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Son's Surprise Launches Poetry Book "AV Times article"

File 181When Sixty-Five Years Till Now, a collection of poems by Victoria R. Hazlehurst, was unveiled to the world no one was more surprised than the author.

It happened at a book launch and reading Saturday afternoon at Naesgaard's Market, but the author had no idea it was in the works.

Hazlehurst, better known in Port Alberni by her married name, Victoria Roscoe-Roumanis, has been writing poetry all of her life. While she had always thought it would be nice to have her poems published, she never really expected it to happen.

On Saturday afternoon, her youngest son, Alexis Roumanis, picked her up to take her to a Silver Tea in Nanaimo for her 65th birthday. On the way, he said, they would make a quick stop at Naesgaard's Market to pick up his wife Dayna, who was buying fruit for the trip.

Victoria had no idea, as her son guided her past the succulent table in the newly expanded nursery portion of the market, that he had published a collection of her poems. Nor was she aware that he had organized a book launch, notified the media and arranged for her to be interviewed by Cheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest Sunday morning (click here to listen to the podcast & drag the play bar 1/5 of the way across). "Where did you all come from?" she asked as she entered the area prepared for the event and saw her friends, family and fellow members of the now-inactive writing group Rainwood Writers ready to greet her.

"What a wonderful family I have, that you should create such a surprise," she exclaimed.

Alexis recently graduated from Simon Fraser University's Master of Publishing program, and he has since started a publishing house called Engage Books. So far, he has mainly produced reprints of classics. But what better way to start showcasing original works by new writers than with his own mother's work?

"I always wondered about those times that my mom was staring off into the distance," Alexis said, in his introduction to the volume.

It seemed to the young boy that his mother was doing nothing. But when he read her poems, he realized that his mother's reveries had been part of her creative process. All of Victoria's poems were handwritten. He scanned them into his computer on the pretext that they would be lost if there was ever a fire, and he wanted to preserve them. As she had always said that if she ever published, she would as Victoria R. Hazlehurst, that is the name that appears on the volume's cover. Hazlehurst is Victoria's maiden name.

Victoria learned to love poetry at her father's knee. Instead of a bedtime story, he would read her Robbie Burns' poetry, then explain what the Scottish dialect meant.

"I'm always writing, not so much for publication, but for my own healing," she said. "When things happen in my life that I feel are important, when something really moves me, it comes from within. It's very strange how words come together, like part of me on a page. Then my challenge is going back and condensing."

Victoria was born and raised in Cheshire, England. In 1974, she immigrated to Canada and started a family in Port Alberni. She has three sons, Nikko, Yorgo and Alexis. Poetry is one of her passions, the others are family, photography and horses. A few years ago, she joined Rainwood Writers. The group included haiku poet and photographer Jim Swift, local mystery plan writer Pamela Walker and photographer and writer Pauline Hannaford, among others. Together, they practised "stream of consciousness" writing, putting down whatever came into their heads for 15 minutes, and did various other literary exercises. Victoria credits that group with helping her hone her craft.

"I learned a lot from the other writers, especially Jim Swift," she said. "I don't do haiku, but I like the idea of using very few words."

Haiku is a form of poetry that originated in Japan, which involves evoking a feeling and an image in three lines of five, seven and five syllables.

While Victoria enjoys the old masters like Wordsworth, as well as Robert Service, she is inspired more by individual poems than by other poets.

"The poem has to speak to me," she said. The Village Blacksmith, by Longfellow, touches her because it evokes memories from her own past in rural England.

"A poem is like a memory or a photograph of a moment - a moment frozen in time, that's what a poem is for me," she said. "It's my way of keeping a diary."

Sixty-Five Years Till Now is available in Port Alberni at Naesgaard's Market and Curious Coho Books for $19.95. Or you can order it online from Engage Books.

Florentia Scott, for the Alberni Valley Times
Published: Tuesday, June 01, 2010

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