Stroll Archive

I remember dances after Stroll readings, with Thomas and his band playing , and Kathleen Henderson singing into a mic. I remember the “No Bards Barred Bar” at the Southside Legion, and Jocko (Jacques Benoit ) emceeing its Poetry Face-off, where future Poet Laureate Anna Marie Sewell first met her husband Doug Barrett.

~ Ruth Anderson Donovan, Memories & Tributes

Stroll Documents

History of the Stroll of Poets, Written and compiled by Max Vandersteen

Publications

The Killer Blinks is an annual event that takes place on the first Monday evening of the Edmonton Poetry festival. People read 30-second poems. Lalala. More info, if you want.

The Killer Blinks chapbook, 2007
Revenge of the Killer Blinks chapbook, 2008
The Return of the Killer Blinks chapbook, 2009
Blinks in the Belly chapbook, 2010

 

Magpie Poems chapbook, 2018
Winter Water chapbook, 2019
Local Planet chapbook, 2020
Thirty Years of Strolling chapbook, 2022

Stroll of Poets Anthology, 1991 (Eds. Peter J. Cole, Andrew Thompson, Thomas Trifimuk, Ken Wilson)
Stroll of Poets Anthology, 1992 (Ed. Peter J. Cole)
Stroll of Poets Anthology, 1993 (Ed. Peter J. Cole)
Stroll of Poets Anthology, 1994 (Ed. Katherine McKee)
Stroll of Poets Anthology, 1995 (Ed. Anna Mioduchowska)
Stroll of Poets Anthology, 1996 (Ed. Ivan Sundal)
Stroll Anthology, 1997 (Ed. Nancy Mackenzie)
Stroll Anthology, 1998 (Ed. Nancy Mackenzie)
Stroll Anthology, 1999 (Ed. Nancy Mackenzie)
10th Anniversary Anthology

Stroll Anthology, 2000 (Eds. Linda Dumont, Nancy Mackenzie)
Stroll Anthology, 2001 (Ed. Rusti Lehay)
Stroll Anthology, 2002 (Ed. Doug Elves)
Stroll Anthology, 2003 (Ed. Darcia Dahl)
Stroll Anthology, 2004 (Ed. John J. Chalmers)

(**Note: 2005 was a transitional year; no anthology published)

Stroll Anthology, 2006 (Ed. Ivan Sundal)
Stroll Anthology, 2007 (Ed. Julie Robinson)
Stroll Anthology, 2008 (Ed. Anton Z. Capri)
Stroll Anthology, 2009 (Ed. Anna Marie Sewell)

Stroll Anthology, 2010 (Ed. S. E. Ingraham)
Stroll Anthology, 2011 (Ed. Audrey Seehagen)
Stroll Anthology, 2012 (Ed. Audrey Seehagen)
Stroll Anthology, 2013 (Ed. Audrey Seehagen)
Stroll Anthology, 2014 (Ed. Audrey Seehagen)
Stroll Anthology, 2015 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)
Stroll Anthology, 2016 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)
Stroll Anthology, 2017 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)
Stroll Anthology, 2018 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)
Stroll Anthology, 2019 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)

Stroll Anthology, 2020 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)
Stroll Anthology, 2021 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)
Stroll Anthology, 2022 (Ed. Deborah Lawson)

 

I have always been impressed by the Stroll’s openness and generosity in fostering new poets and giving voice to newcomers to Canada, including in their own languages.

~Alison Akgungor, Memories & Tributes

Newsletters

 

One I recall the most profound was in Edmonton at Paris Market in downtown. Philip Alexander Jagger was pushing a shopping cart that was modified with Eatlardfudge (Steve Gillespie) in it. He would stop suddenly and Eatlardfudge would read a poem, then we followed until they stopped again.

~ Scott Alderson, Calgary, Memories & Tributes

Special Events

There was a poetry reading at this café on 109 Street, and cycling in the neighbourhood, I decided to check it out.  I thought I’d quietly slip in a corner, have a drink, and listen anonymously to some poetry.  That was not to be.  Almost immediately after I slipped in, a lively gregarious man introduced himself as Andy Michaelson and we chatted about poetry and I learned about the Stroll of Poets.  I remember nothing else about that day.

~ Hank Binnema, Memories & Tributes

Press Articles

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Board of Directors

    • Doug Elves
    • Ivan Sundal
    • Alice Major
    • Anna Marie Sewell
    • Bert Almon
    • Jocko Benoit
    • Andrew Thomson
    • Thomas Trofimuk
    • Diane Zinyk
    • John King Farlowe
    • Ken Wilson
    • Peter Cole
    • Glen Kirkland
    • Ruth Anderson Donovan
    • Marilyn Dumont
    • Alberta Cole
    • Dean Morrison McKenzie
    • Myrna Garanis
    • Anna Mioduchowska
    • Olga Costopulous
    • Jannie Edwards
    • Jennifer Eagle
    • Phillip Jagger
    • Richard Davies

1991-92 Board of Directors

    • Charles Mandel
    • Karen Peterson
    • Alan Demeule
    • Mary T McDonald
    • Doug Elves
    • Glen Kirkland
    • Dean M McKenzie
    • Nigel Darbasie
    • Faye Francis
    • Ken Wilson
    • Andrew Thompson
    • John King-Farlow
    • Ruth Donovan
    • Marilyn Dumont
    • Peter Cole
    • Ivan Sundal
    • Myrna Garanis

1992-93 Board of Directors

    • President: Ivan Sundal
    • Secretary: Ken Wilson
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves

Members at Large:

    • Mimi Bengershon
    • Ruth Anderson Donovan
    • Myrna Garanis
    • Peter Cole

1993-94 Board of Directors

    • President: Ivan Sundal
    • Secretary: Ken Wilson
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves

Members at Large

    • Ruth Donovan
    • Myrna Garanis
    • Peter Cole
    • Anna Mioduchowska
    • Philip Jagger
    • John King-Farlow
    • Katherine McKee
    • Andrew Thompson
    • Anna Marie Sewell

1994-95 Board of Directors

    • President: Candace Bamber
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves
    • Secretary: Anna Mioduchowska

Members at large:

    • Jacques Benoit
    • Annette Cannelle
    • Ruth Anderson Donovan
    • Paul Matwychuk
    • Katherine McKee
    • Tracy Murray
    • Anna Marie Sewell
    • Ivan Sundal
    • Andrew Thompson
    • Ken Wilson

1995-96 Board of Directors

    • President: Candace Bamber
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves
    • Recording Secretary: Anna Mioduchowska
    • Membership Secretary: Ivan Sundal

Members at Large

    • Ruth Anderson Donovan
    • Jacques Benoit
    • Paul Pearson
    • Jocelyne Verret
    • Tracy Murray
    • William Nichols
    • Annette Cannell
    • Lyle Weiss
    • Andrew Thompson

1996-97 Board of Directors

    • President: Jocelyn Verret
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves
    • Recording Secretary: Sandra Mooney-Ellerbeck
    • Membership Secretary: Ivan Sundal

Members at Large:

    • Ruth Donovan
    • Lyle Weiss, Children's web page coordinator
    • Geraldine Matus
    • Michael Glasel, Publicity committee chair
    • Paul Pearson
    • Sandy Sprinkle, Publicity (Lloydminster)
    • Tracy Murray, Publicity
    • Don Butler, Publicity
    • William Nichols, Web page editor
    • Andrew Thompson, Archives

Very Active Volunteers:

    • Katherine McKee, Newsletter editor
    • Susan Walsh, Volunteer coordinator
    • Sandra Mooney-Ellerbeck, Writing circle coordinator

1997-98 Board of Directors

    • Anna Mioduchowska
    • Doug Elves
    • Geraldine Matus
    • Anna Marie Sewell
    • Michael Walters
    • Helen Lavender
    • Louis Munan
    • William Nichols
    • Jocelyne Verret

1998-99 Board of Directors

    • President: Anna Mioduchowska
    • Vice President: William Nichols
    • Treasurer: Gordon McRae
    • Secretary: Helen Lavender
    • Workshop Coordinator: Louis Munan
    • Newsletter: Nancy Mackenzie
    • Marilyn Hooper

1999-2000 Board of Directors

    • President: Nancy Mackenzie
    • Vice-President: Beckie Garber Conrad
    • Past President: Anna Mioduchowska
    • Treasurer & Webmaster: Gordon McRae
    • Secretary: Candyce Neill
    • Volunteer Coordinator Jenine Dumont

Members at Large:

    • Pamela Young
    • Jackie Bell
    • Fred Anderson

2000-01 Board of Directors

    • President: Mark Kozub
    • Vice President: Jocko (Jacques Benoit)
    • Treasurer & Webmaster: Gordon McRae
    • Past president: Nancy Mackenzie
    • Volunteer Coordinator: Thomas Trofimuk
    • Secretary: Cindy-Lou Prokopy
    • Beckie Garber Conrad
    • Ronald Kurr

2001-02 Board of Directors

    • President: Mark Kozub
    • Vice President: Thomas Trofimuk
    • Secretary: Cindy-Lou Prokopy
    • Treasurer & Webmaster: Gordon McRae
    • Past president: Nancy McKenzie
    • Volunteer Coordinator: John Chalmers
    • Helen Lavender
    • Ken Sutton
    • Christina Tower

2002-03 Board of Directors

    • President: Sandra Mooney-Ellerbeck
    • Past president: Mark Kozub
    • Treasurer & webmaster: Doug Elves
    • Volunteer Coordinator: Ivan Sundal
    • Secretary: Ben Murray
    • Wrokshop Coordinator: John Chalmers
    • Ken Sutton
    • Tom Emmens
    • Pierrette Requier

2003-04 Board of Directors

    • President: Oswald Meyer
    • Past president: Ivan Sundal
    • Secretary: TDL Turner
    • Treasurer: Trevor Dekort
    • Webmaster: Doug Elves
    • Tim Cusack
    • Michael Appleby
    • Andy Michaelson
    • Pierette Requier

2004-05 Board of Directors

    • President: Andrew Thompson
    • Vice President: Jocko (Jacques Benoit)
    • Past President: Oswald Meyer
    • Treasurer: Angela Dekort
    • Secretary:

Members at Large:

    • Phil Jagger
    • Naomi McIlwraith
    • Sangeeta Zilka

2005-06 Board of Directors

    • President: Jocelyne Verret
    • Vice President:
    • Past President:
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves
    • Secretary: Julie Robinson

Members at Large:

    • Pierette Requier
    • Ivan Sundal
    • Anna Mioduchowska
    • Oswald Meyer
    • Diane Buchanan

2006-07 Board of Directors

    • President: Jocelyne Verret
    • Treasurer: Doug Elves
    • Secretary: Julie Robinson

Members at Large:

    • Pierette Requier
    • Ivan Sundal
    • Anna Mioduchowska
    • Oswald Meyer
    • Diane Buchanan

2007-08 Board of Directors

    • President: Julie Robinson
    • Vice-President: Jo-Ann Godfrey
    • Past President:
    • Treasurer: Michelle Brandt
    • Secretary: Naomi McIlwraith

Members at Large:

    • Ivan Sundal
    • Julie Robinson
    • Amanda Lopatka

2008-09 Board of Directors

    • President: Gary Garrison
    • Vice-President: Michelle Brandt
    • Past President:
    • Treasurer: Wendy Joy
    • Secretary: Naomi McIlwraith

Members at Large:

    • Hank Binnema
    • Jo-Ann Godfrey
    • Anton Capri
    • Lisa Guenther

2009-10 Board of Directors

    • President: Gary Garrison
    • Vice-President: Lorraine McFaddin
    • Past President:
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Sharon Ingraham

Members at Large:

    • Hank Binnema
    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Carlean Fisher
    • Marcia O’Connor

2010-11 Board of Directors

    • President: Sharon Ingraham
    • Vice President: Lorraine McFaddin
    • Past President: Gary Garrison
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Ben Chu

Members at Large:

    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Marcia O’Connor

2011-12 Board of Directors

    • President: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Vice President: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Past President: Gary Garrison
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Marcia O’Connor

Members at Large:

    • Cecelia Hutchinson
    • Diane Robitelle

2012-13 Board of Directors

    • President: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Vice President: John Leppard
    • Past President:
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Marcie O’Connor

Members at Large:

    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Allison Akgungor
    • Mary Campbell
    • Diane Robitelle

2013-14 Board of Directors

    • President: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Vice President: John Leppard
    • Past President:
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Marcia O’Connor

Members at Large:

    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Allison Akgungor
    • Mary Campbell
    • Diane Robitelle

2014-15 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Diane Robitelle
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Poets Haven: Marco Melfi
    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Social Media Coordinator: Linda Papineau-Couture

2015-16 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Marco Melfi
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Directors: Janaan Dekker, Matthew Dekker
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: John Leppard, Marcco Melfi
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Social Media Coordinator: Linda Papineau-Couture
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: Alice Major
    • Communications Coordinator: Ellen Kartz
    • Webmaster: Doug Elves

2016-17 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Marco Melfi
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Directors: Janaan Dekker, Matthew Dekker
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: Susana Chalut, Janis Dow, John Lepperd, Marco Melfi
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Social Media Coordinator: Linda Papineau-Couture
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: John Leppard
    • Communications Coordinator: Ellen Kartz
    • Webmaster: Doug Elves

2017-18 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Marco Melfi
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Naomi McIlwraith
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: Susana Chalut, Janis Dow, John Leppard, Marco Melfi
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Social Media Coordinator: Marco Melfi
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: John Leppard, David R Crone
    • Communications Coordinator: Ellen Kartz
    • Webmaster: Doug Elves

2018-19 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Marco Melfi
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Lisa Mulrooney
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: Susana Chalut, Janis Dow, John Leppard, Marco Melfi
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Social Media Coordinator: Marco Melfi, Josh Luukkonen
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: Markus Eymann
    • Partnership Coordinator, Writers Guild of Alberta: Ellen Kartz
    • Webmaster: Marco Melfi

2019-20 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President & Webmaster: Marco Melfi
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Lisa Mulrooney

Members at Large:

    • Naomi McIlwraith
    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Janis Dow
    • Markus Eymann

Associate Members:

    • Josh Luukkonen
    • Audrey Brooks
    • Max Vandersteen
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: Janis Dow, John Leppard, Marco Melfi
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Communications Coordinators: Marco Melfi, Josh Luukkonen
    • Outreach and Development Coordinators: Marco Melfi, Josh Luukkonen
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: Markus Eymann
    • Partnership Coordinator, Writers Guild of Alberta: Ellen Kartz

2020-21 Board of Directors

    • President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Janis Dow
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Lisa Mulrooney

Members at Large:

    • Markus Eymann
    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Shirley Serviss

Associate Members:

    • Audrey Brooks
    • Max Vandersteen
    • Naomi McIlwraith
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: Janis Dow, John Leppard, Naomi McIlwraith
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Communications Coordinators: Josh Luukkonen, Lisa Mulrooney
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: Markus Eymann
    • Outreach and Development Coordinators: Josh Luukkonen, Alice Major, Lisa Mulrooney, Shirley Serviss, Max Vandersteen
    • Partnership Coordinator, Writers Guild of Alberta: Ellen Kartz
    • Website Management: Ellen Kartz, Mike Gravel

2021-22 Board of Directors

    • President: Janis Dow
    • Past President: John Leppard
    • Vice President: Max Vandersteen
    • Treasurer: Alice Major
    • Secretary: Markus Eymann

Members at Large:

    • Naomi McIlwraith
    • Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Shirley Serviss
    • Loren Marsden

Associate Members:

    • Audrey Brooks
    • Thomas Schuelke
    • Leslie Dawson
    • Poets’ Haven Coordinators: Janis Dow, John Leppard, Naomi McIlwraith
    • Poets’ Haven Hostess: Anne Gerard Marshall
    • Communications Coordinators: Max Vandersteen, Loren Marsden
    • Anthology Coordinator/Liaison: Markus Eymann
    • Outreach and Development Coordinators: Alice Major, Shirley Serviss, Max Vandersteen
    • Partnership Coordinator, Writers Guild of Alberta: Ellen Kartz
    • Website Management: Ellen Kartz, Mike Gravel

Memories and Tributes

Intro: To prime the well for commemorations of the thirtieth year of the Stroll of Poets Society, I will share a prose poem that tells of a few lights along the path that led me to this poets’ community, and share some memories of a few of the people and early days of Stroll activities that stay in my mind’s eye and my heart:

 

Poetry, Performance, and some recollections of the Early Days of Edmonton’s Stroll of Poets Society. 


The first stage appearance I recall took place on an improvised platform set up for the Christmas concert at Silverton country school — I think my brother got to play a sheep, while I was given a joke to tell between acts involving holding Mom’s cheese grater behind my back for the punch line-- my parents gave me the names of local luminaries to replace the American content of  “Abraham Lincoln was a great man, George Washington was a great man, but here is a grater.” I was shy and felt like pulling the skirt of the mauve party dress Mom made me over my face to hide.

 

Mom sang hymns around home, and I learned early on to sing The Lord’s Prayer, but the only way I could bear to sing for company was to hide behind the wall that separated our galley kitchen from the living room. I happily went about making up songs of my own until Daddy asked me “Why don’t you sing something?”

 

At nine I sang in our town’s first music festival and carried the top trophy home across a plank where our culvert had washed out - my solo performance career went downhill from there. My first published poem appeared in the Carnduff Gazette Post News, School Vox when I was in third grade — it  rhymed, and told of Pinky the pig, who never grew big, and who won a fine prize at the fair— the same fair at which my Great Aunt Lillian would win at the turkey shoot —she was the first poet I knew, and penned  and performed clever verses for showers or the town’s curling banquet.

 

I memorized all 22 stanza of Longfellow’s poem “The Wreck of the Hesperus” to recite in 4th grade- ( don’t ask me why). Out town held “Amateur Night”, where people could sing or tap dance, play the spoons or recite, and win a prize.

 

In eight grade, I took part in Bryant Oratory — my hands still tremble recalling the tale of King Tut’s tomb.

 

We left the farm that I still write about and moved to Saskatoon, I remember Mr. Hunter inviting writer W.O. Mitchell to read to our English class, and Mr. WIlson, moving me from features to helping edit our collegiate newspaper in 12th grade, but he’d been a reporter and said I didn’t want to find myself chasing  ambulances for a career He told me about  a 22 volume Oxford English Dictionary at The University. After studying art and English there, I became a teacher too, and it was 8 years after I secured a job in Edmonton that I met other writers, in ’84, at a Writer’s Guild of Alberta retreat at Strawberry Creek. Shirley Serviss invited me to join her poetry circle, which had grown from a poetry class at the university taught by Bert Almon continuing to meet at the High Level Diner, and later in one another's homes — that was when I first met long-time mentor Alice Major.

 

I remember two years away in London—taking in events at the Poetry Library, and readings by international poets Joseph Brodsky, and Derek Walcott— Walcott told us : “if you want to get to know another culture, read its poetry, because nobody writes poetry for money” (He later won a Nobel Prize). I remember reading above a pub at the Wooden Lamb , and attending Apples and Snakes Poetry Cabaret, then returning to Edmonton in ’89, when the High Level Poetsdecided to celebrate ten years together by holding “A Poets Gallery” featuring circle members, and an open stage in the Members Lounge at the Edmonton Art Gallery. Ernie brought his ghetto blaster to all three open stages, with music to accompany a repeated recitation of a tribute to his deceased dog.

 

I recall Alice and Doug Elves working together to continue such readings and open stages at the public library for a year, which morphed into local poets meeting, around a table at St Anthony’s Teacher’s Centre, to form a grass roots poetry society to promote spoken word. We decided to call it The Stroll of Poets Society, because our audience and the poets would stroll from bistro to bookstore venues along Whyte Avenue, in this once-a-year celebration of the work of local poets. Sound-poet prof Douglas Barbour riffed off the sounds of a cappuccino machine.

 

Doug Elves asked the venues for funds to pay each reader $10— for many, this was the first time they had been paid for performing poetry. I remember Thomas Trofimiuk saying that there had to be an anthology to document the event, and his putting up the funds to print it—readers each got a copy, and, for many, it was the first time they had their poetry published. With a $10 membership fee and 65 readers in the first Stroll, I think we broke even. Treasurer Ivan Sundal would know. 

 

I recall sitting at a table at Faith and Ivan’s, making a schedule with yellow stickies,  grouping the poets who would perform at the Stroll on Whyte, where each reader read twice, and a distinguished poetry professor could end up reading in a set with a 13 year old. That was also where we hand-stitched souvenir chapbooks from The Blinks- a riotous winter evening of 30 second poems where Naomi and Audrey banged pots and Garry blew on his didgeridoo to keep readers on time.  At a spoken word workshop with voice coach John Patrick Gillese, I recall trying to perform a poem about my mother-in-law’s garden, and everyone helping me when I couldn’t read for tears. 

 

I remember dances after Stroll readings, with Thomas and his band playing , and Kathleen Henderson singing into a mic. I remember the “No Bards Barred Bar” at the Southside Legion, and Jocko (Jacques Benoit ) emceeing  its Poetry Face-off, where future Poet Laureate Anna Marie Sewell first met her husband Doug Barrett; I have a picture in my mind’s eye of Phil Jagger dropping poems on the floor one by one as he performed, and Mary T. MacDonald, in her special shoes, happy to be dancing. I remember Mary’s family coming to hear her read at the spin-off Twelve Days of Poetry competition initiated by webmaster Doug Elves, and listening to her poem about haunting the British Library after she died—ghost writing. I remember performances by group of poets called Spiritus, with English Consultants Richard Davies and Glen Kirkland, and teacher Dean Mackenzie accompanying on his guitar.

 

The Stroll community has changed over time— and adapted, alongside offshoots like “The Roar” at Yanni’s Taverna, complete with musical improv. The Stroll’s on-line journal “e-poem”, was at one time archived in the digital collection of The National Library of Canada; an agent from Gage found my “Lament for Via Rail” and asked to publish it in a grade 11 textbook I later taught from. It showed up in a chapter on poetry and technology alongside a poem by Langston Hughes.

 

There are many more chapters to the changing story of the Stroll for others to recount — I’ve only touched on a few of the many poetry events, workshops, and venues, and wonderfully varied poets who made up The Stroll’s community. How the Stroll moved downtown on a Sunday afternoon, as a sub-set of The Edmonton Poetry Festival, and readings moved from a Stroll weekend during Poetry Month in April, with a double page spread schedule in now-defunct “See” or “Vue Magazine”, to a weekly reading series Monday nights in the back room at “The Upper Crust” running from fall to spring, until Stroll readings had to move on-line via ZOOM for “The Haven at Home”— all changes other poets will recall; I am grateful that poets continued to gather in the back room at “The Upper Crust” on 109 Street, to share treats and listen to the lives poets shared through their poetry. I am grateful for “The Haven at Home”, when we could no longer meet face to face. I wanted to end The Poets Haven a Home season with appreciation for spoken and written-word opportunities afforded me all my life, and especially through the Stroll of Poets Society, that helped me to find community through the practice and sharing of poetry. 

 

2/02/22.

I have always been impressed by the Stroll’s openness and generosity in fostering new poets and giving voice to newcomers to Canada, including in their own languages.

Gary Garrison’s amazing Leonard Cohen impersonation, complete with hat and guitar on the occasion of Leonard’s 75th birthday which corresponded with a Stroll night on Sept 21, 2009

Alice Major's very touching family stories in poems which became Memory’s Daughter (published in 2010)

The November 2011 Stroll night when ice from the first snowfall of the season kept me trapped on the High Level bridge for 90 minutes with the mike and sound equipment for our poetry reading. Fortunately we had guest slam poets that night, including Mary Pinkowski, who could project without a mike.

Anne Gerard Marshall’s powerful Glosa poem based on a poem of Alice Major, reflecting how we inspire each other

Listening to Naomi McIlwraith weaving Cree into the poems which became her kiyam collection (published in 2012)

The humour and fast-paced fun at our annual Blinks events, including the one in April 2013 when Liz Lochhead, the Makar or National Poet of Scotland was in attendance

John Leppard’s amazing spoken word performances which introduced me to this wonderful form of poetry.

Shirley Serviss’s humorous and all too truthful poems making us laugh at ourselves.

Diane Robitelle’s very spiritual poetry making words come alive with dance and sometimes art.

Clint McElwaine’s beautiful nature-laden cowboy poetry, sometimes set to music.

Pierrette Requier’s beautiful French poems, personifying the months of the year so vividly.

The magical words of a Nepalese poet transporting us to his faraway world.

2003?

It was a café on 109 Street:  I don’t remember exactly which one now.  I had heard a bit about the Stroll of Poets and its annual stroll.  I don’t remember exactly how and where:  I know I had taken a writing workshop with Shirley Serviss, and she had mentioned it.

There was a poetry reading at this café on 109 Street, and cycling in the neighbourhood, I decided to check it out.  I thought I’d quietly slip in a corner, have a drink, and listen anonymously to some poetry.  That was not to be.  Almost immediately after I slipped in, a lively gregarious man introduced himself as Andy Michaelson and we chatted about poetry and I learned about the Stroll of Poets.  I remember nothing else about that day.

Later that year, the Stroll of Poets had a reading at the then-called Centennial Library downtown.  Dianne Buchanan and Paul McLaughlin were two of the poets:  the other two I no longer remember.  After the poet reading, I spoke to Oswald Meyer, from whom I got some affirming and kind statements.  It was to be another year before I worked up the nerve to participate in what was then an annual stroll.

Although the structure, and many of the people involved, has changed over the years, I have always appreciated the welcome and hospitality from the Stroll of Poets that has now changed location over to the Poets Haven at the Upper Crust.  I have tried to remember when I saw a new person, to show the same kind of welcome.  I have met a number of new friends as a result.  The Stroll of Poets has been a haven for poetry for many years.

2009

It was the beginning of my second year as a board member of the Stroll of Poets.   I had spent a year being the Haven Coordinator, scheduling in a time when although we had internet, our computer facilities were not quite as advanced as they are now.  I had spent most of Tuesday evenings emailing reminders, rescheduling when there were cancellations, and other assorted follow-up from the previous night at the Upper Crust.

There was a lot of turnover on the Board that year.  There were just two of us, Gary Garrison and me, returning to the Board that year.  My biggest fear was that I would be asked to be a treasurer; no organization wants me as treasurer.  So I was ecstatic that Alice Major immediately volunteered, in fact, asked, to be treasurer.

We easily got enough new volunteers to sit on the board for the following year.  I again volunteered to be Haven Coordinator, and two people volunteered to assist in that.  Anne Gerard Marshall volunteered to be in charge of being the door host.

A decade has passed since that year, and these are just two of the people who many Haven participants will recognize as reliable long-term volunteers still contributing their valuable time to the ongoing running of the Poets Haven at the Upper Crust, now, sadly, but hopefully temporarily, curtailed due to the ongoing pandemic.

Friday Morning Memory:

From 2001-2005 the Calgary Stroll of Poets and the Edmonton Stroll of Poets were collaborating on events like "Showdown at the Poetry Corral" at the Stanley Milner library and participating in each others Stroll day. Groups like the Raving Poets were admired and the executives from both cities were trying new ways to stimulate interest in the Strolls. One way was the pre-stroll readings and events. One I recall the most profound was in Edmonton at Paris Market in downtown. Philip Alexander Jagger was pushing a shopping cart that was modified with Eatlardfudge (Steve Gillespie) in it. He would stop suddenly and Eatlardfudge would read a poem, then we followed until they stopped again. Also there was a woman who was well-known in Edmonton circles (can't clearly recall her name, Delvina I think), she read an original piece about the Trollup of Saturday Night while removing pieces of clothing. It all wrapped up with the featured reader(Peter somebody from Toronto). He was amazing. We Calgary Poets were treated with great respect and given red carpet treatment. Calgary reciprocated and a whole school bus full of Edmonton Poets attended Calgary's Stroll. In 2002 Edmonton Stroll member Ken Sutton chose to use my picture for the Edmonton Stroll of Poets webpage. The picture he took of me at the "Showdown at the Poetry Corral" event. Great times with great people. Thank you Edmonton, city of my birth, for the memories.

Thank You for the Homecoming

For thirty years, poets have strolled
through Edmonton’s “people’s poetry palace.”
The Upper Crust creators so down to earth you can
smell apple pie on their breath and an occasional
glass of wine week after week after week.

One night a stranger strolled
into the dim backroom where
the action featured four poets.
He had never read in public before
and to this day doesn’t remember what
poem was chosen when he signed up
for the open mic program.
Will dread and phantom danger self-placed
landmines be a blowup blunder?
He remembers looking behind
at the cupboards saying tonight I
literally came out of the poetry closet.

A place dark, lonely, non-intimidating,
and lacking any human warmth.
In other words, a safe, cerebral, neurotic asylum
for a fantasy poet being initiated into realities realm.

After he had finished reading his unknown poem,
applause erupted; smiles flooded the room,
as the buzz of belonging broke itself free.
In a room full of word alcoholics not anonymous anymore.
His tortured tongue unraveled invisible chains.
A little louder voice said, you’ve arrived at a home haven.
After living in that oral orphanage for so long.

Later he would shake hands with strangers, now friends,
learn their names, enjoy their poetry, be featured too.
Generally, feel connected to a literary community for the first time.
An arrival still greeted with gratitude and a hug.

A Stroll Down Stroll of Poets Memory Lane

It began with words. Spoken words in fact. There was a phone call in 1997 inviting me to participate in a poetry reading with a collective of poets in the greater Edmonton area. I did not live in the Edmonton area at the time. I was teaching in the rural town of McLennan, Alberta. I had been writing for several years by this point and loved teaching poetry. I had befriended a wonderful community member who loved coming to the community school for poetry evenings that I was running with students. Young at heart but in her early 80’s this wonderful woman would recite the Cremation of Sam McGee for the students. I would read my original poems to her. She would ask for printed copies which I readily shared. Little did I know that Carmeline Kirkland was reading my poems over the phone to her son, Glen!

The call I received, inviting me to join the Stroll of Poets, was from Glen Kirkland, one of the founding members of the Stroll.  He had been hearing my poetry vicariously through his mother. Glen, a renowned area poet and teacher, would eventually have a hand in helping me get a teaching job in Edmonton. He was a dear mentor who, through kindly inviting me to the Stroll, opened doors for me that I value and cherish to this day.

The Stroll was the perfect environment to learn and ply the craft of writing, reading, and performing the spoken word. I loved traveling to Edmonton for those autumn sessions. I got to read at so many niche venues and above all, meet so many diverse and talented poets. I was hooked! When I moved to Brooks, AB from McLennan, I would drive to Edmonton for events; especially the 12 Days of Poetry events; which is where I cut my teeth on hosting readings. I participated in the anthology many times and even served as a proof-reader for a couple of years. Eventually, I moved to Edmonton (via Glen’s advocacy) and was able to give back to the Stroll by serving on the executive. I fondly recall organizing several spring reading series with Andy Michaelson, co-hosting 12 Days events, as well as the annual fall readings, and participating in the Monday evening Haven series.

Through the Stroll I got to cross-pollinate performance styles, largely due to the amazing opportunities created by the Alberta Beatnik himself (Mark Kozub). I had the opportunity to read with so many creative, inspiring, and talented individuals at an array of Edmonton venues. It was through the Stroll that I was able to develop my chops as a performance poet and win the CBC Poetry Face Off in 2005. I credit my development, growth and efficacy as a poet to the wonderful community that is the Edmonton Stroll of Poets.

Life moves us along. Situations change. For some time now, I have been away from and even tried to “quit” poetry in favour of other writing endeavors. The thing is…poetry won’t quit me. I still write and who knows, may once again take to the coffee houses, bookstores, pubs, and airways to send forth my latest pieces. After all, it all begins with words!

Some misc. memories from the beginning...

Doug Elves in his intro in the 1st anthology remembers correctly.
Individuals were doing chapbook launches more and more.
The old, now gone, Cafe La Gare had weekly readings.
(Thomas Trofimuk engaged readers and poster-advertised the readings himself there.)
Alberta Poetry Yearbook, CBC Radio which covered La Gare readings and poets, and the then-annual Edmonton Journal poetry competition brought more Edmonton poets out of the weeds.

People helping to coalesce the Stroll kickoff included Glen Kirkland, Elves, Alice Major, Andrew Thompson, Ken Wilson, and Ivan Sundal.

There was a strong U of A representation along from the beginning: Bert Almon, John King-Farlow, Doug Barbour, and Gov.-General winner Ted Blodgett.

The venues for the annual Sunday readings including Stanley Carroll Boutique, Hanratty's Tea Shop, an auto dealer Hugh McColl's, Earth's General Store, a bar Courtney Blake's, Sunflower Gallery, Princess Theatre, L'Alliance Francaise, Johann Straussa restaurant--Continental Treat, in addition to several book shops and cafes.

There were strong diverse voices at the beginning: e.g., Molly Chisaakay, Peter Cole, Marilyn Dumont--First Nations, Nigel Darbasie--Trinidad, Anna Mioduchowska--Poland.

Membership grew with each fall stroll such that, by 1993, The 12 Days of Poetry became the necessary Christmas version.

For this event, venues in other parts of the city were used: La Boheme, Grounds for Coffee, The Upper Crust, The Sugar Bowl, Strathcona Legion, The Comisary.

Other special events followed like the Dearly Departed readings at Audrey's and the workshops given by many poets at libraries.

Thirty years ago, at its organizational meeting, Doug Elves suggested the Stroll of Poets name because it actually was a stroll.  It began as an annual event where scores of poets and listeners strolled down Whyte Avenue, from bistro to bar, from bar to bookstore, poets speaking and listeners listening to the poets read their works.  Ivan Sundal recalls one meeting when someone pointed out that the word “stroll” was also used to describe “johns” looking for prostitutes.  Others said, not to worry, we’ll reclaim the word for our own.

The Stroll was an annual event for nearly two decades, taking place on the first Sunday of October. The venues included car dealerships, where one dealer even claimed to have sold a car at the event.  Many poets cut their teeth reading to an audience during the Stroll, including Anne Gerard Marshall, who read aloud for the first time there.  Sixty-five poets read the first year, with at least two hundred in the audience, says Alice Major. With the exception of the first year, listeners also voted on their favourite poets, with a winner declared each year. Afterwards, the multitudes retired? to the No Bards Barred Bar (at the Canadian Legion).  Today’s Stroll activities are “relatively sedate,” says Major, admitting, “we were a lot younger then.”

Because the annual event was a lot of work for just a few people, The Stroll evolved into a weekly event, with many volunteers, at the Upper Crust Restaurant.  Now, during Covid times, it has transformed into a Zoom meeting called “Haven at Home”.  But The Stroll of Poets is not just a literary trick. It really was a Stroll.

Some good memories/funny things from my memories of the Stroll these past 5 years:

-Watching Audrey Brooks gather names for her 'found words' poems from the audience.
-Seeing Jean Jacques in a costume, with a flashlight under his chin- with the lights out- performing a poem about the moon!
-Hugh McAlry's children's poems (not Haikus but another name can't recall)
-Ellen kartz's paperless performances
-John perched on the stage at the 25th Anniversary dinner watching the show
-John's poem about volunteers
-Anne Marshall at the door taking money, counting it and talking to so many people!
-Markus and Josh by the door at the Haven like bouncers
-Alice waving the clear donation box at the beginning of Havens.
-AGM's at the 3 Bananas cafe

If a group of apes is a shrewdness and a bunch of ravens is an unkindness, what, pray tell, do you call a collection of poets?  An obvious place would be to search poetic form and technique: A stanza? Nah, too organized. A caesura? Ugh, pretentious. I think it was the Founding Fathers Doug Elves and Ivan Sundal who came up with the notion of a Stroll of Poets. And truly, the collective noun became reality. On a designated Sunday in the Fall, small groups of poets would read in cafes along Whyte Avenue for five minutes each (often over the hiss of milk foamers and espresso machines). Patrons quaffed coffee and nibbled pastries as they listened and then would stroll along to the next venue for a different menu of poetry.

Other innovations emerged: a riotous No Bards Barred Bar and poetry sweatshop at the end of the first Stroll Sundays; then, later, the 12 Days of Poetry event which extended from just after Christmas Day to Robbie Burns Day in January. Stroll members were invited to submit one poem to a jury of Edmontonians from all walks--media and sports personalities; politicians; performing, visual or communication artists; business people who selected 44 poets from the pool. Selected poets were then grouped in fours to read in restaurants and bars on 11 different evenings spanning the old and new years. Patrons voted on their favourites and four poets with the top scores performed at a big gala on or close to Robbie Burns Day. It was at one of these galas that we had a contest to see who would name the two strolling icons on the then Stroll logo. As I recall, the winning names for those lovely, zany characters were Zoot and Zaza. T-shirts were made. I wish I still had mine.

The early days of the Stroll were all about making the road by strolling. The vision was improvisational, warmly welcoming of diverse voices, ages and poetic styles, and, most importantly, it was so much fun. One poem from those days that stands out for me is Bert Almon’s marvel of concision: “Seersucker: Poet’s groupies.” (Forgive errors of memory.)

I am so pleased to see this anarchic, innovative, creative spirit lives on in the Stroll decades later.

I ascend the elegant staircase of Whyte Avenue’s Architectural Jewel in the Crown - The Princess Theatre. My heart is in my throat. It is 1:00 p.m. and I am overlooking a small group gathered in the lobby. This is my first public reading of poetry. I am a participant in Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue-centred Stroll of Poets - then a wildly organized chaos which consisted of two-readings-per-poet-in-one-day event! Tim Bowling has finished his five-minute set to appreciative applause. It is now my turn. I have one friend in the audience. The crowd settles to a full silence. I lean on the bannister, look out at the audience, and start my first poem. In an instant, it seems, the reading is over. The crowd applauds again. A tall young fellow comes over and wants to talk about my work. All of a sudden, my interior world has been revealed outside of me, transmitted and received. I am buzzing - and - I am a poet!!

The rest of the day is a wondrous blur - I have another reading in two hours before which I immerse myself in other’s poems in venues ranging from bookstores to cafes to performance spaces. That was my initial foray into Edmonton’s eclectic, inclusive, inventive and constantly evolving poetry community. The Stroll has been the spine of my poetry experience, offering up friends and allies, opportunities and inspiration.

I moved from Montreal to Alberta in 1987. A university friend who knew I loved poetry introduced me to a Real Poet - none other than Thomas Trofimuk, one of the founders of the Stroll. Like so many others I was to meet, Thomas has had a hand in introducing me to the wonderful poetry community in Edmonton and further, in shaping my poetic and performance practise, especially working with poetry and music. Through our long association, I appeared on radio and TV, produced a CD with the Raving Poets Band and countless Mark Kozub poetry compilations, performed at many special events and honed my skills as emcee while riffing off the styles of two talented emcees - Mark Kozub and Mike Gravel.

A few moments that stay with me:

My first reading with the Raving Poets Band. We were allowed to do three LONG poems!! (Soon scaled back to one poem per person per night.) Wednesday nights were a poetry ritual - I can’t enumerate how many poems I “tried out” on the RP crowd at the backroom Vodka Bar - and other subsequent venues, over a 10-year span.

Monday nights at The Haven have supplanted our music and words ritual. The experience of reading out loud proved a fine training ground for poets - we honed our voices and techniques, and listening skills with one another, just as we do currently with the Stroll.

In early days, pre-Haven at the Upper Crust, there was a semi-curated series of poets drawn from the Stroll Day to perform typically in the winter. Where else but Edmonton would poetry draw a standing room only crowd at -30!!

I recall meeting with the late Diane Buchanan at the Upper Crust when the Stroll Board at that time was floating the series over the year idea. She invited me to scout out the space with her. That Board was visionary! The Haven at the Upper Crust (pre Covid at least!) has since evolved as an established Edmonton poetry institution. I still love the way we applaud for first time readers - that was a practice from the Raving Poets adopted by the Stroll - (I believe).

Not all my experiences were hearts and flowers. In my decades with the Stroll I have witnessed some intense ups and downs. One summer I returned from time down east and Thomas and Mark Kozub had started offering opportunities for us to read with live improv music. Highly addictive!  And not universally received as "pure poetry" by some of the old guard. The most vicious meeting I have ever attended was one where Mark was totally taken to task for replacing a buzzy mic with decent sound equipment!! He was visionary but boy oh boy - at that AGM there was horrific resistance!! It totally socked me that peace-loving poets had this snarly side. In time, Mark’s vision would play out as brilliant but I am afraid he bears scars from that time. He was a very gentle, able and humble leader, and a very talented bass player and poet who regularly recorded live readings.

The make-up of the Edmonton poetry scene has always been varied, one of its strengths. All ages, backgrounds, education levels and writing levels. Prize-winning poets like Alice Major still read alongside first time readers. This is one of the Stroll's great strengths - inclusivity and open curation.

I am so grateful for my long association with the Stroll, for the many times I have been moved, transported, laughed, cried, emceed and taken the stage. Reading at the Haven is reading to a fabulous room of fellow poets, friends and astonishingly good listeners. I have one rule for my own readings - always do something that is comfortable or comforting, and always take a risk - this is a room that invites and welcomes risk-taking - mostly!

Another misadventure I had in the 1990s was someone, who was by the book religious, took offence to one of my poems - and tried to get me thrown out of the Stroll altogether  - for blasphemy. I later learned that a special board meeting was convened - and they stood up - brave souls - for freedom of speech!! I had no idea that my mid-winter reading caused such a controversy. But the good people of Edmonton - in such an Edmonton way - non-plussed and democratic - kept to their values and I kept a membership that I had no idea I was at risk of losing!

Thank you to Stroll Board and volunteers who keep the Stroll alive and vibrant, live and on-line. To poet regulars and incidentals - please - keep coming back!! (Yes, poetry is one of the healthier addictions.)

And, when we are finally able to meet in public, I will be front of line to raise a toast to the Stroll’s glorious past and to the next 30 years - long may the Stroll thrive!!!

Chapeau-etry Contest

This memory/anecdote is from 2005 when Alice Major was Poet Laureate.  Among other prizes, the overall winner received the opportunity for an interview with Alice so that she could produce poetry lines, an ode perhaps, to the chapeau judged as best.

The “hat” contest had six categories to choose from:  Classical/Elegant; Extreme; Romantic/Lyrical, Medieval, Haiku and Silly.  Jurors were Councillor Michael Phair and the Fine Arts Librarian at Edmonton Public Library, Karen Grove.

Current Stroll members will be familiar with the names of many of the winners: Leslie Dawson won the Silly Hat category; Anna Marie Sewell won for best Haiku-inspired hat; Jo-ann Godfrey for Romantic Lyrical; Marguerite Redshaw (now deceased)  won for Classical/Elegant (and she was both);

Naomi McIlraith must have been a runner-up (I have her photo wearing an outlandish hat), Andy Michaelson (also deceased I believe) won for best Medieval hat, and the overall winner as well as well as Extreme category winner was Clinton Collins.  I didn't know him. Contest entry was open to all

festival go-ers if I recall. There were many small but charming prizes, including Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man documentary CD which had just been released. All winners received an “Official Wallet-size Poetic License” as well.

I'm afraid the Chapeau contest was my brain-child, aided as always by willing volunteers.   We didn't have many entrants, surprisingly, but those who modelled their creations were amazing.

One thing that stands out for me is when I was Mic Host and Allison Akgungor phoned me ahead of time to ask me to do something for Leonard Cohen’s 75th birthday. She had just published a poem in a book created specifically to honour him on his birthday called Leonard Cohen, You’re Our Man: 75 Poets Reflect on the Poetry of Leonard Cohen. Her request inspired me to write new lyrics for “Bird on a Wire.” While I was on the phone with her, in fact, I came up with the first few words, “Like a flame on a cake . . .” The night of the Poets Haven, on September 21st, 2009, when I was the mic host, I brought my guitar, borrowed a black fedora from someone, and sang the song. It was such a hit that I was asked to sing it again after the AGM the following March.

Flame on a Cake (to the tune of “Bird on a Wire”)

by Gary Garrison

(Performed at the Stroll of Poets’ Poets Haven, September 21, 2009, to celebrate Leonard Cohen’s 75th Birthday)

Like a flame, on a cake
like the rhythm in a song line I’ve deliberately gone to heroic lengths to break,
I have tried, in my way, to be young.

Like a child, run amok,
like a toddler playing with his plastic duck,
I can still scatter words off my tongue.

But I swear, on this day
by 75 years flown away,
that I will celebrate here with you.

I see poets gathered for their weekly read.
This says to me, we all have a need
to say our pieces and write some more,
although we know there’s no money to do it for.

Like a recluse on a stage,
like a January prairie blizzard rampage,
I have done most everything a poet can do.

When I see myself here and poets all around,
I wish I’d lived 50 years in Edmontown.
Your community here is alive and rich,
even though your provincial government’s a bitch.

Like a flame, on a cake
like the rhythm in a song line I’ve deliberately gone to heroic lengths to break,
I have tried, in my way, to be young.

The Stroll of Poets Festival started and ended at the Strathcona Legion and in between there were hourly readings at eight different venues, bookstores and bistros. One hundred poets hit the streets.  At the brunches guest poets were invited. I especially remember Saskatchewan poet Tim Lilburn whose poetry I still love.

We also had the Twelve Days of Poetry.  That's when audience favorites were invited back to read.  It was very special. Jurors such as executive director of The Writers' Guild of Alberta, musician/composer of film scores, novelist, creative writing instructor, columnist the Edmonton Journal, Honorary Mayor of Old Strathcona, picked the winners.  I remember reading at the Hellenic Hall.  I tried so hard to get a poster if the event with my name on it, but it vanished.  I think after the readings, they had a random pick of a few names and they got to read too.  The feature readers each received $25.00.

Between 1997-2000 I distributed the Stroll of Poets anthology to the different bookstores in Edmonton for them to sell, Audrey Books, Orlando Books (1993-2002), Greenwood's Bookshoppe, Athabasca Books, Alhambra Books and Isis Bookstore.  They were all very accommodating and we were lucky to have their keen interest in writers and their success.  I remember Jacqueline Dumas of Orlando Books, a writer herself.  One of her books that I read, "Madeleine and The Angel", I thoroughly enjoyed.  She did lots of launches for smaller books and displayed chapbooks.  I remember going to the launch of Christina Tower's book entitled, "Lake at Mile 27 and other poems."  It was about her staying at the forest  fire lookout.  I had just visited one at Stony Mountain so I was interested in what she had to say.  Sharon Budnarchuk of Audreys books was equally helpful.  On time I had extra copies of a book I was published in and she agreed to sell them for me.

I just remember these people the most, but all the people were all lovely to deal with.  I liked that job but it was just that we were travelling so much.

I'll be honest with you; this is really hard for me. I've been so immersed in the people and events associated with the Stroll for the last while, that I find it difficult to reflect on the numerous moments of wonder that have accompanied this journey. Nothing in particular stands out, and yet everything does...if that makes any sense. I have experienced the many joys and occasional frustrations of working with the most passionate, dedicated, smart and fun folks I've ever been around. I love the moments spent with my community but ask me to single any one of them out as more luminous than the others... and I draw a complete blank. So, I do apologize that I am not going to able to contribute anything to this valuable project. Instead, I will celebrate its unveiling and count it, yet another, moment of wonder.

PROOFREADING Bees are Tougher Than Most Other Bees!

As editor of the Stroll of Poets Anthology for the past eight years, I’ve collected more than a few wonderful memories. But perhaps the most dramatic occurred in 2015, my first year on the job.

Each year, after all the poems have been submitted, edited, and laid out as they will finally appear in the anthology, the editor assembles a group of volunteers for the Proofreading Bee. Since 2015, the number of participants has ranged from eight to 21. This Bee is generally held in February, and the date is set well ahead of time, usually in December or early January—long before anyone knows what the weather will be like in far-off February.

The venue of choice for the Bee has been the Percy Page building, where the Stroll of Poets has its office (staffed by the accomplished and always-marvellous Ellen Kartz, with whom I’ve had the monumental pleasure of working for all eight years—and that’s another wonderful story in itself!). But back to 2015 … When the chosen date rolled around, Alberta pulled one of its famous one-day blizzards. And a furious squall it was! I live only a couple of kilometres from the Percy Page building, but it took me 45 minutes to drive there, most of it in first gear of my ancient, five-speed VW Golf.

That was the year only eight people showed up. Everyone entered the room shivering and snow-encrusted. But the prize of the night went to Anne Gerard Marshall. As she was on her way, for some unknown reason her car just “quit,” and another driver compounded Anne’s initial car problem by turning it into a fender-bender. Fortunately, neither she nor the other driver was hurt, and Anne had factored in plenty of time for the extra-slow drive she figured was ahead of her. What she hadn’t counted on was getting into an accident. And, as many of you know, Anne doesn’t carry a cell phone. We had no way of knowing why she was late, but after about 10 minutes we decided to go ahead without her. When she finally arrived, about half an hour late, we learned that not only had she arranged for the tow-truck driver to take her vehicle to the appointed repair shop, but—secure in the knowledge that she could get a ride home after the Bee—she’d also persuaded him to deliver her to the Percy Page building.

A lot of people would have just thrown up their hands in frustration, decided it was too late to bother, and gone home. But, as Anne’s long and faithful history as doorkeeper at the Upper Crust has shown, I should have known better than to count her out. She, along with Randy Kohan, Karen Lumley, Naomi McIlwraith, Janet Smith, Robin Smith, Laurel Sproule, and tdl turner, made “The Proofreading Bee of 2015” the most memorable of my tenure as editor—so far!

PS: I may have taken a few liberties in the relating of this story … but not many!

I have a poem that I'd like to share. It was written for David Huggett who for a long time helped to coordinate the 12 days of poetry. His presence at all of these 12 days for years was appreciated!

Viaticum

– the passing over to eternal life
                        for David Huggett

Spring melt on the boulevard
between Highway 2 north and south
yields a proud concoction of lab and collie
tail wagging, stick-carrying, trotting.

We’re heading north, home from the last weekend skiing.
At 120 kilometres per hour I glimpse the dog
and wonder how he’ll cross one side of the road
or the other.
Glimmers of old spirits this weekend
when skiing at Sunshine.

In blue sky schussed by brief blizzards
an intimate presence took shape
as my daughter clamped boots into bindings behind me
and I reached for skis propped on the lodge’s deck.

Alpine sun and stillness flashed around us
with grey snow masks on Goat’s Eye.
Days after his death, David may not yet have left Earth.
Some part of his song, wind along the aspens
a memory fluted through

David with his old leather jacket
the organizer’s voice at Stroll of Poets
board meetings
the successful advocate at readings.
David and his apologetic smile,
handing readers the board’s white envelope of cash.

This afternoon, angling home, another reward:
I saw an eagle on the snow
beside an open gift of water;
a raven’s shadow on the ice;
and a spirit or a memory –
neither one
nor the other; we were heading north
from the last weekend skiing.

There are a couple of other people I'd like to mention. One is Jean
McKenzie, who recently passed away. She did two of the anthology covers and also took part in the Stroll, for decades.

The other is Dean McKenzie, who gave a great performance of Alan Ginsberg's Howl at one Stroll finale - at the Strathcona legion, and who also was very generous with his praise and support of poets, often calling up individuals after their reading to tell them how wonderful their readings were.


Also submitted by Nancy Mackenzie:

Jean Carmichael McKenzie

August 1, 1931—December 9, 2021

For decades, Jean was a member of the Stroll of Poets, and she created the artwork for two anthology covers. The sketch of the reader on the 1997 cover shows me! Jean is the reason I joined the Stroll of Poets. When she invited me to come, she said, “A bunch of us get together and stroll to different venues to share our poems and have a lot of laughs.” She certainly made me laugh, every time we were together. When I went to the historic Carmichael home in Strathcona, where her grandparents had lived, and where she’d grown up and raised her children, I was made very welcome and offered the opportunity to look through some of her art folders. Of course, her house was full of her paintings, and the many sketches were a delight. The cover for the 1997 anthology depicts the feminine in sensuous detail.

For me, and many others, Jean was like a mother. She’d grown up knowing my mom and her family and my dad and his family—all from the South Side. Her husband, Red, was friends with my dad from the time they were in Kindergarten together, until my dad passed away in 2018. Red is a treasured friend to me and continues to share his vast horseman’s knowledge with me. He’s been in the Thoroughbred racehorse business since he was young—first as a jockey, then as a trainer, and he’s still training today.

Her bio from an earlier anthology reads: Jean McKenzie is a grandma, artist, poet, and racehorse owner whose family goes way back in Strathcona’s history…She studied at the University of Alberta, Banff, Red Deer College, Sutton Art, Montaigut, France. She enjoys celebrating the feeling of life forces and form with pigment of paper or canvass and hopes the viewer can share this joy.

Jean received her BEd in 1954 and a BA in Art History in 1959. She was an elementary school teacher for 29 years, two of which she spent teaching in for RCAF families in Metz, France. She was principal at Argyll, King Edward, and Mill Creek elementary schools. In 1978, she obtained an M.Ed, and in 1982, a Graduate Diploma in Art Education, which included Early Childhood study in England and art research in New York and the Orient. A collage painting entitled “Educator of the 60s” showed in the International Delta Kapa Gamma Art Show in Chicago in 1978.

Jean’s many travels—from riding camels to the pyramids and sphinx in Egypt, to watching bullfights in the scorching Spanish sun to flying down the Nile to Thebes and Karnak, to touring art galleries and museums in the British Isles—amassed a huge collection of photographs, which she shared with classes of students.

Each time we talked on the phone, or were together at poetry readings, art shows, or the racetrack, Jean would end our visit with a lengthy blessing upon me and my family. I know that blessing deeply, as she is deeply missed.

 

 

 

 

 

(1997 and 1998 Stroll of Poets Anthology Covers by Jean McKenzie)

A poem, written by Jean in 2018, follows.

  The Courtyards

by Jean Edith McKenzie

As I, aging Jean, looked outward to a bird’s
playground view of the courtyard, I melted
with love and heartthrobs for those who passed
through my life. I pictured them frolicking
among the snowy shrubs and flowers, riding upon the wooden
pieces sculptured from birds and animals
which graced the pathways.

Some stopped to whisper Christmas poems to each other
and laughed as real-life problems faded away.
Life is, after all, the continuation
of childhood expanding into adulthood. Then into
peacefulness and the long rest.

I’d like to have lingered at each step,
in the courtyard of my mind, and bring joy
to others I might meet, with smiling, healing hands
they would walk with me. Along my way
forwards, with some who will divide and share
with me, on my way towards a heavenly home forever.

August 2018

My initial contribution to the first Stroll of Poets was to tell Doug Elves, who had come up with the idea: “This will never work, Doug. It’s hard enough to get people out to one reading, never mind ten of them at once.”

How wrong I was. On October 27, 1991, I was trotting along Whyte Avenue with my pack of four poets. We had just read at Aspen Books to a nice audience draped around the bookstore’s shelves and sitting on the floor, and we were only one of fifteen such quartets who were performing at the bookstores and coffee shops in Old Strathcona that afternoon. Sixty poets sharing their work with attentive audiences at an array of bookstores, most of them now, sadly, gone: Common Woman Books, Varscona Books, Bjarne’s (amid the antique leather editions and ancient maps on the walls), Athabasca Books and Afterwords.  Or there were the cafes: Café Mosaics, Blue Nile, Grabba Jabba.

I read my 10 minutes of poetry along with Ivan Sundal, Kathy Kostyniuk and Michael Cenkner, then we consulted our program schedule printed on a sheet of bright yellow paper and decided individually which reading we wanted to take in next. Later, we’d reconvene for our quartet’s second reading of the day.

Afterwards, we put our jackets back on and headed back out into the bright autumn afternoon—at least, I think it was bright. The memory blurs with all the other Strolls in those first 15 years. Sometimes that Sunday afternoon might be briskly windy, unexpectedly balmy, or snow-squally. Whatever the weather, the shows went on. And on.

I think I have been a member of the Stroll for about 21 of the 30 years. Although I have never been a member of the board I have helped out whenever I could as Mic Host, door host and with some fund raising. My very first fond recollection was a break through in getting my work published. After hearing me Gerald St Maur suggested I publish with CDs which I did with his company Magpie Productions, Inkling Press. This also led to a lasting friendship with Gerald and Edna. Many other friendships with Stroll members followed. Being heard at the Stroll opened many doors for me and resulted in several gigs which I enjoy. Examples include The Hurting and Cheating part of and Edmonton Poetry Festival event, opening the show for the Indie group Cold Water Road during their Edmonton concert, events for our homeless community, being a feature reader or performer at other poetry organizations, and many others. Al this was packed into a few months as I spent half of the Stroll seasons down in Arizona.

That being said, by far, the most important part was the Monday night havens either as a reader or supportive audience member. It became almost like a family for me with many more lasting friendships. I recall getting supportive notes from dozens of Stroll members when my son passed. And they really helped. It was organized by Anne Marshall who has become my most speciall friend. We have a tradition of reading together at the Haven which will continue on October 18th.

I also enjoyed and valued the process of building a library of Stroll members work including yours. And as many Stroll members are also artists, I have built a collection of their work as well.

I realize this has been more about the ambiance of the Stroll rather than events and milestones but I hope it will be of help to you in some small way.

A Wandering Poet Decides to Stay in Edmonton

This soul was a wandering poet who thought she had to go to far away where all the good poets went to study. But in 1998 she was in Camrose, Alberta studying English literature when her professor, Dr. Anne Le Dressay, won a spot in the 12th Night of Poetry. This wandering poet came into Edmonton with a few of her friends one evening to the Hellenic Hall near the Royal Alexandra Hospital where, as it happened, the wandering poet was born. She’d never been to a 12th Night of Poetry before, and the image remains fixed in her mind more than twenty years later. The hall is dark, and she can see a lightly-lit stage far away from where she and her friends sit. In the middle of the stage on a stool within a small circle of light sits a lone poet offering gifts of love and light to the audience. In the previous couple of weeks over the course of eleven nights, four poets each night shared their words ‒ that’s four poets each night…forty-four poets all tallied. From the forty-four poets, four are chosen to read on the 12th Night. It’s hard to recall all the poems she heard that night, but Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” So this wandering poet figures she can cut herself some slack if she doesn’t remember the poems. She does, however, remember how she felt that night ‒ alive, excited, intrigued, hopeful, awed.

Soon after that 12th Night of Poetry, this poet became a member of the Edmonton Stroll of Poets and decided to stay in Edmonton rather than go to New Brunswick to study poetry. Since then, she has remained alive, excited, intrigued, hopeful, and awed by the many poets whose words and ways have always welcomed her and always made her feel good. She knows how good she feels when in the midst of these poets. And they’ve made her laugh until she cried, like the time when versifier Gary Garrison got all dolled up in a long red skin-tight dress to fit snugly over his lean six-foot-plus frame and then breathed heavily into his nearly-six-foot-long booming didgeridoo for one of the many Blinks! events. These were hilarious evenings of 30-second poems read by frantic poets who were scared to get blown off the stage by the Blinks Philharmonic Orchestra if they went an inch or an iota past 30 seconds. The invention of two of Edmonton’s Finest Founders ‒ Myrna Garanis and Ivan Sundal ‒ the Blinks! kicked off the Edmonton Poetry Festival each year and included not only poets but an esteemed orchestra of players of the didgeridoo, flutes, fiddles, tin whistles, rattles, harmonicas, cowbells, tinker bells, spoons, forks, knives, pots, pans, bike horns, fog horns, and other instruments of that ilk. The parameters put onto poets to get on the stage and get off the stage 30 seconds later and somehow insert a poem in between were a thing to behold. And oh the freedom and hilarity and laughter that these 30-second restraints unleashed in the many poets who’ve Blinked several times over the years!

In some of the loneliest times of my life, the Stroll of Poets’ community has lifted my spirit such as when my father was so sick, then palliative, then passed away, and I was trying to write my thesis to honour him and my Mom. Alice Major invited me to her poetry circle fifteen or sixteen years ago, and I remain a member to this day. Diane Buchanan, who passed away a few years ago, also invited me into her poetry group. And Shirley Serviss first approached me in the open space between the Second Cup coffee shop and the Milner Library so many years ago when she heard me read a poem about cucumbers; as is Shirley’s beautiful way, she encouraged me to continue my exploration of nêhiyawêwin ‒ Plains Cree, the Indigenous language that my father spoke even though he was not Indigenous and one of the languages that my maternal ancestors spoke. And Anne Gerard Marshall has helped me laugh when it seemed laughing was not possible. I’ve known Don Perkins since time immemorial ‒ don’t tell him I said that! Don, as well, has generously cheered me along my poetry journey. I feel badly that I can’t name all the people in the Stroll of Poets who have shaped me as a poet, but I want you all to know the profound influence you have had on my life. Please know that until the end of time, I will remember that you have made me feel special.

That the Edmonton Stroll of Poets remains alive and robust in 2022, more than 30 seconds ‒ er, I mean 30 years ‒ after its formation in 1991, speaks to the vigour and resilience of both this beautiful and welcoming Stroll of Poets but also to the humanity and humour of the human beings who breathe life into the Stroll and our poetry community every day.

Good thing this wandering poet decided to come home to Edmonton and listen to the poems being made here. She’s still listening…

The Haven Reading Series
- It's hard not to start with the Haven. The Stroll and the Haven are so linked. I think I attended my first Haven back in 2010, when I was still new to Edmonton. I was impressed there was such a well-established reading series that welcomed new people and encouraged first-time readers. That encouragement gave me a boost to write, write more and work at my writing. A decade on that welcoming spirit continues and really sustains the community.

The Blinks @ the Edmonton Poetry Festival 
- I don't have one single memory that necessarily stands out but I wanted to highlight how fun this annual event was. A night of 30-second poems with a band counting those seconds down, ready to trumpet, bang or didgeridoo time is up made for some hilarious readings. A poem in under thirty seconds isn't as easy as it seems! For the many years that it ran, it brought together many different genres and poets, provided a creative way to introduce people to poetry and turn people into poets (even if for one night). It also demonstrated collaboration between the Stroll of Poets and the Edmonton Poetry Festival.

The Founders Feast - 25th Anniversary of the Stroll
-   The celebration took place in February of 2017 (if my memory serves me right). It was a nice event to celebrate and learn about the Stroll's founding, founding members and the community of poets that has grown since.

The Stroll of Poets Anthology
- While not an event, I think it deserves mention for what it means to the Stroll, the membership and poets who get to see a poem published for the first time or the 30th time!

One of the many gifts Stroll of Poets has offered its members over the years was a chance to hear a variety of powerful poetic voices, both local and from away. On the list of visiting guests who graced the Stroll various stages, are poets from as far away as Grenada – Merle Collins - and Scotland – Tom Pow.

The Stroll’s third season, 1993-94, coincided with the time University of Alberta’s Writer-in-Residence Program hosted one of Canada’s prized poets, Don McKay. Jan Zwicky, another accomplished poet whose name has since joined the list of our country’s icons, was also staying in Edmonton that year. The Board recognized the double opportunity and invited Don to be the guest reader at the annual brunch, then both poets to lead concurrently running poetry workshops.

Splitting oneself in two was not an option. I drew Jan Zwicky out of the hat, and spent happy, intensive hours workshopping under her generous guidance the poems our group had submitted before the session. I think we were all a little in love with Jan by the end of the day, and my much improved poem found a publisher soon after. The Strollers in Don’s group were equally smitten.

When Don McKay’s stint as WIR was drawing to a close, the Stroll, many of whose members had gone to see him with their poems, organized a public reading/good-bye party for the two poets. Both of them submitted poems to the 1993 Anthology.

My first stroll participation was in 1992 during the 2nd Annual event. I remember reading a call for poets in an ad in the Examiner community newspaper.

And, what a deal, connect with other poets, share a poem in a café, receive $10.00, plus an anthology. The place to sign up was a few doors down from the Old Strathcona Hotel.

Doug Elves, Ivan Sundal, and Ken Wilson were busy signing up poets for the event. I didn’t know at the time that I would one day be sitting on the board with them, brain-storming, planning, organizing, and being part of continuing to offer poetry to the community.

Back in the 50s, I had been born too late to be old enough to hang out with Beatniks in cafes, but I had aspired to be a Beatnik at ten years old in 1967 when I dressed up as one for Halloween.

As the years went by, I had some success as a lyricist, collaborating with music compositions. The songs were recorded, radio played, charted across Canada.

In the 90s, the Stroll gave me the opportunity to share my own voice through poetry.

The Stroll had inspired me so much that I wanted to give back, to not only encourage other poets, but to be involved with securing venues, coordinating volunteers, basically, helping where there was a need.

I started off on the board as Secretary when Anna Mioduchowska was president, and then continued when Jocelyn Verret had a term. During that time, I also organized and facilitated a writer’s circle held at the Idylwylde (Bonnie Doon) branch. The library invited us to do public readings, showcased poems in their publication, The Source.

Throughout the years, I took a turn at co-coordinating one of the Strolls, and a 12 Days of Poetry event. Also, a turn at coordinating an Anthology launch. By 2000 I had had a hand at helping out in just about every area of the Stroll, so it seemed a natural progression when it was my turn to be president. I went in with the intent to encourage the spirit of camaraderie, and tagged the line: "May the Stroll Stand Strong."

Doug Elves, one of the founders, who was treasurer at time, confirmed for me that I was on the right track when he said, “Sandra is the Stroll Shepherd.”

Also, I created an acrostic of sorts that was another encouragement at the time,

Success
Together
Rewards
Overall
Literary
Longevity

There were many highlights throughout the years, one was when a group of Edmonton strollers traveled on a rented bus to participate in the Calgary Stroll. A few regulars from Calgary had attended

our event and had invited us to join them. Everyone who was on the bus has a story to tell. Another highlight was when Michael Walters, during his presidency led us on an adventure to create an opportunity for inner city poets.

Throughout the years, every Stroll of Poets brunch, wrap up party, and every 12 Days of Poetry Event had highlights.

There were many mentors throughout my time in the Stroll of Poets Society. As already noted, Doug Elves, Anna Mioduchowska, Ivan Sundal, Jocelyn Verret, Michael Walters, Ken Wilson. And, the following:

Ruth Anderson Donovan, Jannie Edwards, Tom Emmens, Myrna Garanis, Jocko, Ron Kurt, Rusti Lehay, Alice Major, Nancy MacKenizie, Ky Perraun, Pierrette Requier, Shirley Serviss, Anna Marie Sewell, Thomas Trofimuk, Mary T. McDonald, Gary Garrison, and many more. Some not only comrades in poetry, some became close friends.

Mary was a mentor in many ways, to many. At 80 years old she had her first book published. Her second, at 85. Mary was part of the “Living Room Circle,” and when it was hard for her to get out, we met in the boardroom at the lodge she was living in: McQueen Lodge. She had appreciated that the group kept the heartbeat of her poetry ticking.

“It was not only an honor, but a joy in 2003 to work with Ivan Sundal to compile the Stroll Archives.”

I carried with me all that I learned from the Edmonton Stroll of Poets to my role as a Literary Representative for the St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Society, to do what had never been done, to cultivate poetry within the St. Albert community.

Throughout the years I have resurfaced from time to time. I also took on the challenge to participate in the Twenties Aplenty: 20/2020 project created and hosted by Gary Garrison.

Prompts stretched the mind, heart, and spirit at the time we all exited a world we once knew and entered into an uncertain one, controlled by the pandemic. Gary had also been (maybe still is) part of a writer’s group that I was part of with various Stroll members: “In the Living Room Writer’s Circle” hosted by Alice Major.

Congratulations to the Stroll of Poets for 30 years of making an impact in the community, as noted on the website, “We are a warm and friendly grassroots organization, we create a supportive community of artists that welcomes members of all ages and all levels of experience.”

May the Stroll Stand Strong!

In poetship, Sandra

Although I'm a recent member of the Stroll of Poets I would like to share memories of my initial experience therein. I don't remember the formal poem that I read for my first contribution to the Stroll, but this addendum really captures the immediacy of the experience.

I had been attending the readings for several weeks and the possibility of challenging myself to read during open mic was becoming more of a certainty. Prior to the initial reading, I would arrive late, and leave immediately when the session concluded. I always refused the proffered chair and remained standing near the pocket doors at the back. I felt as if I was my own social experiment in forging social contact centred around something that had, up until then been a very private experience. In time, my reservations slipped away and I regularly contributed my poems and forged a few friendships. I began to actually look forward to facing my demons and bonding with the sea of faces before me. I remember the palpable murmur of response when I tapped into a universal acknowledgement of a creatively coined sentiment.

The Stroll of Poets has opened many gateways of poetic exploration and expression and strengthened my ability to bond with a variety of people who place faith and hope in the expression of their ideas. Looking back, it seemed inevitable, but my initiation was sped along by the palpable sense of acceptance and encouragement that remains the cornerstone of my experience with The Stroll.

I've been seen in the company of poets recently.
Live ones.
A change, I must admit,
rather than just their printed words.
I've always had those.
This was just their voices in ordinary conversation,
until every one had quietened
and the few selected ones took their turn,
voicing over my pounding pulse,
their poems.
This is what it is like.
Just listening,
hitch-hiking,
transported by others sharing.
It's three hours early
and I'm already dressed.
No one will notice if I don't show up...
What was I thinking?

Stroll Reflection

I arrived in Edmonton in 1999 from downtown Toronto where poetry readings went late into the night. For example, Libby Scheier was scheduled to read at 9:00 p.m. in a small bar and I left at 11:00 that night even though she hadn’t yet shown up, which, of course, she would do, eventually. Seeking out poetry in Edmonton led me to some later night events with the Raving Poets Band, but also to the Stroll of Poets, who, thankfully, had afternoon and early evening readings. I loved the October Stroll Days, the 12 Days—you could win $20!, and I loved going to the Legion for brunch, poetry, and a poetry-related talk. It was amazing to be with so many people who were passionate about poetry. I was inspired by the poems I heard, the energy I felt, as well as by the democratic structure and behaviour of the organization. It was a community in which I felt I could belong. I gradually became involved in some administrative aspects of the organization including being a part of the birth of the Haven Reading Series, but more importantly, I made friendships that have lasted 20 years and counting. Thinking about it now, I realize the impact the Stroll has had on my life. I would not be who I am now without the people who embody the Stroll of Poets, what I learn from them, the opportunities they give me to show myself and to grow. The Stroll isn’t all things to all people, but it is intentionally welcoming and celebratory. It is as much about people as it is about poetry. I have since never encountered anything like it.

During the years of the annual stroll we often had a guest speaker at the No Bards Barred Bar to wrap up the Stroll. I was one of the readers at a participating car dealership and can remember belting out a poem about the Take Back the Night march. It was the perfect venue to yell out the chants.

Later on (not sure when) a panel of judges picked poets from the anthology to read at an event called the Twelve Days of Poetry held during the Christmas season. The chosen poets read in various venues throughout the city not just in Strathcona where the fall Stroll was held. I remember a cold winter night at a cafe on 97th street downtown that was so crowded people were sitting on the floor. Audiences voted and the poets who won the most votes read at the Strathcona Legion on the Twelfth night. I can remember reading at that and being so nervous that my teeth stuck to my gums my mouth was so dry.

Alice was also a nervous reader back then and used to have a little shot of liquid courage from a flask she carried in her briefcase before her turn. Hard to believe now!

We weren’t always as supportive of each other as we seem to have become. I can remember being asked, “how long do you intend to milk failed marriage and motherhood for your material?” I wish I’d been quick enough to say, “until the cows come home.” Another time when I read a poem at the Stroll that I’d written on the plane coming home from San Francisco the day before, another poet said to me, “I’d never read a poem I’d just written. It’s a bit like bringing grapes to a banquet when people are expecting wine.”

I think many of us still use the Stroll to try out new work on an audience. Let them eat grapes!

Lots of fond memories, though nothing in particular comes to mind. I can go back to the Whyte Avenue readings in various cafes and bars in the beginning but I have a particular fondness for the Upper Crust readings and the chats with you and many others. We all learned the huge range of subjects and styles that our members could present.

The NBBB: a memoir

What do you do after you stroll up and down Whyte Ave, from 1-4 pm, performing or listening at different café and bookstore venues?
You go for a beer, right?
That’s half of what the NBBB facilitates. The other half involves poetry, games and competitions.
And what do we call this open-to-anyone post-Stroll event? The NBBB. And how did this name come to be?
Well there we are: Ken Wilson, Anna Marie Sewell, and I in a Vietnamese café on 7th Avenue firing out words and phrases in a storm of brains. It went something like this:
Bar for bards
Bards bar
All bards welcome
Bards not barred
No bards barred bar
Eureka! That’s it! NBBB!
We ran this event for years at the Strathcona Legion till they closed their operations at that location.
I think it would be lovely to reincarnate the NBBB after the Sunday Stroll-type readings.

This was another of my favorite inventions of early Stroll days. I think it was likely the brainchild of Doug Elves.

We sold brunch tickets ahead of time, which covered the Strathcona Legion's expenses and profit. The Brunch started at about 10 am the morning of the Stroll, and at about 11:30 we introduced our special guest reader who then had about 45 minutes on the stage to entertain and inspire the host of poets to hit the streets and deliver their own gems through the Stroll venues. A perfect start to the day.
We covered the Guest's expenses and fees with AFA or EAC funding.

I remember...

*  actually strolling up and down Whyte Avenue on a Sunday in October to go from venue to venue to listen to poets reading their poems.

*  getting paid a $10 honorarium for reading my poems during the Stroll's infancy when everyone read at two different venues.

*  as a reader: climbing narrow staircases to get to venues, competing with the expresso machine at a cafe or two, watching a cat move off a couch to make room for listeners at a used bookstore, and seeing my name in print in the VUEWEEKLY newspaper as a reader in the Stroll of Poets.

*  as a listener: trying to decide three times per Stroll which readers I wanted to listen to at about ten different venues spread over six blocks or more of Whyte Avenue, and visiting a car dealership to hear poetry.

* on Friday, February 10, 1995, hearing one of my poems, "Living In The Light", sung by Anna Beaumont at Cafe Select in Manulife Centre. Edmonton recording artist and club singer, Anna Beaumont, and collaborator keyboardist Anderw Glover had selected three poems from Stroll of Poets - The Anthology 1994, and set them to original music

I remember the first meeting of the Stroll. Peter Cole had invited me to the meeting. I really didn’t know what it was about except that it had something to do with poetry. The other people  I remember being at that first meeting included Bert Almond, Olga Costopoulos and Dug Elves. If I left anyone out I apologize. At the meeting Dug was the planner. He came up with the idea of a poetry festival. We would get venues to agree to host host four readings. Four or five poets would read at each venue four times and the audience would move from venue to venue.  Bert Almond suggested it would be boring to read at one venue only. Why couldn’t the poets also move from venue to venue. We all agreed and from this came the image of a poet walking from one venue to the next. Then someone came up with the idea of calling the festival “The Stroll.” After that all the people who were at that meeting were referred to as “The Bricks,” a term I have never embraced.

Soon after that there was a general meeting was held where a large group of poets gathered to discuss the festival. The first thing the group wanted to do is change the name. Surely we could come up with something better. So we had a brainstorming session where anyone could make a suggestion the we wrote all the answers then had a vote. Some of the suggestions included; The Edmonton Strollers, The Edmonton Poets festival, The Strolling poets, and a half a dozen more. Then we voted and “The Stroll” won by a landslide.

The other thing I remember about that meeting was that Dean McKenzie asked if we couldn’t put together an anthology of poetry by all of the poets in the Stroll. There was very little time before the Stroll but with the help of many people and a few late nights it was finished on time. The books were put together one night using volunteers and a very large stapler. The format hasn’t changed over the years but the number of poets have. The original stroll anthology published in October 1991 had only 56 poems . By 2003 the stroll anthology had 132 submissions.