Poet Laureate's blog: September 2018

September: The Other New Year
 
Maybe it’s because I spent so many years in the classroom– first as a student and then 8 more as a teacher, but for me the real “new year” starts in September. As much as I love summer, the final days of August often seem tired and worn out, and I look forward to the snap of fall that often occurs shortly after Labour Day, at least in Canada! September is a time of transition, as we shop for new clothes/haul out old fall favourites, stock up our kids with back to school items ranging from notebooks (or Notebooks!) to lunch box treats and celebrate the end of summer with camp/club/pool closing events.  
 
Now is the time we begin to prepare for a new cycle to start all over again. Even if the weather is still warm, the locus of activity shifts from outside to indoors (although the barbeque stays out all year!) No matter what the thermometer says, we know it’s fall when the yellow school buses punctuate our morning commute and political candidate signs pop up on lawns to compete with bedraggled summer flowers. We root around for sox and find ourselves thinking about apples and pumpkin lattes v. watermelon and iced tea.
 
September is also a month of renewed responsibility. Each fall, our low-key, laid back summer selves pull it together and recommit to getting serious. While January 1st New Year's Resolutions seem more like making up for holiday indulgence, those forged in September– whether a new hobby, a class you’re going to take or home improvement project– all feel appropriate for this time of year. And our inner calendar is mirrored by the outer as community meetings and events that wrapped up in June often launch with a flourish this month. 
 
In the midst of this excitement there is also some sadness, as we see the days getting shorter and we know that Winter is Coming. While we look forward to the joys of fall, we sigh as another summer passes into the past. Poetry provides a great way to mark some of the conflicting emotions we feel at this time of year. Here is a poem I wrote that delineates the difference a day can make, when the day is Labour Day and the next Back to School:
 
Summer’s End
 
The sun’s pale yolk sizzles on a blue platter of sky,
pressing down on the earth like a heavy china plate 
grabbed to flatten a single flower,
as if any dry, faded, two-dimensional form 
could preserve or even recall its fulsome summer bloom.
 
I counted eleven watercraft in the harbour yesterday–
jet-skis shimmering across the waves like dragonflies, 
sailboats dabs of white paint on a blue canvas, 
the tour boat ferrying a load of Mennonites on holiday, the men in silent attention 
as the captain shared local lore, the women gaggled in the bow.
 
As hot today as yesterday, but the waterfront is deserted 
save for the flotsam of brown ducks in the shallows, 
geese and swans finding refuge in the shady overgrowth along the banks.
 
Today is the day after Labour Day, and the humans have departed.
Living by the calendar and not the thermometer, 
vacationers have vacated and sun-worshippers have returned to work.
Children have traded dog-eared backpacks carrying beach toys and sand
for new ones filled with supplies for the new school year.
 
There is no sound overhead but the keening of the gulls,
their cries seeming to say
gone back to work, gone back to school, gone home.
No wonder the cicadas drone a mournful dirge. 
Summer is over.
 
For another seasonal offering, check out our Poetry Corner for the poem “Launched” shared by Val Losell, a poet and painter living in Barrie.  Val recently self published a book of paintings and poems called Holding Up the Sky: 33 Paintings and Their Poems, available on Amazon and Chapters and Friesen Press websites as paperback, hard cover and e-book, or from Val directly at holdingupthesky2018@gmail.com. 
 
You may also want to mark your calendar for a BMFA sponsored event at the Simcoe Street Theatre on October 13th featuring poems written by Collingwood poet/graphic artist David Conning (who is also the co-owner of Clerkson’s). This unique theatre event will pair poems David wrote for his daughter over 25 years with music by the subject of those poems, Laura and her partner in the band Honeymoon Phase.
 
Finally, on Saturday the 8th, I’ll be kicking off Words in the Woods–the Dunedin Literary Festival co-sponsored by Rina Barone, owner of Simcoe Street Books and featuring an exciting lineup of writers. If you’re so inclined, spend the day at Dunedin Park where we’ll have an interactive Poetry Tent.  Come play with words and maybe get published on our site next month! 
 
As you head into this other new year, a month of new starts and fresh beginnings, I’ll leave you with one question: what’s your September poetry resolution?