Category Archives: poetry
Since this is the month to celebrate poetry and poets, I thought I would provide you with a list of the poets I have previously featured on my other blog, Reading Recommendations. All links will take you to each poet’s promotion.
I met Leonard Cohen once.
Since I spent all my employed life working in bookstores and for publishing companies, it was a given I’d meet many famous (mostly Canadian) authors during that time. And I did. I still have most of their signed books on my shelves here on Bequia. I haven’t given them away in all this time so it looks as though I’ll still have them when I die.
But Cohen was different, because I never represented him and he was actually in Calgary to sign books at the rival bookstore around the corner from the one where I was working. If the sales rep accompanying him hadn’t had the forethought to buy coffee and bagels from the restaurant across 17th Ave. and bring them, along with Leonard, over to our store where they could sit in armchairs by the window and eat and visit with us, I would never have had the chance to meet the man at all. He was in town to promote a new collection of contemporary psalms, The Book of Mercy. The original dust jacket on my copy is somewhat worse for wear, but the hardcover itself is still in mint condition.
I grew up in Toronto during the 60s and was 13 when Cohen first began recording songs. Suzanne was always a great favourite during my teens, because the name was so close to my own.
But there was also something haunting about this music and the lyrics – something kind of forbidden, too – that made this new singer and his music so attractive to us. In Grade 13 English, we even discussed some of Cohen’s poems, which I always thought was cool, because this was poetry written by someone we could hear on the radio, not old dead guys from another century. Cohen was speaking directly to us in the here and now … even if we didn’t understand exactly what it was he was saying.
Then I read and studied Beautiful Losers as part of a Can.Lit. course I took at university. I had a difficult time reading that book. I no longer have my copy.
So it wasn’t until 1984, when Cohen was on a cross-Canada promotion tour, that I managed to get a signed book and have kept it all these years.
Remarkably, it remained unscathed during a recent infestation of termites I dealt with. Not so the signed books of his fellow-Montreal author, Hugh MacLennan, who I also met when he signed my university copies at a different bookstore in Calgary where I was working. Unfortunately those termites feasted on Hugh.
Fast forward to when I served on a committee in Calgary that had the task of selecting and inviting an author to give a speech at an annual event. We asked Leonard Cohen, but were told by his agent that Mr. Cohen was going to be busy during the next few years promoting his new CD and that perhaps we should inquire again at a later date. Cohen was 78 at the time! I thought that was certainly a sign of extreme optimism, not only that he could make it through a world promotion tour still healthy in mind and body, but also that he’d be alive and able to attend our event a few years later. “You go, Leonard!” I thought. If only they had been able to convince him last year …
But he did come to Calgary that year and gave a fabulous concert, which I attended just days before flying back to Bequia for the winter. The man put his heart and soul into the concert and I came away believing it was the best I had ever attended in my life. He had a way of calling the audience “My Friends” and really meaning it, so that I felt as though he was singing directly to me – probably as did every other member of that audience. I do have the Live in London concert DVD, which is wonderful, but still not the same as the very personal experience of seeing him perform live in front of 10s of thousands of other fans.
It was with great sadness that I read this morning of Leonard Cohen’s death yesterday. Unexpected especially because he had just released a CD of all new music and seemed to be at the top of his game right now. Little did I, or most others, realize that this was his swan song. Listen to the words of You Want It Darker and you will hear the eerie prophecy.
This is my small tribute to someone who managed to touch our perfect bodies around the world with his mind – with his words and his music. I mourn the loss of Leonard Cohen, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet him once, to share a coffee and bagel, to get his signature, and that he so generously shared what he created with all of us.
Here’s another tribute to Cohen and to Remembrance Day from my friend, Carin Markuz … (And, Carin, this book of Cohen’s I have is dedicated, “for my teacher”.)
Hubert O’Hearn, previously featured on Reading Recommendations, has launched a new publishing company. Here he is to tell us the story behind the inspiration for, and how he’s set up, Four Freedom Publishing.
Readers and Authors rejoice!
Write the Silence/Right the Wrong:
The Four Freedom Publishing Story
by Hubert O’Hearn
It was just as the sun was setting on the second of three days with no electricity, no internet and no food when I realized that life was presenting me with two options: die or launch a publishing company. And here you thought a Harvard MBA was tough?
Journal Entry One:
The business of writing is hard enough when you can see what you’re doing, but this? The power is off because I have no money and Electric Ireland’s system of taking payments by credit card is disabled. Of course I sent them an emergency email with the dying breaths of my laptop battery but … no response. It’s someone else’s problem and not theirs; it is mine.
I had moved to Ireland from Canada at the end of 2012 in order to live two experiences. I wanted to live in the country I had fallen in love with when I was ten years old and I was going to do it as a writer. There had been just enough writing success in Canada to convince me that if I truly dedicated myself to just that, I could do it: twelve years as a newspaper columnist, six produced plays, several publications running my book reviews, and a decent CV of speech-writing and other This Gun for Hire work.
It’s funny now when I look back at how I arrived nearly three years ago. My bank account was fat, the first house rented was huge, there was even a Jaguar parked in my driveway. Then, a whole lot of circumstances went wrong, more than need describing here. Suffice it to say that by the time my dog Stella and I had, to use the polite term, simplified our lifestyle by moving into a low rent yet comfy duplex cottage in County Mayo I had learned that one really can live without most of what you might think of as ‘necessities.’ Yes, I had become poor and yet, I was (and am) having the time of my life.
I’m no good at reciting poetry from memory – not even my own work – however I do have a deep fondness for T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, particularly this section:
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
That was where I lived, in the Shadow. I knew who I had been and I equally knew who I wanted to be, yet I was no longer there and was not yet there. I was where I was – taking any writing assignment I could get. There were web content articles, editing books and articles, reviews, interviews, ghostwriting, advertising, receiving a contract to publish a book of poetry (yay!) and watching its sales fail (boo!), coaching writers, teaching, even entering contests provided there was no entry fee. And my ego told me: You’re a goddam great writer and your day will come!
Journal Entry Two:
This is one of those really special moments in a man’s life when he sits back and thinks, “You know, maybe somewhere along the line I might have made a mistake or two.”
Yeah well, could be. On the other hand, if I’d had it to do all over again I’d probably have just done it all again. Maybe take more pictures next time, and more detailed notes for when life brought me right here again.
A Brief Philosophical Statement
The single smartest piece of advice I have ever been told came from my beautiful friend Lydia Cornell (yes that Lydia Cornell). Lydia and I have been ‘sore arm buddies’ for years now, picking one another’s spirits up during various crises. So Lydia one day either said to me or wrote to me the following:
There aren’t good things or bad things that happen to us. There are just things. Whether they turn out to be good or bad depends on what we do with them, how we choose to see them.
Remember that one the next time you feel that ev’ryone’s agin’ me. When something happens that adversely affects your plans, consider that it occurred as an outcome of your life. Perhaps instead of viewing that seemingly nasty episode as some sort of punishment, view it instead as a message for change.
Amen and onwards.
The True Origin of Four Freedom Publishing
Four Freedom Publishing really began as an outcome of a ghostwriting project I was hired to create. Please forgive me for not supplying all the details, however revealing a client’s name or the book title truly goes against the ghostwriter’s creed.
In any event, I was hired by a client to write, format and publish a book on sports. Great fun! I have often said that in my heart of hearts I am a sportswriter; indeed one of my favourite assignments of all-time was when I was a regular columnist covering TNA wrestling for PWTorch.com.
I wrote the book and went to CreateSpace to put it together. While filling in all the various fields I came to the one labeled Publisher. Years of reviewing books had taught me that any book that listed CreateSpace as its publisher was, odds on, likely to be a piece of hastily and badly written crap. (There have been exceptions. Off the top of my head, out of some hundred or so that I have been assigned I can think of … two.) Therefore, on the spur of the moment I decided to do my client a favour and invent a third party publisher.
Since moving to Ireland I had been working steadily on a collected series of essays titled For Freedom: A Human Rights Reader 1948-2015. I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, but you can find it on Amazon and I’d be frankly delighted if you did as it is a very, very good book. The publisher who had agreed to release For Freedom was in financial difficulty, so there were delays involved there which culminated in the manuscript returning to my hands. As such, it was in the back of my head to release it on my own. At a certain point, you just want to be free of the bloody thing. (If you are a writer yourself, you’ll understand. If you’re not a writer, imagine the manuscript as your child trapped in permanent, noisy adolescence leaving you longing for the day when the little arsehole moves out of the house.)
I decided to kill two birds with one stone and so typed in that the sports book was published by Four Freedom Publishing: Ireland – US – Canada. I drew up a logo, slapped it on the back cover, and so it was that Four Freedom was born, or at least achieved fetal status.
Journal Entry Three:
October 25/2015 9:30AM
Slept quite well actually and incredible dreams. A poem even, completely written:
I whispered all my secrets
Into lovers’ ears before
Can they even be called secrets
Or chocolate mints for paramours?
As each one left my pillows
Crumpled wrappers on the floor
She then became a secret
To tell the next one I adored.
I never meant to be this way
Unless of course I did
But that’s the real secret
The one I still keep hid.
Not bad. More importantly, I know what I want Four Freedom to be, what I want it to do. If I’m going to spend this much time staving off death with single sliced white bread sandwiches smeared with scrapings of jam, if I survive, I will make someone’s dreams live.
Yes, I do get a bit vain-glorious at times, but then again so did all my heroes in the writing trade and not just the authors themselves. You think Maxwell Perkins didn’t know he was damn good and knew what was best for his writers? Or Harold Ross when he assembled the Murderer’s Row of brilliance that was the original The New Yorker? Or Richard Seaver, searching obscure little book shops and small printers in Paris over weeks and months, as he described in his posthumous memoir The Tender Hour of Twilight looking for this little-known expat Irishman named Samuel Beckett because – he! – Dick Seaver! – was the one who could bring Beckett to the world’s attention. Do editors and publishers have big egos? Darling, they can’t get big enough.
The Lights Come On, The House is Launched
As you can tell, given that I’m not quite dead, the lights did eventually come back on and all the ideas and notes I made of them over those days and nights of dark and furious journaling have been put into action. There were four key decisions I had made:
1) If Four Free Freedom Publishing was truly to be worthwhile for me to focus the remaining half of my life on, it must make a positive impact on the world. Therefore, all its works in whatever category must touch on the advancement of Human Rights in brave, daring and entertaining forms. Our motto will be taken from a line written by Jacques Derrida:
What cannot be said above all must not be silenced but written.
2) We will publish in four categories: Non-Fiction, Fiction (both short and long), Poetry & Children’s, and Drama or Screenplay
3) There will be 16 titles per calendar year, so that each can achieve proper attention.
4) Marketing will be achieved by setting out an investment opportunity with a 22% annualized return, and also by offering free books to anyone willing to share our releases on social media. The world is Four Freedom Publishing‘s marketing team.
And now …
And now we have a website.
We have an email address: fourfreedompublishing (at) gmail.com .
Most importantly we have writers and editors and proofreaders. The books we have in the works include two one act plays in one volume, a poetry collection by an exciting new Canadian writer, two children’s books by an author from Northern Ireland, and just in its genesis a book about healing the soul from the traumas of everyday life as that too is a Human Rights issue.
As well, there is one series that I suppose is not actually Human Rights based. We are releasing a series of books with the prefix The Friendly World of … Those are gently humorous, yet content-filled books about various dog breeds. I suspect they will pay for the rest.
As For You?
Come and join us. You’ll find all the details on the Four Freedom Publishing website vis a vis submissions, or marketing, or even investing in us. This is all a glorious adventure and one I will do my damndest to push forward in a quest to make this world just a little bit better than how I found it. So I shall end this with the closing lines of a poem I actually do remember, Tennyson’s Ulysses. I say to you:
Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Be seeing you.
Thank you, Hubert, and I wish you the best of luck with your new publishing venture!
For about three years now, a group of poets from London, ON, pack up their words and wine and head for Bayfield during July where they book holiday cabins for a week and enjoy a self-directed writing retreat. I had been asked previously by my friend, Frank Beltrano, to join them, but this was the first time I was actually “in the neighbourhood,” so to speak, and while I didn’t choose to participate in the retreat itself, I did drive to Bayfield for the afternoon of their public reading that had been organized on the main street of town by Patina Studios.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and a poetry reading and the main street was filled with tourists strolling the boulevard. Parking was tight, too, because of all the visitors, but this is not unusual for a town like Bayfield, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. It’s a pretty little town with several public beaches and parks and a large number of boutique shops and services catering to the influx of visitors every summer. I did not notice a single chain or national store along that main street, either.
Patina Studios is one of these businesses, owned and operated by local artists. Joan Bailey was very welcoming and had set up a canopied “stage” in the garden area in front of the gallery, complete with sound system and mobiles dangling from the canvas cover, lines from poems printed on pieces of cardboard that twirled in the breeze.
Each of the poets had written the titles of their poems on slips of paper and the audience and passers-by were asked to draw titles from a basket. Reading that afternoon were Ron Stewart (a previous Coffee Shop Author contest winner, by the way), Kevin Heslop, Jan Stewart, Joan Clayton, Jennifer Chestnut, and Frank Beltrano.
We all had a most enjoyable afternoon, and many of those walking by, both young and old, stopped to listen for a while. When the reading was finished, we gathered around a picnic table back at the rented cabins and enjoyed the cheese I had brought from The Pine River Cheese & Butter Co-op near Kincardine. (The caramelized onion cheddar was a big hit!) I knew poets would require sustenance after their performances and that they already had brought a quantity of wine with them.
They decompressed and we all discussed the reading, the generosity of Patina Studios in providing the venue, and the perfect weather we enjoyed. Even the roofers working on a building across the street had stopped at one point to listen to poetry being read on the street on a sunny, summer day.