisters he is an island of English in a sea of French. Now Frank is working at attracting other islands of English and they are forming a movement tentatively called the “English Poets of Lévis”, or some such thing. The group is too young to be formally named just yet.
New coffee shop, still writing …
Frank Beltrano and I did not meet in person until a while after he had placed 3rd in the Coffee Shop Author contest I had run. He also actually paid to be a sponsor, along with his wife Marie-Claire Roussel, of the first printing of my novel Island in the Clouds, and for that I am forever grateful! I believe the first time we met in person was in London, ON, at the Chapters store where Frank was working at the time. And I was extremely fortunate that the three of us became good friends after that, so I always had a place to stay with them whenever I went to London, and accompanied them both many times at open mics and author promotions and events around the city over the years. And through Frank I managed to meet many other authors who were writing and publishing in London and area. Frank and Marie-Claire also visited me at the trailer park numerous times. So you can imagine just how much I sorely miss them since they moved to Quebec! Fortunately, we manage to keep in contact through email and on social media.
Something Frank only made passing mention of above in his bio was the “visual art” he created out of his poems. I thought this to be a very unique and “artistically” effective way of presenting his writing, and I have bought two of his pieces … so far. As Frank recalls: “My submission [to Coffee Shop Author] was a collection of poems written to the theme of coffee shop related sights, sounds, smells and experiences. After winning the contest I wanted to share with the regulars at the sponsoring coffee shop, The Black Walnut Bakery and Café in Wortley Village, London, Ontario, my poems about this place that we knew so well. Rather than just print off the poems on a computer and perhaps post them on the bulletin board I came up with a novel presentation. I gave the printed poems to a calligrapher who copied them in black ink onto wooden coffee stir sticks. I took burlap coffee bean bag material and covered the mats in black shadow-boxes with the colorful graphics-laden fabric. Then I mounted the lines of poetry to the burlap . . . out of those stir sticks and coffee bean bags came these poetic creations in shadow-boxes.” And, of his collaboration with photographer Al Sugarman, Frank says: “I had also been asked by my friend, photographer Al Sugerman, to consider a series of photos he had taken of our mutual friend Tony Eyamie turning clay. The black and white photos were close-ups of his hands working the clay into the shape of an urn. My wife, Marie-Claire, and I visited Tony and Joan Bailey’s gallery, the Patina Studios in Bayfield, where my shadow-boxes are currently hanging, and Joan talked to us about the funerary urns Tony makes. All this came together in a second square foot piece entitled, “Hands and Clay”.”
In total, Frank has had about four public showings of this work at two art galleries (in London and Bayfield, ON), and I was very pleased to attend the opening of at least one of those shows! Frank and Al Sugarman also created a poster of a poem super-imposed over a photo.
So Frank Beltrano has yet to publish his poetry in actual book form … yet. But we’re working on rectifying that situation!
And, on an even more personal note, not only do Frank and I share the experience of Coffee Shop Author, but we also discovered we rode in on the same horse! Or pony, actually. These photos were taken a couple of years apart as well as many miles (I was in Toronto and Frank was living in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario), but it is most definitely the SAME pony!
As Frank said when he discovered we’d had similar pictures taken: “That pony sure did get around!”
Frank Beltrano now writes in the coffee shop, Subtil Café, in St. Romuald, Quebec.
What Frank is working on now: Projects, projects…Frank is assembling a book-length manuscript of poems for publication. He is attempting to get more poems into literary journals, always writing more and starting a second book-length poetry project based on the architecture of the I-Ching hexagrams.
Very soon, March 15th to be exact, he is going to the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida to once again write with his American poetry buddies. The week is hosted by Murphy Writing Seminars of Stockton University. He has been there before and the coffee was good, the orange juice fresh.
Frank Beltrano has had a poem featured in the online magazine, The Disappointed Housewife, the brainchild of Kevin Brennan, who has also been promoted during this Authors-Readers International series.
If you are interested in Frank Beltrano’s art/poems, and wish to purchase any of these or his art poster, or would just like to talk with him about writing and poetry, please send an email: frankbeltrano (at) gmail.com (Or contact me).