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NEWS UPDATE — November, 2016


John to lead his second four-week writer’s workshop in Orvieto, Italy



For the second time in three years John will lead a four week writer’s workshop in Orvieto, Italy Art in Orvieto is an advanced summer studies program in Orvieto, Italy, that offers an ecumenical exploration of Christian understandings of the arts. The program provides a four weeks residency designed for artists, writers, and graduate students, as well as others interested in art, religion, and theology. It is a program of the Institute for Christian Studies and the Toronto School of Theology.
      In his workshop workshop John will lead reflection about writing as an act of faith: stepping out of the coracle of expectations — our own, and others’ — and walking on water. The focus will be bringing submitted works-in-progress closer to completion.
      The Art in Orvieto program occupies superbly renovated facilities in the medieval monastery of the Servite Order in Orvieto, leased by Gordon College of Wenham, Massachusetts, and its Studio for Art, Faith & History.


see the notice here
more on the Art in Orvieto program
more on the workshops


NEWS UPDATE — November, 2016


The St. Thomas Poetry Series publishes In the Company of All



The St. Thomas Poetry Series has just published In the Company of All a book of prayers from Sunday mornings at St Cuthbert’s. The Toronto launch hosted by the publisher will be November 19, 2016 at St. Thomas’s Church, 383 Huron Street, Toronto at 7:30 p.m. A Hamilton Area launch hosted by Redeemer University College will be held on campus in the Redeemer University College dining hall November 24, 2016 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
      In an essay about writing poems and prayers for Sunday mornings (Studio for Art, Faith & History — see link below) John wrotes: “Almost thirty years ago, my wife and I joined a small Presbyterian Church named St Cuthbert's, in the city of Hamilton, Ontario. At the time, I had two published books of poetry to my name. A number of months after we started attending St Cuthbert's, the music director, Bart Nameth, approached me and said, "You write poetry. Do you want to write a poem for Pentecost?" My reply was an immediate, "Not a chance. I am not a religious poet." Religious poetry, to my mind, meant predictability of subject, knowing before you begin where you will end, and sentimentality.
      “But I respected Bart. He played the piano for our church services. A grand piano, with which he accompanied the hymn singing and responses (many of which he wrote) and from which, during the Prelude, Offertory and Postlude, those times in the worship service when he was free to roam, could come the strains of composers from Bach to Frank Zappa to Miles Davis to Bjork. To Bart’s way of thinking any music on earth can be brought into that space on a Sunday morning and become praise and worship.
      “And so, out of that respect him and for his catholicity, and trusting his perception over my own, I agreed to give it a try. I set one rule for myself: anything I wrote for Sunday morning should also be readable in any other context, when I gave public readings. Let’s not call it a rule, but a challenge. I was challenging myself to walk that line of tension between church and world.”


see the Toronto launch notice here
see the Hamilton area launch notice here
click here for John's reflections on writing poems and prayers for Sunday mornings


NEWS UPDATE — October, 2016


John wins Alvin A. Lee Prize for Published Non-Fiction



Sunday, October 2, 2016 John was awarded Alvin A. Lee Prize for Published Non-Fiction at the 3rd Annual Short Works Prize Awards Celebration for “Daylighting Chedoke.” The celebration was held at the Hamilton Public Library, Central Branch. The Short Works Prize for writing is Presented in Partnership by Bryan Prince Bookseller, Hamilton Arts & Letters magazine, and the Hamilton Public Library. “Daylighting Chedoke” was published in issue 8.2 of HA&L Hamilton Arts and Letters.

see the notice here
read “Daylighting Chedoke” here


NEWS UPDATE — August 14, 2015


Art in Orvieto









This past July John spent four weeks leading a writing workshop as part of the new Art in Orvieto program conducted by the Institute for Christian Studies, in Toronto. John writes “Orvieto, Italy is a city of seven thousand that sits atop a mesa, one thousand feet high (photo 1). It is a place of medieval beauty, where time is kept by the oldest, working mechanical clock in Europe (photo 2). His name is Maurizio. He stands on a rooftop in the Duomo piazza, and is off by about 7 minutes in his every-quarter-hour bonging of the bell. Many bells ring the hours (photo 3) in Orvieto, so we were constantly aware that time passes (it seemed to pass more quickly, there) as we followed the eyes of the angel (photo 4) that pointed the way to the gates of the renovated convent where the workshops were held.”

NEWS UPDATE — January 6, 2015


Brilliant Falls Awarded Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Poetry

On Monday January 5th at an awards ceremony to honour nominees for the 21st Annual Hamilton Literary Awards, John’s most recent book of poetry, Brilliant Falls, was awarded the Award for Poetry. The event was held at the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre of Theatre Aquarius in the Dofasco Centre for the Arts in Hamilton. Judges were Kimmy Beach, Ian Le Tourneau, and Betsy Struthers. The two other finalists were Slack Action, by Jeffrey Donaldson and A Bee Garden, by Marilyn Gear Pilling.

more about the poetry finalists here
see the announcement here
see the blog post here
see the Hamilton Spectator story here


NEWS UPDATE — December 21, 2014


Death: Something to Talk About — reading initiative for 2015

This year-long program will centre on three books to encourage public conversation about death, grief and palliative care. There will be various events throughout the year ranging from writing exercises, author readings, and more. The three books selected are: Wave: A Memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala; End of the Alphabet: A Novel by C.S. Richardson; The Boys, or, Waiting for the Electrician's Daughter: A Memoir by Hamilton author, John Terpstra. This reading initiative is a collaboration between McMaster University Palliative Care Division, the Hamilton Public Library, Dermody Funeral Homes and Bryan Prince Bookseller. (Updates will be posted when available)


NEWS UPDATE — December 21, 2014


Week-long residency at St Marys, Halifax

The residency is from Monday 2 March to Friday 6 March, and will include a reading. The next week, Monday 9 March and Tuesday 10 March, John will be reading in St John and St Stephens NB. (Updates on the readings will be posted when available)


NEWS UPDATE — November 13, 2014


50+ Poems for Gordon Lightfoot



A new poem by John has been included in an anthology dedicated to Ontario’s songwriting icon, Gordon Lightfoot. “Poem From a City Where the Singer Spent Three Months in Hospital” appears in 50+ Poems for Gordon Lightfoot (Old Brewery Bay Press). A launch event at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room (presented by The Leacock Museum) will feature readings from various contributing poets and live music by Jory Nash, Katherine Wheatley, and others. The event will be hosted by Toronto poet laureate George Elliott Clarke, Monday, November 17th.

front and back cover — higher resolution
more about the Hugh’s Room launch
more about the collection


NEWS UPDATE — November 12, 2014


Brilliant Falls one of three finalists for the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Poetry

John’s latest book of poetry, Brilliant Falls, has been nominated for the 21st Annual Hamilton Literary Awards Award for Poetry. Judges were Kimmy Beach, Ian Le Tourneau, and Betsy Struthers. The two other finalists were Slack Action, by Jeffrey Donaldson and A Bee Garden, by Marilyn Gear Pilling. The winners of the 21st Annual Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards will be announced on January 5, 2015 in the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre at the Dofasco Centre for the Arts.

news release
more information about the Annual Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards


NEWS UPDATE — November 10, 2014


John to lead four week writer’s workshop in Orvieto, Italy





Art in Orvieto is an advanced summer studies program in Orvieto, Italy, that offers an ecumenical exploration of Christian understandings of the arts. The program provides a four weeks residency designed for artists, writers, and graduate students, as well as others interested in art, religion, and theology. It is a program of the Institute for Christian Studies and the Toronto School of Theology.
      In his workshop workshop John will lead reflection about writing as an act of faith: stepping out of the coracle of expectations — our own, and others’ — and walking on water. The focus will be bringing submitted works-in-progress closer to completion.
      The Art in Orvieto program occupies superbly renovated facilities in the medieval monastery of the Servite Order in Orvieto, leased by Gordon College of Wenham, Massachusetts, and its Studio for Art, Faith & History.


more information about Art at Orvieto


NEWS UPDATE — October 17, 2014


Gaspereau Press publishes The House with the Parapet Wall; Wolsak and Wynn re-issues This Orchard Sound







Gaspereau Press recently published John’s fourth foray into literary non-fiction. This is how his publisher describes John’s new book: “Grieving the diminishment and death of his elderly mother, John Terpstra finds solace in a seemingly unusual place: the stories (both historical and fanciful) of the nineteenth-century houses in his Hamilton neighbourhood and of the families which have inhabited them. With a well-honed knack for the circuitous route, Terpstra tackles weighty questions like ‘Why must we die?’ by following his imaginative curiosity into the bricks-and-mortar matters of our daily lives, understanding that the dwellings we construct do more than just shed the weather, but are also physical manifestations of our notions of ‘family’ and ‘home’.” The launch for The House with the Parapet Wall will take place at Gallery on the Bay, October 24 at 7:00 pm.
      Of the re-issue This Orchard Sound, publisher Wolsak and Wynn writes, “In This Orchard Sound, poet and woodworker John Terpstra takes the reader to an abandoned fruit orchard as it being bulldozed. From the twisted limbs of apple, pear and plum trees to cars dripping fluids far removed from the rain that once fell on the orchard grass, Terpstra asks questions of progress, grace and the complicity of humanity in this short suite of poems. Only the birds answer his questions as he paces the old orchard, armed with his saw, gathering wood for his latest commission. A new cross for a local congregation. An addendum “This Friday Good" written for this new release recalls the commission and what came of it.” Kerry Clare (49th Shelf, 18/08/2014) listed This Orchard Sound as one of their most anticipated poetry books of fall 2014.


more information about the Gaspereau book
more information about the Wolsak and Wynn book


NEWS UPDATE — September 13, 2014


On the map!



The above “heritage tree” map is surrounded by quotations from John’s book Naked Trees. The map provides a self-guided tour of heritage trees in the core of the community of Dundas, Ontario. It identifies a variety of interesting trees that can be easily seen from public places, and was produced by Dundas Valley Tree Keepers (DVTK) to promote awareness of special and significant trees in the community.
      The Dundas Valley Tree Keepers (DVTK) are a group of community volunteers who are passionate about the trees in the Dundas Valley, an area endowed with a large number and variety of trees in urban, rural and natural settings. The group has been involved with walks, hikes, working with the City of Hamilton on forestry issues and putting signficant trees on trail maps. DVTK has done selective tree planting and is a resource for tree information.


high resolution digital image of the map
pdf (front and back)
more about the Dundas Valley Tree Keepers


NEWS UPDATE — September 13, 2014


Environmental History Tour

On September 9 John and MacMaster student, Kupesh Patel led an environmental history tour through Cootes Paradise and along Princess point to Dundurn Castle. The event was sponsored by MacMaster’s OPRIG. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) are campus-based social and environmental justice organizations. Individual Ontario PIRG chapters are located at universities across the province, including Brock University, McMaster University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Guelph, York University, the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, Trent University, the University of Ottawa, and Carleton University. PIRGs in Ontario are all connected through the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) Provincial Network.

tour announcemnt
more about OPRIGs


NEWS UPDATE — April 2, 2014


Brilliant Falls Shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Memorial Award

On April 2 at Ben McNally books John’s 2013 book of poems Brilliant Falls (Gaspereau Press) was named as a finalist for the 2014 Raymond Souster Memorial Award. The annual Raymond Souster Memorial Award is given for a book of poetry by a League of Canadian Poets member published in the preceding year. The award honours Raymond Souster, a co-founder of the League of Canadian Poets. Souster died October 2012 at the age of 91. 2014 marks the second offering of the award. The award carries a $1,000 prize.
      The other finalists for the award are seldom seen road by Jenna Butler (NeWest Press), Alongside by Anne Compton (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects by Catherine Graham (Wolsak & Wynn), Rebel Women by Vancy Kasper (Inanna Publications), Brilliant Falls by John Terpstra (Gaspereau Press), Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain by Russell Thornton (Harbour Publishing). Last year’s winner was A.F. Moritz for the book The New Measures (House of Anansi Press Inc). The 2014 jurors were Bruce Hunter, Laurence Hutchman and Sheila Martindale.
      The winner of of the 2014 award was announced at the LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference in Toronto on June 7th, 2014.


more about Raymond Souster
For more information visit: www.poets.ca
Writer Michael Dennis wrote a review of Brilliant Falls as part of his coverage of The Raymond Souster Award. Dennis says “Brilliant Falls is well paced, well written and much appreciated.”

Read the review here.

NEWS UPDATE — January 17, 2014



Barn Doors for The Mustard Seed
Co-op Store




The Mustard Seed Co-op, a full service grocery store, contracted John to create the barn doors for their Hamilton store. Sourcing local products is one of The Mustard Seed’s top priorities. Anything that can be local, will be local. But it’s not just the food that will make the new Mustard Seed store distinctly local. The barn doors were created out of old wood salvaged from a portion of a 90 year-old Harvey Woods factory in Woodstock, Ontario, which is now being converted into affordable housing by Homestead Christian Care.

more about The Mustard Seed store


NEWS UPDATE — May 17, 2013


John speaks in support of The EcoPark Campaign



Wade Genders 2013 EcoPark Campaign film sets forth a grand vision for Hamilton and surrounding regions, the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, describing the many benefits that public land preservation has for communities. With interviews from many prominent Hamiltonians, this film hopes to transform how Hamilton is viewed from the outside, and by its citizens. John was one of the interviewees and appears around minute 32

view the film here


NEWS UPDATE — May 1, 2013


Poetry bombing along Hunter Street



Tactical Urbanism Hamilton organized a poetry bombing along Hunter Street West to raise the awareness of the urban canopy in this tree-deprived stretch of neighbourhood. The goal of tactical urbanism (TU) is to improve aspects of the livability of a town or city in small increments through strategic interventions. John’s poetry was part of the Hunter Street Poetree Project.

view more images here


NEWS UPDATE — March 25, 2013


Hammer wine and handsaw cookies



A batch of hammer cookies was created by Weil's Bakery, in Hamilton, at the request of Bryan Prince Bookseller, who hosted a reading by carpenter-poets Kate Braid and John Terpstra, on March 25, 2013. A batch of handsaw cookies, in blue, was consumed by those in attendance, after the reading, before a photo could be taken. They were that good. Poets and cookies both were that good. The wine is The Hammer Wine and Cider Co. Pier 4 Cabernet Franc 2010, produced on Hamilton Mountain by Peter Vander Meer, with grapes from his own backyard. The back label features the poem Giants.



NEWS UPDATE — December, 2012


Saving the Forest for the trees: the Han Shan project



The above photo shows John's contribution to a general call for poems that could be attached to trees in a twenty-five acre rainforest called McLellan Forest East, in Glen Valley, Langley BC that is in danger of being logged and developed. The poet who started the rebellion is Susan McCaslin, and she calls her effort the Han Shan Project. She writes, "Han Shan was an ancient Chinese poet who posted his poems on the trees and rocks of Cold Mountain."

more information about the project
read Susan McCaslin’s account here


NEWS UPDATE — May 3, 2013


Gaspereau Press publishes new collection Brilliant Falls

Gaspereau Press recently published John’s ninth collection of poetry, with launch events in Nova Scotia, Durham, Hamilton, London, Ontario and Toronto in late April and early May. This is how his publisher describes John’s new book: “Born from between the pages of other writings, unexpectedly, flying in under the radar past the poet’s defences, these are the poems that wouldn’t hear “no” for an answer. Brilliant Falls is front-loaded with the stuff of everyday life: racing the Queen of England in a second-hand van, a close call with Sitting Bull on a Saskatchewan highway, playing saxophone in heaven and watching a friend hand-dig a grave. Terpstra offers up poetic fare that on the surface may appear light but on closer examination runs the gamut from wry humour to a preoccupation with death. The poet’s rigorous self-reflection and urgent need to express difficult and complicated emotion characterizes this collection and allows the reader to experience at close range poetry that tugs at our very core.”

more information about the book


NEWS UPDATE — October 6, 2011


“GIANTS” BOOKMARKS PROJECT PLAQUE UNVEILED AT SAM LAWRENCE PARK IN HAMILTON



ON THURSDAY OCTOBER 6, 2011 John Terpstra joined officials from Project Bookmark Canada at Sam Lawrence Park, the local park off Concession Street on the Mountain brow that offers a panoramic view of Hamilton. A large ceramic plaque inscribed with his poem Giants, the ninth Project Bookmark Canada installation, was unveiled.

The charity, based in Hamilton, installs plaques they refer to as bookmarks, bearing text from stories and poems in the physical locations where literary scenes are set. The idea is that every ‘bookmark’ across Canada highlights the richness of the city’s literary community and geography.

more about John’s bookmark
more about Project Bookmark Canada





Next events:
November 19 & 24,
in Toronto and Ancaster