Announcing My Fifth Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat at Hillhurst United Church, Calgary, Alberta

The First Sky
Is Within You

A Generative Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat
with Richard Osler

Hillhurst United Church
Calgary, Alberta
October 18th to 19th, 2019

Retreat Introduction

When we address the world with unmixed attention it’s prayer, said the artist, poet and mystic, William Blake. Simone Weil, the scholar and mystic goes further and says: absolute unmixed attention is prayer.

Another way to address the world prayerfully is through the absolute unmixed attention of poetry. Poetry as prayer. The celebrated American poet Mary Oliver says this clearly: Poetry is prayer, it is passion and story and music, it is beauty, comfort, it is agitation, declaration, it is thanksgiving.

In this retreat you will be invited to discover what Mary Oliver says in her poem Praying: just pay attention, then patch//a few words together and don’t try/to make them elaborate, this isn’t/a contest but the doorway//into thanks, and a silence in which/ another voice may speak. Again, this admonition to pay attention to hear a voice other than your own. And with this attention, you may also discover The first sky is inside you, as the Asian-American poet Li-Young Lee writes in his poem One Heart:

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born/out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Come and join fellow retreatants for an evening and a day of fellowship and poetry and experience your gift of words, words both your own and seemingly not your own. Because what are words that come to us when we write poems, if not the air from a sky larger than all skies. And discover a truth claimed by Li-Young Lee when he talks about poetry as prayer: We pray through a poem. Don’t make a god of the poem. Poetry is a gate to what contains the thing. Go to the thing.

Retreat Details

We will start at 7 PM on Friday, Oct. 18th with a brief introduction and then a reading of the poem each retreatant will bring based on the pre-retreat adventure they will receive after they register or no later than September 6th. The pre-retreat poem will be a way of each retreatant introducing themselves to the group. In addition to the writing of a pre-retreat poem each retreatant will have the opportunity during the Saturday sessions to write two more poems. These poems will be supported by full handouts with example poems and commentary.

Please Note: Whatever time a participant can give to their pre-retreat poem (fifteen minutes or days!) will be enough. My invitation is that each participant has fun with the writing adventure and doesn’t stress over it. I have found that meeting each other through their poems adds so much to the retreat.


The Retreat Leader – Richard Osler

I am so pleased to be returning for this 5th annual Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat at Hillhurst. I am the author of the full-length poetry collection, Hyaena Season (2016), a poetry workshop facilitator and former president of specialty money management company based in Calgary. I have conducted numerous weekend writing retreats in Canada and the U.S. and three ten-day poetry writing retreats In Italy. Also, I lead, on average, about 70 poetry workshops per year of up to three hours at addiction recovery centers and out-patient recovery clinics in Canada.  For more details on Richard and poetry please visit his website at

The Schedule

Friday, Oct. 18th                   Saturday, Oct. 19th

7 p.m.   to 9:30 p.m.                       9:30 a.m to 4:30p.m.

A light lunch and snacks will be provided. Please being writing material or a device to write on.

To Register

Please register through the Hillhurst United Church website under Coming Events. Scroll down to the event and click on the Register link! Or click here!


Registration fee: $87.50


Hillhurst United Church
1227 Kensington Close NW,
Calgary, AB
T2N 3J6



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