Try Poetry: Enlightened by Defilement + Vera Constantineau

We interview Vera Constantineau on the blog today for our #TryPoetry series. Constantineau shares ‘Radio Dreams’ with us from her debut collection Enlightened by Defilement (Latitude 46), which is about yearning, hopes, dreams, and that dash of flair we keep close and secret in our hearts.


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Interview with Vera Constantineau

ALU: When was the moment that you decided you wanted to write poetry? Describe it for our readers. Was it reading another poem? Was it listening to a poet read? Was it something different entirely?

Vera Constantineau: In grade seven my teacher drew attention to one of my first poems titled Rainy Rainy Day. He said that poem was a good example of how to go about writing a poem. That tiny bit of encouragement, and I was hooked. Of course, I had been set up to love of poetry by my mother, who recited poems to us all the time when we were kids. When I began to earn my own money, I bought Finding My Father, a book of poetry by Rod McKuen and wore it out.

ALU: If you had to pitch your featured poem to someone who had never read poetry before, how would you do so? What kinds of things do you think the new-to-poetry reader might find fascinating about it? What could you share about the poem’s writing process?

Vera Constantineau: Radio Dreams, the pitch, would sound like this: This Haibun poem speaks to the young. We are all so restless as teens, to push ourselves forward, to imagine our futures. We listen to the outside world and wonder which parts of that world will become part of our lives as we make our escape, mature and grow up. Every one of us go through the small rebellions, and maybe a few big ones, that we secretly think gives us a little bit of cache and flair just by enacting them. This poem is about yearning, imaginings, hopes, dreams, and that dash of flair we keep close and secret in our hearts.

ALU: What’s a poetry collection or individual poem that you’d recommend to anyone looking to get into poetry?

Vera Constantineau: I would recommend Kim Fahner’s These Wings from Pedlar Press 2019. It’s got a great lineup of poems, and each will fill a level in your emotional well. The poems run the gamut from history, to art, to family and loss and love and yearning. Seriously, Kim’s work delivers.

‘Radio Dreams’

From Vera Constantineau’s collection Enlightened by Defilement.

My sister and I lay facing each other on a sagging mattress. We’re listening to DJ Bobby O on Z103.3—the volume turned low. It’s four a.m., the night air sizzles. We anticipate the coming storm.
          Don’t touch, Bobby growls, don’t touch that dial.
We’ve kicked the sheet to the foot of the bed. His voice sinks into us as we lay in our underwear. We imagine he’s speaking to us, his deep voice offering a ménage à trois.
Mom and dad are asleep, oblivious in their room down the hall.
          Step in, step into my audio parlour—be one with me.
We smile at the familiar invitation. Bobby is our middle of the night bad girl rebellion. He’s the man in our lives who whispers things just before we sleep. He incites dreams we never share, hopes we can’t yet voice.
          Let my champagne and caviar late night ramble lift you from the bog of your mundane lives.
His words entice. Champagne. Caviar. We imagine escaping our small-town lives to meet him in some seductive setting.
          Feel your cares slide away, nothing noxious here my lovelies.
We shift, made restless by his words. Feel? What do we feel?
          Just gentle words and soft songs. That’s what I’m delivering, it’s love baby, love.
Then, the crackle of lightning; the ripple of thunder

small town
only the streetlights
are upstanding

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Vera Constantineau lives in Greater Sudbury. She writes poetry in several styles and is best known for her work in the Japanese forms of haiku and haibun. In her term as poet laureate 2020-2022, Vera created a podcast devoted to sharing the poetry and people of the poetry world. The podcast reached a broad audience worldwide. Vera has recently been named the Ontario Representative for Haiku Canada. She is a member in good standing of The Writers’ Union of Canada, Tanka Canada, the Haiku Society of America and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. Enlightened by Defilement, released in April through Latitude 46 Publishing, is Vera’s first poetry collection.

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Thank you to Vera Constantineau and Latitude 46 Publishing for sharing ‘Radio Dreams’ with us. Remember, if you purchase a copy of Enlightened by Defilement or any of the other featured Try Poetry collections, you’ll receive a free digital sampler containing all of our featured poems. (Purchase from All Lit Up or from your local independent bookseller; send proof of payment to if you purchase from your local!)