25th Trillium Award

Get to Know Literary Ontario, with Charles Mountford of Stratford Poetry

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Charles Hugh Mountford

Charles Mountford, a Stratford poet, speaks to Open Book about Poetry Stratford, a poetry reading series he organized to promote poetry within the community. Charles, who is also Poetry Stratford?s Artistic Director, tells us about the writing scene in Stratford, Poetry Stratford?s role within the community and his average day as a Poet-in-Residence at the Stratford Public Library. In this Get to Know Literary Ontario interview, it is clear that this town is a literary community with a lot of opportunity for local writers, with Poetry Stratford playing an important part.

Charles was recently interviewed by Stratford Authors. Please head over to their website to read the interview.

Open Book:

Tell us about Stratford Poetry.

Charles Mountford:

The name of the organization is Poetry Stratford and we have the domain name for it.

Poetry Stratford is a poetry reading series. We bring in nationally known poets and poets from our region to give solo and/or group readings. We have been doing this for the last seven years. We work in collaboration with several hosts to do this, although the Stratford Public Library is our main partner. Other hosts have included St. Marys Public Library, Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar, the University of Waterloo in Stratford and SpringWorks, which is a Stratford arts festival. We also collaborate with the library to organize the annual James Reaney Memorial Lecture. Also, there is an annual literary evening at Poetry Stratford?s headquarters on Wellington Street in Stratford. This year?s poet at the literary evening is Trillium winner and Griffin Prize finalist, Phil Hall.

I am trying to make Stratford a poetry destination for poets on the reading circuit.


What is your role with Stratford Poetry, and why did you want to be involved?


I am the founder and Artistic Director of Poetry Stratford. I wanted to become a kind of ambassador of poetry in Stratford and the founding of a reading series seemed a useful thing to do in that respect.

I was inspired in this by the American poet Stanley Kunitz, who founded spaces for poets to read in New York City and Provincetown. He was also a gardener, as I am.


You are currently serving as Poet-in-Residence at the Stratford Public Library. Can you describe your average day as Poet-in-Residence?


There is no average day as Poet-in-Residence at the Stratford Public Library. I spend most of my Poet-in-Residence time organizing things for the reading series and the James Reaney Memorial Lecture. We have a couple of open mike events each year. I also run a poetry workshop. I don?t have office hours and I don?t have an office. There just isn?t space in the building. I do most of my work at home.

I spend a lot of time attempting to raise the awareness of poetry as a living art form. It is surprising how many people seem to feel that poetry in English ended with Wordsworth or something. (Or if it didn?t it should have.)


How would you describe the writing scene in Stratford and Perth County?


Stratford has a very strong arts culture. There are lots of people doing some great things in writing in town. Most of them seem to be novelists, short story writers or children?s book writers. There aren?t a large number of poets in town with books out.

This doesn?t mean that there are no people writing poetry. Actually, there seems to be a lot of people writing poetry. It?s just that they haven?t made the breakthrough to a published book. But the talent seems to be there.


Let's say I'm a writer who has just moved to Stratford. What advice would you have for me about getting involved in the community?


Writers are very welcome in Stratford. It?s a great place to live. The Stratford Public Library is currently the best place to start if you want to get involved with writers in the community. A number of writers? groups and/or workshops meet there on a regular basis. If I were a writer who has just moved to Stratford that?s where I would go to find out about like-minded people.


What events and readers do you have lined up for Poetry Stratford in the coming months?


On Sunday, April 21 at 2:30 p.m. in the Stratford Public Library auditorium, there is a group reading called: Four Women; a celebration of women in poetry. Readers for this group are Penn Kemp (reading her own work and some poems by Colleen Thibaudeau), Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy and Marianne Micros.

In May (date and time not set yet), Charles Mountford and Liz Zetlin are reading in one of Stratford?s fine coffeehouses as part of the SpringWorks Festival.

On Thursday, May 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Tea Leaves Tea Tasting Bar, Charles Mountford is doing a solo reading.

Upcoming authors for fall events will include Phil Hall.

The Poetry Stratford Poetry Workshop will continue on the last Wednesday of every month at 1:30 p.m. in the Stratford Public Library activities room.


What can you tell us about your next writing project?


I just had a new book (called The Thing On The Comb), out from Pendas last year and we are rehearsing a new chamber opera about D?Arcy McGee for which I wrote the libretto. I am putting together a new book of poetry called A Joker, A Toker, A Real Estate Broker. It should be ready in a year or so. Hopefully.

There is a recent interview with me on the Stratford Authors blog if you need more information about me rather than Poetry Stratford.

Thanks for the opportunity to tell everybody about Poetry Stratford.

Charles Hugh Mountford is a Stratford poet and humorist. He is a graduate of The University of Western Ontario (MA English) and The University of London (MA Librarianship). He is also the founder and Artistic Director of Poetry Stratford: A Reading Series. He has had three books published and two chapbooks, all by Pendas, London. He won first prize in The Alberta Poetry Contest and was a finalist in The Atlanta Review?s 2009 International Poetry Competition.He was shortlisted for the Bridport UK Poetry Prize in 2008 and 2010. Charles Mountford is a Full Member of The League of Canadian Poets, The Writers? Union of Canada and The Playwrights Guild of Canada. Find out more about him at his website.

For information about The Thing on the Comb please visit the Pendas Productions website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore.

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