Contemporary poets from Prince Edward Island

This section contains poems by a winner of the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, by winners of the Atlantic Poetry Award, and by authors who have published numerous volumes of poetry. It also contains poems submitted by new and unknown poets. Rather than separating these, we have chosen to set them together, side by side (see a full list of contributing poets on the right-hand side of this page, or further down the page if viewing on a small-screen device).

Poets and readers will inevitably have their own responses and make their own comparisons.

Mike Dixon

Wedge Avenue Wars

Baby pine cones
army green
stony and sticky with
newness
make effective
grenades
against invading kids
from three streets
over
who have already
suffered the
first strike
of our devastating
low-rental wit
and now wait behind
tipped picnic tables
or a neighbour’s car
for the inevitable hail
of endless ice-cream
buckets of dog berry

Gaylene Nicholson

My Two Dads

I had two dads,
Like one tree that shares two trunks,
Mine had one soul that shared two bodies.
My first dad left me one branch at a time,
While my second dad felled all at once.

My first dad was hardy and strong,
His body was his greatest tool,
Whether he was working in the fields,
Or holding a child in his arms,
His instrument never let him down.

My second dad grew fragile and weak,
His body was not his friend,
It hindered him when needed most,
No longer an ally in his battle for life,
So many betrayals for which to atone.

My first dad bubbled like a fresh water stream,
His lively face sparkled wherever he went,
Even in the face of chaos, he flowed calmly,
He drew others in with his frothy side,
Like running water, he never realized his own power.

My second dad was like a November day,
He grew grey and quiet with scraps of light here and there,
Like an early snowfall, he was soft and gentle,
Eroded by time and disease, his shiny demeanor worn down,
Our roles reversed as he became mine to protect.

I had two dads,
I loved both dads alike but in different ways,
Like the tree with two trunks,
My first dad offered safety and shelter,
While my second dad’s girdling roots took him away.

Mark Belfry

What is it Makes Me want to Read Your Poem?

What is it makes me want to read your poem?
I get them every day in my emails,
little flashes of diverse mind in rainbow colours
like sunlight flares off a choppy sea.
I like that.

I’ll tell you.
It’s not the flash, it’s the depth.

Which wouldn’t matter
(what makes me want to read your poem)
except you could substitute other words
and still be true—stitch in
any other subject and predicate
in this fed media world
and the message would be the same.

What is it makes me want to watch your movie?
read your book?
kiss your lips?
vote you President?

Let us not be buried in the shallow.
Poetry is the voice of places
we now too often only pretend to go.

Inge van Opbergen

as one

they’re young
like puppies
cuddling
puppy-love
gentle
puppy-bodies

yet mature
and aware
of their path
just married
gently loving
belonging

collecting
their puppy-dog
in love with
the newborn
bending down
caressing

we see them leave
little dog dancing
on her leash
the three of them
kindred spirits
connected

like once
on these rolling hills
and red-green plains
in these forests
Indians and horses
rode as one

flowing from one
into the other
on their island
in the ocean
Arctic wind melting
into Caribbean breeze

one breath
a union between
animal and men
sea and land
body and spirit
heaven and earth

© Inge van Opbergen
Prince Edward Island 16.06.14

Why do I, a lady from Amsterdam send in a poem?

Why? because I fell in love with the Island
visiting Dutch friends in lower Belfast.
In fact they’re Canadians now.

The velvet air took me by surprise in Halifax.
As did the gentleness of the people.

On the island this appeared to double.
Never thought of a place in your part of the world
as relaxing; a place where people have time
to tell stories about ancestors, about the effect
of a full moon on the snow. Time to talk about
everyday life as if it were grand.

To weave on winter nights. In fact, I realized,
this boils down to cherishing life and connecting …

Inge from Amsterdam

Kayla Morningstar

Euston Street

When I walk past your house, it talks to me. It looks older now, weathered. Like all the fighting we did took a toll on its structure. Sometimes I can see in your windows. I don’t want to, but always my eyes move of their own accord.

I guess you taught me the art of self destruction.

I wonder if there’s another girl whose found my bobby pins, who cleans up after you’ve had a hard day. I wonder if she is naive as I was.

Your house whispers, it coos with familiarity. I see the curtains I helped you choose, the pavement where I learned the truth . I somehow expect it to be stained from my tears.

After too many shots of cheap liquor I know I’ve been outside your building too long. somehow it’s like the blurrier my vision the clearer my thoughts. I hear laughter – look up. Does this girl love you as I tried to?

I shake off the urge to go upstairs.

This house holds nothing but broken promises and disappointment.

Wendy Jones

The Devil’s Gate

Arms upraised
she rises high
breathes deep of a life
above reproach.
For an effervescent, glistening,
radiant instant
is born again
free of sin.

Guilt far flung
returns too soon.
Censorious, soul numbing
Jacob Marley’s
chain dragging
clanking,
flanking every move,
guilt.

Waves in the quagmire
goading, prodding.
Impelling, compelling
weigh her down
until once more she dives
beneath redemption
beyond righteous realms
to the devil’s gate.

Margot Maddison-MacFadyen

Things to Do around Charlottetown

Call hel-lo, hel-lo to raucous birds at a crow ceilidh in Victoria Park.

Breathe sea air deeply.
Hold it.

water, lustrous, like the satin lining of abalone shell, shimmers
seagulls drift on soft puffs of air
a crimson boat races, its sails trimmed tight

Let it go.

Give two bucks to hungry youth hunkered down by the Post Office.
Reflect.
Give ten more.
Get lost on Richmond.
Get found on West.
Walk up and down Queen.
Look for the Bog and never find it.

Slip off shoes.
Eat moon cakes at Winnie’s Tai Chi Gardens.

a small Maitreya Buddha smiles
a potted philodendron climbs the wall, circling conversation
someone at the corner table sighs, her eyes miniature lotus flowers

Put shoes on.

Visit BIG art at the Confederation Art Gallery.
Purchase a first edition signed copy of Pride’s Fancy at the Bookman.
Take a ride on a trolley bus.
Skip classes at Holland College
or UPEI.
Pray at noon.
Sing Amazing Grace, quietly.
Look for a friendly tree to love.

Slide into seat.
Devour yabrak at Shaddy’s Mediterranean Cuisine in the arbor by the lane.

voluptuous grapes beckon
pendulous, they wink mischief, rustle leafy nests above
“Pluck us,” they whisper, purple, succulent, forever unabashed

Climb out of seat.

Read The Buzz
get hip.
Buy Island Sunshine free-range eggs and Wood Islands maple syrup
at the Farmers’ Market.
Imagine happy chickens, fine in feather
a verdant treetop canopy, in fine fettle.
Visit Mike in the Culloden Hills Artisans stall.
Admire golden-grained wooden bowls polished with a poet’s soul.

Stand at counter.
Gobble spiced potato samosas at Out of Africa with a taste of the world.

jostled by frenzied samosa lovers, pushed by feverish spice addicts
“Excuse me!” one says, elbows up, desperate for just one chillied bite
“Please do go first,” says another, exercising pay-it-forward caution

Step away from counter.

Read a poem at the Haviland Club Tuesday night.
Resist (or feast on) a Marilla’s truffle at Anne of Green Gables Chocolates.

Sit on Victoria Row bench with Sir John A.
Imagine the past in the future.

poke him in the eye for Louis Riel, for Gabriel Dumont
poke him in the other for Big Bear, for Poundmaker
poke him in both for Shubenacadie, for the others

Stomp a silent jig of protest.

Call hel-lo, hel-lo to raucous birds at a crow ceilidh in Victoria Park..

Cody McInnis

7:00 AM

Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.
— John Donne

Her furled moaning never rests,
For a habitual fire trembles to:

Then spake the voices at 7:00AM
chiming bright like a hateful knell;
because all other times I hath resolved
too fully of the flesh; round it
now a savage ghost, batters tired lids —
so that eyes may never properly close,
and the all-surrounding
urban dawn, may devastate repose;

the edges of a blushing shore, engorge
to meet, an antiquated intrepidity —
with visions coaxing an elated
trill, atop concave tapering;
lucid the rifting speckled light
with all its cold descriptive solicitude,
provokes love’s haggard osculation,
bound, from space & time, and over-exude.

Let us never pause or make an end,
it is dreary to end this clever play;
seek always beyond the furled heart,
beneath the undulating force of the waves,
it is not too late for a heated expression,
abscond the natural importune dream;
regress from the onward journey,
hold close the ecstasy of the desirable terrene.

John Smith

It is unbroken

It is unbroken though forsaken, set
in the tilt of trees toward the prevailing sun.
Not lost, though unregarded, spoken in buried syllables.
Now it rises, a slow star at midsummer,

almost breaks horizon, then glides submissively down
with another declining year. A ripple is enough
in the half-undreaming stillness of lustral places
not yet endowed, or a leaf that falling

meets its shadow on the ground
in a wilderness untraversed where a bird sings unseen.
Like nothing else. Like nothing. Scattered

naked in retreat before the nightmarch
of an alien horde that passes and does not return.
Or say it is you fondling one of a billion stones.

from Midnight Found you Dancing, Ragweed Press, 1986

Audio version

Hugh MacDonald

At Merton’s Hermitage

Five poets sit
in a sort of symmetry
our awkward placement of hands
reading like young actors
unused to the stage
suspended somewhere between
giddiness and serenity.
How like boys we are
our casual shoes
our worn blue jeans
John B. somewhat
out-of-sync in green
our dew-stained cuffs
soaked while sponging
through full blown
wild Kentucky grass
after Gethsemane’s
massive breakfast of porridge
and eggs, jams and jellies
clumps of peanut butter
racks of perfect toast
steaming cups of tea
then, the air alive
with butterflies and gnats
Brother Paul
and Marty in the lead
John inquiring after
leaf and blade of grass
we stroll a swath
like Merton cut
through domesticated wild places
from the working monastery
to his Hermitage on the hill.
We look about inside
meditate on this concrete cell
that briefly housed
the soul that was his life
our gift the sharing
of his human frailties
his familiar temptations
his hypnotic soaring range of words
then we humbly sit at this shrine
while below us the long view
spans acres of wood and grass
the downward sloping field before
bends toward the world’s gate
our thoughts for the moment
temperate and peaceful
reflect the shimmer of summer
the shade tree beyond the porch
while behind us the empty bed
where Merton slept and didn’t
where within him wrestled
the love of internal peace
the turmoil of animal joy
the mad man-parts
that we all share
the saints we sometimes are
the beasts we can become
the blackened hearth
that conjures fiery pits
and writhing monsters
that we still smell today
separated by time and space
thankful for each garnered day
for light upon awakening
in dread of one last morning
that ends abruptly in darkness.

audio version

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