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I was thrilled to be able to join the on-line Art Bar Poetry Reading Series on November 2nd, 2021.  I taped a twenty-five minute video! The Art Bar Reading Series is based in Toronto and they will be hosting in-person events beginning in December! My last Art Bar reading was in 2016 for the launch of my poetry collection Hyaena Season published by Quattro Books of Toronto.

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Read about my next ten-day generative poetry retreat in 2022 at La Romita School of Art, Terni, Italy.


Read a 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

For Epiphany (January 6th): Martha Royea’s Refreshing Poetic Take on T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”

Canadian Poet Martha Royea (1941 – )

The Return Journey
— After T.S. Eliot, The Journey of the Magi

“They’re coming! They’re coming back!” I went shouting,
skirts flying and my hair not combed; I ran to the barns
to tell father, and then to the cookhouse, and then to shoo the gambling men
from the doorway again, and light the lamps, for it was almost dark.
And, there being still time, I pushed my hair up into a pretty cap and
put on a clean apron before going out to the road to greet them,
for they had complained on the way through of cold reception
and mean lodgings everywhere on their travels.

But when they were near I saw that they rode like defeated soldiers instead of kings.
They’d left here wearing fine embroidered robes,
crowns and jeweled bands and – oh, it was splendid
to see the three of them, tall and straight atop the swaying camels,
snow and mud splashing out behind them and all their men
and beasts of burden following in the slush.
“We go as kings to greet a king,” the dark one said to his grumpy camel man,
and I thought King Herod of course, knowing of no other,
but father, who travels often into the towns, spat on the ground, “Pah! Herod is but
Ceasar’s ass. A rumoured true King of Jews is what they’re looking for. Idiocy!”

And so, when they came back this way all draggled and slumped,
I knew my father was right and they had not found their king.
But they had found something; it made their faces grim,
and they were silent over their food and retired early
and the next morning they were away at dawn.
I watched them moving slowly up the long hill eastward
into the sun just rising in a sky as red as blood.

Martha Royea, unpublished, 2009

I first featured this stunning poem by B.C.-based Canadian poet Martha Royea in a blog posted December 30th, 2019. Since today is Epiphany, the day in the Christian calendar that celebrates the coming of the Wise Men I thought it would be appropriate to feature it again. It deserves the attention. I have known Martha for many years, having met her first at a Patrick Lane poetry retreat at Hollyhock, the retreat center on Cortes Island, up the coast from Vancouver. I consider her a wise amd wonderful dear friend! Now, the poem! My comments from two years ago!
Read More »

Ugly, Ugly, Ugly – Terrance Hayes’s Gorgeous New Year Poem!!!

A New Year Is Here! And a poem to go with it!

American Sonnet for the New Year

things got terribly ugly incredibly quickly
things got ugly embarrassingly quickly
actually things got ugly unbelievably quickly
honestly things got ugly seemingly infrequently
initially things got ugly ironically usually
awfully carefully things got ugly unsuccessfully
occasionally things got ugly mostly painstakingly
quietly seemingly things got ugly beautifully
infrequently things got ugly sadly especially
frequently unfortunately things got ugly
increasingly obviously things got ugly suddenly
embarrassingly forcefully things got really ugly
regularly truly quickly things got really incredibly
ugly things will get less ugly inevitably hopefully

Terrance Hayes from The New Yorker, January 14th, 2019

It may seem strange to begin new year 2022 by featuring this poem with an insistent and adverbial call out to ugly but I like what this poem is: a salute to the reality of messiness in human living, extremes, contradictions, maybe sos, maybe nots, and then some hope at the poem’s end, maybe! This uncertainty, this messiness I know will be part of 2022 without a doubt. But I also will grab on to the last line like a lifebelt! …things will get less ugly inevitably hopefully. Thank you Terrance Hayes. And thank you for all those gots! And one get. Delightful!

Terrance Hayes (1971- ), gifted poet and artist, has developed an admirable stature in American poetics. He won a National Book award for poetry in his thirties and a McArthur Genius Grant in his early forties. He is fearless in poems that tell of the painful histories of being an African American in the United States. And his fearlessness doesn’t end there. Particularly in his 2018 book, American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, his voice feels unwavering in its necessity, in its clarities for justice and truth. For my 2015 blog post on Terrance please click here.

American Sonnet for the New Year, written after his 2018 book, captures a bewildering isness of ugliness. And it’s determined to celebrate its use of abstractions to portray ugly. An unexpected move! I feel as if I am being drowned inside the poem, its fourteen uglys, thirteen gots and one get and countless abstract ly adverbs. But I keep breathing as the poem’s insistent current carries me to the end and throws me on the shore of its surprisingly upbeat conclusion after all the confusions that preceded it.

American Poet Terrance Hayes. Photo from the MacArthur Foundation website.

How quickly it all got ugly the speaker repeats in the first three lines then changes his mind in the next three lines when the ugly is more confusing. Maybe it wasn’t frequent, maybe it was ironic, maybe ugly didn’t get ugly. And then in the next three lines ugly is back as ugly but nuanced. It’s painstaking, it’s beautiful, it’s sad. Then Hayes reverses course again and ugly is just ugly again but suddenly, then really ugly, then really incredibly ugly before the final turn where suddenly we are given the future tense inside this hopeful and unexpected few words: things will get less ugly inevitably hopefully. Read More »

Remembering Robert Bly – Part Two

American poet Robert Bly (1926-2021). Image courtesy of Haydn Reiss.

KEEPING OUR SMALL BOAT AFLOAT

So many blessings have been given to us
During the first distribution of light, that we are
Admired in a thousand galaxies for our grief.

Don’t expect us to appreciate creation or to
Avoid mistakes. Each of us is a latecomer
To the earth, picking up wood for the fire.

Every night another beam of light slips out
From the oyster’s closed eye. So don’t give up hope
that the door of mercy may still be open.

Seth and Shem, tell me, are you still grieving
Over the spark of light that descended with no
Defender near into the Egypt of Mary’s womb?

It’s hard to grasp how much generosity
Is involved in letting us go on breathing,
When we contribute nothing valuable but our grief.

Each of us deserves to be forgiven, if only for
Our persistence in keeping our small boat afloat
When so many have gone down in the storm.

Robert Bly from Talking Into the Ear of a Donkey, W.W. Norton $ Co., 2011

And the deaths keep coming. Of course. It’s what life brings us. But this poem, this ghazal, by American poet Robert Bly, who died on November 21st , reminds me that my small boat is still afloat even though it feels lower in the water with many deaths this November of valued writers and poets including Robert. I am thinking of Phyllis Webb, Lee Maracle, Etel Adnan and Stephen Sondheim. (For my first response to the news of Robert’s death please click here.)

In light of these deaths is it any wonder I keep coming back to these lines in Robert’s poem above. How challenging and provocative they are!

It’s hard to grasp how much generosity
Is involved in letting us go on breathing,
When we contribute nothing valuable but our grief.

Read More »

“Where Will We Find Another Like Him? “ – Robert Bly (December 23rd, 1926 – November 21st, 2021)

American poet Robert Bly (1926-2021)

Where will we find another like him?

Tony Hoagland from The Village Troublemaker: Robert Bly and American Poetry in The American Poetry Review, September/October, 2011

The Pistachio Nut

God crouches at night over a single pistachio.
The vastness of the Wind River Range in Wyoming
Has no more grandeur than the waist of a child.

Haydn tells us that we’ve inherited a mansion
On one of the Georgia sea islands. Then the last
Note burns down the courthouse and all the records.

Everyone who presses down the strings with his own fingers
Is on his way to Heaven; the pain in the fingertips
Goes toward healing the crimes the hands have done.

Let’s give up the notion that great music is a way
Of praising human beings. It’s good to agree that one drop
Of ocean water holds all of Kierkegaard’s prayers.

When I hear the sitar give out the story of its life,
I know it is telling me how to behave-while kissing
The dear one’s feet, to weep over my wasted life.

Robert, this poem will soon be over; and you
Are like a twig trembling on the lip of the falls.
Like a note of music, you are about to become nothing.

Robert Bly from My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy, Harper Collins, 2005

Where will we find another like him? I still do not have an answer to this question Tony Hoagland asked in the last line of  his long 2011 article/essay about Robert Bly. Robert Bly, who died at age ninety-four a week ago. And Robert as you predicted in your American ghazal above your twig was pulled under by the falls last week and you, as a body, have become nothing. Where your soul is, well that’s anybody’s guess! But what you have left behind, your recordings, your poems, your essays and non-fiction books, they prove the breadth of your creative genius that made you one of the great poetic voices of your time. That gave rise to Tony’s question.

Read More »

Moved By The Shape of Scars – A Poem and a Chapbook by Ghanaian Writer and Poet Tryphena Yeboah

Ghanaian poet Tryphena Yeboah. Photo Credit: Narrative Magazine

MY BODY, HAVING LEARNED RESURRECTION

The day ripens on my face.
The opening of my eyes is the plucking of stars
and I want to keep the glistening thing forever
but my hands, I need them empty to carry other dreams like
pulling myself out of bed,
washing my face and carving today’s date into walls
as another triumphant exit from death, numbness—
the crashing state of absence from the here and now.
Suppose you enter a room to find me sitting across a window
looking into tomorrow,
will you touch me on the shoulder to wake me up
or bring me closer to you to feed your loneliness?
Suppose instead of turning my neck to face you
I crawl out of the window and run toward the light,
will you follow me not knowing where I am going or
will you pull me back by the arm, dragging me back to yourself?
My heart shall keep its promise of staying soft and open.
I’m versed inside a language that demands that before I speak,
I weight the words with my tongue. Must be salt. Must be water.
Everyone speaks of never returning to the places that almost drowned them.
Meanwhile, I am a girl moved by the shape of scars.
If I want to know how a wound made a home out of me,
does it mean I enjoyed the pain?
I want the joy of healing pulsing close to my skin
My body, having learned resurrection, more tender than before.
I want a tangible appreciation of life.
I stretch my hand and the day is a fruit I bite into,
a kind of sweetness I can wear without growing tired;
a cascading joy enough to keep me believing that no door is an accident.
You walk through some only to meet yourself.

Tryphena Yeboah from A Mouthful of Home from New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Saba), Akashic Books, 2020

I have profiled the extraordinary six-year old venture called the New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbok Box Set edited by American poets Kwame Dawes and Chris Albani in an earlier blog post. But I want to highlight a poet and her chapbook from the 2020 version called Saba – Tryphena Yeboah and her book A Mouthful of Home. And, in addition, to say, Tryphena, in late September won the prestigious Narrative Prize for a non-fiction and fiction piece published in Narrative. (An excerpt from her essay is below.)

Tryphena is a Ghanaian writer currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Nebraska. Her confidence and control in her poems, her careful pacing, is so evident from her chapbook! And the richness of her description. And how she ties her poem together with this idea of opening and openings: an opening of eyes, a opening out from one state into another, figuratively moving out of a confined space through a window or a threshold and then at the poem’s end instead of a window there is a door, another threshold, another way to go from one place to another. And the lovely last line where some doors take you back to meet yourself. And with this, an echo of Derek Walcott’s celebrated poem; Love After Love and the lines : you will greet yourself arriving/ at your own door, in your own mirror/ and each will smile at the other’s welcome.
Read More »

“The Dark Came Down” – R.I.P. Sophie Alexandra Musgrave Reid (1989-2021) – And Poems of Response by Her Mother, Canadian Poet, Susan Musgrave

Sophie Alexandra Musgrave Reid: With permission of Susan Musgrave

THE SOUL IS A TINY THING
for Sophie

The day you were born the sun
thawed the tears on your father’s
face. We needed you, a flirt
of grace, your breath on our lips
like one long kiss. We could have spent
a lifetime together in that kiss. Today
you are twenty-six. You send me
a photo of your white wolf hunting
rabbits in the snow. “Who says we can’t live
forever, lol?” Everything we are
comes from the dying light of stars.

Susan Musgrave from her Facebook page, September 18th, 2021. With permission.

from THE GOODNESS OF THE WORLD

……….. My fault was in trying to fix you,
who taught me, all life on earth is the dust of ruined stars.
Words for your headstone, carved by a hard bitten wind.
When the dust settles, we’re left with dust.

Susan Musgrave, 2012, with permission.

XV from Fall

The day we set to dig
my old cat’s grave under the looming
hoary cedars, the dark came down
earlier, blowing rain clouds
over the hills. I thought
the going
doesn’t get any easier
. We are the broken
heart of this world.

Susan Musgrave in Obituary of Light – The Sangan River Meditations, Leaf Press, 2009. With permission.

I dedicate this blog post to Susan Musgrave and Sophie Musgrave Reid. And, through my poetry therapy work in recovery centers, to those men and women I worked with who subsequently relapsed and died and to their beloveds, many of whom I also worked with.

 

Here I am writing a blog post triggered by the overdose death of someone I never knew – Sophie Alexandra Musgrave Reid (1989-2021). This might seem strange. But thanks to Sophie’s mother, Susan Musgrave, truly one of the important Canadian poets of her generation, I feel I knew something of her. How? Through Susan’s gut-wrenching prize-winning 2012 poem, THE GOODNESS OF THIS WORLD. (An excerpt is above and the full poem is below.) To read a previous blog post on Susan Musgrave please click here.

In THE GOODNESS OF THIS WORLD Sophie’s journey with addiction is related with unflinching directness. Something Susan’s poems are often noted and celebrated for. And what makes this poem even more relevant and poignant for me is that it invokes a suggestion of Sophie’s death when it mentions an epitaph for Sophie’s headstone. That death, after Sophie’s courageous battle with her addiction and times of recovery from it, tragically came by an overdose all to soon on September 8th, 2021.

And Susan’s sorrow, as I also imagine the sorrow of so so many parents who have lost beloveds to addiction, seems unthinkable, unsayable. But Susan does begin to capture it in her poem above when she says: I thought the going/ doesn’t get any easier. We are the broken heart of this world. All these losses we experience as human dwellers on this planet. Yes: We are the broken heart of this world. And with Susan’s daughter’s death a mother’s heart breaks even more.

And Susan in a recent Facebook post tries to tell us of sorrow’s depth from the loss of a beloved through the use of an Irish word. ” The Irish have a word for sadness born of grief —”brónach”. But it means so much more than that. A sadness deeper than grief, akin to desolation. What an apt and, for me, horrifying word: desolation. And the desolation captured in Susan’s words above: When the dust settles, we’re left with dust.

Read More »

A Ten-Day Generative Poetry Writing Retreat in Umbria Italy – May 16th to May 26th, 2022

Poet as Diviner – Hunting the Pluck of Poetry

An Invitation
to a Ten-Day Generative Poetry Writing Retreat
with poet Richard Osler
and Paper-Arts Facilitator Terry-Ann Carter


at La Romita School of Art, Terni, Umbria, Italy

Poets Writing In-Situ in Spoleto, Umbria, Italy, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DIVINER

Cut from the green hedge a forked hazel stick
That he held tight by the arms of the V:
Circling the terrain, hunting the pluck
Of water, nervous, but professionally

Unfussed. The pluck came sharp as a sting.
The rod jerked with precise convulsions,
Spring water suddenly broadcasting
Through a green hazel its secret stations.

The bystanders would ask to have a try.
He handed them the rod without a word.
It lay dead in their grasp till nonchalantly
He gripped expectant writs. The hazel stirred.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) from The Death of a Naturalist, Penguin, Faber, 1973

La Romita Courtyard

INTRODUCTION

The title of the 2022 La Romita retreat (the fourth retreat led by Richard at La Romita) is inspired by Seamus Heaney’s line in his poem above: hunting the pluck of water. But in our case, in this retreat, we will be hunting the pluck of poetry! That pluck! The pluck when we put our pens to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) and we are pulled into words, words that surprise us! When I think of this pull into our poems I am also reminded of lines from  American poet Jack Gilbert’s lines: Poetry fishes us to find a world/ part by part, as the photograph interrupts the flux/ to give us time to see each thing separate and enough./The poem chooses part of the endless flowing forward/ to know its merit with attention.
— Jack Gilbert (1925 – 2012)

This idea so central to my experience of poetry: that something other plucks or pulls us into our poems, that a poem chooses part of the endless flowing that becomes our poem. What a thought! But the longer I write poetry the more the words of Heaney and Gilbert ring true for me. Or to put it another way, in the words of Canadian poet Susan Musgrave, come and discover what she has discovered: it seems to me my poems know more than I do and are wiser than I am. Discover how your poems can bring closer to yourself and your world in a healing and transforming way. Please consider this invitation to join me this June in Umbria for a life-changing poetry-writing experience.

POETRY RETREAT OVERVIEW

What better place than Italy, at La Romita School of Art in Umbria (click here for the La Romita website) and at many other inspiring locations in Umbria and Tuscany, to write on location in some of the most beautiful places imaginable.

In this ten-day poetry writing retreat we will maintain a constructive balance between facilitated writing sessions, lots of quiet times for writing and our out trips to some of the remarkable places near and far-near from La Romita including Assisi, Perugia, Spoleto, Todi and some of the lesser-known towns that dot the hilltops of Umbria, each with their own special features and histories.

The structured writing sessions, many in situ, or as artists say, en plein air, at places we visit will be inspired by handouts based on meditations on craft, specific creative prompts and the poems of master poets: Poets such as Ocean Vuong, Patrick Lane, Rosemary Griebel, David Whyte, Mary Oliver, Frank O’Hara, Jan Zwicky, Roger Reeves, Ishion Hutchinson, Derek Walcott, James Wright, Giovanni Pascoli, Jack Gilbert, Seamus Heaney and many others.

The retreat will combine aspects of poetic craft with poetry’s ability to open you to surprising moments of discovery with ourselves and the world around you. This approach will help you write unexpected poems that stretch you as a person and as a writer.

And for the first time this retreat will also include sessions led by celebrated poet and paper-arts facilitator, Terry Ann Carter. Terry-Ann will invite you in her sessions to take lines from your poems or those of others and and add them to paper-art constructions that might include hand-made books, accordion books or even paper-mâché  bowls!

So Many Places to Write: Carsulae Archeological Site, Umbria, Italy

WHO SHOULD APPLY

Open to writers of all levels of experience.

PRE-RETREAT WORK

To help prepare you for the poetry retreat you will receive a six-page introduction in early May 2019 chock full of poems and thoughts on poetics. In addition, a few weeks later, you will receive a pre-retreat writing adventure/assignment to be completed and brought with you to the retreat. The poem that comes from this will be at the core of how we introduce ourselves at the beginning of our time together.

THE BENEFITS

There is something special that happens when a poet/retreatant lives in a community of other poets for ten days. Yes, life-long friendships can develop, but even more, a synergy can occur as poems are written together, shared and revised that leads to the retreatant going home with up to ten new poems quite unlike any others they have written before.

THE LOCATION

La Romita School of Art, located in the hills overlooking Terni, Umbria, sixty miles north of Rome and a three-hour drive from Florence.

THE COST

Includes room, all meals at La Romita, return ground transportation from Rome to La Romita, all poetry facilitation and all frequent out-trips. The price does not include airfare to Italy.

For Double Occupancy: US $3,200.00. Single Occupancy Supplement (five rooms available): U.S.$350.00. For Additional Single Rooms: US $700.  Please contact Richard Osler for discounts that might be available to you.

A deposit of $500.00 is required to register. The deposit is non-refundable unless the retreat minimum of eight participants is not reached by March 1st, 2022. Final balance, non-refundable, will be owing no later than March 1st, 2022.

THE FACILITATORS

POETRY

Richard enjoying writing in-situ at Villa Lante, Lazio, Italy

Richard Osler  is a poet and a celebrated poetry writing facilitator and workshop leader who, between April 2020 and July 2021 led around one hundred and twenty group generative writing sessions At Homewood Ravensview, a residential mental health facility on Vancouver Island and about two hundred individual generative poetry sessions. His full-length collection, Hyaena Season, was published by Quattro Books, Toronto, in the Fall of 2016. His chapbook of short poems Where the Water Lives was published by Leaf Press in 2012. His poems have appeared in many journals in the US and Canada. In 2011 and 2017 he was shortlisted for the Malahat Open Season Awards in poetry, in 2015 he was longlisted for the PRISM International Poetry Prize and in 2021 he was a finalist for the Ruminate Magazine Broadside Prize. His other writing includes chapters in The Rock Rabbit and the Rainbow: Laurens van der Post Among Friends and The Latest Morningside Papers by Peter Gzowski.His website, which includes his poetry blog published about fifty times a year, can be seen at recoveringwords.com.

 

Richard Writing In-Situ at Carsulae, Lazio, Italy

BOOK AND PAPER ARTS

Terry Ann Carter. Photo Credit: Rhonda Ganz

Terry Ann Carter, a poet and book and paper artist, is the author of six collections of long form poetry, two haiku guidebooks, and five haiku chapbooks; she has edited four haiku anthologies. She is co-chair of the North America Virtual Haiku Conference (Oct. 15th to 17th, 2021) and as past president of Haiku Canada, founder of and facilitator for KaDo Ottawa (2001-2012) and Haiku Arbutus Victoria Study Group (2014-present), she has given hundreds of haiku and book arts workshops around the world.  A Crazy Man Thinks He’s Ernest in Paris (Black Moss Press) was shortlisted for the Archibald Lampman Award; day moon rising was shortlisted for the Acorn-Plantos People’s Poetry Award and Tokaido (Red Moon Press, 2017) won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award.  In 2019, she was a judge for the first International Haiku Contest for the city of Morioka, Japan. Haiku in Canada: History, Poetry, Memoir (Ekstasis Editions) and Moonflowers: Pioneering Women Haiku Poets in Canada (catkin press) were both published in 2020. Blue Moon: The Ono no Komachi Poems (with book artist Heather MacDonald) is forthcoming from JackPine Press.

TO REGISTER

Please register on the La Romita website https://laromita.org/workshop/poet-as-diviner-hunting-the-pluck-of-poetry-with-richard-osler/ and if you have further questions contact Richard Osler at osler@shaw.ca or at 604-836-7875.

ENDORSEMENTS

You have given me the gift of poetry through patience, grace, humour and ultimately, love. You are a master at holding space for this new voice.
– Christine L., Victoria, October 2018

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.
– Tonya L., Calgary, July 2017

 

In Spite of 9/11 and Other Catastrophes We Must Still Sing – A Reflection on Patrick Lane’s Poem – Small Elegy for New York

Canadian Poet Patrick lane. Photo Credit: Richard Osler, 2014

Small Elegy for New York

A small bird sings in the apple tree today
where the fruit hangs heavy in the heat.
The harvest is still weeks away.
He sings to leaves to shelter him,
that there be flowers, nests, and seeds,
that the sky he knows will always be the sky.
In New York far away the great fires burn,
yet what birds sing will stay
the night to come a few more hours.

In the garden I am bound by what I say
as you are bound. I pray for what I know,
that birds must sing among bright leaves,
that apples ripen toward the fall,
that we must hold what we are born
to hold, and all our weariness today
is just a stay against the hours. Prayer
is bird song in a garden far away
from the play of shadows fire makes.

The silence of the dead is what we own.
It’s why we sing. The sky is clear today.
Go on, I hear my father say, my mother too,
and though they rest in quiet graves
I hear them still. The sky is clear today.
The dead sing too in the wreckage and the fires.
We must listen to their song.
The burden is our lives.
We pray because we cannot turn away.

Patrick Lane from The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane, Harbour Publishing, 2011

I am so grateful to my friend and fellow poet Mary-Ann Moore for posting this poem by Canadian poet Patrick Lane on Facebook.  It honours the horrific events in New York City twenty years ago on September 11th. It honours them with a hope of what will endure in spite of everything. That, in spite of everything, there is still a safe garden far from fire and destruction. That even the dead tell us: “Go on.” Do not give up.

And this poem also honours something outside the specifics of that awful day on September 11, 2001. It honours the need to sing, to use words, to help keep our spirits alive even in the darkest times. But it also honours what a garden means for Patrick. Its almost mythic place in his work.
Read More »

The Itinerant Sea-Sight Seeker Xiao Yue Shan – Two Ocean Shores (Japanese and Canadian) in Twenty Days – and now the Winner (Announced Today) of Tupelo Press’s 2021 Berkshire Prize

Poet Xiau Yue Shan, recently of Tokyo, currently of Victoria B.C., born in China in 1993 . Photo Credit: Ahlum Kim, Poetry Magazine.

I write poems…to say grace.

Xiao Yue Shan from Minutes, Sea-Sight Journal Day Nineteen, June 29th, 2021 from her website shellyshan.com

the ocean is a gateway, a gentleness that contains and understands rage. almost fata morgana. the water is the ink by which the story of the land may be written. memory that may be projected into the future.

Xiao Yue Shan from her journal entry Minutes, Sea-Sight Journal Day Four, January 12th, 2021 from her website shellyshan.com

when the reality of undertaking sea-sight occurred to me, it initiated an unprecedented fear of inability; I do not know from where poems come. I do not know how my hand proves the tangibility of idea. I have started and ended so many poems not knowing where I have been inside them—only that I trusted the underlying vision that held me in its thrall during those wonderful moments. now, with this new undertaking, I would have to be servile to the volatility of my thinking. I would have to trust that I could do this work, this work that I do not set in order, but that which holds me, fleeting, in its absolution.

Xiao Yue Shan from Minutes,  Sea-Sight Journal Day Twenty, June 30th, 2021, from her website shellyshan.com

 

details      escape

returning to the place where memory goes
which resembles most closely the stagger of stones
needling the hem of land at minoura’s feet
water work of the inland sea interlocking past

I think I had to take more than one deep breath
to commiserate with the animal we named silence
beaten under depths rest good fruit car crashes
invented grandmothers more sunrises than reality

who is the owner of unremembered moments
would they open their great book
if  I stood
at the door
and begged?

Xiao Yue Shan from Poetry Magazine, April 2021

Okay, I am gob-smacked. Woke up this morning and soon after read that Xiao Yue Shan (Shelly Shan) had won Tupelo’s Press’s Berkshire prize today. Saw she lives in Victoria, B.C. an hour from where I live. What? I had never heard of her. Wondered who she was. tracked her down through her website. Saw she was born in China in 1993, is involved as an editor in four literary journals including one based in Beijing and one in Tokyo and has been getting poems published all over the place for the past four or five years.
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Short-Listed for Canadian Griffin Prize Shortlist 2021 – Yusef Saadi – Words are His Pleasure

Canadian poet Yusuf Saadi

Pleasuring Shahrazad

In rosewater I rinse
my final words, dip
them into your body.
Your slow, saline drip
on my tongue. You eclipse
Medinan dates soaked
in honey, saffron rice
with diced pistachios,
a single pomegranate—
surah carved in Kufic
on each ruby seed.
Camphor recites its being
inside a kerosene lamp.

Don’t plead, simply ask
for pleasure pleated
upon pleasure past
tongue-winding rinds
around words.
Damascus musk settles
on damask pillows.
Iced watermelon wine
gushes in crystal glass.
Hebron peaches blush;
sea-coast lemons
cleave in halves.
My nails moonrake
damp thighs;
again, I dine on
webbed-wet fingers.

Lips graze lashes, kohl.
On each closed eyelid
my tongue practises
its patient whorl
before I cherish
your perfect pearl.
I gave my day
dreaming of your
myrrh’s mystique.
Now my tongue
is to caress—
not to speak.

Yusef Saadi from Pluviophile, Nightwood, 2020 and the Malahat Review, Fall 2019

Pun intended. What a pleasure to read the concluding poem of Montreal-based Yusef Saadi’s debut poetry collection that was short-listed for the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize. Wow. Debut book and short-listed for one of the most prestigious poetry prizes going!

Yusef loves words and word play in a way that reminds me of American Canadian poet Heather McHugh. Both of them such playful wordsmiths but can also deliver a serious punch. The title of Yusef’s book shows his love of  sonically rich words, this one a made up word that has made the rounds of the internet it seems since 2016. And Yusef notes it is a mix up of greek (pluvio) and latin (phile). And not surprising it has been given a definition on line of a lover of rain!

(Now, a serious tangent! Well, please let me confess I am a Pluviophile but not necessarily a lover of rain! No, I am a lover of truly, one of the finest culinary establishments I have ever had the pleasure to eat at! Pluvio in Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Run by two thirty-something partners Warren Barr + Lily Verney-Downey the service and food in the restaurant is exemplary. Kinda like Yusef’s poetic offerings.)

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