#SenseUsCanada – Poetry Project Needs You

I want to invite you in to the conversation that has reduced you to data on a page. I want to highlight your voice, your struggles, your successes, your failures, your life through collaborative digital poetry.

How to participate in #SenseUsCanada ?

Step One: Visit for the type of clips needed for this project. You may identify with one or many of the groups listed. Group identifiers have been chosen from real questions on the Canada Census forms relating to ethnicity, gender, income, age, and other information.

Step Two: Record a voice clip using your phone’s voice memo app or on your computer/tabelt. Clips should be no shorter than one minute and no longer than five minutes.

Step Three: Please do not include your name in the recording. Save your file with your first name or alias and the group it’s applicable to. For example: Cheryl_LGBTQ.mp3. Most softwares will automatically choose the file type.

Step Four: Copy and paste this text into the Contact Us form: “I (insert name) authorize Cheryl Folland to use my words for #SenseUsCanada understanding that they will be shared publically. I understand that my identity will not be shared unless I, myself do so, or I provide written consent anytime before or after publication.”*

Step Five: If you choose to participate, you will be sent a privacy form that outlines your protection in detail. Your story will NOT be added unless you agree to the privacy policy, which can be done digitally.

Who can participate?

The project is open to anyone living in Canada and is based on their experiences in Canada. Regardless of how long you’ve been here, if you are an international student, a landed immigrant, native to Canada, or a non-citizen of any other kind; you are invited to participate.

Can I speak in a language other than English?

Yes! You may. Be aware that the clips will be edited by an English only speaker and layered with other clips in various langauges. In other words, your story might not “make sense” if listening for it on its own—but it will enhance the overall track for that specific group by providing essential diversity.

At this time those living in other countries permanently are not invited to participate as the project is based off the Canadian Census Form.

Okay, Great. I’m in! What do I talk about?

Talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the weird. What is a memory that sticks in your mind? What is a constant barrier you face that others might not know exists? What makes you Canadian?

Still stuck?

I’ll be in communication with contributors to guide them further in the process if they are unsure at any point.

I’m not sure I want to share my story, is there another way I can help?

Yes! Share this post with the hashtag #SenseUsCanada on social media and invite other Canadians to participate.

This is the chance to be more than a data point on a graph somewhere. We are real people, with real stories, that really matter!

*This is an important authorization. Privacy law in Canada is strict and I will never share your identity without express permission. For the purposes of the project, all segments will be presented as a collective voice per each group.

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Family Portrait: chapbook sneak peek​

I’m getting excited about this project. To give you a small taste of what I’ve been working on, I thought I’d share the introduction to Family Portrait with you.

“Not much by way of content has changed over the past thirteen years in my poetry. I’m driven to explore familial trauma through the written word both in fiction and non-fiction. Poetry offers a nuanced way to zero in on specific language. This close-up examination of moments allows an honesty and an intimacy that is not readily available in a journalistic account of events or a fictional narrative. 

When I began to seriously consider poetry, my work was posted to a personal blog. It was confessional in style and written for no one in particular—but I knew it must be shared. Before the internet became widely accessible, my poems existed in volumes of written journals or were housed on 3.5 disks. My mother still has a stack of those old 3.5’s in her desk as sentimental paper-weights alongside a hand-bound collection of poems from my original blog.

Even in those early works, I explored themes of familial relationships, identity, longing, and spirituality. I often incorporated scenes from real life, with dialogue and identifiable characters, into musing and metaphors grounded most in colours and textures. 

 My current projects speak both to a broader audience and on behalf of marginalized voices. Over the past four years of exploration, themes of childhood trauma, queer identity, womanhood, and mental illness come together in free verse, experimental form, and nuevo-formal tradition. 

To me the fight is not content versus form, but the poem shapes into what it needs to be. Fixed form can shape an idea into a striking image by way of control. A poem about something as mundane as a vanilla scented candle can be as profound as a poem about infant loss—it all comes down to moments crafted to allow readers insights otherwise unavailable. 

This collection is comprised mainly of free form and free verse. Fixed form causes me to self-edit content that I’m vulnerable about before it ends on the page. I prefer to use fixedform for nature themes or humorous work.

 I’ve titled it Family Portrait as my two favourite pieces “Father” and “Mother” are the heart the rest of my story flows from. Both are inspired by conversations. My mother raised my older brother and I on her own from age 20. She and my father separated when I was two years old, and later divorced when I was eight. The last time I saw my father was Christmas Eve 1990. He promised to be there in the morning when we woke up. After my brother and I had gone to bed our parents had an undisclosed conflict and we never saw our father again. 

We grew up transient. We moved a lot. By age 18 I had attended 23 schools. We were poor, on welfare, and had no longterm attachments outside of my maternal grandmother Helen. Our childhood was steeped in drugs and risky behaviour.

27 years later, I received a message on Facebook from a man with a made up name. Though he appeared very aged (for a man of 56 he looked more in his 70’s) and clearly unhealthy (I could see the grey of his skin and the toothless smile he gave in his profile picture—of him and his cat), I recognized my father and my heart cried “Daddy.”

I try to write most about the underneath of it all. I pay attention to the interaction between reality and the interpretation of reality. With “To Hold a Candle” I wanted to look at how consumption as an attitude has real consequences to the world around me. A candle is an object without thought or feeling. The consumption of an object, that by nature is designed to be consumed, is something we think little of as we interact with the world daily. But what if the candle did have sentience? What if it wanted a life of comfort enriched with literature and antiques? 

How can I explore the underneath of relationships in my life? Is there a way poetry can convey truths and emotions that are difficult to pin down much less say aloud in conversation? I believe that poetics allow writers the space to create images in place of, or in conjunction with, complex and sometimes troubling topics. Poetry gives us permission to explore the taboo and the traumatic in a place of protected vulnerability. Word-craft becomes simultaneously an outlet and a sanctuary for our shadows and light.”

Writer Wednesday: Amy Jones

Five for Our Child

 

i.

 

I will not see your first steps,
or rock you to sleep at night,
or teach you to play hymns

by the time you’re six. But

when we learn your name,

the first time we speak it
aloud, it will be with no

less reverence than when

we speak the name of God.

If you want, I will still sing you
the French lullabies my mother
sang to me.
(God, I hope you like my voice.)

ii

We probably shouldn’t show you my poems.
Maybe no one will publish them,
or my wife and I will have a lot to explain.
Let’s hope you understand
we lived a hundred lives before yours
and are proud of just this one.

iii

I starved every day I did not know
if I was enough for anybody.
The fact is
that I was not enough for my parents.
You are already enough.

iv

If my feminist theologian friends are correct
and God is a woman,
you will have so many mothers.

v

God, I hope I am enough for you.

Wind

a gentle breeze

morphs into a tempest

where trees once

danced and bowed before a

dormant power

they dig their roots in deeper

anchored—they sway drunk

on the wind’s power, unable

to stand upright

a lonely boat rests in the

harbour at the complete mercy

of a wild master. Wind

shows up when and how

it wants, breathing life

into old sails. Nothing was ever

conquered by sea without its permission

a multitude of stagnant days wait

for perfect conditions

Wind goes where and when

it wants, wild, ruthless and free. It kisses

the faces of lovers and uproots

the strongest trees

nothing is unknown, untouched

by wind’s eyeless gaze

it can freeze a thousand oceans or

ignite the fiercest blaze

Wind is love unsettled

it is love untamed, it’s a fiery

passionate lover and a gently

warm embrace. It’s frigid

and consuming, touching

everything in sight

it keeps the fires burning

between lovers

in the deepest darkest night

the earth’s breath kissing, moving

over the surface of the sea

the power of my love, the wind, at

the very core of me.

let me steer your ship

as I churn the seas

let me dance in the forest

among your greenery

let the leaves cry out in jubilation

at the thought of me

the brilliance of an arid power

found in their revelry

by breath will fan their desire

as wind caresses skin

I am taken in

What do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

For the last few months I’ve barely been able to catch up on life duties. We’ve all been there. Work, volunteer commitments, friendships and relationships new, old and budding. All of those events eat away our time. As finite beings, bound by the 24 hour clock, we can easily lose days, weeks, months, and sometimes years before we take the time to do the things that fill us up.

I’ve been challenged, with noble intent, by fellow writers in my community at my lack of wordsmithery. “Write a little each day, even if it’s not for sharing.” “Take time to write Cheryl.” “Have you been writing?”

Though I’ve not been writing, words, stories and concepts have been floating around in my brain. It’s almost as if I have TOO much in my heart and on my mind to make sense of it all. Though I am in the middle of an intense busy season, the events filling up my calendar are also filling up my heart. It begs the question, what do you call a writer that doesn’t write?

  1. Dreamer—Half finished poems and post-it notes clutter the piles of papers in my living room and bedroom. The poems are unfinished because the experiences informing them are still in progress. I imagine, when the Fall University Semester commences in just seven short weeks, I will have endless inspiration to draw from for my portfolio.
  2. Introspective—As a verbal processor, I see my emotions as a heap of jumbled words within my heart and mind. It’s essential to spend time untangling and sorting these words into the proper places in my internal storage space. (God I sound like a nerd.) With the new experiences and directions, I am taking the time to create space within myself, and my life, to place the moments and memories I am collecting. I suppose a photographer collects photos and sorts them, the geologist rocks and precious stones, the artist images and media—as a writer, I collect words, phrases and metaphors; all contained inward.
  3. Avoidant—The downside of enjoying oneself this much, I don’t want to stop, sit and write. Some folks can take a notebook or device with them and write wherever they are. I am not so lucky. I crave, NEED, down time to let down my guard, open the gate, and write from a place of vulnerability. I get flustered, almost a flight or fight response, when something interrupts this process. As a result, I avoid sitting and opening that avenue. Out of fear of being caught in a tender and raw place, I collect more moments, memories, and words than I can hope to handle like a hummingbird greedily syphoning a sugar feeder.

There you have it. I am an avoidant introspective dreamer who, on my best days, is a writer, and on my worst, a hot mess. Being absent from writing is a direct result from being present in long dormant portions of my life. Once I figure out this heap of heart words, you’ll hear much more from me. Until then, keep in touch and tell your stories.

 

If you want to write for Grey Matters, visit the contact us page to add your voice.