Checking In: Rhonda Melanson

Rhonda Melanson appeared in the 2011 Air Out/In Air, a chapbook anthology for the Guatamala Stove Project . Since then she and the organization have done a lot on their own trajectories.

A graduate of Queen’s University Artist In The Community Education Program, Rhonda Melanson has been published in several print and online magazines, including Hedgeapple, Pocket Lint, The Wild Word, Juniper, The Boxcar Poetry Review, Quill’s, Philadelphia Poets, Ascent Aspirations, Lummox, and the Windsor Review.  In 2011, she published a chapbook called Gracenotes with Beret Days Press, and she is also featured in the Encompass IV anthology, a publication from Beret Days Press and The Ontario Poetry Society.  She was featured in Nasty Women and Bad Hombres, A Poetry Anthology, edited by Deena November and Nina Padolf (Lascaux Editions), in Tamaracks, An Anthology of Canadian Poetry, edited by RD Armstrong and She Summons: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism and Spirituality, edited by Kaalii Cargill and Helen Hye-Sook Hwang.  She is also a co-editor of the literary blog Uproar, and is an associate member of The League of Canadian Poets.

Rhonda Melanson

PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

RM: I just finished up a PK Page mentorship opportunity with the League of Canadian Poets where I was able to learn from the prolific Chad Norman. He helped me with some very focused work on my chapbook “My Name is Mary.

PP: Wow!

RM: I am also in my second year of co-editing a literary blog “Uproar” with The Lawrence House Centre of the Arts in my hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. (Uproar on Instagram). Most recently, we launched the Carmen Ziolkowski Poetry Prize and gave cash awards and publication to three poets for a single poem.

Looking forward to a summer of writing without the distracton of full time teaching!

PP: What is underway or forthcoming?

RM: I am looking for a home for my chapbook “My Name is Mary.” I have had some poetry accepted by Hedgeapple, Pocket Lint,Poets Against Fascism (Jay Miller), The Wild Word and Portraits 101 (Sandcrab Books).

PP: What work can people read?

RM: How Do Rainbows Fall, exactly?

Some teaching poems,

PP: Any other links to find you and your projects?

RM: Social Media and Other Sites: Rhonda’s Twitter, Uproar on Twitter, Uproar’s Website:

Mini-interview: Shelley A. Leedahl

Shelley A. Leedahl  has written thirteen books, the most recent of which is the poetry collection, Go (Radiant Press, 2022) which caught my attention with its lively down-to-earth and grounded yet lifting past mundane poems. (See the Go book launch.) 

Mine is a very marked up copy of ooh, like that. Such as “What I Left in that City” which starts as a list poem but whomp,

“Stained-glass wine goblets. Favourites/ gifted from my daughter’s old boyfriend./ Sacrificed because the man I was escaping—//who insisted I not raise my eyebrows/ as the effort left lines in my forehead—//asked for the glasses to remember me by.”

The poems don’t tend to float oceanic but touch the far shore and touch the shallow end of the pool to gratifying results. Later in “Smuggler’s Cove Provincial Park” she shows her humour “I can’t read the minute directions on the $50 can of bear spray […] wouldn’t it be just our luck to be doomed in the wilds by nearsightedness.”

Go: Shelley A. Leedahl
Editor: Donna Kane
Cover art: Kimberly Kiel

Shelley A. Leedahl is the author of thirteen books in various genres, an adult and a juvenile novel; short story collections; creative nonfiction; and the illustrated children’s books The Bone Talker and The Moon Watched It All, and four previous poetry collections. Her most recent title is Go, a poetry collection published by Radiant Press in Regina. 

Shelley presents across the country and also works as a freelance writer, book reviewer and editor. She’s been awarded International Fellowships for prestigious artist residencies in the US, Mexico, Spain, and Scotland. She created a 3-season literary podcast called “Something Like Love”, and she’s produced two audiobooks for Radiant Press.   

Shelley was born and raised in Saskatchewan, where she was very active in the literary community for decades. She raised her own family in Saskatoon. Her active involvement in the arts continued with her move to Edmonton, where she worked as a radio advertising copywriter. 

She now lives in Ladysmith, BC and is often on hiking trails, on her road bike, in her kayak, or literally running around town. 

Sample poem: (p. 69)

Late December

You migrate toward coffee shops
for the velvet of human voices, the warmth
of an oversized mug and indie music.

You are certain no one sees you
falling in love
with the scrape of a chair,
the drooping cedar wreath
in the Beantime’s window.

The white-grey sky is a pelt. Raindrops on glass
a bead you’re tempted to trace
with your tongue.

Across the street:

Fox and Hounds.
A gym.
Women in designer rubber boots.

Everything is exquisite
but once again, no plans for New Year’s Eve.

Getting to be a long time;
you’d like to hold anyone’s hand.

from Go

PP: What was your aim with the book?
SAL: Firstly, Go evolved slowly over fifteen years as I had time to work on it. I was also working on and publishing books in other genres during this period, including the poetry collection Wretched Beast; the short fiction collection Listen, Honey; the essay collection I Wasn’t Always Like This, and the illustrated book The Moon Watched It All

Writing is my fulltime occupation … and to that end, an accountant once said I should be dead. I publish individual poems in journals and anthologies, but as a long-time professional writer, I suppose I do always hope that whatever I’m working on will one day find its way into a book. I’ve known since the time I was old enough to manage a pencil that I wanted to be a writer.     

When I write poetry, I write from a very personal place, with the understanding that the small things are the big things, and, as American psychologist Carl R. Rogers said, “The most personal is the most universal.” I may be writing from my own experience and disparate emotions–joy, pain, wonder, surprise, loneliness–but if I can communicate my own experience as authentically as possible, the hope is that others will make connections with my work via their own emotions and experiences. Sort of an, “Ah, yes, I’ve felt that too.” 

It might be said that poetry makes the world both a larger place (via language, ideas, geography, etc.)  and a smaller place. I’m interested in the inner map, the map of the heart.  

In documenting my own life, I also try to make sense of this often nonsensical world, and share that journey with others. The aim, then, is to make connections. To share our humanity here on planet Earth. And to continue to challenge myself in terms of language, poetic form, and subject. Writing poetry also requires that I slow down. Pay attention. I’m high energy, and slowing’s difficult for me. It’s good for me. 

PP: Favourite moment in making this book?

SAL: That’s a tough one. I really enjoyed writing the walking poems, or what I’ve titled the gratitude poems. I was living in Ladysmith and felt like I’d finally dropped anchor in the right place. I’d go for long solo walks – still do! – and come home and write.

I’ll add that the poems written while I was in Portugal in 2013 are also quite close to me, possible because they earned recognition via shortlisting for CBC Poetry Awards and the Arc Magazine’s “Poem of the Year” Contest. Again, walking was involved. Walking and writing go hand in hand for me. 

Finally, the last section of the book, “Manitoulin Suite”, is also special to me, for many reasons. It’s the most recent work; I wrote it in July 2021. And it demonstrates, I hope, that one can find happiness (and romantic love) later in life. It’s also about the passing of time. 

I wrote the first draft of this long poem in one day, the only day I dedicated completely to writing while on Manitoulin Island (Ontario) at my partner’s cottage, where most days there were many chores to be done, i.e.: I washed the entire exterior of the home, Pete built a shed, and we hauled loads of deadfall into the woods behind the cottage. I include details like this in the poem, as I believe poetry should include the stuff of life … this goes back to that connection thing again.

PP: Where to find out more?

SAL: For more on, please see the member’s page at the Writers Union of Canada site.   

Checking In: phafours poet: Allison Armstrong

Allison Armstrong appeared in Air Out/Air In (phafours, 2011). She ran the Voices of Venus series. More recently her poems appeared in Long Con magazine, L’Éphémère Review and Yes Poetry.

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up? Why or how? 

AA: TBH, what’s been lighting me up lately is novels. The Locked Tomb series (Tamsyn Muir) and The Scapegracers (H. August Clarke – Part 2 due out this Summer, iirc). One is gothic science fantasy and one is New England misfit teen drama, but the world building in both is wonderful and the writing itself is so alive. Looking forward to the next instalments in both cases.

PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

AA: These days, my focus is on my people. Two partners, plus a close friend with some sudden health problems.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming? 

AA: I have five glosas forthcoming in Bonemilk Volume 2 (Gutslut Press). This is one of the rare times when all of the pieces in a multi-piece submission have been accepted, so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m slowly chipping away at my Femme Glosa Project, polishing and sorting out layout. I’ve got a chapbook on sub, and the beginnings of a microchap in the works.

PP: That all sounds exciting. What’s the Femme Glosa Project?

AA: So, a Glosa is a type of formal poetry that takes 4 sequential lines from a pre-existing poem by a different poet and builds a 40-line, 4-stanza poem around them, using each line in sequence (backwards or forwards) as a line in one of the stanzas. Traditionally, that line is the 10th of each stanza, but other placements are fine too, as long as the lines appear at the same point in each stanza.The idea is to have your glosa be a response to, or exist in conversation with, the original poem that you pulled those four lines from.

I find glosas to be particularly reflective of the ways queer femmes riff on, respond to, promote, and encourage each other so, in the case of my Femme Glosa Project, each of the poems I’ve glossed (60-ish) has been written by another queer femme. Some are poets I know personally, many are poets whose work has shaped my own, some are new-to-me poets whose work I chose just because I happen to like that particular poem when I found it in a magazine or an anthology.

In a number of cases I’ve actively chosen to gloss a glosa that a particular femme poet has written on the work of yet another femme poet, specifically to draw attention to the idea of “femme lineage” and how its reflected in our poetry.

Here’s an example of a glosa:

PP: Cool. What other work do you have out where we can read it?

AA: My most-recent publications are in erotica anthologies (The Big Book of Orgasms: Volume 2 and Scandalous).

PP: Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop? 

AA: Follow me on twitter @amazon_syren

PP: Thanks for your time. Look forward to what’s next.

Checking In: phafours poet: Sandra Stephenson

Sandra Stephenson was in the Air In/Air Out anthology over a decade ago. She publishes under the pen name Czandra. If you can’t place the name, maybe you read it here when I did another interview with her this spring. She has a few chapbooks out, as mentioned there.

PP: What have you read lately that lit you up? Why or how?

C: I record public domain books for, and recently I’ve worked on two (not complete yet, so not available yet on catalogue). They are both really well done stories about the life of First Nations peoples, including some legends. One is “The Shagganappi” by Tekahionwake (E. Pauline Johnson), and the other is poetry, “Echoes of the Forest,” by William Brown. Both books are from around 1903, giving insight into how storytellers, white and indigenous, thought of First Nations at that time, and it wasn’t all bad!

PP: I remember enjoying The Shagganappi. What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise?

C: More literary than ever before. Now that I’ve retired from teaching, my life is taken up by haiku and tanka, a new publication, recording free on-line audiobooks, running a writers’ residence (Muskoka) and an artists’ residence (Parrsboro, Nova Scotia). I can’t foresee a time when I’ll ever get around to sifting through the gentle snows of paper records of past writings! I am entertaining writing a play, though…Two things I’m not doing anymore are organizing poetry events and editing other people’s manuscripts.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming?

C: Priority is, I have to make sense of my Covid journal. I think it’s a stand-alone thing, though if it waits long enough, it may get incorporated into something else, as many people are doing now….  just part of life in the past like any other 2- or 3-year period of study! It didn’t feel like that at the time, but it had elements of an intense, way-too-long workshop with field trips.

PP: What work do you have out? 

C: So glad you asked. Asking for trouble is my 2022 publication from Yarrow Press. A book of tanka in four times. [Watch for that being reviewed at Shohyoran.]

PP: Any author site or social media urls you’d like to drop?

also, not mine:  bill bissett’s fundraiser for secret handshake, the only peer support group network devotid 2 peopul with schizophrenia   if yu can help pleez  th banking deposit email  is

Checking In: phafours poet: Catina Noble

Catina Noble, fellow cocoaphile, appeared in Cocoa Cabin (phafours, 2014). She is a busy Ottawa writer with over 200 publication credits. Her work has appeared in Woman’s World Magazine, Y Travel BlogPerceptive TravelBywords and many other places. She has four chapbooks of poetry, a full length poetry book— a total of ten books out.

Three of her books: Vacancy at the Food Court & Other Short StoriesI’m Glad I Didn’t Kill Myself and Everest Base Camp: Close Call won the Reader’s Favorite seal of approval. [PP: Everest Base Camp was quite a ride.]

PP: What’s life’s focus these days, literary or otherwise? 

CN: Life is extremely rich and full with working full-time, writing and I am enrolled in the Addictions & Mental Health program through Algonquin College to add another layer to my education. I haven’t really been reading too much for leisure lately.

PP: What is underway or forthcoming? 
CN: I am working on a couple of different books, a collection of short stories and a few new poems. My latest work was just released in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Your 10 Keys to Happiness. However, this seems to be my year because I also have had two books released The Happily Ever After? (poetry) and Finding Evie (fiction). On top of that I have published two travel articles and two article on writing so far this year. 

The Happily Ever After? by Catina Noble (Crowe Creations, 2022)

PP: Any links to plug?
CN: To follow along on my adventures you can check out my website [which also reviews books.] I can also be found on Twitter @CatinaNoble1 and Instagram @cncreate