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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.


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

There are no upcoming events at this time.

Bringing a Darkness Into the World – Patrick Lane’s Witness By Poem and Prose to the Hunting (and Haunting) Death of a Cougar in 1949

Cougar. Photo Credit: Sonoma County Parks


The cougar before she falls from her high limb
holds for one moment the Ponderosa pine, her back
arched, her tail so still the forest stops.
There are silences to learn,
each one an invocation: the one that follows
a father’s rage at a child, a woman’s rage at a man,
a child’s tears – you watch as if the sound
was a language you must learn. But a cougar’s falling?
Nothing is so quiet. Even the wind stops to listen.
Beetles, busy at death, lift up their jointed legs,
Whiskey-jacks slide quietly away, and ravens appear
as if they had been made from the air.
It is to watch a thing whose only gift is death
give to herself, feeling the explosion in her heart
a thing she has made and not the men below
and not the dogs as they watch her falling
through the limbs and then erupting into sound,
their hard mouths biting what is already dead.
It is the boy on the horse so old it will not run,
A boy who watches, not understanding the men
who, when she falls, shoot their rifles at the sun,
as if with such exultance
they could bring a darkness into the world.

Patrick Lane (March 26th, 1939 – March 7th, 2019) from The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane, Harbour Publishing, 2011

It is a little more than four years ago when I had to learn the silence of Patrick Lane’s death. Master poet, master teacher, beloved friend.

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

And after headlines last week that the body mass of the wild mammals on this marvel of an earth keep shrinking and are now at 10% of our human mass I keep thinking of Patrick’s grief at the so-often ignored deaths of the wild creatures of this world. And then I think of his trauma, at ten years old, at being witness to the death of a cougar in the back country of British Columbia – and the poem (above) that came in the 1990’s about that shocking incident and then later, in prose in his  convocation address at the University of Victoria almost ten years ago.

Cougar, such a Patrick poem. The vivid descriptions and then an abstract observation or comment. The sharp close-in focus and then the out-take to the wider, more universal observation:

The cougar before she falls from her high limb
holds for one moment the Ponderosa pine, her back
arched, her tail so still the forest stops.
There are silences to learn,
each one an invocation:

Read More »

Guest Poetry Blog # 9 – Entering the Wild – American poet Todd Davis Features American poet Anne Haven McDonnell – Part Two of Two

American poet Anne Haven McDonnell. Photo Credit: Split Rock Review.

Shadow into Wolf

On the long low-tide of seal spit, I studied just beyond
the horizon
of sight—a dark twist of driftwood, black against the sandy bank
and shag
of cedar. Thought it’s just like my mind
to make
a branch a wolf snout, profile with two ears pricked
our boat where you load waterproof bags and I rest
a flash.
I backed away from the killdeer’s broken wing dance,
her nesting space, found this water-worn cedar log to sit
a spell.
And like a dream swims up to waking, I saw that branch rise and
all at once
become an actual black wolf watching you load our boat.
it’s just like a wolf to sit beyond the horizon of sight, to shapeshift, to
the mind towards what it fears or yearns for. And just like a wolf to stand up
in bodied toothy fact, cut a hole in the forest, all the gathered
and shadow, turn back to trees and leave me
what I saw and how I might tell it.

Anne Haven McDonnell from Living With Wolves, Split Rock Press, 2020


For several semesters in environmental studies classes at Penn State where I’m a professor, I taught the poems that comprise Anne Haven McDonnell’s Living with Wolves. It was a good way to introduce the debates that surround the migration or reintroduction of wolves, to have students—most of whom had never had a lived encounter with a wolf—to explore a range of viewpoints on the subject.

But at the heart of why I taught the book was the simple fact that I wanted Anne to tell the story over and over about how these wolves swam to an island off the coast of British Columbia, how they colonized and lived among people, a story primal and primary, something we might have heard over a fire a hundred or a thousand years ago.

The epigraph poem above is the last poem in Living With Wolves. I so appreciate how it is crafted. Anne places us in the scene, allowing it to unfold, a living metaphor of driftwood changing into wolf. How different this narrative moment is once that driftwood becomes “an actual black wolf watching you.” The wonder the speaker in the poem is left with at such an encounter, the question of how to tell it, and isn’t that what we struggle with as writers: How to tell it? How to frame it? Where to begin and end the poem, because poems don’t ever actually end, except on a page. Outside of the page they continue to take on lives of their own.
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Metaphor as Mystical Transformation– Guest Poetry Blog # 9 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, American poet Todd Davis – Part One of Two

American poet, Todd Davis. Image courtesy of Todd Davis

Transfiguration of the Beekeeper’s Daughter

Because the bees flew toward light the color of honey,
she couldn’t see them but heard their hum, deep thrum
of the colony come out of the hive, comb dripping
with loss and the smoke her father used to subdue,
to pacify the fear that might spur an attack.

It wasn’t until her brother began to cry that she noticed
her hair was moving, undulating like water easing
from a rapids, alive with an energy she recognized
as the gentle buzzing of hundreds and hundreds of bees.
They swelled along the strands of her hair, remaking

the small world that floated in front of her eyes,
as even more bees curled around her face.
She’d seen the woman at the fair who made a beard
of bees for the crowd of farmers and their families.
She read about the love and patience the woman told

the newsman was necessary as their legs and translucent
wings crept and fluttered across the tender flesh
under her chin, fanning cheekbones, slipping over
the helix of the outer ear. Like earrings cut
into the loveliest shapes, with colors of burnished

gold and copper, the bees poured over the girl’s scalp,
some finding their way down the collarbone, onto arms
and breasts, abdomens pulsing in time to the electricity
along the hind legs that captured the pollen for the journey
back to the hive. She found it impossible to hold still

unless she thought of that bearded-bee woman,
the affection that transfixes the body
while even more bees conceal the feet and shins,
the knees and thighs, until a girl vanishes,
and in her place a winged seraph flies.

Todd Davis from Winterkill, Michigan State University Press, 2016


To say I am pleased to introduce, as Part One, my next guest blogger, # 9, in my new series of guest blog posts, is an understatement. Not that I am more pleased than I was in the previous eight introductions but so gratified that a request I made to Todd to become a guest blogger for Recovering Words, after a panel at AWP, the annual writers’ conference, in Seattle, became a reality four days later. In Part Two of his post Todd will feature American poet Anne Haven McDonnell.

When Todd said yes on Saturday he said his busy writing project schedule meant he could do it most likely in the Fall. I said great. Well, turns out he had a free day yesterday and pronto: two marvelous blog posts in my in-box.

I have been wracking my brain as to when I first came across Todd and his poetry. All I can remember is using his poems in my poetry-as-prayer retreats which began in earnest in 2009. I think the American writer and anthologist Peggy Rosenthal might have introduced me through Image Journal (tag-lined A Journal of Art, Faith & Mystery) and its annual writers get together called the Glen Workshop.

Especially, if you are a Canadian reader of the Recovering Words blog, you might want to know who Todd is? Well, as a start, he has written seven full-length poetry collections including the most recent, Coffin Honey, in 2022, has had more than 400 poems published in noted American journals and magazines and he edited or co-edited a number of anthologies including, in my mind, the must-read Making Poems – Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets, published in 2011. Also, he teaches creative writing, American literature, and environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University’s Altoona College.

Read More »

Guest Poetry Blog # 8 – American poet Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ Features American Poet Kelli Stevens Kane – Part Two of Two

American poet and oral historian Kelli Stevens Kane

what I had

what I had to have
what I had to have taken
what I had to have taken from me
what I had to have taken from me to feel
what I had to have taken from me to feel human
what I had to have taken from me to feel human was love

Kelli Stevens Kane from The Delaware Poetry Review, March 21st, 2016

Introducing Kelli Stevens Kane

By Bianca Lynne Spriggs

Based out of Pittsburgh, Kelli Stevens Kane is an award-winning poet, playwright, and oral historian. Her debut collection, Hallelujah Science  (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020) is critically acclaimed and rightly so.

Kelli and I first met through a choreopoem I wrote that reflected my experiences workshopping with incarcerated women. In 2012, she was one of the readers at the August Wilson Center for their monthly roundtable reading that featured my choreopoem, “The Swallowtail Project.” We are also both Cave Canem fellows, so eventually, I got to know her work better as well.

Kelli is a fine poet whose aesthetic reminds me of Lucille Clifton in its minimalism as well as meditative quality. Yet, there is a wistfulness and ephemeral nature to her poetry that is all her own. Even in poems where the subject matter is more political, reflective of a personal or systemic gash, there’s a tenderness in her approach to examine every serrated edge, to not flinch in the restorative process. I think the word I’m looking for here is—considerate. Her poems read as considerate, no matter the subject, to the point of benevolence.
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Love Lets Go – Guest Poetry Blog # 8 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, American Poet, Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ- Part One of Two

A snood scarf

– for the next one

What if it works
the same way, today?
What if this snood-scarf
I’m making out of yarn
from the clearance aisle
is just like the mantle
tossed from a chariot
on its way to Glory,
because of my intent?
If you were to wear it,
it would be the only thing
you’d ever have to do
differently—put it on
or carry it around
until something changes.
That’s it.
That’s the only rule.
That way, you could achieve
cosmosis on your own time.
Not mine.
I’m not saying you’d have to
believe in Elijah’s God
(or mine),
I’m just of the opinion
that sympathetic magic
is the oldest in the world—
it’s the only kind that works.
I’m just saying, ain’t nothing
wrong with a little bit of conjure.
I’m saying there are far worse
ways a person could try
to get to whatever miracles
dwell dormant inside them
than wearing a homemade snood.

DRRTY BĒ (Bianca Lynne Spriggs) from BLK MDNNA: New & Used Poems forthcoming from Numerica Press, 2023


American poet Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ


I am so pleased to introduce the eighth guest blogger in this new series of guest poetry blog posts: American spoken-word, page poet and artist, Bianca Lynne Spriggs aka DRRTY BĒ. Love her last lines in her new poem above about the miracles that dwell dormant inside us! Isn’t that poems are for? To wake those miracles up! Her poems can do that!

Bianca is the author of three poetry collections and been much-commended for her spoken word poetry performances. Much celebrated Patricia Smith commended her first collection, while current U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón said this about her second collection, Call Her by Her Name: Both a shape-shifting powerhouse who conjures deeply needed voices from the past and a courageous presence who lays down the real truth, Spriggs is a poet who expertly excavates and celebrates the feminine.

Her third collection from 2016, The Galaxy and the Dance Floor is full of her own illustrations. Commenting on the book American poet  Aracelis Girmay says Bianca’s collection: models awe while deftly conjuring emotion in nuanced moments of syntactical invention. Yes, there is heartache here. yes, there is loss, But these all give way to necessary metamorphosis and transformation, and this is exactly where, again and again, Spriggs cultivates hope.

In her preface to “The Galaxy” Bianca expresses what I think many poets might wish when someone reads their book of poems:

Dare I say that I hope reading this book leaves you as irrevocably changed as the way writing it left me? I suppose that’s what any writer wishes, ultimately – to alter someone the way she has been altered. But that is what I wish – that you finish reading these poems and feel that you were there with me last night, among a blur of humans, moths, cicadas, moonlight and mason jars, where for one flared moment – who knows, maybe we were all together for two seconds, maybe two centuries – but time turned into a slow, bright streak across the night sky where for once we were all of us certain of our hearts. For once, we were all certain where we belonged.

Part Two of Bianca’s blog posts will feature the American poet, playwright and oral historian, Kelli Stevens Kane. Kelli’s debut poetry collection, Hallelujah Science, was released in February 2022 with endorsements from major U.S. poets including Patricia Smith.

Bianca has been profiled in these pages before. To see the latest of these blog posts please click here. I still consider her poem What Women Are Made Of one of my favorite poems. I have attached it to the bottom of this post. I was so pleased when Bianca said yes to joining my guest blogger series. After a stint teaching as an assistant professor at Ohio University from 2017 to 2021 she is working on her own writing projects. In her words: I am currently working on a memoir to describe what happened to me while working there as the only Black American woman in the [English] department during the Trump Administration and a pandemic in Trump Country in a glorified sundown town in Appalachian Ohio. 

When I asked her in a email where to say she was now living she replied: I consider Appalachia my home away from home these days and hope to one day reside there again or at least have a residence…I’m currently considering Appalachian New Brunswick as a great place for me to start looking. 

BIANCA SPRIGGS’S INTRODUCTION – Love lets go. Everything else is entitlement.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a poet is to let the form be of service to the content—not the other way around.

To that end, I guess we should talk about Adam.

Read More »

Guest Poetry Blog # 7 – American poet Dion O’Reilly Features American poet Jim Moore – Part Two of Two

American poet Jim Moore. Photo Credit: Joann Verburg


by Dion O’Reilly

Whatever Else

Whatever else, the little smile on the face of the woman
listening to a music the rest of us can’t hear and a sky at dawn
with a moon all its own. Whatever else, the construction crane
high above us waiting to be told how to do our bidding,
we who bid and bid and bid. Whatever else, the way cook #1
looks with such longing at cook #2. Let’s not be too sad
about how sad we are. I know about the disappearance
of the river dolphins, the sea turtles with tumors.
I know about the way the dead
don’t return no matter how long they take to die
in the back of the police car. I know about the thousand ways our world
betrays itself. Whatever else, my friend, spreading wide his arms,
looks out at the river and says,
“After all, what choice did I have?” After all,
I saw the man walking who’d had the stroke, saw the woman
whose body won’t stop shaking. I saw the frog in the tall grass,
boldly telling us who truly matters. I saw the world
proclaim itself an unlit vesper candle while a crow
flew into the tip of it, sleek black match, burning.

Jim Moore from Prognosis, Graywolf Press, 2021. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Jim Moore has been churning out exquisite poems for decades: author or editor of twelve books, his work appears in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Nation. A reading of his new and selected, Underground, from Graywolf in 2005, follows a thirty-year career fashioning poems that explore the lyric, awakened moment—poems with simple diction and complex ideas that tether the mind to another dimension. Sixteen years later, his latest book, Prognosis (Graywolf 2021) is a tour de force: every poem, cohesive, harmonious, and luminous with discovery.
Read More »

Guest Poetry Blog # 7 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, American Poet Poet Dion O’Reilly – Part One of Two

American poet Dion O’Reilly

Another Happiness

Publish your best work, find a decent job.
Eat some sizzling octopus, the many
kissing tentacles meaty on your tongue.
Success, you think, Joy! For a while anyway,
then it’s another mess in the papers, the endless
scroll of rapists and dead turtles, another
photo of a world leader with his corn-baked face.

So you go on a car trip north to find
some good rain. You get to Seattle,
and the lawns are scab-brown,
your old home on the lake—
a lime-green high rise.
Always looking for something.
Answer keys. Antidepressants.
More friends, another dog, another slim poetry book,
the poet pushing line after line
of exquisite description, one astonished
metaphor after another, escalating into an ecstatic revelation.

You can’t write like that.
You don’t read enough Virgil and Milton, don’t start
your day writing lines of iambic pentameter.
Detroit, Detroit, Detroit, Detroit, Detroit.
And you can’t meditate like some of the big names do.
When you sit, it feels like termites streaming in and out
of your arteries, on the screen of your inner vision,
all your arrogance, ecstasy, and gloom.

But admit it—sometimes in fall, you look up and see
an arrowhead of duck flight, lonesome and luxurious.
If only you could understand
how fungus flowers from the mind of the land,
how fractal arms of trees shard the sky.
If only you could exalt
in ash falling, the West on fire,
it would be like you’d just arrived on earth.

Dion O’Reilly from Ghost Dogs,Terrapin Books, 2020


I am so pleased to introduce the seventh guest blogger in this new series of guest poetry blog posts: California-based American poet Dion O’Reilly. Part Two of her blog post will feature the American poet Jim Moore whose eighth poetry collection, Prognosis, was published by Graywolf Press in November 2021.

Dion is no stranger to these pages. In January 2021 (please click here) I featured her new book Ghost Dogs and poems from Narrative, the online literary journal, where she was a finalist for the prestigous 2020 Narrative Poetry Prize whose winners include many celebrated contemporary poets like Natalie Diaz and Oceon Vuong. And earlier in February 2019 (please click here) I featured a poem of hers from Rattle’s Poets Respond from 2017.

I first encountered Dion through a comment shewrote on a blog post I had written three years earlier on the American poet Tony Hoagland. It was how I learned that, Tony, a favorite American poet of mine, had died while I was away on an trip to Niger and the Sahara. I have stayed connected with Dion ever since and I am so glad I have. It is no fluke that she was a finalist for the Narrative Poetry Prize.

And I am so moved to share her blog post introduction below which captures in her own hard-earned words the way poems and poetry can give voice to what should never have to be voiced; can become a critical way to survive the chaos and disorder in a life. And in her case, some disturbingly large amount of that. To say I am humbled and inspired by what Dion has written for us below would be a huge understatement.

The American poet Gregory Orr who has written a lot about how poetry can save a life says that when we read a poem of someone’s difficult circumstances, the chaos and disorder of a life, we know they survived to write what they did. And Orr says this can give us the hope that no matter our disorders and chaos we, too, can survive. Dion gives that hope. What she survived. What others might survive. And for her writing was the key.

In these two paragraphs from her introduction below she puts the rubber to the road of how poetry is not just an art form but a critical way of understanding one’s own life. And making meaning of it that can lead to a growing wholeness and self-awareness. A healing.

“No matter what, poetry fights cliché. It complexifies and links. The prevailing narrative casts events into stone, which is a lie: Truth is essentially about transition, change, and endless refinement of understanding. Poetry lives, as Rumi put it, beyond ideas of right and wrong.

Writing anything honestly, even roughly, is the start, but bringing Truth to a poetry group and opening oneself to ideas on how to shape experience is the next baby step. A good writing group or teacher will create an atmosphere of permission, offer suggestions to craft the story, deepen and explore the insight, balance darkness with an ascendent chord, or tinge the sentimental with duende.”

wish I had had this quote when I was leading my hundreds of generative poetry groups at drug and alcohol recovery centers and at a residential mental health facility. Please, please read her not-to-be-missed introduction that follows:


In answer to the question: Why do you write? I often answer in my flippant way that writing is the only thing I can do. Flippant, yes, but there’s some truth to that statement.

Recently, my cousin sent me a video from one of his family’s rare visits to my childhood home. In it, I am an overweight, unbathed eleven-year old, with ragged hair falling in my face. Barefoot with no helmet, I’m showing my cousins how to operate my go-kart. I’m proud of my fancy toy, a toy I seldom operate since there are no children nearby to ride with and few places to ride—no sidewalks, no suburban streets. In the video, my British mother is flawless in full makeup, her hair, bubble cut, presiding over our eighteen-acre farm like a cult-queen, replete with English jodhpurs and a riding whip. My cousins look neat and scrubbed in knee socks and saddle shoes. Their mother, my aunt, is smiling and pleasant, but not glamorous like mine.

When I was nine, my father—an autistic, violent, high school teacher—defied my mother, and refused to belt me. Soon after that event, he became mostly absent from home, immersed in his job and liberal causes. He obsessively stocked his library-den with literature and history books. When I pulled some Kipling, Maugham, Dickinson, or Twain from the shelves, he’d say,” Dion, as long as you read, you’ll be OK.” And so I entered a different world. Soon, I was writing and memorizing poems. I had placed my father’s library inside me.

By the time I was a teenager, I’d filled many binders with poetry, but I was a mess. I suffered from a pernicious eating disorder, an addiction to marijuana and Southern Comfort; I had no close friends, and was fatally attracted to rapey jocks who treated me like toilet paper.

One morning, dropped off at school in the early darkness on my father’s way to work, I sat in the quad and asked myself, How will I survive? What can I do? Snagging men—like my mother and sister had been groomed to do—was not my future. I was too traumatized to focus on activities that challenged me, like math, science, theater, or student council. Sports were not an option for girls back then. But at that moment, when I feared I could not function, a voice came to me: You can write. I was too broken to strive for much else. That being said, I never thought I would write books, never thought anyone would read my work, but I had confidence I could be a high school English teacher and bring disaffected teenagers to literature and writing.

After thirty-five years of teaching, decades of therapy, twelve step programs, and resolute self- inquiry, I’ve improved my skills at grappling with childhood memories of violation and torture. Now, retired, I’m reading, writing, and memorizing again in a more comprehensive and mindful way.

And so, Dear Reader, I want to tell you something, not about MFAs or writing groups, although refining craft is imperative. I want to acknowledge that the voice of demoralization is cunning and powerful. I became a poet because, once upon a time, I was silenced, and I think one of the most difficult lessons is the following: even if one does not grow up under the thumb of a Sadistic cult leader, for most people, there’s a voice saying Your poems suck. You suck. You can’t make this poem work. Give up. You have nothing to say, or You’re not the right color, the right age, the right gender, the right size. Who do you think you are? Here’s the important part: facing the voice of demoralization brings content to poetry. Demoralization is a finger pointing to life’s central issues, both personal and systemic. One can admit, for example, that they’re…

Always looking for something.
Answer keys. Antidepressants.

Forty years ago, the first time I told a therapist—told anyone, really—that I was bulimic, she said, “You can get better, but you have to admit you’re angry at your parents.” And now I would say, if one wishes to write, one must admit Truth. Admit it. Let it in. Some of us are blunt; some of us come in slant, but I believe it is essential to hear the silencing voice, identify it, speak to it over and over because it is a many-headed hydra, which, in a sense, is encouraging: there’s always something to write about, and honest writing continues to evolve.

Let me be clear, this recasting of reality, this truth telling can be about anything: love, immigration, bliss, race, sex, delight in the natural world. A poem can be about an…

arrowhead of duck flight, lonesome and luxurious…
how fungus flowers from the mind of the land,
how fractal arms of trees shard the sky…

No matter what, poetry fights cliché. It complexifies and links. The prevailing narrative casts events into stone, which is a lie: Truth is essentially about transition, change, and endless refinement of understanding. Poetry lives, as Rumi put it, beyond ideas of right and wrong.

Writing anything honestly, even roughly, is the start, but bringing Truth to a poetry group and opening oneself to ideas on how to shape experience is the next baby step. A good writing group or teacher will create an atmosphere of permission, offer suggestions to craft the story, deepen and explore the insight, balance darkness with an ascendent chord, or tinge the sentimental with duende.

Ernest Hemingway said: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”

So I say, Begin with Truth, within that Truth, the refinement of craft can begin, the lyric moment can unfold, which is a place to be new again, in love with the world.

Heavenly-Blue Morning Glory

You know those moments
when you’re young, dumb-
struck by the sight of something,
the air undone by mist and naked
sunlight as you pace the tracks
in Seattle for no reason,
save the oily light,
the peel of day-moon, coy
between the clouds.
Sure, you feel the same
old disaster, the same sadness
about sadness.
That’s a given, but then,
you’re hit by a fit
of chromatic blue. Hunger-
blue, blind-blue, squeezing
the high fence
like a host of baby-faced
pythons, so cerulean, so rare,
in the dripping freeze,
so necessary and painful
after months of gray restraint,
gray as the gray hair
around your mother’s near-dead face,
your hand released, finally, from her
pressed fingers, her furious fist.
It’s the first time you notice—
like the opened throat of desire,
the tapped vein—
how much you want the world.

Dion O’Reilly from Rattle

By Dion O’Reilly, January 2023

Guest Poetry Blog Series #6 – Calgary-based Poet Micheline Maylor Features Canadian Writer Kit Dobson – Part Two of Two

Canadian Writer and Teacher, Kit Dobson


Dr. Kit Dobson is an extraordinary professor and essayist at the University of Calgary. I call him extraordinary because he hasn’t let the grind of academia turn him into a corporate automaton. While he is not a poet, I chose his work because of its lyrical and poetic heft at the sentence level. Field Notes on Listening is a long meditation of the senses, connections, and the environment. Told in vignettes, the narrative is saturated with images and leaping fragments about family, the environment, and sound. The book represents the best of how lyric essay works to create something deep and meaningful.

Recovery as defined in part one of my own introduction is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” When I think of recovering, I am acutely aware of sound, just as I am when I hear the music in poetry. The sound of recovery has, not a silence but a quietness an almost reflective quality. Dobson states:

Snow has tremendous sonic properties. People who live in northern climates know this fact well. Snow muffles sound. It gives city-dwellers respite from the daily hubbub. In the forest after a fresh snowfall the air is crisp, deep and silent. Snow falling from a nearby branch cuts through the air, but most distant sounds fall away. Underfoot, the snow crunches and squeaks – different pitches, intensities and sound for degrees of cold – and it whooshes down from higher up. On mountains, snow makes a distinct whumpf sound when after building up in weight it falls down upon itself. That sound comes when heavy new snow fractures the crystalline facet layers that have built up underneath. Whumpfing snows are portents of avalanches to come.

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Guest Poetry Blog Series # 6 – Introducing the Sixth Contributor, Micheline Maylor – Part One of Two

Calgary-based Canadian poet Micheline Maylor

Styx and Stones

I have a secret wilderness I keep inside, tight as spider-eggs
tucked in for the winter and waiting to be far flung, strung,
then tamped tight as a forest floor. What visions turn to currency?

Now that anger is done, I’ve devastated you like a Wall Street
Banker of a Saturday bender. We all have new traditions now.
Nothing looks like it used to. Get over it. Stuff in tight and remorse.

Hang long memories, cinch those unwanted puppies in the killing sack!
My shoes are milk-thistle kitten heels, almost remorseless almost vast.

Micheline Maylor from The Bad Wife, University of Alberta Press, 2021


I am so pleased to introduce the sixth guest blogger in this new series of poetry blog posts: Cagary-based Canadian poet Micheline Maylor. Part Two of her blog posts will feature the Canadian writer and teacher, Kit Dobson, whose collection of essays, Field Notes on Listening, was published by Wolsak & Wynne in 2022.

As Micheline says below we met at a Patrick Lane retreat quite a few years ago. Such a pleasure to hear her distinctive voice during that retreat (her memorable line: Rabbit, you fucker) and in her three books that have followed: Whirr & Click (2013), Little Wildheart (2017) and The Bad Wife (2021).

You can hear it so clearly in her small but very big poem above. The music. The sprung rhythm. Her memorable lines like her great opener:
I have a secret wilderness I keep inside, tight as spider-eggs. And the startling last two lines:

Hang long memories, cinch those unwanted puppies in the killing sack!
My shoes are milk-thistle kitten heels, almost remorseless almost vast.

I have written major features on Micheline twice before: in 2017 and in April 2022.

So glad to showcase her again in her own thoughtful and honest words. So much hard won wisdom shared below. What words can recover! Thank you hugely, Micheline.

Micheline Maylor’s Introduction

Look up the word recovery and the definition states “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Richard Osler’s Recovering Wordsspeaks to healing through engagement with poems and writing. When he asked me to guest blog, I wanted to think mainly of how poems aid in recovery through the act of contemplation and what Wordsworth refers to asemotion reflected in tranquility.”

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Guest Poetry Blog Series #5. American Poet Susan Browne Features American Poet Chelsea Harlan – Part Two of Two

American poet Chelsea Harlan. Photo Credit: Copper Canyon Press

Susan Browne Features Chelsea Harlan

Recently, I’ve fallen in love with the work of American poet Chelsea Harlan, currently living and working as a librarian in upstate New York. Her debut poetry book, Bright Shade, won the 2022 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by Jericho Brown. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m attracted to her style. Voice, definitely. She has a completely original voice. But, then, so do many poets, or the poets I want to read. So that isn’t really it. She has some great similes, such as “Loneliness prances by like an invisible bull.” In that same poem, there are many leaps and statements that don’t seem to connect, yet they do in a different kind of way, and this adds up to a powerful effect. Here’s the poem:

Some Sunlight  

Loneliness prances by like an invisible bull
where I loll at the overgrown rodeo.
You would’ve loved it.
I dribbled orange juice all over the bleachers.
I peed in the weeds.
I sat there for hours and hours with a giant book
I didn’t read.
A gate rattled against itself in the distance.
Existence, existence.
“Incalculable Loss,” says the Times.
The warmth of some sunlight on my back.
The pizzicato footsteps of a quail in the grass.

Chelsea Harlan from Bright Shade, The American Poetry Review, 2022

In this poem, as in all good poems, there is the triangle of feeling, thinking, and imagery. Let’s start with imagery: Loneliness is a prancing, invisible bull; the rodeo is overgrown; (I take that to mean the rodeo arena is full of weeds and maybe bushes, ivy, grass, yes, kind of a lonely, haunting place, an overgrown rodeo where there used to be a lot of action); the speaker lolls; orange juice dribbles; there are weeds and pee and a giant book; the sound of a gate rattling in the distance; the touch of sunlight, warm on the speaker’s back; the sound of pizzicato footsteps in the grass. Twelves lines of poetry with lots of imagery going on in them that we can see, feel, and hear.

What is the feeling here? The sunlight is warm but loneliness is a bull (fearsome, heavy but the bull also “prances,” which is a lightness, too) and the speaker is relaxing (lolling) in an empty, (lonely, too, we can infer), overgrown rodeo arena. She says the “you” would have loved it, so we infer she loves it, too. She has a giant book she doesn’t read for hours and hours. She is just being, although she also drinks orange juice and pees like any human, what humans do, drinking and peeing are part of existence, yes. So the feeling, the emotion in this poem is complex, but overall, I would say it’s an acceptance, a resting in what is.

Existence. Existence. This is what existence is like sometimes or maybe most of the time. A gate rattles against itself. I like that “against itself.” Do we rattle against ourselves in our simple, complex, empty, full existence? I think we do. Is this a bad feeling? Not necessarily. See, I’m thinking, so what is the thought, what is the thinking in this poem? The line that really gets me thinking is, “Incalculable Loss, says the Times.” What newspapers always tell us: constant loss, and, of course, that’s existence, too. And yet: the warmth of sunlight on her back. The musical sound of that quail in the grass. A quail’s footsteps. I love the surprise of that image/sound, along with the word “pizzicato.” To pluck the strings with one’s fingers.
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