Category Archives: A. Garnett Weiss

Posts specifically by or about JC’s adult writing’s pseudonym

JC Sulzenko asks the Prince Edward County Library to bring CS Richardson to read ALL THE COLOUR IN THE WORLD

After championing “All the Colour in the World” at the County Reads debate in April, JC is encouraging the Library to invite author C. S. Richardson to read and discuss this excellent novel.

 “I chose to champion All the Colour in the World, a finalist for the 2023 Giller Prize, because I couldn’t put it down. And it’s not a whodunnit,” JC had explained to the 200-person audience at the debate. She suggested the book is not only a good story but also is innovative in the way it uses facts and tidbits from history, the arts, science, culture and literature to illuminate and illustrate, to inform the story and its characters. And in the sensuous way it incorporates the colour palette.

Here’s a link to the debate as reported by the Picton Gazette : 

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For the Total eclipse JC celebrated National Poetry Month with poems about the sun on The County Reads…The County Writes






Lynn Pickering’s interview with JC aired on Sunday, April 7, after the noon news on 99.3 County FM’s The County Reads… The County writes.

JC read her ecletic selection of poems written by poets from the mid 1800’s to today. “Since Prince Edward County is on the path of totality for the April 8 eclipse of the sun, what better way to mark this occasion than with poetry that offers glimpses into its light. Such an eclipse won’t happen again in the County for more than 400 years, which is well past my best before date!” JC added.

Among the poems she read were words written by Bliss Carman, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Whitman, Philip Larkin, Mary Oliver , Robert Bly, and Richard Wagamese.


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C.S. Richardson’s ALL THE COLOUR IN THE WORLD: JC’s choice at County Reads, April 18, 2024, in Picton

Here’s the link to the story on about the Prince Edward County Authors Festival’s County Reads debate at which JC will champion ALL THE COLOUR IN THE WORLD, the C.S. Richardson novel which was a finalist for the 2023 Giller Prize.

 Five panellists will attempt to persuade the in-person audience that their title is THE one which everyone in Prince Edward County should read. After the pitches, members of the audience vote, and the winning book emerges from that process.

 “I chose ALL THE COLOUR IN THE WORLD by C. S. Richardson, a finalist for the 2023 Giller Prize, because I could not put it down!” JC explained. “And it’s not a whodunnit!”

 JC looks forward to the debate and encourages friends and colleagues to attend the event and support her choice! County Reads takes place at St. Mary Magdalene Church at 335 Main Street in Picton, Ontario, on Thursday April 18 at 7:00 PM.  Tickets are available at Library branches in the County and at the door. For further information, go to:

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County Arts Mentorship Program Panel on March 26 Featured JC Sulzenko

JC was a panellist in the wrap-up event at the Picton Armoury for the first County Arts Mentorship Program, which began in October, 2023.

 JC spoke first on the panel and described how she worked closely with County poet Heather Lindsay over the four core months of the mentorship. She discussed how their collaboration evolved and what she brought to the table. Here’s The Picton Gazette’s great story on the event with the fine photo of Heather and JC taking part in the panel.

Here’s CountyLive’s take on the culminating event:

And here’s the link to how the Wellington Times captured the story:

“In my writing career, I have been fortunate to have been mentored by the best (Olive Senior, Miller (formerly Sylvia) Adams, and Allan Briesmaster), and I have worked with poets aged 7-97! This focussed program gave me the chance to share my experience and expertise and, at the same time, to learn from my mentee, Heather Lindsay, ” JC explained.

“Serving in the first mentorship program to be offered in the County was a true privilege. I thank County Arts for giving me the opportunity.”

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JC’s collaborative poem with Carol A. Stephen published in Silver Birch Press series on spices and seasonings

JC and Carol have been writing collaboratively for many years. Their first full collection, which seeks a publisher, has the working title of BREATH OF SKY AND WATER. This manuscript includes the poem “Afloat on Flan Pond,” which California-based Silver Birch Press published in its series with spices and seasonings as the theme.

To read their ekphrastic poem, after an image by Will Cotton,  go to:

“I enjoy writing with Carol because, for the most part, we find a way into each new poem that allows us freedom to riff off each other’s line or lines smoothly and yet to remain true to our own intention.

In BREATH OF SKY AND WATER, each poem demonstrates the power of ekphrasis, where one work of art serves as a springboard for another. In some cases, the poems we write stay close to the original artwork. In others, we stray farther afield. It’s always and adventure, ” JC adds.

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Follow up: Between Beauty and Loss Workshop and Mentorship Program with JC Sulzenko

Prince Edward County’s Arts Lab programming in October featured JC a weekend workshop which explored the synergy between collage and found poetry.

JC welcomed the participation of registered artists and writers. “I learn so much in such exchanges. It amazed me how many of us worked in both collage and in words with imagery related to trees.I thank each participant for the richness they brought to the time we spent together.”

 JC also looks forward to working with a mentee through the first mentorship program from October 2023 through March 2024

“I feel privileged to have these opportunities to work with County artists.

 “My approach to leading workshops and to mentoring remains consistent: I am not prescriptive. With the workshop, I seek to enable emerging and established writers and artists to enhance their capacities to express themselves through poetry. I always am eager to learn from and with them.

 “The mentorship program will allow me to develop a working relationship with the mentee writer over its 5 month period in a way which addresses and advances that poet’s goals. I look very forward to this unique program.”

Here is a link to the Arts Council October newsletter featuring JC:

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For September 30: A. Garnett Weiss cento in memoriam the child victims of residential schools

I did not know what to do


Let us stand here and admit we have no road,

though what we say can cover truth

beneath the bitter ground this year—

the past itself disgraced by the ferocity of the new

edges curling with blasphemy and blame—

oppression which preceded history.

Vigilant in anguish and unattended grief,

my own heart and I catch my breath in pain,

now ululate in deep despair,

in deep apology,

lonely for something, nameless as they had been

like shades of broken stars.

               Cento gloss

                Title: Olena Kalytiak Davis, “On the Certainty of Bryan”

                Line 1: William Empson, “Homage to The British Museum”

                Line 2: Fred Cogswell, “Black and White”

                Line 3: Susan Hahn, “January Ovaries”

                Line 4: Campbell McGrath, “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool/The Founding of Brasilia (1950)”

                 Line 5: Molly Peacock, “Blasphemy & Blame”

                 Line 6: Richard Greene, “Independence”

                 Line 7: Gloria Burgess, “Blessing the Lepers”

                 Line 8: Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, “The Race”

                 Line 9: John Whitworth, “The Room under the Eaves”

                 Line 10: E. J. Pratt, “Come Away, Death”

                 Line 11: Claudia Emerson, “Cyst”

                 Line 12: Elliot Fried, “Daily I Fall in Love with Waitresses”

                (Lines drawn unaltered from Bricolage, A Gathering of Centos by A. Garnett  Weiss)

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“WILD CRONE WISDOM” online reading October 28 featured two poems by JC Sulzenko

Editors Stacy Russo and Julie Artman of Wild Librarian Press (Santa Ana, California) offer a new  anthology of poetry and stories worth savouring. Just published ‘WILD CRONE WISDOM, POETRY AND STORIES” embraces poetry of depth and character. In pushing aside the negativity surrounding the term, ‘crone,’  the editors created a collection that embraces crones, women in old(er) age  with “…complexity, ambiguity, and the wisdom found in the dark and light” their stage of  life brings.

In the prose poem, “I wear scars on the inside,”  JC pulls no punches in revealing as much about herself as she does the subjects of her observations — women in a changing room at a local pool after an aquafit workout. “Do-si-do,” is a dance of sorts between the poet, a long-time friend of an artist now in decline, and the artist herself, who no longer remembers their relationship.

On October 28, most of the contributors to the collection were on hand for a reading on Zoom. “Having heard these fine writers read their own work added so much to my appreciation of the anthology. I am honoured that my poems appear  in this fine anthology, “JC noted. Contributors include poets and authors writing in Canada, the  US, France, and India. JC appears to be one of two Canadians in the mix. Copies are available from

For information on the press, please go to:

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A. Garnett Weiss Cento featured in “Hope Springs Eternal, An anthology of Hopeful Poetry”

In its new anthology Simple Simons Press published “Time in the hourless houses,” a cento by A. Garnett Weiss. This found poem also features in BRICOLAGE, A GATHERING OF CENTOS, JC’s collection from Aeolus House (2021.) JC, writing as A. Garnett Weiss, is the sole Canadian whose work appears in the slim volume.

This piece, the only found poem in the anthology, draws lines or partial lines unaltered except for changes in punctuation for the sake of grammar, from TWELVE MODERN POETS, the Continental Book Company AB, edited by Arthur Lundkvist (1946.) Among the luminaries whose lines make up the new poem are Dylan Thomas, T. S. Elliot, Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden, and Ezra Pound. George Baker’s words from “Sacred Elegies, Elegy 1″ provide the 10th line for her poem: “I see tomorrow grow a tree of hope.”

“What intrigues me about this book is the eclectic nature of the selections editor J.R. Simons has made and how JR chose to array these offerings, from free verse to sonnets and haiku. Once again, I find my work in fine company,” JC noted. Here’s a link to the publisher’s site:

Copies of HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL can be ordered this way:,aps,220&sr=8-16&linkCode=sl1&tag=simplesimonsv-20&linkId=438c0de956e03e600b76061d82631664&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl


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Between Beauty and Loss, JC Sulzenko’s hands-on County Arts Lab Workshop in October

Join JC over the weekend of October 14 and 15 to explore collage and found poetry and the dialogue between the two as part of the offerings from the The Prince Edward County Arts Council at the Armoury in Picton, Ontario.

Each afternoon, participants will delve into their personal experience and how that relates to spaces between, for example:

–seasons, when autumn gives way to winter;

–people or places, when leaving gives way to remembering;

–objects, where one treasure is lost and can or cannot be replaced.

On Day 1, participants will deep-dive and create a visioning board collage which gives expression to their thoughts. On Day 2,  they’ll use magazine, newspaper, and other text sources to write found poems arising from their collage. Sharing and showcasing their work in the group and beyond the workshop will also be discussed.

The workshop will appeal to everyone, regardless of their writing or art-related backgrounds, with an interest in exploring relationships between visual art and self-reflection and in finding the poetry there.  All materials will be provided.

Here’s a link to register for the program.

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JC’s Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail published August 20, 2023

Here’s the text of my letter, unaltered from what I submitted, regarding this article — “Canadian writers can’t afford to write non-fiction anymore – and that’s a problem for all of us” (Arts & Books, Aug. 12):

I appreciate contributor Charlotte Gray’s considered analysis of the woeful state of Canadian non-fiction publishing and, in particular, the lack of support for writing about Canadian history.

But if, as Plato observed, “poetry is nearer to vital truth than history,” then the shortcomings of our publishers and policies apply tenfold to poets and poetry. In a U.S.-dominated and globalized marketplace, we risk losing our soul without access to these words.

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Two, New Bookends Mini-Reviews by JC

JC reviews two recent reads.

Go to Bookends on this site to find her ratings of a book that’s hard to typecast: “World of Wonders: In praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments,” written by Aimee Nezhukumatathil and illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, 2020.

The second review JC shares focuses on a very Canadian novel written in 1973, that still resonated with her: “The Book of Eve” by Constance Beresford-Howe.

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South Carolina anthology features 3 poems by JC Sulzenko

JC is delighted that three of her poems appear in the 2023 Tales on the Yellow Brick Road anthology just launched by Yellow Brick Road Publishing of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Here’s a link to the story on this new collection of poetry and prose, which appears in the current issue of Your Island News:

The free-verse poems chosen by Publisher Jack Gannon are unrelated to each other thematically. Mens rea takes on the concept of criminal intent in a quasi light-handed way. Long after Dorothy, a memory piece not written specifically for the anthology, contains coincidentally the lines “Now she’s dead at fifty-five. Again to my surprise,/ I miss the yellow brick road of our childhood.” Southern triptych distills a holiday experience into a trio of poems. “I was delighted to see this poem in the collection, given that it pulls no punches and captures and contrasts genteel city squares in Savannah with the history of racism and slavery.”

Copies of Tales on the Yellow Brick Road are available from JC through this website, from the publisher (, and on Amazon. (

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ARTSCENE featured JC’s winning cento on 99.3FM Voice of the County

JC thanks ARTSCENE host Sarah Moran for inviting her to participate in the discussion on June 2 of  winning entries in the 2023 Wind & Water Writing Contest, the 5th such competition sponsored by County Arts in Prince Edward County.

 JC, writing as A. Garnett Weiss, won first prize for her cento, “For our many moods, there is nothing like a lantern.”  Taking part in the conversation about the contest and sharing thoughts about why and how they write were contest Judges Leigh Nash and Andrew Faulkner and prose winner Dawn Miller.

 Copies of Weiss’s collection, BRICOLAGE, A GATHERING OF CENTOS, a finalist for the 2022 Fred Kerner Book Award (Canadian Authors Association), are available from Books & Company in Picton and at the Prince Edward County Municipal Library.

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Wind and Water 2023 Contest awards first place to JC writing as A. Garnett Weiss

JC thanked the judges and convenors of the Prince Edward County Arts Council’s Annual Wind and Water Writing Contest for selecting her cento as the winning poetry entry.

The cento “For our many moods, there is nothing like a lantern” uses lines drawn unaltered apart for reasons of punctuation from individual poems by 9 different poets in The Next Wave, An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry, Jim Johnstone, Editor, Palimpsest Press, 2018.

Here’s what the judges had to say about the poem: “This cento captured this year’s theme in both form and content, offering a moving depiction of the poetic ties that connect one person to another.”

The year contest this year attracted the highest number of entries since the competition was established by the Arts Council in 2019. JC’s cento won the inaugural contest that year.

JC saluted each of the writers and poets who shared their fine work this way. Here’s a link to reading the winning entries and honourable mentions:

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Al Purdy Day, April 21– JC celebrates with A. Garnett Weiss cento based on Purdy lines

The League of Canadian Poets declared April 21 as AL PURDY DAY to recognize his legacy.

Published under her pseudonym A. Garnett Weiss, JC’s collection of centos, BRICOLAGE:A GATHERING OF CENTOS, features “Where love was slowly becoming possible,” based on Al’s poems. For the Art of Conversation joint project of the County Arts Council and the Community Care Association for Seniors JC created a second Purdy-linked cento after a number of conversations she had with a wise and independent 99 year-old woman who was born in Prince Edward County.

“I am a screen through which the world passes” draws non-contiguous lines and its title, unaltered apart from changes in punctuation, from Purdy’s long poem,  In Search of Owen Roblin. 

To honour AL PURDY DAY, here is the cento:

I  am a screen through which the world passes


To belong somewhere torn

from the great pine forests,

so far from anywhere.

Leaning back against the tree trunks, sitting

on a stone where water foams out,

I realized that here was the exact spot

above the watery rumble.

A long misty chain stretched thru time, and I

began to read books about the 19thcentury.

But names and dates say little.

But the only thing certain is the settlers, themselves.

And I can hear them,

in the past shouting questions and hearing echoes, movings

and reachings and fragments.

For the book is not closed,

as we, too, have our shadowy children deep

down beyond the morning light and under

the high green ceiling of the forest.

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JC’s Poetry Prompt for National Poetry Month selected by Poetry Super Highway (PSH)

Here’s the full text of the prompt that PSH Editor Rick Lupert posted on April 12:

 “If I had…” or roads not taken.

Write a poem imagining/focussing on how your life or your subject’s life could have been changed or become different if one decision had been made that was different from what actually happened. What risks did you take or avoid? What benefits came your way or did you miss out on? Examples: What if you had married the first person you loved or who loved you? What if the hitchhiking ride you and a buddy took turned bad rather than being the lark it was? What if you hadn’t accepted that job in another city but decided to stay put? What if you had not blown up at a social event and been shunned after that by people who you had counted as your friends?

If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.

#napowrimo #poetry

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Ontario Poetry Society and Aeolus House Poetry Afternoon April 15, 2PM-4PM

JC reads from her collection, Bricolage, A Gathering of Centos, at the Spring into Poetry in-person book launch, Saturday, April 15 at the Toronto Public Library’s Main Street Branch, 137 Main Street.

IB Iskov, President and Founder of the Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS), and Aeolus House Publisher Allan Briesmaster co-host this TOPS event at which members will read from their new titles.

JC, who serves as a member-at-large on TOPS’ executive committee, will read a cento from her collection. Which one will she choose?

Here’s a link to the TOPS website with full details:


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JC’s “Find a poem” Workshop for NCR Canadian Authors Association

JC was delighted with the turn-out for the April 11 ZOOM workshop on how to find a poem as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month!

Whether erasure, black-out, or cut-up poetry intrigues (or all 3!), this hour-long interactive session engaged local and faraway participants in exploring the possibilities for creating an original work from texts written by others. Centos were off the table for the discussions which focussed on erasure or black-out poems.

One writer commented she would use the learnings from the session with her students, who often freeze at the blank page when they try to write a poem. Another noted she hadn’t known much about found poetry and would add it to her repertoire.

JC thanked Arlene Smith, Chair of the National Capital Region CAA, for hosting the event and for the invitation to meet with these poets and authors, keen to discover new ways to the heart of a good poem. And she welcomed the lively conversation about the possibilities writing found poetry create.

Copies of JC’s collection of centos, Bricolage, are available from 

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BRICOLAGE in the Poetry Super Highway 2023 Great Poetry Exchange

JC Sulzenko participated in the Poetry Super Highway’s Great Poetry Exchange by sending a copy of her collection of centos to another poet whose address the US-based publisher provided. She wrote BRICOLAGE as A. Garnett Weiss, her pseudonym.

Here’s the link to the list of poets whose work featured in this 2023 initiative:

“This exchange is the brainchild of the Poetry Super Highway, which offered a most welcome lift in the dead of winter. Some 101 poets joined in the program and were paired randomly. I am most curious about my ‘twin’s’ poetry and look forward to the surprizes in store for me,” JC commented.

“Thanks to publisher Rick Lupert for the idea and for showcasing the work of participating poets on the Poetry Super Highway site.”

The Poetry Super Highway explains its mission this way: “To expose as many people to as many other people’s poetry as possible.” The publisher encourages users to read poems, submit their poetry for publication, enter its annual poetry contest, and peruse its directory of writing and poetry websites.

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Ottawa Poet Laureate selects “Mission Extended” for the I AM A HUMAN BEING Anthology

JC Sulzenko’s five-line found poem, “Mission Extended,” appears in a new anthology edited and published by Ottawa’s English Poet Laureate.

“I thank Albert Dumont for choosing this found poem for the anthology, launched in Ottawa on December 18, 2022. I am honoured that my work has gained a place in this fine collection.”

JC writes found poetry and centos using the pseudonym A. Garnett Weiss. “Mission extended” uses words drawn unaltered from death notices and obituary articles published in the Toronto Globe and Mail on April 26, 2017.

Here is how Albert Dumont describes the book:

“I AM A HUMAN BEING is an anthology of poetic perspectives on the topics of love, death, support, honour and other emotions contained in the human heart. They are offered by established poets, by folks who dabble at poetic wordsmithing and by deep-thinking high school students from Ottawa schools. And may I proudly add, include 24 from the Kitigan Zibi School.”
To purchase a copy of I AM A HUMAN BEING, go to his website :

As he explains: “All proceeds generated from sales of this book will go towards promoting poetry as medicine, bringing healing to those finding themselves in emotional distress.”

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The November 2022 THE LIGHT EKPHRASTIC pairs JC Sulzenko’s poems with images by Georgia artist and writer Debbie Walker-Lass

“Perchance to dream,” JC’s poem in response to “Amy and the Queen” by Atlanta artist Debbie Walker-Lass, appears in the November 2022 issue of the online literary journal, THE LIGHT EKPHRASTIC.

Walker-Lass’s image “Cherish Togetherness Forever,” responds to JC’s found poem, “Recovery efforts,” written under her pseudonym A. Garnett Weiss. The five-line poem draws words unaltered from one day’s obituary articles and death notices in the Toronto GLOBE AND MAIL.

Here is the link to their collaboration:

“I am grateful to Editor Jenny O’Grady’s for her choice of the artist with whose work I could interact and for this opportunity to be published in November’s THE LIGHT EKPHRASTIC.

“I revel in writing ekphrastic poems, which gives me both freedom to take an image to heart and respond to it without any restrictions on how, but also demands I respect my partner artist’s original creation.

“Debbie and I chose not to discuss how we were approaching each other’s work while we were doing so. It is always a wonder to me when I first see the artist’s visual interpretation of my words. There is both suspense and mystery in the process.

“I thank Debbie Walker-Lass for this collaboration–a unique experience which resonates deeply.”

JC’s love for ekphrastic poetry isn’t new. She wrote for and curated poetry for the exhibition and chapbook Ekphrasis at Blizzmax Gallery, participated in the County CollAboRaTive exhibition and collector’s book, and co-authored a chapbook of collaborative ekphrastic poems, SLANT OF LIGHT, with Carol A. Stephen, with whom she has a full manuscript, BREATH OF SKY AND WATER, seeking a publisher.

Most recently, her cento “Repeatedly, now in a dream,” was a finalist in The Poets Corner’s Ekphrastic Pairings: poetry, paintings and photography event. Here’s a link to that November 13 program from Maine: . JC’s reading as A. Garnett Weiss appears at around the 35-minute mark.

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BRICOLAGE stays a finalist: JC Sulzenko congratulates winners of the CAA’s Fred Kerner Book Award

JC congratulated Catherine Graham (winner) and and Susan Olding (Honourable Mention) who took home top awards in the Canadian Author Association’s (CAA) Fred Kerner Book Award Contest.

She feels honoured to have had her collection of centos, BRICOLAGE, among five finalists for this national prize. Aeolus House published BRICOLAGE in 2021 under her pseudonym, A. Garnett Weiss.

Here’s a link to the June 18 announcement from the CAA :

The judges’ wrote about BRICOLAGE in this way:

“A paean to the intoxicating power of not only the written word, but also of “borrowed” words, Bricolage is a singular triumph of centos—new poems created from other poets’ verse. Written over the course of a decade, these affecting, absorbing homages are a double-delight: first as cerebral, many-layered musings on both the fragility and resiliency of the human condition astride space and time, and second as a chance to honour the brilliance of the original works.”

In thanking the judges for placing BRICOLAGE on the short list, JC welcomed their generous comments about the poems in this gathering of centos. “BRICOLAGE remains in very fine company on the shortlist.” JC also thanked the CAA for the way in which the organization nourishes its members.

The Fred Kerner Book Award is awarded annually to a Canadian Author Association member who has the best overall book published in the previous calendar year–whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Fred Kerner was a devoted and long-time CAA member, an author, journalist, editor, teacher, and mentor.

Copies of BRICOLAGE can be obtained from, Books & Company (Picton, Ontario), and Octopus Books (Ottawa).

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Centos for the 21st century –lose yourself in BRICOLAGE

On October 15, JC and colleague Blaine Marchand gave a by-invitation, in-person reading from their new poetry collections for friends under the canopy at the most hospitable winery in Prince Edward County, Half Moon Bay Winery.

This event followed Aeolus House’s virtual launch of JC’s book of centos, BRICOLAGE, and Blaine’s BECOMING HISTORY on Thursday, September 23 before some 100 viewers.

“It’s a real pleasure to read aloud in front of people whose reactions are immediate and true rather than confined to the small screen,” JC observed.

On each occasion, JC read more than a dozen poems, including one cento that reuses lines from various poems in BRICOLAGE in memoriam the child victims of residential schools. “I didn’t know what to do” will remain unpublished as a one-time only cento of centos,” JC stated.

BRICOLAGE comes out under JC’s pseudonym, A. Garnett Weiss, adopted to give her distance from her lyric or narrative work.

Bricolage-front cover


JC admitted that gathering her centos into a volume proved challenging but also brought joy. She thanked poets Olive Senior, Keith Garebian and Gregory Betts for providing the fine comments which appear on the book’s back cover. She also acknowledged how grateful she is to fine artist Diana Gubbay for allowing her stunning “Cathedral Forest” collage to grace the book’s front cover. Here’s a link to Ms. Gubbay’s website:

“I thank Allan Briesmaster for publishing BRICOLAGE. It was an honour to share the programs with Blaine Marchand.”

To order BRICOLAGE for $18 plus shipping and handling, please email

Copies of the book also can be purchased from Books & Company in Picton, Ontario, or from Octopus Books in Ottawa, Ontario .

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Impromptu poetry morphs into BESPOKE POETRY or POETRY To-GO– JC Sulzenko writes poems on commission

“I just can’t resist the challenge: writing to a subject not of my choosing, suggested by someone whom I didn’t know beforehand, for the most part, to mark a birthday, an anniversary, a special event or person, or in memoriam,” JC admits. “I’ve now launched “BESPOKE POETRY” to give me the chance to create new poems this way.”

JC began her love affair with poetry written on demand many summers ago at what was then known as “Art in the park,” a showcase for artists, crafts people and assorted others in her neighbourhood.

Wearing a lot of sunscreen and with paper pad and pen, she set up a table and offered to write poems for visitors at $2.50 each, the proceeds of which went to a charitable organization. She cannot remember to which one the modest take went that first year.

She attached certain caveats to the process: payment upfront; she held the copyright to the poem; no one could dispute what she had written; she reserved the right to refuse to write on a subject with which she was not comfortable.

Those who dared to test her skills were interviewed briefly about the subject they had chosen, then sent away to wander among the artisans. When they returned, they picked up the poem in a neat scroll. More often than not, they unravelled the poem and read it on the spot. And commented. Almost all very pleased with the result.

Though not a big fundraiser, JC found the experience exhilarating. “I used a number of the poems written at that festival in “Fat poems Tall poems Long poems Small,” my ekphrastic book of poems for families and children to which Ottawa artists contributed interpretative illustrations.” Several other poems found their way into chapbooks.

For a couple of years, JC returned to the venue, adding a tent and chairs to facilitate the interviews and for the sake of privacy. Each year, the price tag went up by a bit. The final year of her participation, the funds raised were donated to a local hospital.

Then she stopped, overtaken by other writing projects including “Boot Crazy” and later by “What My Grandma Means to Say,” her book and play about Alzheimer’s disease.

Now she has taken up poetry on commission again with enthusiasm. The process begins with agreement on a base price for the poem, which can take the form of free verse or rhyme. The ‘buyer’ pays JC upfront. Then, there’s an interview which can take as little as 10 minutes over the phone or up to an hour face-to-face, where that’s convenient to the parties.

JC considers carefully what she has learned about the subject and writes the poem within the timeframe agreed to in the discussions. The length of the poem can vary depending the subject matter. Once she’s satisfied, she shares the poem and asks for comments as to accuracy only. If there are any factual inaccuracies, she corrects them and then provides a final text.

She asks that the poem not be published without her prior permission and then only with clear acknowledgment as to her authorship.

“I have written about a granddaughter’s graduation from high school on her birthday, the death of a child, a dog who dreams. It’s such an adventure, never knowing where a new poem will begin or to where it will take me.”




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In honour of Leonard Cohen–“After ignorance, blessings” by A. Garnett Weiss republished

When Silver Birch Press (SBP) featured Garnet Weiss’s “After ignorance, blessings” in its Same Name Series, it gave her the chance to mark how as an undergrad she ‘bumped’ into Leonard Cohen at university and how she evolved into a devoted fan. Here is the link:

Given his passing yesterday at 82 and having seen a clip from the media conference at the September release of his last CD where he explained he was ready for death but rather would ‘live’ forever (and he will), it feels appropriate to republish that poem in his honour here.

After ignorance, blessings

Without much prompting, I return to that moment fifty years ago,

while we waited together for a book on reserve at college.

The librarian bellowed out my last name.

We both stepped forward, lightly bumping hips.


Shy as a virgin, I felt heat rush to my face

as the man at the desk glared through thick lenses.

“Leonard,” he harrumphed, dismissing me.

Just then, I realized who you were.


So did the other undergrads, the spectator chorus,

who stared as though it was my fault to carry

the same family name.

I bowed my head, rejoined their line.


Even as poems and songs brought you more fame,

I didn’t become a fan, though I recognized

some tunes, knew bits of lyrics from the CDs

my mother listened to every day till she died.


But after you had to come down from the mountain

‘cause someone had stolen away with your wealth,

after you started to tour, that’s when I fell for you.


I saw you perform live a first time, then again, and again,

just to hear you sing of love and loss and longing in that voice,

its low-growl purr seductive as the melodies that play in my mind.


Which is how I’ve come to regret having no kinship with you

either in blood or in the way you make your music turn words

into a benediction.






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“Siren,” A. Garnett Weiss creates a found poem inspired by Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology, published October 1, 2016



When you feel like talking, tell

these stories.

In fine antique gallery paintings,

even those depicting angels,

a woman is seen gliding over the water

dressed in such a flimsy, evening-type dress

you will forget what happened,

if you capture her.

From somewhere nearby,

hear low singing

sounds like some fairy tales.

Refuse to follow.

Don’t look back.

Hunt for something luminescent—

the phenomenon of fireflies,

a flirtation

through a tangle of vines;

cold light

like a mirror,

calm as the water

a ways offshore—

absolutely true.



 Found poem key: all phrases are non-contiguous and are taken unaltered from “Nancy Drew: The Secret of Mirror Bay,” Carolyn Keene, Grosset & Dunlap, NY, 1972. Page references per line follow: Line 1: p.65; Line 2: p.107; Line 3 and 4: p. 95 – one phrase split into two lines; Line 5: p. 2; Line 6: p.138; Line 7: p. 8; Line 8: p.73; Line 9: p. 24; Line 10: p.65; Line 11: p.45; Line 12: p.60; Line 13: p.141; Line 14: p.22; Line 15: p.151; Line 16: p.61; Line 17: p.78; Line 18: p.157; Line 19: p.100; Line 20: p.23; Line 21:p.120; Line 22: p.105




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Brick Books Celebration of Canadian Poetry Series features JC’s introduction of A. Garnett Weiss who celebrates Al Purdy and Friends

The day before Canada Day, Brick Book’s website featured JC’s article on A. Garnett Weiss’s use of the cento form to celebrate the writing of poets such as Al Purdy, Lorna Crozier, E. J Pratt, Monty Read, Molly Peacock and Leonard Cohen.

Here’s the link to the article:

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Day 30 poem, “Generation, from memory,” the last piece in the month-long poetry challenge

I accepted the day 29 prompt in because the Day 30 prompts from that site and from Found Poetry Review were not a good fit. I am pleased to have participated in this month-long writing challenge but, at the same time, feel relieved it’s over. And apologetic that I was a day late once in a while.

Here’s the prompt: “write a poem based on things you remember. Try to focus on specific details… You could start… every line with “I remember,” and then you could either cut out all the instances of “I remember,” or leave them all in, or leave just a few in….”

What has emerged is a more personal poem than my other offerings this month. Perhaps that’s fitting for the last in this series, perhaps not. I’ll let the poem be for a while, then may revisit “Generation, from memory.”

Thanks to Found Poetry Review and for kick-starting every day in April with great ideas.

Generation, from memory

In May, the jubilant pronouncement: “I’m pregnant!”
Your mother’s words turned an ordinary day into a celebration,
then draped me in a shawl of worry: Would she be alright? Would you?

In June, she popped pills to stem the nausea, then slept day-long.
My gentle words that this would pass so inadequate,
I offered mint-leaf tea, dry toast, warm blankets and hugs.

In July, a visit to the midwife, tattooed and pierced, tightened
the worry around my shoulders. I asked myself could I trust
her judgment, her experience? Could I trust her with my daughter?

The rapid thrum/thrum/thrum/thrum of your heartbeat filled the room
when you were smaller than a lime, still on the tree. At that moment
I understood the passion, the argument about when life begins.

In November, my hand on your mother’s stomach—smooth,
without stretch marks, swollen to watermelon size— I felt
you kick at me as though you were dancing the can-can.

In January, on walking home with your mother from the spa,
sudden cramps stopped us every ten minutes, then every five,
then every fifteen as she breathed through your false start.

I packed that evening, took the long ride home, even though
I wanted so badly to stay, to wait with her it hurt in my gut.
I gathered the shawl to me but felt its cold through the car window.

Then a text message: your mother and father were at the hospital,
your mother resting well with a local anesthetic.
I sat in the living room, sipped wine, held your grandpa’s hand.

Waiting, worrying, waiting, worrying, waiting, worrying,
waiting, worrying, waiting, worrying, waiting, worrying.
In the silence, the shawl constricted like a straitjacket.

The phone rang, delivering your mother’s voice.
She sounded like a child herself.
“He’s here! It’s a boy. I’m looking at him.”

I tasted tears as I put down the receiver. I cast off the shawl,
left early the next morning to greet you before you were a day old.
Coming into the hospital room alone that first time to hold you,

light as a feather, I studied your eyelashes and tiny fingernails, traced
the line of your soft cheek with my arthritic hand. I both believed
and couldn’t believe the wonder you are, of my flesh, my blood.

I began singing “Hush little baby, don’t say a word…”
for the first time in almost thirty years
and remembered all the words.


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Beth Ayer’s April 29 Impromptu prompt to write a poem from an unintelligible text (in your own language)

Beth Ayer’s challenge through FPR was as follows: “In the spirit of heading into darkness after all things unseeable and obscure, write a poem using a text that is inexplicable to you. Could be quantum physics, thermodynamics, mathematics, aeronautical engineering – or something else altogether that to you speaks in incomprehensible language. Choose a text or texts and begin selecting words and phrases as they spark associations. Write a poem using the collected words and phrases. Let your imagination fire, and don’t worry about what these terms mean in their original context.”

I went online and used phrases and words largely unaltered from an article from European Nuclear Society ( What Is A Nuclear Reactor? to respond to the prompt on this penultimate day of National Poetry Month.  I certainly didn’t understand the technicalities in the article when I composed the poem below. Comments are welcome.

This basic difference

After the separation
converted their bond,
transferred power
for multiple purposes,
fission released them.

Before they escaped
slightly enriched,
they felt intense deceleration,
released from the laws of nature,
the pressure to combine.

Devices designed in a loop
fed into the fuel they use:
The same, reinforced, secondary light.

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