Events · On Writing

The Great Canadian PoeTrain – NPM15 – All Aboard!

Even though the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour won’t be chugging into Windsor this Spring, I do think it’s very important to promote this truly Canadian and incredibly poetic endeavour on my blog!

In a train car (nutshell?), the GCPT is exactly what it sounds like: poets travelling on a train across Canada stopping in 5 cities to read poetry, but also to read, write, sing and sight-see along the way. It is meant to build community both on and off the train through the creative endeavour that is poetry.

Via Rail is the train behind the poets – steaming forward with the poets to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Here’s how the site describes the GCPT:

The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour is moving poets and poetry across the country in celebration of National Poetry Month. Events are planned to bring together the poetry community in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

This April spring poetry’s pulse blooms as poets and musicians ride the rails reading, writing, singing and sightseeing on the Via Rail “Canadian” train.

Westward connecting with this magnificent panoramic landscape we call home. At the same time adventuring into their inner landscape. A journey of re-connecting with the quest to make a cultural contribution to the language of poetic movement. Come join the PoeTrainers in building a bold and beauteous nation for poetry.

One day I’ll hop on the train and go west..or east or wherever Via wants to take us and participate in this grand tour, but for now, I live vicariously (and poetically) through my friends who are participating poets. One helluva gal is my friend Deb Okun Hill. I had the distinct honour of editing her first book of poetry, Tarnished Trophies. I know that Deb will write incredible poetry and share it, literally, with the country!

I asked her a few questions about her experience with the GCPT tour…

What will you be reading while on the tour?

For my Canada Poetry Tour reading on the train, I’ll definitely be reading from my book Tarnished Trophies published by Black Moss Press. Two of my sports-themed poems are set either on the train or at a rural train station. Special thanks to the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts for their support. For the seven mini open mic readings scheduled for the Winnipeg-Edmonton-Vancouver portion of the tour, all the PoeTrainers will share train, food and other themed work with the audiences. I plan to introduce several tribute poems to our remaining ash trees and to create awareness of the destructive emerald ash borer. Clickity-clack, knit one, purl one, clack. Might slip in a knitting themed poem and/or some work published by Beret Days Press. Can’t forget the provincial grassroots organization The Ontario Poetry Society for nurturing my creativity along the way.

Why did you decide to get involved? 

I signed up for the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour because organizer David Brydges is one of those rare individuals who takes a dream and runs with it. One of the best trips I have ever had was on the first PoeTrain Express tour from Toronto to Cobalt. David not only introduced poets to the friendly faces of Northestern Ontario but he also demonstrated how teamwork builds a strong community. I met some wonderful friends on that trip and have been back to the Cobalt/Haileybury area several times for the Spring Pulse Poetry Festival. Many of the original PoeTrainers from that first trip will be on this current train. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to meet new people and to stop in and visit some family and friends along the way.

How excited are you? 

I’m nervous and excited at the same time. Most days I’m too busy to think about it but the reality will hit once my bags are packed. I’m looking forward to going back in time and writing about my experience. Will it remind me of the western movies my dad used to watch?  We’ll see. Sleeping could be a challenge. I know from experience that David will fill the daytime hours with poetry, poetry and more poetry. Lots of creative juices flowing.

How you think poetry ‘fits’ into today’s world? 

For some people, poetry doesn’t fit in this world at all. I often get the strangest expressions from people when I tell them I’m a professional poet. I don’t mind being different. I often find that people don’t understand poetry. I was one of those poetic skeptics until I discovered that poetry is like fine art, like music, like dance. If you don’t like poetry, it’s because you haven’t found the right poet or poem yet. For me, poetry is magic and spiritual. It is everywhere. It takes you on journeys like the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour and who can argue with that?

Thank you Deb!

Click here for a list of this year’s PoeTrainers.

Click here for the GCPT Tour dates.

3 thoughts on “The Great Canadian PoeTrain – NPM15 – All Aboard!

  1. Thanks Vanessa for sharing the news about this great adventure. I hope at some point you will have a chance to chat with David (the man with the vision) and some of the other PoeTrainers including the poet robot “my kulturBot 3.0”. My involvement was/is minimal. Special applause goes to all those wonderful poets, supporters and sponsors who came together to create this national community event. The journey continues.


  2. What a great concept. Wonder if we could do something like this in the states? I don’t know what Amtrak’s on-time record is like but I’m thinking we’d have people waiting at stations for a long time. I’ve ridden Via Rail and the section through the Rockies is pure poetry.


    1. I know, right? I think it’s a marvelous idea. I’m sure Amtrak would go for it! Or maybe…if someone has a fancy tour bus?!!


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