Couplets Episodes

Episode 12: David Stones & Ryan Gibbs

Thurs, Aug 24th, 6pm – 7pm | The ARTS Project, main gallery | 203 Dundas Street, London


David Stones is a retired business executive taking a deep breath as a poet, performer, and spoken word artist. David published his first book of poetry, Infinite Sequels, in 2013 and subsequently transformed it into a highly successful one-man show of the same name. His second poetry collection, Such A Frail Book Of Endings, and a chapbook, On Turning Into Raymond Souster, both hit the streets later this year. David lives, writes, and performs in—and generally wanders about—both Stratford and Toronto.

Employing a range of poetic forms and undulations of mood and tempo, Stones’ poetry explores the full spectrum of human possibility. At once tender, raw, reassuring and unflinching, his work both tears and heals. No theme is too small, no observation too inconsequential, to escape the discerning eye and keen wit of this singular poetic voice. From love to anguish, from reprisal to forgiveness, from joy to sorrow, Stones casts a unique and understandably frail beam of illumination on the joyous, too-often pitted landscape of human experience.

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Ryan Gibbs lives in London and is pursuing a PhD at Western. He works as an English professor and coordinator at Lambton College in nearby Sarnia, where he is a member of the After-Hours Poets and has read his poetry in the City Council as part of the nation-wide Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge. His poems have appeared in Tower Poetry, The Windsor Review, and the anthologies Under the Mulberry Tree and Whisky Sour City. His children’s poetry has been included in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.

Episode 11: John B Lee & Julie Berry

Thurs, July 27th, 6pm – 7pm | The ARTS Project, main gallery | 203 Dundas Street, London


John B. Lee is the author of over seventy books and the editor of seven anthologies, including two best-selling works, That Sign of Perfection (poems and stories on hockey) and Smaller Than God: Words of Spiritual Longing. He has published internationally in more than 500 publications, has seen his work translated into French, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese, and has read his work across the globe, including in France, Cuba, Korea, and South Africa. He has received over eighty prestigious international and regional awards for his writing, including the People’s Poetry Award (twice), the CBC Literary Award for Poetry, the Winston Collins Prize for Best Canadian Poem (twice), and the inaugural Souwesto/Orison Award for his contribution to the ethos of writing in southwestern Ontario. He has been named the Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity (2005), an Honourary Life Member of The Canadian Poetry Association and The Ontario Poetry Society (2005), a member of the Chancellor’s Circle of McMaster University’s President’s Club (2007), the Poet Laureate of Norfolk County (2011), and the Honourary Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life (2015). He has received letters of praise from Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Australian poet Les Murray, and Senator Romeo Dallaire and has been called “the greatest living poet in English” by poet George Whipple. He lives in Port Dover, Ontario, where he works as a full time author.

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Julie Berry has deep roots in southwestern Ontario, with at least three generations of her ancestors calling this part of the world home. After a long career as an elementary school teacher in St. Thomas, she has continued to write and publish her work and produce a children’s radio show for a local radio station. She has published three poetry collections: worn thresholds (Brick), the walnut-cracking machine (Buschek), and most recently, the chapbook, I am, &c.: The Gilbert White Poems (Baseline Press). She has expanded this chapbook on the 18th century naturalist Gilbert White, author of The Natural History of Selborne, into a full-length poetry collection. Her poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Grain, Malahat Review, The Literary Review of Canada, and many other publications and has been featured, along with the poetry of her grade 6 students, on the award-winning CBC program The Poetry of the Woods.

Episode 10: Catriona Wright & Erica McKeen

Thurs, June 29th, 6pm – 7pm | The ARTS Project, main gallery | 203 Dundas Street, London


Catriona Wright is a writer, editor, and teacher living in Toronto. Her poems have appeared in PRISM International, Prairie Fire, Rusty Toque, Lemon Hound, and Best Canadian Poetry 2015. She is the poetry editor at The Puritan and a co-founder of Desert Pets Press, a chapbook press. Her debut collection, Table Manners, is out this spring with Véhicule Press.

Carnal, flamboyant, visceral, and bold, Table Manners is a rich meal. Wright’s debut introduces us to the image of the poet as “gastronaut,” a figure who seems to live entirely between table and stove and who steeps her surroundings and relationships in complex emotional flavours. “My life,” she writes, “is now tuned to bone marrow donuts and chef gossip. I’m useless at any other frequency.” Wright’s wild narratives are sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, and always ravishingly observed. Table Manners is what might have emerged had Julia Child written like Sharon Olds, or if Anthony Bourdain knew his way around a line break.

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Erica McKeen is a storyteller, poet, and student living in London. She is a prose reader for Persephone’s Daughters, a literary journal focused on the abuse of women and healing through art. She is also an occasional writer for The Mighty, where she strings together articles on mental illness that she hopes will help someone, somewhere. In 2015, she won third in the Occasus Prize, and in 2016, her short story “Our Eyes, Our Tongue” won the Lillian Kroll Prize. Her work has appeared in Occasus Literary Journal, Minola Review, Shirley Magazine, The Quilliad, and elsewhere.

McKeen’s writing always bends toward the bizarre and horrific: she is enthralled with the topics of madness, psychological fear, isolation, and the mistreatment of women in literature.

Episode 9: Andy McGuire & Angie Quick

Thurs, May 25th, 6pm – 7pm | The ARTS Project, main gallery | 203 Dundas Street, London


Andy McGuire is the author of Country Club. He lives in Huron County.

Praise for Country Club

“An essential accompaniment to Armageddon.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“McGuire’s poetry challenges the traditional standard of delicate, understated harmony between a poem’s content and its form; instead it tries way too hard, breaks down, and refuses to give a shit.” —The Puritan

“Angry, yet charming, crassly educated and self-effacingly self-aggrandizing, Country Club is a balls-out, tits-up, what-the-fuck-are-we-all-doing-here romp through thirty-something ennui.” —Arc Poetry Magazine

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Angie Quick is known for her large oil paintings, which explore flesh in historical and contemporaneous manners. Her practice experiments with the nature of language and sensation within both visual and performative contexts. She has performed at Words Fest London and recorded with the band New Zebra Kid. She will be performing at Ocean of Silence: A Tribute to John Cage at Museum London this August.

Quick has recently participated in the group show Portraits, self and others (it’s complicated) at the McIntosh Gallery. Her upcoming solo show, In the future we will all be astronauts and abortion will be universally legal, opens May 23rd at The ARTS Project.

Episode 8: Tom Cull & Erik Mandawe

Friday, April 28th, 7:30pm – 8:30pm @ 211 King Street (2nd floor), London


Tom Cull grew up in Huron County and now resides in London, where he teaches creative writing and serves as the city’s current Poet Laureate. Tom’s work has appeared in The New Quarterly and Word Hoard and is forthcoming in The Rusty Toque. His poems have been anthologized in Translating Horses (Baseline Press), 150 Stories (Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario), and a forthcoming MSU Press collection dedicated to water protection and social justice. His chapbook, What the Badger Said, was published in 2013 by Baseline Press, and his first book of poems, Bad Animals, will be published by Insomniac Press in Spring of 2018. Since 2012, Tom has been the director of Thames River Rally, a grassroots environmental group that he co-founded with his partner, Miriam Love, and their son, Emmett.

What The Badger Saw is Cull’s first book but these are seasoned poems. […He] has the Mark Twang story-teller in him. These all too few narrative poems are page turning marvels.” —Michael Dennis, Today’s Book of Poetry

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Erik Mandawe is a proud urban First Nation man. While he grew up in Toronto, his family is from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in northeastern Alberta. He is Wolf Clan, and his traditional Cree name, Piyesiwak, translates to Thunder. He holds a Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Anthropology from the University of Toronto, where he studied world Indigenous and western forms of medicine and their application to health and wellness in Indigenous communities. Erik has travelled internationally to complete research in socio-cultural anthropology and archaeology in Siberia, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands. He is also an experienced professional actor and musician, having filmed with actors and musicians such as Jean Claude Van Damme, Susan Aglukark, and Drake.

Episode 7: Jason Dickson & Kevin Heslop

Thursday, December 8th, 7:30pm – 8:30pm @ 211 King Street (2nd floor), London


Jason Dickson is a writer and bookseller from London, Ontario. He has three titles published by BookThug. His work has appeared in Quill and Quire, Geist, Maine Antiques Digest, Kotaku, Rue Morgue, Canadian Notes and Queries, Fine Books and Collections, and Open Letter. He co-owns Brown and Dickson with his partner-in-crime Vanessa Brown.

Dickson will be the featured reader at the London Open Mic Poetry Night on May 3rd, 2017. Visit the the LOMPN website for a recent interview with Dickson on his 2006 postcard novel, The Hunt.

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Kevin Heslop is a poet and student from London, Ontario. His work has appeared in NOON: journal of the short poem, Forget Magazine, The Finger, Occasus Literary Journal, Translating Horses (Baseline Press), and Another London (Harmonia Press) and won the Poetry London’s Poetry Contest and the Occasus Poetry Prize in 2015. He studies English literature at the University of Western Ontario and interviews local writers for London Poetry Open Mic.

Episode 6: Madeline Bassnett & Kevin Shaw

Friday, October 28th, 7:30pm – 8:30pm @ 211 King Street (2nd floor), London


Madeline Bassnett is the author of two chapbooks: Elegies (Frog Hollow, 2011) and Pilgrimage (Baseline, 2016). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Grain, The New Quarterly, Riddle Fence, The Fiddlehead, and The Malahat Review. She teaches English and Creative Writing at Western University.

“Bassnett’s most significant accomplishment in this collection is her technical mastery of the interplay between syntax, line, and stanza. …[H]er sentences both weave across line breaks and stretch over stanza breaks to create complex patterns of tension and resolution. …[I]t’s like watching a close tennis match, though one with perhaps more at stake. …Elegies is characterized by a technical virtuosity that allows the poems to carry the reverberations of loss that echo through a person’s quotidian existence. They alert us to the unexpected resonances that crop up in the wake of a loved one’s passing.” —Sue Sinclair, The Fiddlehead

(Bassnett’s author photo, below, is courtesy Debra Franke.)

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Kevin Shaw is from London, ON. His poems and nonfiction have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in Contemporary Verse 2, Grain, The Fiddlehead, and The New Quarterly. His essays have been nominated for the CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize (twice) and the Event Nonfiction Contest. He won Arc Poetry Magazine‘s 2015 Poem of the Year award and the 2016 PRISM International Poetry Contest. He’s currently a PhD candidate in English at Western University, where he researches censorship law and queer poetics in English-Canadian writing.

Shaw’s PRISM Poetry Contest-winning “The Flood of ’37” (pictured above) appears in PRISM 54:4.