Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poem of the Month - Gagetown Reflexes

Once a month, I'll share one of my own poems.

First up is "Gagetown Reflexes," one of my personal favourites. I was inspired by actual events, a moment that stuck in my head until I had no choice but to put it into words, first as rough prose in a fiction writing class and finally in more polished form in poetry class.

Gagetown Reflexes
by Betty Dobson

The tiny flame flickers and fights to keep burning, but slowly
dies. A red ember remains on the wick, glowing, then goes out.
She has no fear of the night—her bunker of silence and peace.
The odd car whispers by as rain taps on the window, lonely, excluded.
Black softens to grays, shifting as if alive. She watches from bed,
rapt by the shapes that form and vanish with each breath she takes.

The old radiator breaks through the silence—a harsh rhythm.
Three hard beats, a brief lull. Four beats and another
teasing pause. The shadows remain, circling like cautious invaders.
The wool blanket betrays its warmth, stinging her to

movement. Fresh from manoeuvres, he pins her with slumbering ease.
She stares down at his dark limb, so solid against her own skin.
The gap between them widens as she counts off each year in her mind.
He snorts, rolls onto his back. A streetlight eclipses his profile.
Free of his touch, she retreats to the hazy comfort of nicotine.
Deep breaths, measured and slow. She closes her
eyes to the shadows, finding a clearer form of darkness.

Time slips back by hours. Once more his fingers dance the
thin wires. His whisper coaxes beauty from a motorcycle ballad.
Tiny flickers fill the air, like shards of Cupid’s updated arsenal.
The radiator beats a fresh refrain, startled fingers drop the
smouldering butt. Catch it up before the fire; hold the ember
until it fades. Paper and ash, afloat in last night’s beer.
She steps tenderly through the glowing dark, back to the edge.
Rain so steady it coats the glass; soft light shears the veil.
The scent of him rises like spice. She leans close to taste his ear.
Reaction is instant—an aerial turn propelled by instinct. She feels
his wide, fearful stare but can’t see past his upraised shaking fist.

"Gagetown Reflexes" is included in my poetry collection, Paper Wings., currently available on

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Upcoming Poetry Contests

I tend to keep track of the deadlines for various markets and contests, even if I don't expect to submit my work. I like to know what's coming up, especially when there's no submission fee involved.

Here are three such contests, all of which require poems written to fit a certain theme.

Inglis House Poetry Contest
The consistent theme from year to year is disability The contest used to be restricted to disabled poets but recently added an open category for all poets. With the two-category system, poems may now reflect first hand experiences of the disabled and/or an understanding of the issues surrounding disability.

Annual deadline: June 1st
Prizes (in each category): $50, $30, $25 plus anthology publication 

Don't let the title fool you. Just because you're not a Scot living in London doesn't mean you can't enter. But you do have use that premise as your theme. And bear in mind that the dinner portion of the prize takes place in London, England. Guess how you'll be spending your prize money?

Deadline: August 31, 2011
Prize: £1000 plus two tickets to ScotsCare's St Andrew's Dinner; the top five poems will be displayed in ScotsCare's offices and published in ScotsCare Shout.

Family relationships are at the heart of this competition. Poems should be emphatic in nature and reflect personal experiences with relatives, both good and bad. The experiences, not the relatives--or maybe not. ;-)

Deadline: December 31, 2011
Prize: £100 plus publication in online magazine

By posting these contests, I am in no way endorsing them. Exercise due diligence and check them out before participating. And be sure to follow the guidelines if you do decide to enter. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Relaunch of The Poetry Bug

Once upon a time, The Poetry Bug was a featured column at Perpetual Prose. After that short-lived experiment, The Bug went into hibernation.

But now The Bug lives again. New home. New look. Same premise.

The Poetry Bug will deal with the mechanics of writing poetry and look at resources and markets for poets, but I also want to explore the human factor--the emotions that go into writing a poem, whether negative or positive, humorous or serious. After all, a poem without some sort of emotional context is just words strung together like plastic pearls.

Whenever possible, I’ll also be interviewing poets in an effort to get inside their creative processes and showcase their contributions to the form. If you want to get “bugged” (or make a comment or suggestion), drop me a line.

In the meantime, I encourage all you budding and practiced poets to follow the lead of Robert Lee Brewer, host of the annual Poem-a-Day Challenge at Poetic Asides. The premise is simple even if the task is not. Write one poem a day for an entire month.

I tried to participate once but found myself pulled away by other matters. While some of my efforts were less than stellar, I did manage to surprise myself a few times. 

I’ll share two of my favorites with you right now.

Almost There

Landmarks guide our travels
Over new terrain and old
Familiar sights on a long journey
Taken many times before

Father steers the station wagon
Winding down a two-lane highway
Late at night embraced by fog
Headlights catch the tendril swirl

Broken at last by the crumbling
Yellow hulk, a landlocked berg
Haunted by voices long lost at sea
Still carried on phantom telegraph lines

“Almost there,” mother says
Children shuffle in the dark
Passing, missing, in the night
Souls who echo, “Almost there.”

The Mantle Clock

         the mantle clock
fly away a faster day
shorter than
the past, what’s gone
will still be
gone, no turning
         the mantle clock

Remember. If the poetry bug bites, don’t swat. Just write. And let the little guy fly on to his next target.