Fraser Valley Poets Society

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A Message from our Founder

Posted by Violet Nesdoly on August 30, 2012

“Who would have thought that Donna Bishop would be finding and quoting inspiration found in a Nike slogan for a writer’s group that she herself founded? Then again, Donna did pen the name Poets Potpourri Society.” – Erin Fisher

Excerpts from “The Donna Bishop Journey with Poets Potpourri Society”

“Greatness is wherever someone is trying to find it.” – Nike

The most important aspect of my journey is that it has been fulfilling, but it would not have been so without everyone who participated. Thanks to all who gave of time and talent in special ways.

Poetry is one of my passions. My influence was from homestead farming parents who both recited. From Mom it was Pauline Johnston; Dad recited Longfellow, The Village Blacksmith at community events, even at political rallies. I became mesmerized by the sound of the human voice. During my teens I was chosen to enter the then popular Kiwanis Festivals in Lethbridge, Alberta during the 1930’s, reciting from the Master Poets.

I did not initiate the Poets Potpourri with the attitude “I am a poet,” but rather as one ready to learn with the Group. I simply saw a way, a need, as a recently widowed senior. I could give to a cause, provide podiums, and audiences – open mics, once a month for the vulnerable youth to realize that the pen is mightier than the sword; Words, instead of substance use and violence.

After almost a near decade as a Club, Poets Potpourri applied for society status. On April 4, 1990 we were officially the MSA (Matsqui-Sumas-Abbotsford) Poets Potpourri Society. Fast forward to today, we are with our 12th President, Brayden Sawatzky in his fourth year term.  His recent book of stories in poetry is called A Breath of Light a refreshing read which he edited. Layout, formatting and cover design by Alvin Ens, our main anthology and history research developer. Contact www.poetspotpourrisociety.com.

Although the vision for initiating Poets Potpourri Society (PPS) was for the youth, because it was mostly college students in the early years who participated, at the same time my aim was to provide special events for out-of-town, seasoned writers and readers. Our first was in 1982, after one year of monthly open mics, Poets Potpourri hosted a UBC English Lit Poet and a Gastown, Vancouver poet at a cabaret-style Christmas Party. You can read more in our 25th Year Tribute edited by Alvin in Poetic Spirits of the Valley.

Our second event was in 1989 held at Charisma Gallery, Abbotsford, with Michelle Birch-Conery and Derek Hanebury via the Knowledge Network, both hailing from North Island College, Port Alberni, BC.

Our third special event took place at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, Abbotsford in 1996. Heavy public relations and press brought committed poets from everywhere. We had hosted one of our most successful varieties of seasoned writers and readers who all fulfilled their commitment; however, attendance was poor, due, in large part, to being boycotted.

However, by 2005, after a low period, Hernan Bravo initiated a relationship with Balbir Gill and Clearbrook Library to draw the ethnicity of the community through contacts with International Poetry Cafe of Vancouver. Due to Hernan’s absences in his native homeland of Chile, Shelley Haggard took on the project for our society. This became the very successful “Blue Moon Reading Series”.

As founder, I am convinced how important it has been to be present at every monthly event. This proved much to the chagrin of opposition. Experience in a variety of genres made it possible for me to keep open and encourage the original mandate of inclusivity. I did this from 1981 to 2006 – the same year as our 25th anniversary, marked by our anthology, the aforementioned Poetic Spirits of the Valley. As Ken Yates, Parks Director for the City of Abbotsford for almost 30 years, suggested with his words of wisdom in 1981, “it takes twenty years for a group to make its way into the psyche of a community.” To all media, the Abbotsford News and the Abbotsford Times, thank you.

I wish there was a way to thank everyone over the past 30 years. Here are a few more individuals by name who have contributed to PPS: Jaye Low, Thurlow Gowan, the late Lillian Leoppky, the late Len Levitt, Rudy Penner, Trudy Beyak, Margot Wawra, Bob Jones, Mary Winter, Karen Crarey, Hilda Murphy, Stella Johnson, Erin Fisher, Violet Nesdoly, Satwant Pander, Rita Carrington, Dave Farmer, Joe Mrak, Terry Broadworth, Nicholas Roberts, Karen Belix Moore, Paul McKeown, Emily Isaacson, Surjeet Kalsey, Ruth Ann & Rudy Braun, David Shreeves, and so many more. Thanks to all.

Thanks to everyone who gave of their time and shared their words as guest readers of our continuing Blue Moon evenings.

Thanks also to Parks, Recreation and Culture, Abbotsford for having chosen me as one of their recognized volunteers – having established a poetry society. This honour was bestowed by the then Mayor George Ferguson.

As we do our best to write our finest thoughts and strive to speak with the charisms of kings and queens, let us also take heed of a proverbial adage from Leonard Cohen:

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

Donna Bishop
September, 2012
Abbotsford, BC

(Donna would like to thank Erin Fisher for help with preparing this article.)

This article is also posted on the “About Us” page.

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2 Responses to “A Message from our Founder”

  1. vnesdoly said

    Donna, I’m so glad you had the vision to form the MSA Poets Potpourri Society those many years ago! And thank you for your perseverance through the tough times. Many, have benefitted from this organization and I, for one, am so grateful to you for the part you played in it and the interest you still maintain even though you can’t make it to the events! Thank you!!

  2. Rhonda said

    It’s been quite the journey following Mom through this process. She never ceases to amaze me! What a tough act to follow:-) Rhonda

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