Red Tree Poetry At The Abbey!

Red Tree Poetry Returns

Saturday, October 20th 4 p.m. at The Abbey in Cumberland, featuring flora, fauna, & h. sapiens, a collection of poetry by authors, Pat Smekal and Ian Cognitō and also featuring some of their new work.

This collection first came together as a series of performance sets by Pat and Ian, in which they sought to encapsulate their observations of nature and human nature, especially the places where the line begins to blur a bit. The poems are presented in their original face-off, dueling-poet format – a submission from one of the poets followed by a corresponding poem from the other. Pat or Ian take the lead in each of the four sets in this compilation with 5 poem proposals, followed in direct sequence by their partner’s respective responses.

Pat and Ian both value accessibility and humour in their words and performances, and there is a strong consensus that they have a achieved these things in this collection. Throughout 2017 and 2018, Pat and Ian have been performing snippets from their collaborations and their book, flora, fauna, & h. sapiens, at various Vancouver Island venues.

From the Foreword:

‘flora, fauna and h. sapiens’ by Pat Smekal and Ian Cognitō is a romp, a ramble and a jog down the many paths where poetry leads us. But more importantly, it’s a dialogue between a pair of imaginative minds. The confluence of these two strong voices produces remarkable and startling results.

Andrew Brown, Author of: ‘Crow’s First Word’ (2007); ‘The Stone Inside a Man’s Heart’ (2013); and ‘Shadow Road’ (2016), Gravity Press, Vancouver, B.C.

Pat Smekal is a writer from Nanoose Bay, who fills her time with family, friends, yoga, hiking, travel, and as much laughter as she can muster. Pat’s poetry has been winning prizes since 2003 and has been published widely in Canada and the U.K in over 40 anthologies, chapbooks, and magazines. In 2009, her chapbook, Praise without Mortar, appeared in print. Then Small Corners was published in 2012, followed by a collaboration of poems with David Fraser, entitled Maybe We Could Dance in 2013. Pat has recently worked on another collaboration with Ian Cognitō to capture their performance set, flora, fauna, and h. sapiens, in print.

Ian Cognitō is a writer from Yellowpoint BC. He is the founder and artistic director of 15 Minutes of Infamy, a monthly word-craft cabaret in Nanaimo, as well as assistant director of the Wordstorm Society of the Arts. Recently, Ian published flora, fauna, and h. sapiens with co-author, Pat Smekal, and he is currently putting the finishing touches on Animusings, his first solo project. Ian also likes to write short fiction and has an extensive portfolio of self-penned children’s fiction written in verse. His other incarnations have included language instructor, child and youth care worker, education assistant, and theatrical clown (in no particular order).

The Red Tree poetry series resumes! Join us October 20, 2018, 4 p.m. at The Abbey. Doors open at 3:30. Go to the First Street door, just up from Dunsmuir.

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Highlights from the Deep In Cascadia Poetics Retreat and Poetry Bash


Last month we held our first Deep In Cascadia Poetics Retreat and Poetry Bash. With a bioregional focus, the retreat is an intimate venue for poets with a dedicated commitment to collaborative craft, during which they spend a weekend listening and learning from each other as a way to deepen their work. The “bash” is a way to share this work with the public.

We, the co-directors, are still coasting on inspiration and are grateful to everyone who attended. Andrew Engelson wrote a fantastic article for his Cascadia Daily newsletter  (to which we highly recommend subscribing).

The attendees engaged in “breakout sessions” of their own creation, from using “impersonal voice”, to how the poem holds space for sacred experience, (and also for a sacred no),  to discussing ancient Chinese poetry, to dialogue on all aspects of “borders” and being “unsettled”, to questions on how to write about the natural world in these troubling times.

We’d like to thank Barry McKinnon, Ed Varney and George Stanley for being our resident literary elders, Paul Nelson for his sage advice and for bringing a contingent up from the U.S., climate scientist Dominick DellaSala for his engaging presentation on life arising from burned forests and his work at the U.S. capital around climate change (complete with poetry and song),  Shannon Bailey for her tireless volunteerism (our right-hand woman) and our other volunteers as well: Adele Campbell and Ed Varney for their work at the book table, Louie Adell at the door, and David Freeman who helped with the audio and visual during Dominick’s talk.

Denis Mair with retreat co-director Danika Dinsmore.

Dominick DellaSala with a slide of “muzzled” scientists posing in front of the White House









Barry McKinnon reading with Dan Kirk listening very attentively!


A very special thank you to Wedlidi Speck, a Namgis elder and hereditary chief for his exceptionally moving talk on Sunday morning. Many people felt this was the highlight of the weekend. He shared with us about the role of elders in his life growing up and gently encouraged us to connect to our own indigenous roots whatever they were, write from a place of integrity as we define it, and know that we are all worthy of having a deep connection to this land.

With Wedlidi at the Abbey after our closing circle. Front row: Ian Cognito, George Stanley, Lorraine Martiniuk, Ed Varney, Shannon Bailey, Paul Nelson, Louie Stephenson. Back row: Carla Stein, Rob Lewis, Ramon Kubicek, Wedlidi Speck, Adelia MacWilliam, Nadine Maestas, Dan Kirk, Matt Trease. Taking photo: Danika Dinsmore

In solidarity,
Adelia and Danika



Three “Poets with Hats” beneath the Riding Fool Hostel sign, where most of the retreat took place. (We wanted to change it to Writing Fool!) Retreat co-director Adelia MacWilliam with Paul Nelson (Seattle Poetics LAB) and fellow Cumbie poet Louie Stevenson.


Members of the Cascadia Poetics Lab Board from left to right in the back: Ed Varney, Louie Stephenson, Carla Stein. Front from left to right, Danika Dinsmore, Adelia MacWillam. Missing: Sophie Gilmore.














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Deep in Cascadia Poster

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Poetry retreat events!

Dominick DellaSala

Hello everyone,

Our poetry retreat in September is shaping up beautifully. We have our thirty participants who will spend two and a half days together sharing ideas and readings!! Friday and Saturday night, starting at 7:30, we will have wild and wonderful poetry bashes at the Masonic Hall on Dunsmuir Ave. in Cumberland. Wayward Distilleries and the Cumberland Brewing Company are providing the drinks (many thanks!!!). Our senior poets, George Stanley, Sharon Thesen, Barry McKinnon and Zoë Landale have all agreed to read, along many of the other retreat participants, and it’s going to be fast and furious.

On Saturday afternoon Dominick DellaSala, a renowned climate scientist will give a talk at the Masonic Hall. 2-5 p.m.

All of the events are by donation.

One last thing, unfortunately we are going to have to cancel the August Red Tree reading. The next Red Tree reading will be in October, hoping to have Pat Smekal and Ian Cognito read then. Location tbd.

Until then, take care and hope you are getting some time to play outdoors this summer.




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