Poetry

‘Guerrilla poetry’ open to all in Halifax

A local publication is giving everyone in HRM the opportunity to publish

This story contains a correction

poems
Open Heart Forgery’s November issue, available at Coburg Coffee.   Faisal Ali

If it’s your first poem or your hundredth, Georgia Atkin wants to publish it.

Atkin is with Open Heart Forgery, (OHF), a free, monthly poetry publication that let’s anyone in the Halifax Regional Municipality become a published author.

“We don’t reject any poems,” says Atkin, as long as there isn’t any “hate,” sexism or racism and they’re within the allotted word limit. She admits, with a laugh, that she has turned away the occasional racy, “R-rated” poem.

“It’s kind of tricky being balanced about that,” she says. “I don’t want to censor anybody.”

Atkin is a student at the University of King’s College, in the English and sustainability program. She and Janet Brush, an English literature major at Dalhousie University, are part of the small team that keeps the publication alive.

They say there is something uniquely validating to having a physical copy of a poem.

“A lot of people, even if they’ve been writing poems for years, they don’t necessarily see themselves as a poet or author – a legitimate author,” says Atkin. “And they get very excited when they get to see themselves in print for the first time.”

OHF was started by local poet Donal Power, with the first pamphlet coming out in March 2010.

The premise was for OHF to be a very “grass-roots” organization, almost “guerrilla poetry,” says Atkin.

“I think one of the things (Power) noticed before starting this was that it is so hard to get published elsewhere,” she says. “It’s not a very accessible thing or easy thing for most people; this was almost a rebellious thing to do.”

Power remained at the helm of OHF until he moved away in 2014. It was then that Atkin and Brush decided to help carry on his work.

“At first,” Brush says, “most of us (were) donating the money to get the issue printed every month.” Since then, they’ve been able to keep going due to public donations, as well as small contributions from the discretionary funds of city politicians.

Atkin estimates they print about 550 pamphlets a month and drop them off wherever they’re able, as only one of their volunteers as a car to make long-distance deliveries. Routinely, the pamphlets are delivered to every library within HRM, the Dalhousie and King’s College campuses, Atlantic News, and a number of coffee shops throughout the city. And, of course, every edition and every poem is freely available online.

OHF also encourages readers to print and pass out their own copies, which is where the “forgery” part of the OHF name comes from.

“Anyone can go on the website and forge it,” says Brush. “The ‘open heart’ part is, obviously, open your heart up.”

To date, OHF has made 337 Haligonians, from age nine to 87, published authors and are always looking for more people who may have a shoe box of poems hidden under their bed.

“Don’t be scared to pull out those poems because everyone has something to say,” says Atkin.

Correction: Nov. 25, 2016: Two names were misspelled in an earlier version of the story. Also, Georgia Atkin's role with the OHF was overstated.