“Don’t Get Off the Bus!” Wednesday Workshop



“Don’t Get Off The Bus!”
Wednesday Workshop
Wednesday 14 June 2017

Journal: Roger Moore had the honor and pleasure of addressing the artists in residence at KIRA / Kingsbrae last night. He gave a brief biography of himself then stated that he did not consider himself to be a poet, the honor of the name is too high. He is, he stated, above all a writer. He began writing poetry at an early age, but was always put off by the lack of understanding shown by his contemporaries. Such slogans as “He’s a poet, but he doesn’t know it,” chanted endlessly, made him hide his poetic talent. In 1962, however, in his last year in school, he entered the Stroud International Festival for Religious Drama and the Arts and won first prize for a sonnet he wrote for that competition. This confirmed , in his own mind, that he could write and he continued to do so.

He attended Bristol University from 1963-1966, studying Spanish (Honours) and French. While at Bristol he published some 30 poems with the university’s literary review, the Nonesuch Magazine. He also wrote a weekly column in the student newspaper reporting on cross-country running in winter and athletics in summer. He began an MA in the University of Toronto in 1966 (completed in 1967) and decided to stay in Canada and work for his PhD (17th Century Spanish poetry). His encounters with the Toronto literary circles were not satisfactory and he realized that neither his style nor his subject matter were suited to the CanLit of the Canadian art scene. He hid again until 1977 when Fred Cogswell published Last Year in Paradise, Roger’s first poetry book, in the Fiddlehead Poetry Book series. By now, Roger had completed his doctoral thesis and published Towards A Chronology of Quevedo’s Poetry with York Press in 1976. From 1973-1977 Roger was first the Editorial Assistant and then the Assistant Editor of the International Fiction Review (University of New Brunswick). This position allowed him (a) to revise the submissions of writers whose first language was not English; (b) to translate articles from Spanish to English; and (c) to himself submit articles and reviews to the magazine. One of his first translations was of an article by Enrique Anderson Imbert, the Argentinian writer. Roger’s academic writing and editing is a different story and will be told at another time.

In 1979, Roger took his first workshops in creative writing at St. Thomas University  with Norman Levine, the Canadian Short Story writer. Norman Levine inspired Roger with a new taste for creative writing and he started writing short stories at this stage. He also started attending the Maritime Writers’ Workshops at UNB working with Patrick Lane, Susan Musgrave, Richard Lemm (twice) and Erine Moure. Roger was now submitting regularly to Canadian Literary magazines and his poetry was published first in Poetry Toronto (by bpnichol),  and then in Poetry Canada Review, The Fiddlehead, ARC, Ariel, the Cross-Canada Writers’ Quarterly, and in some twenty other Canadian literary magazines. In 1986, his second poetry collection, Broken Ghosts, was published by Goose Lane (Fredericton). Roger’s mother died in 1987 and his father followed in 1989. The poems he wrote at this stage were collected together and were awarded the Alfred G. Bailey Award for Poetry by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick in 1989. A second collection again won the Bailey in 1994, but neither of these collections were considered worthy of  publication by the multiple Canadian presses to which Roger sent them.

In 1991, Roger was the Atlantic Provinces Director for the League of Canadian Poets. He started, with JoAnne Elder, the Writes of Spring at St. Thomas University, and this continued for three years. The Writes of Spring was designed as a gender balanced, language balanced reading event in which eight poets participated. The reading group consisted of four men and four women, four of whom were Francophones and four Anglophones. These bilingual readings gave a wonderful insight into the poetry that was being written at the time within the province of New Brunswick. Roger started self-publishing his poetry in limited edition chapbooks at this time and gave his works to the participants and audiences in this series. He published six chapbooks this way: Idlewood, In the Art Gallery, Daffodils, Secret Garden, Iberian Interludes, and On Being Welsh.

In 1999, Roger chaired the third Atlantic Association of Universities’ Teaching Showcase at St. Thomas University. He edited the proceedings with Denise Nevo and they were published by Mount Saint Vincent University Press. Denise suggested that Roger might publish his poetry with MSVU and declared herself willing to edit and publish any work he might care to submit. This most fruitful collaboration with a wonderful lady who was also an outstanding editor allowed Roger to publish six more poetry books between 2000 and 2012, namely, Sun and Moon (Poems from Oaxaca), Though Lovers Be Lost, Fundy Lines (Prose Poems), At The Edge of Obsidian, Obsidian 22, and Monkey Temple. Roger continued publishing chapbooks and Dewi Sant (with the Central New Brunswick Welsh Society) and M Press of Ireland were among those that appeared, while Land of Rocks and Saints (Poems from Avila) was published by Nashwaak Press (Stuart Donovan) in 2008.

2015 saw three books appear in print: Stepping Stones (in collaboration with David Brewer of Rabbittown Press), Systematic Deception (in collaboration with Randi Drake of Ottawa), and Triage, his last poetry chapbook. In August 2016, John Sutherland, a member of one of Roger’s writing groups, introduced him to CreateSpace / Amazon / Kindle, and since then eleven books have been published online: Monkey Temple, Though Lovers Be Lost, Bistro, Sun and Moon, Obsidian’s Edge, The Empress of Ireland, All About Angels, Avila (Cantos y santos y ciudad de la Santa), Iberian Interludes, A Cancer Chronicle, and Nobody’s Child. Bistro (Flash Fiction), Avila (in Spanish), A Cancer Chronicle, and Nobody’s Child (short stories) are new, while the other seven titles have all been expanded and revised. Bistro was one of three finalists (and the only independently published book) in the New Brunswick book Awards (prose fiction) in 2016 (results announced, May 2017).

This Wednesday Workshop / KIRA Artist’s Report has two concealed messages. The first is that writing, like all creative activities, is a long apprenticeship (in the words of Fred Cogswell). The second is that if you want to travel from Halifax to Vancouver, you must stay on the bus. Quite simply, if you get off at Fredericton or Quebec City, Or Montreal or Toronto, and if you stay in one of those cities and don’t get back on the bus, you’ll never arrive at Vancouver. So: writers young and old … stay on that bus. Persist with your work. Never give up your dream. Never give in. Looking back from the vast old age of seventy-three, I realize now how easy it would have been to admit defeat and stop writing at so many stages of my writing career. I kept going and I encourage, nay URGE, any writer / creative artist reading this either to stay on that bus or to climb back on board. Quite simply, the world needs us and the world needs our poems, our paintings, our sculptures, our music, our encaustics,  and our stories.

New Brunswick Book Awards

It was quite the surprise, but I am very happy to see that my book of Flash Fiction Short Stories, BISTRO, is one of the three finalists in this year’s New Brunswick Book Awards, organized jointly by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick (WFNB) and The Fiddlehead. It’s great to see that self-published books can get recognition at the highest (for me) level. Thank you to all who are involved in organizing this annual book award.

Bistro Cover.jpg

Bistro is available online at


Here’s the link to the Writers Federation of New Brunswick / Fiddlehead New Brunswick Book Awards short list page



Comments: A Beginner’s Guide

Comments: A Beginner’s Guide

(for Al, again;
written tongue in cheek
as a follow-up to
Winning not Whining
to be read cum grano salis)

When a poet enters a poetry competition, comments are sometimes offered as part of the fee for entering. These may be made by the judge(s) or by a pre-selection committee. The pre-selection committee, in large poetry competitions, will sometimes filter the many entries, sending a filtered short list through to the judges.

Filtering Committee


Basic rules of commenting (1):

Say nothing negative. Always find something positive to say. Whatever you do, do not turn the competitors away from future competitions. The organizers need the money the hopeful entrants provide.


When faced with an entry that rhymes, the judge is encouraged to encourage the entrant to think of alternate forms of writing. Comments like: “Have you considered writing this poem in free verse?” or “This might work as a prose poem. Have you tried that format?” are considered better than “Your verse sucks”or “Your rhyming words make no sense except as rhyme words. Couldn’t you find anything else?” Equally abrupt and dismissive is “Read more rhyming poetry: your almost non-existent rhyme scheme needs national assistance.”

Free verse:

When faced with an entry in free verse, stick to the alternate approach “Have you considered making the poem rhyme?” or “This might work better as a prose poem.” Such comments are considered more acceptable and polished than “Stick to essay writing” or “Read more free verse: you need to understand where to put words in appropriate places on the page.” or “Blank spaces must have meaning.”

Judge Mark I


Individual words:

As soon as an unacceptable word is found, and in some cases the sooner the better, the entry may be rejected. Examples: Adverbs ending in -ly “Stephen King advises against the use of adverbs ending in -ly.” or less used words like upon or amongst   or “Upon / amongst — so out of fashion: use your computer’s Thesaurus for contemporary expressions.” The commentator is advised against using chic continental expressions like very passé or très outmoded as they create a sense of absolute inferiority in the competitor. Latin and things like that should, ipso facto, never be countenanced as they may upset the competitor’s  status quo.


If the judges cannot understand a word of what is before them, then phrases like very cryptic style or highly personal language are preferable to “Total nonsense.” or “Absolute Jabberwocky.” or “Never heard of Fowler?” or “This needs Footnotes.”


The rules here are simple. If there’s punctuation, then suggest dropping it. If there is no punctuation, suggest adding it. Same thing with capital letters.

Judge Mark II


Length of submission:

Short poems can be dismissed with a comment like “You have some potential here: the poem could be lengthened in order to develop that potential.”

Long poems can be dismissed with comments like “The judge(s) find this a little bit wordy. You should consider shortening it.” Avoid attempted wit along the lines of “Nice: have you tried writing rhyming telegrams” or “This could (avoid should) be reduced to a rhyming couplet.”

Basic rules of commenting (2):

Find something positive to say and remember, sincerity has nothing to do with it; in fact, forget sincerity, unless you wish to end your comments with a phrase like “in sincerity”.  If the judges are really at a loss for something positive to say, then a warm general comment will always be welcome. For example: “I love your use of the definite article.” “You have a wonderful way with small words.” or “All your commas are in the right places.” Such positivity will probably keep the competitor competing and the entrance money rolling in.