To visit the Mocambopo reading series


For poetry by Wendy Morton


Mocambo Nights can be ordered directly from the publisher, Ekstasis Editions at ekstasis@islandnet.com or by mail at Box 8474 Main Postal Outlet, Victoria, B.C. V8W 3S1 for $20 Canadian funds, including shipping.

cover of Mocambo Nights Mocambopo:
a poetry reading series


Wendy Morton

Wendy Morton, Host

I've hosted a poetry series in Victoria, B.C. for three years; nearly every Friday night for three years. We have an open mike, followed by a featured reader. We call it Mocambopo, and it has been going on since 1995. For me it is always one of the highlights of my week, I look forward to the delights of the night: the singing poems; the poems sung; the dancing, the dancing poems. The words. There are poets who have come to the open mike with trepidation; the next week they come with more confidence and 3 months later they are featured readers, filled up with poetry's magic. Recently a young woman came to the open mike and recited two poems with her eyes closed. And we saw her poems as she spoke. When she opened her eyes and smiled , we smiled and her poems were our poems.

In 2000, I asked Richard Olafson of Ekstasis Editions, and a frequent visitor to Mocambopo, if he would be interested in publishing an anthology from the Mocambopo reading series. He said yes immediately. I then asked Patrick Lane, a Governor General award winner to edit it. He said yes. Then we asked all the famous Canadian poets who had read at Mocambopo to submit, and agree that they would not be paid, because 10% of the proceeds were to go toward a prize for an emerging writer. We invited submissions from anyone who had read at the open mike or as a featured reader and now we have Mocambo Nights: Poems from the Mocambopo Reading Series.

In the centre of the book is a poem by Don McKay, a two time winner of the Governor General's award ( Canada's highest literary award). The beginning of his poem, “Song for the Song of the Coyote” sets the tone for the entire book:

Moondogs, moondogs,
tell me the difference between tricks
and wisdom, hunting
and grieving.

The trickster arrives in William Knowles poem, “The Misanthrope in Me”:

Today I threw the first punch,
cut off a lady in a mustang
only a block from home.
It was rude and dangerous,
but that's the way life is--
my life anyway.

In William George's poem, “Sockeye Salmon Dream” is an ancient wisdom:

sockeye salmon dream
seeps into my bones flesh
the west coast rain sings

Mocambo Nights is filled with birds: birds that haunt us. In Susan Gee's “What we saw at the lake:”

When the heron flies
his wings fold down
feathers nearly touching
blue bits of water
soft sweep
he draws into himself
something from the lake.

Kelly Parson's “Monastery Quails” begins,

Think of them coming down
from the hills, leaving the familiar

hedgerows of their birth. They will take up
residence in ruins.

In “Homing Pigeons,” Barbara Colebrook Peace takes us inside the coop:

Woozy, in a world of constant warm,
we sit woolgathering, wings against
our dozy sides. Cubicled in fluorescent summer
our breathing dims to autumn mound.
Though we don't know the reason,
in our brains, the cherry trees are leaking.

And in Chris Smart's “Ravens Speak,”

A woman opens her mouth and a thousand ravens
fly out black wings at dusk she sings

As for grieving, the poets in Mocambo Nights, know its dark grace. In Lorna Crozier's “The End of the Century,” the dead arrive:

Under the bridge the dead are gathering.
What happened to the ferryman, his bag
of coins, his pity? In all this traffic
how can they cross these girders of steel
and starlight?

In Marlene Grand Maitre's “Waiting for the House on Harwood,” we grieve again:

This Spring, iris leaves are a green
that defies loss, shaped
like the fingers of those who died
too early, reaching back
for what they left unfinished
In Joelene Heathcote's “Temporary Wives,” she grieves for love lost:
There is no other way for us.
You drive your long, gold car to the airport for me,
bow tenderly as the plane leaves the ground, and I stop breathing.

Mocambo Nights will tell the reader the difference between tricks and wisdom, hunting and grieving. It is one of the finest collections of Canadian poetry that I've seen: great poets and emerging poets all singing in a voice that is clear and beautiful to hear.