The Magic Wand
A poem by Marty Gervais
The wizard is poised in the room
like a Halloween witch
with that wide-brimmed peaked hat
prattling on like a philosopher
inviting us to feel that invisible ball of energy
vibrating between our outstretched hands
She’s here for the launch of the new Harry Potter book
but my five-year-old grandson is lost
in the magic wand she has placed in his hands
as she speaks about drawing protectives circles
casting spells, warding off dark forces,
even banishing bunions
My grandson marvels at this instrument
whispering feverishly “Abracadabra…abracadabra…”
—no longer hearing this wizard
who has fashioned this shaman’s wand
from an aging oak tree
Instead, he’s channelling his own energy into the room
but it isn’t working, nothing is flying about,
no sudden gusts of wind, nor pantry doors
slamming shut, nor tea cups rattling in mid air
and nothing bigger than he might imagine:
still poverty, still a need for world peace,
still violence and pestilence and polluted lakes
My grandson is poised and ready
And frantically waves the wand about him
like a symphony conductor gone mad
yet nothing changes —it won’t even silence
this nattering witch from telling us
about Greco Roman wands
or ceremonial fire wands and lotus wands
or those used by the freemasons in
all their ritualistic nonsense
Then suddenly in a dramatic abracadabra ending
my grandson shatters the spell:
“Hey, lady, how does this thing work?”
Poetry at the Manor last night (Thursday) was magical with poets coming from all across the country to Windsor. It was a lovely fall evening of laughter and meditative savouring. Friends of mine showed up to photograph and capture the moment. Here are some photos by Steve Kriemadis and another by Linda Goodhue. More to follow. The one just below is by Linda Goodhue and shows Mayor Drew Dilkens addressing the crowd. This event was a city-sponsored event through the Poet Laureate program.
Windsor poet laureate Marty Gervais has assembled a crew of authors — Vanessa Shields, Mary Ann Mulhern, Dorothy Mahoney, Daniel Lockhart, Peter Hrastovec and Carlina D’Alimonte — to document Windsor’s most storied places through poetry. The project, commissioned by the city’s department of cultural affairs, is part of the Windsor’s celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday next year.
There’s no lack of fodder for the poems, Gervais enthused, standing outside Willistead Manor this week.
“There are so many fascinating stories.”
He told of how Abraham Lincoln, before he became the 16th president of the United States, was an accidental tourist in Sandwich. Lincoln’s ship went aground in the Detroit River and Lincoln and all the other passengers had to disembark. The incident spurred Lincoln to invent a device to buoy vessels and patent it in 1849.
On the tract of land where Devonshire Mall stands today was once the site of one of the most famous thoroughbred races of all time. In 1920, the Kenilworth track hosted a race between Man O’ War and triple crown winner Sir Barton. Man O’ War won handily. While there’s barely a mention of it in Windsor, there’s a monument to the race in Louisville, Ky., where the the Kentucky Derby is held each year, Gervais said.
“You go shopping at Sears and you don’t realize that it once was a racetrack.”
Gervais said he came up with the idea of preserving Windsor’s history in poetry when he learned of the demolition of Abars, an old rumrunner-era tavern on Riverside Drive. “It got me thinking that we need to preserve at least the memory of our history.”
The poems will be collected into a book Gervais will publish next year.
Gervais envisions poems gracing city buses and poetry readings at the public libraries and civic events. There will also be “random acts of poetry,” where poets will stop people in the street, read them a verse, then hand out a copy of it.
Gervais will give more insights into the project Thursday at the Poetry at the Manor, a poetry reading held annually at Willistead Manor.
I was a part of a ceremony Monday Oct. 24, 2016 representing the City of Windsor as its poet laureate. The event marked the first port of call at an international destination of the U.S. warship the U.S.S. Detroit. The 115 m ship was officially commissioned in Detroit on Saturday, and will be docked at Dieppe Gardens in Windsor for the next four days. I was there among a crowd of citizens, military officers, veterans, and city officials in Dieppe Gardens to officially welcome the ship. I was asked to read a poem in this welcoming ceremony. I read “They Sing to the Sky.” Presented to Commander Michael P. Desmond captain of the warship, was a copy of that poem, framed alongside the keys to the city. These photographs were taken by Christopher Menard of the City of Windsor and local photographer Edison Goodfellow.
Nearly five years ago, Windsor started bringing poets laureate from across Canada for a major literary event in this city.
The idea for such a gathering of poets was born here in 2012 when with the collaborating efforts of Cultural Affairs Office of the City of Windsor, I initiated Poetry at the Manor as part of my role as Windsor’s first poet laureate.
Since then, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Sudbury, Kingston, Mississauga, and other cities have followed suit with readings of their own.
But Windsor is doing every year, and this event is proving to be the most popular and largest “annual” gathering of poets laureate across the country.
Windsor has brought some 16 poets representing their respective cities in Canada to our city for an intimate autumn evening of poetry and storytelling at Willistead Manor.
And once again, Oct. 27, the city will host the now-popular “Poetry at the Manor: Vol. 4” where five writers, hailing from as far away as Vancouver, Calgary and Regina, and as close as Mississauga and Sudbury, will entertain a Windsor audience in the “Great Hall” at Willistead.
This year the verse makers include such award-winning poets as Yvonne Blomer (Victoria, British Columbia), Micheline Maylor (Calgary, Alberta), Anna Yin (Mississauga, Ontario), Kim Fahner (Sudbury, Ontario) and Gerry Hill (Regina, Saskatchewan).
The poets, too, will be going into Windsor high schools to conduct writing workshops.
This year, the welcome musical guest Crissi Cochrane, a pop-soul singer-songwriter now based in Windsor, will entertain with what critics have described as “the silky vocals reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Norah Jones.”
In addition to public readings and discussion, there will be book signings and sales, literary giveaways, and Poetry-On-Demand with Windsor poet and published author Vanessa Shields.
Don’t miss this event. Poetry at the Manor, 7 p.m., Willistead Manor, 1899 Niagara Street, Windsor, Ontario.
This December I spent a few mornings in Detroit. This took me to the Packard Plant, the Brewster Recreation Complex, and The Avalon, the neatest cafe in the city. One morning was spent with photographers; the other with a cellist from the Michigan Opera Theatre.
I haven’t been in a parade since I was 10. That year, it was in May, and it was the May Day “Blue Army” parade on Ouellette Avenue. I was an altar boy at a Catholic Church in Riverside, Ont. (now part of Windsor). The bishop of London was there to bless us. Hundreds of altar boys, nuns, priests, Knights of Columbus members, all marching in the faith. We were the answer to the May Day parades in Moscow. Or so we were told. It was the 1950s. We feared an attack by the Russians. Any day.
And so I was thinking of this as I was asked to be in yet another parade. This time as an adult. This time for Santa Claus. I was there as the Poet Laureate. I stood in the cold waiting for the white 2008 Mustang driven by 22-year-old Holly, a dental assistant in Windsor. It was such a relief slipping into the seats of her car, the heater full blast to warm my cold feet.
I was so amazed at the crowds along Ouellette Avenue. And I recognized so many people. This was spectacular. So well worth doing.
The other day, I went back to 167 Ferry Street, now former home of The Windsor Star. (The Star has moved to the old Palace Theatre building) I wanted to walk through the empty newspaper office where I worked. I wanted to see the old Crabtree Press that was installed there in 1954. I fondly remember its thundering presence. I felt compelled as Poet Laureate of Windsor to write about this place of storytelling in Windsor’s history. I felt compelled to share these images in photographs and words.
The Ghost Road is my latest book. The stories in this new title are like the “ghost road” itself that sits in the middle of an Essex County field. This old strip of asphalt is long forgotten of those heady years when dragsters used this to race other daredevils behind the wheel. In this book, you will find the forgotten tales of Windsor that involve devastating tornadoes, explosions at the riverfront with a symphony orchestra, 19th century race riots, the stories of murderers, assassins, faith healers, sports legends. I launched this new book at Biblioasis on Wyandotte Street East in Windsor. These photos were taken by the talented Emily Buta of Windsor. Take a look at what you missed. But if you are interested, I will be reading at Elias Deli Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. Food and drink and books will be there. Welcome Emily Buta and her masterful photography: