Click to See What’s New

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.

For This I Came – Guest Poetry Blog Series # 18 – Part Two of Two – Canadian Poet Barbara Pelman Features Jewish American Poet, Alicia Ostriker (1937-)

Jewish American poet Alicia Ostriker (1937 -) Photo Credit: Blue Flower Arts.


When the full sun is on me this way
I itch and am satisfied

I take it in like a thirsty man
drinking from his garden hose

I take it in like a serene woman
receiving a man, and then when the golden leaves

rush past me sometimes I jubilate
like Abraham I am here for this I came

like Isaac I laugh trembling
well at least I am alive

and like Jacob I think in the spirit world they can never
experience pleasure the way flesh can

the body making love
the body nursing a child

the body fighting
playing basketball

even when it sickens
nursing its lesions

it struggles to stay
it clings to its bars

everything else is theology and folly.


Alicia Ostriker from The Volcano And After, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020


What a richly physical poem (especially in its third part not included here) by the Jewish American poet and teacher Alicia Ostriker. It is from a series about the Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of God. One can see all her skills at work: the easy knowledge of Biblical stories, her sensuality, her wonderful life-affirming language.

I discovered Alicia first, and then her poetry, though for me it’s usually the other way around. I first heard of her after a panel discussion I was involved in last spring, along with Isa Milman and Dvora Levin, fellow poets and members of Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria, B.C.

Isa, Dvora and I were talking about our various connections to Judaism, and were looking at other Jewish feminists who have left a footprint. Alicia’s name came up in the conversation as being one of those women along with others: Maxine Kumin, Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercey, and in Canada, Miriam Waddington, Adele Wiseman and Elizabeth Brewster (who used to come to our synagogue every winter) to name a few.

Alicia uses her Jewish traditions as a foundational pivot to her writing, which is what interested me. My question to her  would be: “How do you use your understanding of Jewish thought and traditions in your own poetry, and how does that help you, the poet, and us, the reader, reveal our ‘authentic selves’?

Read More »

In Spite of Loss Remembering How To Fall In Love With the World Itself – Brian Turner’s First of Three New Poetry Collections Being Released in 2023 – Elegies and Love Poems to His Late Wife Ilyse Kusnetz and to the World

American poets Brian Turner and Ilyse Kusnetz (1966-2016). Photo Credit: Scottish Poetry Library.


When I don’t have a body anymore. When
I’m ash and fragmented bone. I think about
the early people, trapped between one

geological era and another, unfathomable.
Their dust must yearn to rise but can’t.
So much pressure on their carbon, hydrogen,

trace elements we’ve lost, forgotten.
Will we all become diamonds? Will anything of us
beyond an uncertain glimmer survive?

Remember when we visited the animal refuge,
for parakeets in the aviary from ice-cream sticks
glittering with seeds? The tickle and nudge

of their beaks, a perfect engulfment—
the wild delight of wild things, my love,
I hope we’ll have that again.

Ilyse Kusnetz (1966-2016) from the wild delight of wild things by Brian Turner, Alice James Books, 2023

This poem by Ilyse Kusnetz is the epigraph volume in Brian Turner’s first of three books he is releasing this year! A poem she wrote in full knowledge of her impending death from cancer. A complex poem of loss and longing.

Brian and Ilyse were married for a tragically short six years. Both acclaimed poets. Ilyse won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2014 for her book Small Hours. Brian was short-listed for the same prize in 2010 for his book, Phantom Noise and won the Beatrice Hawley Award for his debut collection, Come, Bullet based on his two tours of active duty in Iraq. Ilyse’s last book, Angel Bones,was published posthumously in 2019.

Ilyse died in 2016 and seven years later Brian is publishing three separate poetry collections all echoing and expanding on the death of Ilyse and other deep personal losses. But, also, none of them forget the wonder and joy also held inside this world of ours.
Read More »

The Art of Poetic Midrash – Guest Poetry Blog #18 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, Canadian Poet, Barbara Pelman – Part One of Two

Canadian poet Barbara Pelman. Photo Credit: Jackie Saunders-Ritchie.


—after Czeslaw Milosz's poem Should Should Not

A father should not lay his son upon an altar,
should not listen to all he is told.
He should not wander three days upon the road, thinking.
There should be discomfort between father and son, 
who look each other in the eye, and tell no truths.
Take everything you need on your back, but find in the bushes
	the one essential thing you missed.
Listen carefully to the sound the wind makes. It will tell you when to stop,
	when to turn around, when to bury yourself in grief.
They say there are angels, but they come in unfamiliar clothes, they speak 
	an unknown language, they come too late:
The feast you have laid for them has already turned to dust.

Barbara Pelman, Recovering Words, September 2023


Again, I am so pleased and honoured to feature another guest blogger. This time, the Canadian poet Barbara Pelman. Her post below, Part One, will be followed by Part Two: Barbara’s feature post on the Jewish American Alicia Ostriker (1937 – ).

I have titled Barabara’s post The Art of Poetic Midrashwhich she describes so well in her post. My other choice for a title could have been: Praise the Bent World which is taken from a poem of hers featured below. Oh, how Barbara in so many of her poems praises this bent world. And her lovely echo of the phrase Praise this mutilated world from a poem by the late great Polish poet Adam Zagajewski.

I first met Barbara at a Patrick Lane poetry retreat here on Vancouver Island B.C. many years ago. I have lost count of the Patrick Lane retreats we both attended. But I remember the particular good-natured intensity that she brought to each of these retreats. Nothing seemed to faze her. Her commitment to poetry and enhancing her craft always paramount.

And I was in the retreat where Barbara was inspired to write her epigraph poem, Isaac. It is based on a prompt of Patrick’s based on the lines from the title of the Czeslaw Milsoz poem cited above. Patrick also took a shot at using that prompt in his last book published while he was still alive, Washita. His poem, Ars Poetica.

Read More »

The Drunkeness of Things Being Various – Guest Poetry Blog Series # 17 – Part Two of Two – Canadian Poet Catherine Graham Features Northen Irish Poet Louis MacNeice (1907-1963)

Northern irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-1963)



The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes—
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands—
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Louis MacNeice from The Collected Poems of Louis MacNeice, Oxford University Press, 1967

I first read this poem by Louis MacNeice decades ago when I was studying poetry in Northern Ireland. Since then it has lived beneath my skin. The music, the magic, the stutter-stop of “suddener.” Once, when I shared this poem with my poetry class, a student exclaimed: That’s not a word! But it is and the poem makes it so.

Sometimes a room is “suddenly rich.” Or was it always that way and we just need to slow down and open to what’s there to see it?
Read More »

Grief Is Like Waiting for Fifty Giant Black Kettles to Boil – Guest Poetry Blog #17 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, Canadian Writer, Catherine Graham – Part One of Two

Canadian writer Catherine Graham

Back to the Quarry

This surface for long-legged spiders
once absolved teen skin.

Plunge into the limestone museum.
Mingle with rusty machinery

sunken by a triggered spring.
Let sunfish nibble toes and raise

the fear of turtle snaps. Pursue
pathways craved by perch, catfish, bass.

Dive in. Turn to water before it freezes.

Catherine Graham from Put Flowers Around Us and Pretend We’re Dead: New and Selected Poems, Buckrider Books, 2023


First a quick introduction to Catherine. She is a multi-faceted writer: novelist, poet and memoirist. She is also a podcaster and writing instructor based in Toronto. And she is one of the judges for the 2023 CBC Poetry Prize. A full list of her writing awards and acknowledgements is included at the end of her blog post. But now back to her epigraph poem!

So much in this poem that introduces Catherine’s introductory guest blog post. And even more when you read her blog post below which gives such a moving context to this quarry. A quarry which, in so many ways, provided a new way for Catherine to imagine a new way forward in her life through poetry after shocking back-to-back losses in her life.

There is so much freshness and surprise in the language and descriptions in Catherine’s poem. And the power of the imperatives: Let, plunge, pursue, dive in, turn to. And the quick contrast between benign toe nibbling and turtle snaps. The yes and no held by this poem, this quarry. And the breathtaking last line that explodes the poem from particular description to a broader existential horizon. Dive in. Turn to water before it freezes.

I first met Catherine at Word on the Street in Toronto many years ago. Then we met again at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray Beach, Florida in 2014. It was time to buy one of her books. And I did, Winterkill from 2010 and discovered a line from her poem The Buried which begins with a startling epigraph quote by the actor Tilda Swinton.

The line from The Buried resonates deeply with me still: I am the sound/of the underneath/stretched out like a sail. Again, as in her last line in her epigraph poem above, the way she can open a poem into a new dimension in a powerfully mysterious way.

And don’t miss reading her second poem in her post, the title poem from her latest collection. It is a dazzle of unexpected language and music!

I am honoured to feature Catherine in #17 of the Recovering Words Guest Poetry Blog Series. The post below, Part One of Two, will be followed by Part Two which will feature the Northern Irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).


My poetry journey began with grief. I was an undergraduate at McMaster University when I lost both parents. My mother died of breast cancer during my first year and my father died in a late night car accident September of my last year. I was consumed with grief. A worried family friend suggested that I see a therapist. The therapist encouraged me to start journaling. This helped but it wasn’t a cure.
One day while thinking about the water-filled limestone quarry we once lived beside, in a bungalow that had to be sold after their deaths, I began playing with words. I followed the word music in my head and when I stopped, I knew something meaningful had happened. I worked up the courage to share what I’d written with that same family friend. She said, “This is poetry.”
Read More »

Our Burning World – Poems and Other Writing by W.S. Merwin, Barry Lopez, Kim Stafford and Katie Farris

Smoke billows upwards from a planned ignition by firefighters tackling the Donnie Creek Complex wildfire south of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada June 3, 2023. B.C. Wildfire Service/Handout via REUTERS.

In this trembling moment, with light armor under several flags rolling across northern Syria, with civilians beaten to death in the streets of occupied Palestine, with fires roaring across the vineyards of California, and forests being felled to ensure more space for development, with student loans from profiteers breaking the backs of the young, and with Niagaras of water falling into the oceans from every sector of Greenland, in this moment, is it still possible to face the gathering darkness, and say to the physical Earth, and to all its creatures, including ourselves, fiercely and without embarrassment, I love you, and to embrace fearlessly the burning world.

Barry Lopez from the Foreword to Earthy Love – Stories of Intimacy and Devotion from Orion magazine, 2020

When I read this passage by the late great American writer Barry Lopez a few months ago I was filled with a wild kind of joy, not for the horrors he describes, but by its suggestive question he asks at the end of it. A question that opens up the possibility of saying yes to love, to this earth, instead of choosing despair. This choice I can make to keep loving this burning world and make a difference in slowing our approach to the cliff of planetary disaster.

I also thought of three other poems calling out to a burning world, poems I cherish and which remind me not to give hope for our beleagured planet. And it seems timely, sadly, to feature poems about a burning world when record-setting Canadian wildfires are creating unprecendented smokey conditions in major North American cities.
Read More »

Words Emerge from Silence, the Silence Remains – Two More Poems by American Literary Treasure Wendell Berry

American poet, novelist, essayist and social activist Wendell Berry (1934 – )

from Sabbath Poems
2007, V

Those who use the world assuming
their knowledge is sufficient
destroy the world. The forest
is mangled for the sale
of a few sticks, or is bulldozed
into a stream and covered over
with the earth it once stood
upon. The stream turns foul,
killing the creatures that once
lived from it. Industrial humanity,
an alien species, lives by death.
In the clutter of facts, the destroyers
leave behind them one big story
of the world and the world’s end
that they don’t know. They know
names and little stories. But the names
of everything are not everything.
The story of everything, told
is only a little story. They don’t know
the languages of the birds
who pass northward, feeding
through the treetops early
in May, kept alive by knowledge
never to be said in words.
Hang down your head. This
is our hope. Words emerge
from silence, the silence remains.

Wendell Berry from Leavings, Counterpoint, 2010

Thanks to Kate Cayley’s recent guest blog post that featured a poem of Wendell Berry, the great American novelist, essayist, poet and environmental activist I wandered back into my collection of his books – lots of them! The first book I grabbed was Leavings, a collection of his so-called Sabbath poems, written, as you might expect on Sunday’s to acknowledge that day as something for rest, for the out-of-the-ordinary.

And there from entries written in 2007 were two poems, back to back, that pulled me up short. The first one, above, about the utter importance of what we don’t know.  The tyranny often that comes from what we think we know.  I remember a developer telling me a precious coastal area was just rock, trees and dirt. Oh, how those names are not everything! What did he know then of Merlin Sheldrake’s work on fungal pathways underground that critically support trees or Suzanne Simard’s work on the intelligence of trees?

And the startle I had from these tender lines:

They don’t know
the languages of the birds
who pass northward, feeding
through the treetops early
in May, kept alive by knowledge
never to be said in words.

And how these lines reminded me of these lines from poem # 53 by e.e. cummings:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

Read More »

A Wonderful Contrariness! – Guest Poetry Blog Series # 16 – Part Two of Two – Canadian Poet Kate Cayley Reflects on Poems by Wendell Berry and Philip Larkin

American poet Wendell Berry


The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
so often laughing at funerals, that was because
I knew the dead were already slipping away,
preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
be resurrected by a piece of cake. ‘Dance,’ they told me,
and I stood still, and while they stood
quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
‘Pray,’ they said, and I laughed, covering myself
in the earth’s brightnesses, and then stole off gray
into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
When they said, ‘I know my Redeemer liveth,’
I told them, ‘He’s dead.’ And when they told me
‘God is dead,’ I answered, ‘He goes fishing every day
in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.’
When they asked me would I like to contribute
I said no, and when they had collected
more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
When they asked me to join them I wouldn’t,
and then went off by myself and did more
than they would have asked. ‘Well, then,’ they said
‘go and organize the International Brotherhood
of Contraries,’ and I said, ‘Did you finish killing
everybody who was against peace?’ So be it.
Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.

Wendell Berry from Collected Poems 1957 – 1982, New Point Press, 1984

A poem I keep returning to, for guidance and for delight and to laugh in a way that feels satisfying, is Wendell Berry’s poem featured above. The Mad Farmer is one of Berry’s recurring narrators, a wild man who speaks the world. He’s a bit like Zbigniew Herbert’s Mr. Cogito, another stand-in for the poet who hilariously and profoundly meditates on what is and punctures holes in acceptable pieties.

Read More »

Repetition as a Form of Attention – Guest Poetry Blog # 16 – Part One of Two – Introducing the Latest Contributor, Canadian Poet Kate Cayley


Canadian poet, short-story writer and playwright, Kate Kayley. Photo Credit: from her Website.


And if repetition could itself be
a form of attention, folding along the crease
until the crease finds itself
hollowing out the groove, as in marriage,
studying the same face, the same
permeable body, as in children, their fury, their
fraught going forward thinning out your life
like a membrane that will not break, lives
that alter in the telling, theirs outstripping yours
and stripping you of anything they find useful yet
carrying you always with them, a husk pinned to their inside
pockets, as the poet when she wrote on the back of recipe cards
attended sternly to the rising bread, attended to each
blade of grass on her Amherst lawn, then I will
believe that language rose up in us
as praise.

Kate Cayley, from Lent, Book*hug Press, 2023


I first discovered Kate Cayley through her winning twelve-part poem for the $20,000 2021 Mitchell prize. Its memorable last line in part eleven: That we are a  form of praise. Then I found her new poetry collection with that prize-winning poem at the book table of her publisher Book*hug Press at the huge American Writers’ Program convention in Seattle earlier this year. After reading it I was so taken by it I featured Kate and Lent in a blog post you can find here.

In that post I gave a bit of the rundown of her successful writing career:

For those not familiar with her work, Kate is a celebrated Canadian playwright, poet and short-story writer whose books have garnered many accolades and prizes including the prestigous Trillium Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the CBC Literary prizes in fiction and poetry.

And just a few days ago Kate was announced as the 2023/24 Writer-In-Residence for Sheridan College in Ontario. With all these achievements it is a true pleasure and privilege to feature Kate in the Recovering Words Guest Poetry Blog Series. The post below, Part One of Two, will be followed by Part Two which will feature a poem each by contemporary American writer Wendell Berry and and U.K. poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985).


I wrote Attention, featured above and the first poem in my collection Lent, in response to two stray thoughts that came my way. Poems usually start like this, for me and I imagine for most poets: not a clear intention or problem but a thought or image that pushes up unexpectedly and sometimes inconveniently, which then (sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly) becomes a poem.

Read More »

Why Is The World Like This? Guest Poetry Blog Series # 14 – Part Two – American Poet Christopher Locke Features American Poet Denis Johnson

American poet and novelist Denis Johnson (1949-2017). Photo Credit: Cindy Lee Johnson

Guest Blog Post by Christopher Locke, June 22nd, 2023


The world will burst like an intestine in the sun,
the dark turn to granite and the granite to a name,
but there will always be somebody riding the bus
through these intersections strewn with broken glass
among speechless women beating their little ones,
always a slow alphabet of rain
speaking of drifting and perishing to the air,
always these definite jails of light in the sky
at the wedding of this clarity and this storm
and a woman’s turning—her languid flight of hair
traveling through frame after frame of memory
where the past turns, its face sparking like emery,
to open its grace and incredible harm
over my life, and I will never die.

Denis Johnson from The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New, Harper Perennial, 1995

What I write about is really the dilemma of living in a fallen world, and asking: Why is it like this if there’s supposed to be a God?”—Denis Johnson from A Bookworm’s World, May 8th, 2009

Before American writer Denis Johnson went supernova with his cult classic short story collection Jesus’ Son, and years before his meditation on the Vietnam War, the novel Tree of Smoke won the National Book Award, Johnson was a simple poet blowing his mind out with drugs and alcohol by the age of 19.
Read More »