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Read about a recent review of my book Hyaena Season in Image Journal’s Good Letters blog by author, anthologist and long-time Image contributor, Peggy Rosenthal.


I recently posted my video about Poetry as Prayer, from the Logos Project, as well as the full article, and watch here for my upcoming Poetry as Prayer retreats.


What a time we had! La Romita Poetry Writing Retreat in Italy – Summer 2017


A community of poets and painters, great food and creative expression! And lots of laughter! What a time we had! You can check out my Facebook page for pics and blog posts by Sheila, one of the retreatants! Another retreatant, Tonya, wrote this about her experience:

Being at La Romita, in the hills of olive groves, within the deep history of Umbria and the story of the once-Capuchin monastery itself, was enchanting. I’d worked briefly with Richard Osler once and knew he would bring big energy and a head and heart full of poetry. He did that and more. The more is in his uncanny ability to enable people to find their own poetry. He invites, supports and nourishes the opening of inner channels of communication with the people we’ve been missing in ourselves, who all have so much to say. Richard gives poetry and while we received it and worked hard to learn to hear it, we also had an incredibly good time.

Read all about it!


hyaena-season-coverMy new collection of poems, Hyaena Season, launched last Fall! More than ten readings in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria and Calgary. And sold lots of books!

The poems in Hyaena Season touch on the intimacies of a wide range of human experience from the killing grounds of Rwanda and DR Congo, to settings more familiar here in Canada.

Hope to do some more readings in the upcoming months! Here are details on past readings! Launches and readings during the past year. Thanks to all those who came out to hear me read!

You’ll find a complete list of my works here.


Here’s a short piece on what this site is all about.


If you’re wondering where my page of readings has gone, it’s just moved – from the home page to its own place inside the site. You can always reach it from the main menu under “Richard Reading”.

Upcoming Events

When Death Came She Was Ready – A Deathbed Poem by Anna Swir

Polish poet Anna Swir (1909-1981)

Tomorrow They Will Carve Me

Death came and stood by me.
I said: I am ready.
I am lying in the surgery clinic in Krakow.
Tomorrow
they will carve me.

There is much strength in me. I can live,
can run, dance, and sing.
All that is in me, but if necessary
I will go.

Today
I make account of my life.
I was a sinner,
I was beating my head against earth,
I implored from the earth and the sky
Forgiveness.

I was pretty and ugly,
wise and stupid,
very happy and very unhappy
often I had wings
and would float in air.

I trod a thousand paths in the sun and in snow,
I danced with my friend under the stars.
I saw love
in many human eyes,
I ate with delight
my slice of happiness.

Now I am lying in the surgery clinic in Krakow.
It stands by me.
Tomorrow
they will carve me.
Through the window the trees of May, beautiful like life,
and in me, humility, fear, and peace.

Anna Swir from Talking to My Body, trans. Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan, Copper Canyon Press, 1996

In her much quoted poem When Death Comes, American poet Mary Oliver says: When its over, I don’t want to wonder/ if I have made of my life something particular, and real/ I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,/ or full of argument./ I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world. 

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Life: Beautiful or Monstrous or Both? Three Poems by Swir, Mahon and Gilbert

American poet Jack Gilbert. Photo Credit: The Poetry Foundation


Poetry Reading

I’m curled into a ball
like a dog
that is cold.

Who will tell me
why I was born,
why this monstrosity
called life.

The telephone rings. I have to give
a poetry reading.
I enter.
A hundred people, a hundred pairs of eyes.
They look, they wait.
I know for what.

I am supposed to tell them
why they were born,
why there is
this monstrosity called life.

Anna Swir (1909-1984) from Talking to My Body, trans. Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan, Copper Canyon Press, 1996

What the heck!  When I read this poem a few weeks ago its harshness felt like a car crash. And so many questions. Is that the poet’s job? To speak only of life’s cruel severities? To explain them? Swir gives me no bolt hole. No place to escape. Monstrous life. Yes it is. But there, there’s my bolt hole. I know it’s not the whole story. So does she.

Swir, a celebrated Polish poet and contemporary of Nobel Prize Laureate Czeslaw Milosz knew so much suffering. She experienced the horrors of war in Warsaw during the second World War as a nurse during the Warsaw uprising and as member of the resistance. Yes a Milosz says in his afterward to her book Talking To My Body, reconsidering his previous emphasis on her bleak side: I have been more conquered by her extraordinary, powerful, exuberant, and joyous personality.

I am grateful for the provocation her poem is. How it reminds me that a poet’s job is to bring the difficulties of our lives into full focus, And all around me these days I see more and more poets striving to do that. I am thinking, in particular, of black and Asian American poets or North American indigenous writers or members  of the LGBTQ community who are bringing us their lives into the cultural mainstream.

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Built to Bend – A Poem by Jala al-Din Rumi and One in Response by Me (Richard Osler)

 

Sufi Mystic Poet, Jal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273)

Today like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love Be what we do.
There are hundred’s of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273) from The Big Red Book, trans. Coleman Barks (with John Moyne, Nevrit Ergin, A.J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson), HarperOne, 2011

I know how popular he is: the great Sufi mystic poet Jal al-Din Rumi. And most of us have come to him through the versions or translations of American poet Coleman Barks. And I know that scholars can get quite touchy over how true Coleman’s versions or translations are to the original. That is a discussion for a another blog post.

But today I want to share one of Coleman’s wonderful version of Rumi regardless of how well known it is or not or how true to the original. This poem has long been a favorite of mine. And I used it in a poetry therapy session on Wednesday and Thursday. This idea that we can get out of our heads and make our music in the world. And I am inspired by the idea that we join what we love to what we do. And that there are hundreds of ways of saying I am here, truly all of me here, on this earth!

And now I continue to break a tradition of this poetry blog by sharing another poem I wrote this week. A good week for poems! I wrote this yesterday without any sense of what it might be. The first line came to me and I thought, ok, let’s go. I was not expecting Rumi to join me. Thank you Jala al-Din and Coleman!

After Reading a Poem by Rumi

Too many dogs barking.
The light on the thistles
too soft. Why did I wake
this morning and think
a cup of coffee was enough
to make the day bend
to my wishes? The purple tops
of the thistles won’t move in spite
of all the exhales I can muster.
Yesterday’s east wind forced
genuflection after genuflection.
When will I remember I am
the one built to bend? Rumi says
there are a hundred ways to kneel
and kiss the earth. Could it be
my words this morning – nothing
but knees asking me to kneel.

Richard Osler, unpublished, 2018

A Poem for Andy – Waiting for Surgery on July 12th, 2018

Arbutus on Maple Mountain. New pale green skin showing through.

Waiting

A sound so loud:
a dry leaf falling.
The ground littered
with yellow silences.
I walked here with you
once, the Arbutus grove, their leaves
dropping and their copper
peeling, the new-skin green
underneath. New skin.
How many times dear Lord
our new skin? Each
green silence?

Richard Osler, unpublished 2018

It is not often I feature a poem of mine in a blog. But I wanted to share this small poem I wrote after hearing that my dear friend Andy Parker from Houston, Texas was having kidney surgery on Thursday, July 12th to remove what is likely a cancerous tumour.

The 12th is an auspicious day in my family. My son Alex’s birthday and the birthday of my great uncle, Sir William Osler, the celebrated physcian. I hope it will turn out to be an auspicious day for Andy. A day when his full recovery begins. That new skin.

Peeling Arbutus in Montague Harbour, Galiano Island, B.C.

See You in Italy in October?

I am pleased to announce that my October poetry retreat En Plein Air, in Umbria, Italy is a go! For details see above in Upcoming Events! I am also very happy to say we have a few spots left. If you have any interest please let me know asap!

En Plein Air, Nancy writng at Carsulae, 2017

The Bigness of Small Poems – #41 in a Series – Adelia Prado Unvarnished

Brazilian poet Adelia Prado, Winner of the 2014 Griffin Trust Lifetime Achievement Award

Object of Affection

What I have to tell you
is of such high order and so precious
that if I kept to myself
it would feel like stealing;
the asshole is beautiful!
Make what you will of this gift.
As for me – grateful to know this,
I feel not forgiveness but love.

Adelia Prado from The Mystical Rose –  Selected Poems, trans. Ellen Dore Watson, Bloodaxe Books, 2014

Adelia Prado. Mystical grandmotherly-looking octogenarian from Brazil. So often she surprises with her salty tongue, her playful irreverence. Her passion that strips all so-called properness away. As at home in her poems celebrating sex and its erotic connection to the divine as she is writing devotional prayer poems of love to God!

I have written a number of blogs on Prado including one earlier this year and here’s the link to the one celebrating her 2014 Griffin Trust Lifetime Achievement Award.  But after I came across the gem of a poem above a few weeks ago I wanted to highlight her again by adding this poem to my The Bigness of Small Poems series.

Talk about surprise and freshness deep down things as Gerard Manley Hopkins would say. This celebration of our human body in her little poem. Not just the nice bits. After all, without the asshole where would we be? I am grateful to Prado for the reminder: to love all of me. And maybe when I hear the whisper: you’re an asshole I’ll reply: that’s not so bad!

The Bigness of Small Poems – # 40 in a Series – The Gift of Czeslaw Milosz

Polish Lithuanian Poet Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004). Photo Credit: AKG Images / East News

Gift

A day so happy
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers
There was nothing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Berkley, 1971

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) from New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), Ecco (HarperCollins), 2003

Life has had its way with me this week and found enough must-do things for me to do that I did not end up featuring any more solstice poems in my blog. And that’s okay. But as it happens the epigraph poem for this blog post began to haunt me a few days ago and wouldn’t let me go.

Surrender is a key word for a poet to understand. And so I surrender to this poem by celebrated Polish Nobel Prize Laureate Czeslaw Milosz. Such a cogent call to peace and serenity. And God knows I need this reminder all the time. Especially these three lines:

There was nothing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.

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Poems for the Summer Solstice – # 2 in a Series – W.S. Merwin

American poet W.S. Merwin

Summer

Be of this brightness dyed
Whose unrecking fever
Flings gold before it goes
Into voids finally
That have no measure.

Bird-sleep, moonset,
Island after island,
Be of their hush
On this tide that balance
A time, for a time.

Islands are not forever,
Nor this light again,
Tide-set, brief summer,
Be of their secret
That fears no other.

W.S. Merwin, from The Drunk in the Furnace, and reprinted in Migration, New & Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2004.

This, my follow up to Barb Pelman’s poem I posted a few days ago. Another poem to celebrate the coming of summer, not its leaving! As Barb said in her poem quoting Canadian poet and poetry teacher without compare!, Patrick Lane: don’t leave before you leave. I will not mourn the daylight that grows shorter in summer days! And I appreciate today and every photon of daylight that lingers longer than it did yesterday!

Islands are not forever,
Nor this light again,
Tide-set, brief summer,
Be of their secret
That fears no other.

Nothing is forever. A cliche for sure. But not this poem for me. Ah, the secret of enjoying the now. In this moment of being: I chose not to fear any others!
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Flying Poetic Kites for Father’s Day – Poems by Heaney and Stafford

Father and son with kite. Photo Credit: BJU International


Father and Son

No sound—a spell—on out
where the wind went, our kite sent back
its thrill along the string that
sagged and sang and said, “I’m here!
I’m here”—till broke somewhere,
gone years ago, but sailed forever clear
of earth. I hold—whatever tugs
the other end—I hold that string.

William Stafford from Stories That Could Be True – New and Collected Poems, Harper & Row Publishers, 1977

What a joy my poetry obsession can be! Picked up Bill Stafford’s 1977 collection of new and collected poems and found this epigraph for my post, this huge small poem, perfect for Father’s Day. And then I thought of the three poems on kite flying that Seamus Heaney had written (one) and translated (two). And in one of Heaney’s poems the string also breaks and one of them is dedicated to his two sons.

I do not in any way mean to discount daughters (I have three – Redd, Tella and Libby – and Reed and Libby who are in communication range – Tella is way up on the north coast out of cell range –  have contacted me today!) on this auspicious day. But thanks to the serendipity of finding the Stafford poem, I want to honour fathers and sons, that often fraught bond! I struggled on and off with my relationship with my Dad until his later years and am so grateful for the full and intimate relationship I have with my son, Alex.

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Poems for the Summer Solstice – 1st in a Series -Don’t Leave Before You Leave – A Poetic Reminder by Barb Pelman

Victoria-based poet, Barbara Pelman

Why is it I think only of the light
Leaving? Soon, after the longest day
We head toward the dark. “Don’t leave
Before you leave”, the wise poet tells us,
But I have already packed my bags,
changed my address, ordered the taxi.

Barbara Pelman, unpublished, with permission, 2018

The upcoming summer solstice has been on my mind a lot lately. Not only because it is my 67th birthday but because of my love/hate relationship with June 21st. No mistake: I do love this longest daylight day of the year. But I have let a sadness creep in to my enjoyment of the day. Instead of celebrating the day’s glory of lasting light I grieve over the shorter days that begin the next day.

This is why I am so grateful for Barb Pelman’s occasional poem which landed in my inbox this morning. It was written in response to an early morning poem of mine and also other poems she and I have written along with poems of three other poets. The five of us, known in some circles as The Bellingham Five for a similar interlaced reading we gave in Bellingham last December, have been collecting and connecting our individual poems to celebrate the summer solstice (poems of light and dark) for a reading at Planet earth Poetry a week tonight in Victoria. If you are nearby be sure to come to hear interlaced poems by myself, Barb, Terry Ann Carter, Susan Alexander and Linda Thompson.
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