Poetry-As-Prayer – Calgary Nov. 27th and 28th, 2015

Richard Osler At One Of His Retreats

Richard Osler At One Of His Retreats
























I sing for you.
I am made for song.
It is my purpose, to invent new music, as a kind of prayer
that everything is, a cane tapping, a child running, the way
a leaf falls in its arpeggio. Everything states “consort”,
“orchestration”, and even music is to Him what is unrecognizable
to us:
the poor conversation, the bad day; it is our forcing
of a called tune that makes us deaf. For his musics weave
like wind, taking a sudden turn, holding up leaves, blowing the
We tap into his musics and call it a page, a song.
When our will is congruent to what we hear,
we are poets,
and people of prayer.

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco (1949 – ) from Names of Blessing, Novalis Publishing Inc.2009

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, a man of so many parts. He is or has been a urban planner, professor, priest, poet laureate of Toronto from 2005 to 2009 and author of twenty two books of poetry including his latest released by The St. Thomas Poetry Series in October – Mystic Playground.

When I think of Di Cicco, who lives north of Toronto, I think of him not just by what he has achieved but as one of the patron saints for me of the Poetry-As-Prayer retreats I lead across North America two to three times a year. His poem above, says it all; says the truth that lives at the heart of these retreats:

We tap into his musics and call it a page, a song.
When our will is congruent to what we hear,
we are poets,
and people of prayer.

For any of you reading this from Calgary I invite you to experience the reality of this at a poetry-as-prayer retreat I am leading at Hillhurst United Church on Friday evening November 27th and all day Saturday the 28th, 2015. This will be my third poetry-as-prayer retreat this year – most recently, for the seventh time, I led Surfside Poetry-As-Prayer retreat in October on the Texas Gulf Coast. For more details about the Calgary retreat please see below.

Ah, these prayers we write called poems! These poems that come as a gift out of the silence! A silence that the Welsh poet R.S. Thomas called: The silence we call God. Many poets talk about that silence. Here is Mary Oliver:


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones;
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.

Mary Oliver (1937 – ) from Thirst, Beacon Press 2006

A silence in which another voice can speak. Yes. The language of the deepest silence
as American poet Li-Young Lee says: .It [poetry] disillusions us of our own small presence in order to reveal the presence of this deeper silence – this pregnant, primal, ancient, contemporary, and imminent silence, which is God.

Max Picard in his book, The World of Silence echoes Oliver and Lee or visa versa: The great poet does not completely fill out the space of his theme with his words. He leaves a space clear, into which another and higher poet can speak.

Last year we lost one of our great writers of spirit– George Whipple, who died here in B.C. aged eighty seven. He is a little known Canadian treasure. Here is a poem of his that like Oliver’s poem celebrates the silence where another voice may speak:

The Voice of Silence

For those ashamed of being human
The simple rituals of nature
(the rustle of the rain,
a salmon-leap of wind
that wrinkles clouds on water)
are like a charm to summon
from the mind’s thesaurus
the distant deer bells of a poem
stepping shyly through the darkness
to find its only writer.

To silence or to speech
The ear must pay attention:
The deaf relate by signs
The seem to finger-sing:
Sharp hail’s a language
Understood by blind men.
By turning down the noise
in your head, you may find
yourself in conversation
with the novice master’s voice.

In meditation there is peace.
The outer world is stilled.
You become an ear.
You learn to listen.
At first, with luck, you hear
the sound of distant deer bells:
and then, from even farther,
a voice that falls more softly
than footsteps on the water.

George Whipple (1927-2014) from Poetry and Spiritual Practice, edited by Susan McCaslin, St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2002

Ah, to be able to hear that voice:

a voice that falls more softly
than footsteps on the water.

The importance of paying attention, of listening, of writing.  Here is Pier Giorgio Di Cicco from his latest book: Mystic Playground:

No one is watching

No one is watching,
No one is listening.
It is time to write.

Here is the empty world,
waiting for names. Badger, coyote,
loon, all waiting for the touch of blessing,
or the fall into abyss of namelessness.

You want to be named.
And there is no one to name you.

Look at the stars. They know your conscience.
Begin. Love as a man. Say something
that would save your life

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco from Mystic Playground, The St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2015

Here are the details for the Calgary Poetry-As-Prayer retreat:

You are invited to participate in a weekend of spiritual practice for the beginning of Advent through poetry writing, facilitated by Richard Osler, an experienced poetry writing facilitator who leads about 80 poetry writing workshops a year. (His first full length poetry collection, Hyaena Season is forthcoming from Quattro Books out of Toronto in the fall of 2016.)  Richard creates a safe place for writers or aspiring writers at any level to explore the mysterious ways their own words can reveal unexplored areas of their lives.  Please join us Friday evening November 27 from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM and Saturday from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM all at Hillhurst United Church 1227 Kensington Close NW Calgary. Registration can be made through the church office:  403 283 1539.  The cost for this event is $75.00.  The Saturday session will be a continuation of the exploration begun on Friday evening so attendance is invited for both sessions. Registration is limited so please contact the Church soon to reserve your place


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