BEST CANADIAN POETRY Launch Tomorrow!

bcp16-copyTechnically, I’ve been a poet ten months longer than I’ve been a teacher, working in both the way hands move back and forth; industrious, often apart, and sometimes, sweet relief, united in cause. Over the last ten years, Best Canadian Poetry has published some of the most exciting and provocative poetry Canada has to offer. Now, for the first time, through my blog site, The Reason For Poetry, BCP offers educators suggestions on how to deconstruct the poems, and provoke your students into reflection on and passion for the genre.

As Department Head of English at a public high school, I deeply appreciate the constraints that teachers face; budgets, resources, energy. I also appreciate the richness that ensues when a spark is cultivated, and grows. In my own school, we spend countless hours (and I mean countless, perhaps a thousand over the decade plus I have been there) looking for ways to build momentum, discover what we do not know.  After years of practice, we have come to see teachers as learners; PA Days are spent offering opportunities to build meaningful connections and new skills, enriching mind and (hopefully) souls with wellness activities, collaborating in groups. All is not rosy, but we have built a fairly consistent glow; something to be proud of, as any educator knows.

Working over the last few seasons to cull and deconstruct poems from the Best Canadian Poetry Anthologies has been a privilege and an education; I have listened to stories from all corners of the Canadian minds cape, and recognized echoes of my own. I have gathered several of these (in three packets, to be released online over the course of the year) with ideas for how we might entice and engage readers into insight. The activities suggested will not necessarily beget poems, yet. But they are designed to provoke reflection, and writing, and at times creative writing; all steps towards the country of poetry. If you are an interested reader or writer, please feel free to dive in and start swimming; the poems are too good to miss; I hope you will find the activities equally so.

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Best Canadian Poetry 2016

bcp16-copyUnbelievably excited to join Tightrope Books as Coordinator of the Online Teaching Program. Keep an eye out for our blog, ‘CanPo One Five O’, which will launch with Best Canadian Poetry’s tenth anniversary issue on November 30th. Throughout the year, I’ll post essays and lesson plans designed to make poetry accessible and meaningful for high school readers (and teachers!), using BCP’s wealth of modern, provocative poems. Stay tuned!

 

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March, A Lion


It’s hard to explain what March was to me. As they say, it came in like a lion. But it left equally vividly: a month of rich travel (Ireland, Calgary); reunions with beloveds; a loss; forest hikes and fireplace revelations with a family of friends; a dinner table of strong, roaring women; a book launch.. everything blends in a fire of watercolour, in memory, and leaves me feeling alive and free.

I opened my Tourist reading with an impromptu speech about gratitude, the feeling brought into sharp relief at a recent funeral. How lucky I am to have the life I do, the miracle of my new family, the ever expanding (re)union of teaching and art, and a growing family of brilliant colleagues and great friends. I am in awe, at times, of how many different lives I might have led, gratefully enchanted to have landed here, on this road, with all of you.

I am waist deep in new endeavours, but proud to hold up where I have been. Below find an audio snippet of my new collection, Tourist, which was released last week. This is a recording of Bombay Aubade, about my time in Dehravi, India’s largest slum.

Thanks for listening,
LB

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TOURIST: Here & Now


Tourist is here.

Join us at the launch on March 31 or pre-order now from Tightrope Books.            

PrintOpening with an aubade for the labyrinthian corners of Bombay’s largest slum, Tourist is a collection that is unafraid of shadows, and aims to unearth the unseen. Set across time and landscape—modern day Michigan, 1970’s Cambodia, WWI England, the kaleidoscopic mindscape of an Alzheimer patient—these poems draw us into lives that, initially, seem foreign, yet provoke our solidarity in the face of disorientation—a boy facing his first bankruptcy, an Elephant facing destruction at the hands of poachers. The book culminates in ‘Beethoven Walks’, an elegiac war cry from a man who wades in and out of darkness like a modern day Odysseus, and the churning resilience that sets him free.

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“Wakefulness is poet Lara Bozabalian’s traveling companion in her new collection, ‘”Tourist.” Her lines are long with an inviting tendency to wander. Her similes are startling, her descriptions dressed to kill. Capturing the spirit of places like India, Cuba, Cambodia and suburban Ontario, the poems are maps rather than postcards “Fluency (is) a language all its own,” she writes, one that she speaks with thoughtfulness and gusto.”  – Barry Dempster, author of The Burning Alphabet and Disturbing the Buddha

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Contribution to Brick Books 40th Anniversary Project

For the last 40 years, Brick Books has been publishing and celebrating some of Canada’s greatest poets. In honour of that milestone, they have invited lovers of literature to contribute reflections on pivotal reads, and the writers who created them. Please enjoy my reflection on the astonishing Tim Bowling’s ‘Paris, Springtime, Youth’ or, better yet, go out and track down some of his poetry. It’s an incredible example of how literature can be a compass in many ways.

Week 57 – Tim Bowling presented by Lara Bozabalian

There are times when I have been unnerved by Tim Bowling’s poetry. That is to say, his words have burrowed into me, only to reappear days, weeks, years later as scraps of line or image tacked onto whatever experiences I might be having. I didn’t expect “Paris, Springtime, Youth” to return to me in Bombay, but there it was – the invisible weight above and around me, the life happening everywhere and elsewhere, all at once. I wasn’t prepared for lines from it to reappear in my role as a new mother, looking back on my younger self. But that is what Bowling’s poetry does, remain relevant because it is steeped in the currents of human nature – to be lost, to be found, to float and ebb on our thoughts and realizations. It is an ocean, this life, and he paints our place in it as malleable, ever moving. Admirably, he includes himself in the dingy, rather than as an omniscient Sun, looks around at fellow passengers, at the detail in life jacket seams, conceives the seafloor, fathoms below. You don’t have to survive a shipwreck to earn his attentions, though his poems celebrate, with focus, in tenderness, that we are all castaways in some sense. It is this empathy that makes his work sing for me – I am reminded that, conscious or not, we are all, in some way, looking into and reflected back by the deep. Bowling’s dogged empathy is a model, not only for how to write, but for how to live in the ever giving elastic of community, of your own identity – how to let yourself track your own progress, in order to see.

“Paris, Springtime, Youth” can be read at the Free Library. It was originally published in the Queen’s Quarterly (March 22, 2004)

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Toronto Poetry Slam 10 Year Anniversary!!

A decade goes by quickly, especially when you’re spending it with some of the most innovative minds around. It’s my honor to look back and see what a beautiful landmine we have built together, and all the ways it has exploded in the hearts and minds of Torontonians (and the irrevocable ways it has shaped all of us at TPS).  Personally, I can’t imagine the happiness I have today in my writing and personal life without all of the amazing souls who have colored it over the years. It’s been a broad cloth of wordplay, laughter, adventures, potlucks and (we’re poets)  arguing! But all is well that ends well, and tonight is going to be a night to remember over here at the Drake. If you’re around, and you’re free, get down here for some incredible performance throwback from the early days, some would say the golden days, of Toronto Poetry Slam.

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I was so pleased The New Quarterly re-released my WWI poem, “English Channel” from Issue 131 – War: An Uphill Battle, in honour of Remembrance Day.

image Continue reading I was so pleased The New Quarterly re-released my WWI poem, “English Channel” from Issue 131 – War: An Uphill Battle, in honour of Remembrance Day.

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Best Canadian Poetry Launch – ‘English Channel’ Makes the Longlist!

9781926639932-new-copy-190x300On Friday night, I grappled with a decision to head out to the IFOA: Best Canadian Poetry launch at Harbourfront. I wanted to go, hungrily, but five months of new parenthood had left me bleary eyed by 7 pm (the launch started at 7:30) and, often enough, Pollock spattered in spit up.  Short story, I made it out, and what happened was nothing short of electrifying.

Putting aside the sheer relevance of the anthology – Best Canadian Poetry aims not just to compile the best published work of the last year, but the editors (Molly Peacock, Anita Lahey and Jacob McArthur Mooney, in this case) explore the context from which these poems spring – I was eager for reconnection; after hundreds of hours spent in my office, reconfiguring words in order to build meaning, the offer of a nation-wide psychological landscape in which to house them – and reconnect with a community, my community, after almost a year away – was poignant.

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I have been to a few of these launches, but rarely, if ever, have I listened to a night of readings like this; A.F.Moritz, Amanda Jernigan, Jeff Latosik, Shane Nielsen, Richard Greene, Stevie Howell, Hoa Nguyen, Barry Dempster, Karen Solie, Priscilla Uppal, and Alexandra Oliver. It was a heavy hitting night, with urgency sidling into the last lines of poems, and leaving you feeling like you should have noticed it earlier; looking around the room, in the pin drop silence and at faces nodding silently along with the poems, it was clear the impact was universal. priscilla uppal

As Anita Lahey notes in her excellent introduction, ‘There’s joy in these poems, huddled in the midst of their catastrophic subject matter…” How much like life, that sounded to me. Kudos to Tightrope Books and the BCP Editors for offering up such a rich tableaux of readings. Each brought a different layer, and cadence, to the proceedings.
At the after party, looking around the room at poets and publishers who had chosen, year after year, to continue down a path that kept them in thoughtfulness, was nothing short of joyful for me. So much of writing life is solitary, and I think most writers would admit that we like it that way; I know very few hyper-extroverted poets. karen solieBut in this room, writers, listeners, and publishers mingled with warm enthusiasm and laughter buoyed by recognition; differences in topic were irrelevant, because the theme that united us was reverence – for words, articulation, clarity. Sometimes reunion is the only way to realize that you spend most of your days alone. It’s not a tragedy, we are all alone in some way, but it is a journey, and reunion, however fleeting, with those who launch from the same fabric, and inspire you to keep moving, is nothing short of invigorating.

LB

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Life 2.0, NOW Magazine 2015, Molly Peacock

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Well, it’s been almost a year since my last post… but I’ve returned with some pretty glorious excuses. The first one is named Auden Harrison Branton, the newest love of my life, my beautiful son. It’s been five months of singing softly, walking around in the sunshine, introducing him to the textures of nature and experiencing a level of elation that I’m sure will show up in my work. For now, however, fall has brought poetry back into my blood, so expect to see me a lot more often on this site…

downloadSpeaking of fall, Now Magazines Best of Toronto issue is out next week, and I was so thrilled to be nominated for Best Poet again this year, especially alongside the amazing Andrea Thompson, Christian Bok, Dionne Brande, Jenny Sampirisi, Lizzie Violet and Robert Priest. Poetry is a solitary affair, and knowing that you connect with others through your work is quite a feat of physics (or feels like one), and hugely gratifying. Thank you to all who voted, and support my (and all) poetry.  It has been a huge year for me, publication wise, with nine new poems in Canadian literary journals. Please look out for new poems in The New Quarterly, Dalhousie Review, The Nashwaak Review and Prairie Fire!

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I have also been busy editing my newest collection, Tourist, which will be out in spring 2016. In the meantime, I’ll be heading to the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) this weekend to check out the launch of Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope Books). The series is edited by Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey, two astonishingly talented women, one of whom I been lucky to learn from over the last couple of years; Molly has been an incredible mentor and editor as I sought to build Tourist into the collection I wanted it to be. Being in the hands of someone absolutely fluent in poet2their craft was a true joy, and, as a professional teacher myself, a pretty graceful way to remember what it feels like to be a student. It would be an understatement to say I couldn’t have done it without her (I wouldn’t have wanted to), and I thank her for friendship, wisdom, and support.

I’ve updated all pages on the site, so feel free to explore. I’ll be releasing details about the launch in the next few months, as well as any upcoming readings. In the meantime, hope to see you at the IFOA this weekend.

Thanks for listening,
LB

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Toronto’s Best Poet – Now Magazine Honours!

Yesterday morning, rising at my usual hour, I sat down at the computer to read and write a bit before sunlight showed. I didn’t expect to find out that I won Now Magazine’s Best of Toronto Award for Best Poet, but I guess that is the beauty of irony. Years ago, I would have looked at that list of winners with the wistfulness of a mountain climber, wanting acclaim for the wrong reasons and with no real sense of how to desrve it. I had passion by the bucketload, but little discipline; I overwrote, repeated ideas, and sent my poems to every literary magazine without really understanding what they were looking for; in short, I was a young, unbelievably passionate writer, making all the same mistakes of every other young writer. I felt like I had a fire in my chest, but I didn’t stand out.

Then, in Fall of 2005, I was lucky enough to fall into a community of poetry minded souls and that’s where my adventure really started. I needed them, their laughter, their critiques, their competive edge. I wasn’t sure of my place, but was enlivened by their energy. I got frustrated, having to shape my work to certain formats, but it helped me discover restraint. I needed to discover that life attracts life; my writing came alive when I was working for myself, but alongside others. Light arrives in unexpected moments, in the hours before dawn, during lunch hours, and later at night when sleep escapes. I didn’t know I would stay up until 3am to find a closing sentence for Beethoven Walks. I never imagined travelling to North Carolina or (Singapore!) to meet poets from around the world, throwing their passion into the air like beautiful thunderbolts. Years ago, I never would have imagine that a city would appreciate my poetry, but I hoped for it (full disclosure). Thousands of unglamorous, infinitely satisfying hours brought me here, and I am comforted not by the notion that I stand out, but that I have a community of like minded and equally talened souls that blankets me. 30304_401831321117_517791117_4167589_4933294_n

39443_490524746117_517791117_5966219_6136872_n-1Toronto, every place, is filled with artists. You are likely one, even if you have yet to put pen to page. I teach that in my class every day. I write this for my students, for young writers, for my younger self, as a reminder that the award is a lovely symbol, but only that; hard work shaped me into the person I wanted to become.

Thank you so much for making my passion a shared experience. I am grateful for everything.

Lara

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