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BALLERINAS

Sheena McCorquodale, Cathouse Gallery, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC
Isadora Arabesque by Sheena McCorquodale

It all began with that arabesque

I have been somewhat overwhelmed by the wonderful response to the photos I posted – on my author page on Facebook and here on my author website – of myself dancing with Sheena McCorquodale’s stunning wire sculpture, Isadora.

I had not included in my author biography anything about my dance background, but now seems an appropriate time to do so!

Svetalana Beriosova dances the lead role of Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake” with the Royal Ballet Company at Convent Garden, London, UK.

It all began with an arabesque

I took my first balletical bunnyhops aged three, at a local dance school in Kingston-on-Thames, UK. It was love at first hop.

When I was about eight, I was taken to see a performance of “Giselle” at Covent Garden. Afterwards, my aunt had arranged for us to go backstage and meet the prima ballerina, Svetlana Beriosova, in her dressing room. Lithuanian-born, she had begun dancing with the Royal Ballet at the age of nineteen. I was entranced, in awe of her petite, elegant beauty. She and her great bear of a husband, Oleg, were, in return, sweetly encouraging to a star-struck young balletomane.

Motivated by these kind words, and with an autographed photo of her pinned up on the wall in my bedroom, I continued with ballet classes at school and later at a private dance studio, studying variously Cecchetti, London Imperial and Royal Academy curricula of dance, taking exams as I went up the grades. Although I knew I did not have the talent to dance professionally, I could not (cannot) imagine life without dancing and dance music.

Svetlana Beriosova and Rudolph Neureyev, Swan Lake, Royal Opera House Convent Garden, London UK
Svetlana Beriosova, prima ballerina, with members of the corps de ballet , in “Giselle” at the Royal Opera House Convent Garden, London, UK

Both remained an important part of my life. I refused to throw away my point shoes; voted Edgar Degas’ little bronze “Dancer Aged Fourteen” in the Tate Gallery my all time favourite sculpture and attended performances by London Contemporary Dance whenever I could afford the price of the ticket! I danced at Pineapple Studios in London in my early twenties, and at a local studio in Saffron Walden in Essex, after leaving the city. On arriving a new immigrant in British Columbia, I took classes at a ballet studio in New Westminster and at City Ballet in Vancouver. Modern dance, tap, Red Hot Swing, and ballroom dancing widened my scope. I even continued to take adult classes locally at Ballet Victoria, here in Victoria, until the start of the pandemic when all classes were shut down. Nothing daunted, I found “Silver Swans”, classes run online by the Royal Ballet from White Lodge in Richmond Park, UK, and plied away, keeping fit and limber through those tough months that we all remember so clearly.

All these thoughts and memories have coalesced into words. I have spent this last week on a new series of poems with a working title of “Ballerinas”.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your ongoing encouragement and support!

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen 1880-1, cast c.1922 Edgar Degas 1834-1917 Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund 1952 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N06076
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Vancouver Island Summertime! 1st August 2022

Fabulous artwork, busy night markets and glorious sunshine!

I am thrilled to have been one the seven local poets from Sooke Writers’ Collective who took part in a live spoken-word performance as one of the featured acts on the opening day of this well-known art show and sale. We were so honoured to be participants in the live return of this Show after two years of pandemic closure.

all photos (c) 2022 AMGray studios

Here I am in best ballet pose, dancing beside Isadora Arabesque by Sheena McCorquodale, a graceful installation in the entrance marquee to the Show, surrounded by a delightful display of flowers and plants from Sooke’s Artisan Garden.

I was lucky enough to have been given a ticket to the prestigious private view and sale which took place on the evening of Thursday, 21st July. After a hectic but successful turn at the Sooke Collective stall in the Sooke Region Museum’s Summer Night Market, selling copies of “Bits of String & Thread” as well as copies of the just-published Collective anthology number nine, “Sooke Roots” ( in which I have a brand new short story called “On the Way Home”) I popped on some glamorous high heels and made my way to the Show. I spent over two hours, absorbed in the wide range, diversity and quality of the works on display. There were fabulous juried examples of artwork, photography, glass work, ceramics, wood work and cabinetry, textiles and jewellery with precious metals and stones.

On Friday, before reading “The Wave Watcher”, one of three original poems appearing for the first time in “Where We Reside”, I shared with the audience that the two watercolours by artist Dan Zak, “Cox Bay” and “Cox Beach” achieve spectacularly in paint, what I attempt to do in that particular poem with my words: namely to transport the reader to the peace and tranquility of Ella Beach and its mountain ranges, using the names of water colour pigments and of the different weights and textures of watercolour papers.

Both “Where We Reside” and “All the Elements” were on sale in the Sooke Fine Arts Show Gift Shop and by the last day (Monday 1st August) had almost sold out!

photo: Jim Bottomley

Both “Where We Reside” and “Sooke Roots” are available for purchase from the Sooke Writers’ Collective as well as from Artisan’s Garden and Sooke Region Museum Gift Shop.

Hair by Danielle at Kat’s Hair Studio, dress Tana Liberty Lawn, Liberty London, UK

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A Month in the (very English) Country

5th JUNE 2022

FORDINGBRIDGE, HAMPSHIRE

I have just returned from spending the month of May based in this picturesque English town, on the banks of Shakespeare’s Avon as it makes its way to the sea. I am thrilled to be able to announce that in Fordingbridge Book Shop – thanks to its owner, David, and manager, Rosemary – copies of BITS OF STRING & THREAD can now be purchased or ordered!

+44 1425 653725

Many of the English-themed narrative poems in the anthology refer to the iconic landscapes and landmarks surrounding Fordingbridge, and so I have captioned the photographs I took, to give you some images to go with your reading of my poems.

Salisbury Cathedral, Breamore House, my aunt’s house at Donhead St Andrew, the Chalke Valley, Alderholt Mill and working water wheel, the gardens of Wilton House, the New Forest, Kingston Lacey House, the chalk downland villages of Martin and Damerham, St George’s church and interior, marquee at a village fete and families building sandcastles by the seaside at Christchurch (all photos by cemwinstanley)

I was in England as preparations for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations were getting underway. In one such extravaganza I was lucky enough to attend, the cavernous interior of Salisbury Cathedral was filled with towering flower decorations and installations including one featuring the ermine-trimmed purple robe worn by the Queen at her Coronation – but made entirely of flowers!

My head is still filled with the sensations of my days there – inspiration for many pieces of writing yet to come.

It was also beyond wonderful to see family and friends whom like many people I had been prevented from being with for two and a half years due to Covid travel restrictions.

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Easter Weekend, April 2022

GLAMPING” ON SALT SPRING ISLAND

largest glorious Gulf Island in the Salish Sea

Salt Spring Island has always had a special place in my heart and I am lucky enough to be spending this Easter long weekend on the north east side, overlooking Trincomali Channel from high above the distinctive dog’s leg of Walker’s Hook.

For many years, my family and I “glamped” during long school holidays in a secluded cabin, surrounded by yellow and red cedar, Douglas fir, Garry oak and majestic Arbutus.

Over those decades, I kept a journal, illustrated in watercolour, of our adventures on Salt Spring Island. I have returned here this weekend to recapture the spirit of this Island and weave its magic into the fabric of a new series of poems that I am now working on.

I was married in this tiny church in Burgoyne Bay

Salt Spring Island is part of the traditional territory of the Saanich, Cowichan and Chemainus First Nations, whose people have treasured the rich natural abundance of this unique Island for over 5,000 years.

all photos (c) cemwinstanley

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25th March 2022 THE TALE OF A TAIL

Successful submission of poem for April Poetry Walk, celebrating National Poetry Month in Canada

PERDIDA line drawing by cemwinstanley

I have heard this week that a brand new poem I wrote in February, inspired by the life story of my rescue-housedog, Perdida, has been chosen as one of eighteen to be featured in a local Poetry Walk from 18th – 30th April, in celebration of Canadian National Poetry Month. I am like a dog with the proverbial two tails!

In the end pages of my anthology, BITS OF STRING & THREAD, compiled as the world faced pandemic lockdowns, I described my mongrel lurcher as my ‘constant, Covid companion’ because of the way in which she had helped both my mental and physical health,

“since you arrived, a mangy stray

rescued

from the dangers of a wilderness night”

lines from “The Tale of a Tail” by cemwinstanley
Perdida’s armchair

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SPRING IS ON ITS WAY! 28th February 2022

Here, at the base of this month’s Blog Page, is a brand new recording of A SONG FOR SALMON to celebrate the return of Spring along the west coast of Vancouver Island.

This narrative poem was published last year in PIECES OF EIGHT, the eighth anthology from Sooke Writers’ Collective. The piece was inspired by a story-telling performance by the poet and author Joke L. Mayers.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com
A SONG FOR SALMON
Photo by Doni Haris on Pexels.com

Yoruba, spoken in the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic as well as parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, is one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Many thanks to Joke for her assistance with my phonetic transcription of the lullaby.

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2022 IS OFF TO AN EXCITING START!

SATURDAY 22ND JANUARY

I am over the moon to be able to announce that I learned yesterday evening that one of my prose pieces called “The Jumper” was runner up in the Federation of British Columbia Writers’ annual literary contest within the category of flash fiction. Over the course of the past week, I have had the thrill of seeing my name on the long and then shortlist before being notified yesterday afternoon that I was on the runners up and winners list announced yesterday. “The Jumper” will be published in the spring in the first contest winners’ anthology to be produced by the FBCW which is yet more fantastic news!

Having dedicated the last few months of 2021 to finishing the final edit of my contemporary novel, a boost of confidence for my prose – as opposed to my poetry – could not have come at a better time. The novel is completed and I am now tasked with defining its route to publication; an exciting journey that will be the subject of future blogs.

For full details of all the winning entries, please visit the Federation of BC Writers website:

https://www.bcwriters.ca/contest-winners-2021

THE JUMPER by Clare Winstanley

What the judge wrote about my flash fiction prose entry:

The Runner Up: The Jumper by Clare Winstanley

A woman appraises a piece of her knitting and tells a story in colour and stitch and pattern—each deliberately chosen to record specific memories in wool. She’s an artist, no doubt. Every word and detail work together to set a mood, to set us up for a wicked twist of an ending. I’m always a fan of the love story and I love being surprised. I thought “The Jumper” was very well done.

— Judge Ursula Vaira

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December … and loving being local!

Thrilled to find my book centre stage on a display at Vancouver Island Regional Library, Sooke Branch, showcasing and celebrating the achievements of local authors and poets!

Christmas Spirit was much in evidence at the iconic Sooke Community Hall this past weekend. I most happily took my place for the day at the Sooke Writers’ Collective stall in the Christmas Market where book sales were excellent. It was such a treat to be able to hold the market again this winter!

We helped match many a name on a Christmas list with a suitable book as well as meeting several members of the community keen to join the Collective!

Thank you to fellow authors and poets Deb Clay (dlclay) Deborah Lambert (D.Lambert) Richard Ashton and Wendy Herring (W.M.Herring) for such an enjoyable and rewarding day at the Fair.

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November brought yet more exciting news!

The Reading Room and Library (doors at end on right) at the Union Club of British Columbia, Victoria

Such an honour to have had copies of BITS OF STRING & THREAD purchased by the UC Library as part of its private collection.

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LIVE POETRY READING A HUGE SUCCESS!

THE UNION CLUB OF BRITISH COLUMBIA , 11th September, 2021

Here I am in the sumptuous décor of the Reading Room at the Union Club, in front of an audience of over twenty people on Saturday afternoon, 11th September, 2021. The event started with my reading five of my most recently published poems during a thirty minute performance. This was then followed by an informal interactive question and answer session which lasted for over forty five minutes!

Thank you to each and every one of the general membership and book club members who attended and asked me such fascinating and stimulating questions! Your positive feedback and encouragement was much appreciated.

Huge thank you to Kristin Backlund, Union Club Librarian and Book Clubs Coordinator for hosting this inaugural UC authors’ event and to Danielle Scott, Sales and Engagement Manager, the Union Club of BC for your assistance with planning and organisation.

#unionclubofbc #myclubmakeityours #sookewriterscollective #spokenwordpoetry

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MY NEXT LIVE POETRY READING IS AT THE UNION CLUB OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, VICTORIA, BC

I can confirm today that I have been invited to give a live performance of a selection of poems from BITS OF STRING & THREAD on Saturday, 11th September, 2021, to members of this luxurious private club in the heart of downtown Victoria.

THE UNION CLUB OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

I love the decorative front facade of this hundred-year-old classic building, located on Gordon Street. Many of its sumptuously refurbished reception and dining areas overlook Victoria Harbour, the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the breathtaking Olympic Mountain range beyond.

A huge thank you to Kristin Backlund, Union Club Librarian and Book Clubs Coordinator and to Danielle Scott, Sales & Engagement Manager, The Union Club of British Columbia for this exciting invitation.

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FRIDAY EVENING’S LIVE READING AT THE GALLERY

was such a fun event! It was so special to be in front of a live audience once again and to be able to share five original pieces – four from BITS OF STRING & THREAD and one from ALL THE ELEMENTS. What a luxury to be able to mingle afterwards, admiring the artwork, photography, jewelry, sculptures and textiles on display in the Gallery around us. Such a unique and perfect setting for a live reading.

Thank you to staff and volunteers at the Gallery by Sooke Arts Council for all your assistance in making the event such a success.

Photos (c) Richard Ashton 2021

I received this stunning bouquet at the end of my performance.

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Live Poetry Reading by Author Friday 27th August 2021

LIVE POETRY READING BY LOCAL SOOKE AUTHOR CLARE WINSTANLEY

Where? Art Gallery by Sooke Arts Council, 6596 Sooke Road, Sooke, BC

When? 6 – 8pm Friday, 27th August, 2021

What? Professional performance of poems from newly published anthology

Gallery capacity maximum 25 seated guests (BC Covid regulations)

Cost? Free event

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Time … to relax and reflect in Salish seafog 20th August, 2021

This is where Dida and I will spend the day this weekend, drinking in the peace and quiet.

With my upcoming solo live poetry reading from BITS OF STRING & THREAD at the Sooke Arts Council Gallery on Friday 27th August, followed by another as a participant at Sooke’s inaugural Festival of Authors and Readers on Saturday and Sunday 28th/ 29th August, I will use the solitude and serenity of the Salish shoreline to restore my energy after such a wonderfully hectic time at Sooke Region Museum Night Market meeting crowds of enthusiastic marketgoers.

Photo (c) 2021 AMGray Studios

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Sooke Region Museum Night Market Stall Sales Success! 15th July and 19th August 2021

Photos by David Reichheld

Sales of “ BITS OF STRING & THREAD – a tapestry of poems” were brisk during my two enjoyable summer evenings as a stall holder at Sooke Region Museum’s Night Market in their grounds under the shadow of the lighthouse.

Huge thanks to fellow member authors from Sooke Writers’ Collective for their assistance in making these stall events such a resounding success.

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BITS OF STRING & THREAD

TODAY – WEDNESDAY 7TH JULY, 2021 – IS A MILESTONE!

PUBLICATION DAY FOR MY FIRST ANTHOLOGY!

Here, for first time published in print, you can find my poem “Last Stand at Fairy Creek” which you will have heard me performing for the “Stories-Less-Spoken” Podcast series.

“That poem has so much weight to it!” Cole Kelly, Director and Co-Host, The Little Stories Series: The Spoken Word.

“I was very moved by it.” Christine Lowther, Poet Laureate, Tofino, British Columbia

Of the remaining poems, all but one (“Beside the Seaside – a cycle of sea poems”) were written over the past two years and appear together for the first time in this anthology. Many of them will take you on journeys: physical or spiritual. All use common words to express uncommon thoughts, feelings and ideas.

To purchase your own copy in person, visit The Gallery (Sooke Arts Council) (open Wednesday to Sundays). Alternatively, order one directly from me, here on my contact page or visit http://www.sookewriters.com and place an order.

Author Photo (c) AMGray Studios 2021

Here I am in the tranquility of Ella Beach on the shoreline of the Salish Sea, Sooke (featured in my poem “The White Night”) in the cool of an early summer’s morning, with my companion lurcher, Perdida.

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10th May 2021 Today is publication day for ALL THE ELEMENTS!

I am excited to announce that the collaborative chapbook anthology is now published and already for sale at The Gallery (Sooke Arts Council) and copies can be obtained either here through the contact page on my website, or by email gallery@sookearts.com

a chapbook anthology of poems

nature weather love resilience pets plague people

To celebrate this exciting day, here is a brand new recording of one of my poems from this new publication:

The Walnut Bureau