Call for poems to join 10 unpublished poems by Robert Billings

Jul. 11 2018
Sharon Berg
Calls For Submission

I am in possession of 10 poems, The White City Poems, all numbered to indicate their order, from a manuscript that Robert Billings was working on a year before he passed. He gave them to me for obvious reasons as we were dating at the time. I am thinking, perhaps others have unpublished poems by Robert in their safe keeping? Or they may have written poems to Robert.


I had these poems tucked away for years. It was Michael Clarkson, author of River of Lost Souls, a book speaking to the draw that Niagara Falls has on people who are depressed, that brought them back to mind. Michael was a classmate of Robert’s and knew him well. As it turns out, Michael is also someone who regularly fished bodies out of the Niagara River. Robert’s death hit him hard. Here is a trailer made for the film: He is currently negotiating to turn his book concept into a film that will appear on CBC. He has contacted me to be interviewed on film, as one of the people who knew Robert intimately. Even before that, I had considered turning these poems into a chapbook if I could get permission from Robert’s remaining family… which I now have.


I made contact with Anne yesterday, his ex-wife. I presented myself as an old poetry friend, asking if I could publish some unpublished poems that I had by Robert in a chapbook or a larger collection, inquiring whether she had any other unpublished material of Robert’s. She responded saying, she ‘tossed his stuff long ago’ and that I could do whatever I want with the poems I have. I find it sad that his other unpublished work would have been tossed, but it is a situation that happens all too often when an author dies. It makes me feel even more determined to do something with this work of Robert’s.


I have put out a call on Facebook to test the waters, thinking that other people may have written poems or prose pieces about Robert way back when he first went missing, or later on, when his body was found. Or perhaps, other friends might have a poem or more that he gave them to read for him.It is hard to describe what this book will be, as of yet, as no one has responded to the query I have just posted with a poem... though Susan Glickman mentioned she has one somewhere. I am positive that others have pieces they have written regarding Robert, whether poetry or prose, as he was well considered and influential while he was among us.


My sense of things is that people still remember Robert fondly and that they would respond well to a book that collected his new, unpublished work and other people’s thoughts about him. I am also looking for a press that would publish this collection, which I am sure will draw upon many well-known names in Canadian literature.