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Recovering Words

 Writing Retreats
with Richard Osler

The focus of these retreats is to create the opportunity for participants to create substantial new poems through comprehensive writing adventures (assignments) 


(For details see What’s New)



June 22nd to July 2nd
La Romita School of Art
Terni, Umbria, Italy

Duncan, B.C.


October 4th to 14th,
La Romita School of Art,
Terni, Umbria, Italy


December 2nd
Bellingham, Washington
Poetry as Prayer

October 21st and 22nd
Hillhurst United Church
Poetry as Prayer

Calgary, Alberta

September 24th
Duncan, B.C.

June 23rd to July 3rd
La Romita School of Art
Terni, Umbria, Italy

For an excerpt from the intro for the La Romita retreat see below.



Richard Osler (72) is an experienced poetry writing facilitator and workshop leader who leads more than one hundred writing retreats and workshops a year in the U.S. and Canada. His poems have been published in the U.S. and Canada. His chapbook, Where the Water Lives, was published by Leaf Press in 2012 and his full-length collection, Hyaena Season, was published by Quattro Books, Toronto in the Fall of 2016. His website, which includes his poetry blog published  about forty times a year, can be seen at recoveringwords.com



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

“The safe space Richard Osler creates in his Recovering Words Poetry Retreats revitalizes and expands the creative spirit. People write beautiful poems and share them with each other. They vow to stay in touch, to continue writing. They leave reluctantly.
Heidi Garnett.   Heidi, who lives in Kelowna, is a nationally-recognized Canadian poet through her numerous honours in  poetry contests including: Winner: Winston Collins Prize (Descant – The Journal) for Best Canadian Poem of the Year 2012; Second : Freefall 2012 Poetry Contest; Third: Rattle Poetry Contest 2010 (6000 entries); Shortlisted : Arvon Prize in the U.K. (6000 entries) Adjudicated by Carol Ann Duffy; Runner-up. She has also taught creative writing at The University of British Columbia – Okanagan. Heidi’s recent book published in 2016, Blood Orange, was just cited, in a year-end review in Vallum by Canadian master poet Lorna Crozier, as her poetry discovery of the year!

“Richard Osler makes poetry an integral part of his life. He is exceptionally well-read and brings to a retreat a vast reservoir of poetic knowledge regarding modern and classical poets, their poetry and their craft. These hip-pocket skills from years of practice and reading will make your experience working with him inspirational and productive. From the very first afternoon at a Richard Osler retreat, you will be brought together as a community of poets who through his guidance and your own writing practice will find pathways to possibilities that are rich and valuable.” David Fraser,  2012 David is a much-published Canadian poet and founder and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine, since 1997. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in 65 print journals, ezines and anthologies. He founded the Wordstorm poetry series in Nanaimo in 2006. His most recent full length poetry collection, After All the Scissor Work is Done, was published by leaf Press in 2016.


Richard Osler – Recovering Words

10 Days

June 23rd to July 3rd, 2017

To Discover a Wider Eye

Oh, the world, the world,
What eye is wide enough?
What pupil sufficiently diligent.

 —  Greg Orr

Excerpts from Part One







La Romita School of Art

Terni, Umbria


June 23rd to July 3rd, 2017


For every poet it is always morning in the world. History a forgotten, insomniac night; History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.

Derek Walcott (1930 – 2017) from The Antiles, in What the Twilight Says, Faber& Faber, 1998


 Can’t talk about it,
don’t know if anybody else even gets it,
animals live in it, maybe they don’t know it’s there,
little kids the same;
grownups are oblivious – situation normal.
Half the time I just mooch along, then I laugh too loud.
But it catches me late at night, or in winter when
branches glow with snow against the bark, or some dumb old
song cracks me up and I want to go
howl in the city, or smash windows, or make my
life sheer shine in this miracle ache of the world.

Dennis Lee ( 1939 – ) from Heart Residence, House Of Anansi, 2017

And the Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible

 Everything shines from the inside out –
not like the blaze of the sun, but like
the moon, as if each of us had swallowed
a piece of it. Our flesh opaque, milky,
indefinite – the way you see the world
when cataracts skim your vision.
What so many mistake as imperfection –
bulge of varicose, fatty tumor’s bump –
is simply another way for the light to get out,
to illuminate the body as it rises.
We’re caught up all the time, but none of us
should fly away yet. It’s in the darkness
when your feet knock dew from leaves
of grass, when your hand pushes out
against the coffin’s lid. Just wait.
You’ll see we had it right all along,
that the only corruption comes
in not loving this life enough. 

Todd Davis (1965 – ) from The Least of These, Michigan State University Press, 2010

To Discover a Wider Eye. That’s the working title/theme of this year’s La Romita Poetry Retreat that comes from a small poem by American poet Gregory Orr: Oh, the world,/ What eye is wide enough?? What pupil sufficiently diligent. 

Now, in this retreat introduction I want to invite us to consider that one way to discover a wider eye is to fully fall in love with the miracle ache of the world. A big challenge suggested by the words above by Nobel prize laureate Derek Walcott, American poet, Todd Davis and Canadian poet Dennis Lee.

I also want to invite you to use your wider eye when you read the poems, not only in this two part introduction, but also when you read poems during our retreat. Look at how poets use their tools: syntax, musical sounds, repetition, line breaks and more. What you bring to your poems is critical but how you fashion what you bring, also so important!

As much as craft, I believe, is so important in our work, Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013), Irish poet and Nobel Prize Laureate, makes a critical distinction between craft and technique which reminds me of the utter importance of what we bring to our poems of the mystery of the world’s miracle ache.

Learning the craft is learning to turn the windlass at the well of poetry. Usually you begin by dropping the bucket halfway down the shaft and winding up taking of air. You are miming the real thing until one day the chain draws unexpected tight and you have dropped into the waters that will continue to entice you back. You’ll have broken the skin of the pool of yourself. Your praties [turf] will be fit for digging.

 But for now, most important, can you (I) believe it: only five weeks before we gather on a beautiful mountain side on the former site of a Capuchin monastery founded in 1548. There at La Romita. from many vantage points all you will see are olive trees and forested slopes. From another, the city and factories of Terni spread out below.

How easy to fall in the love with the world of olive groves and forested slopes. Smell of jasmine. Harder, a city and its factories. Harder still, war: the most recent one which swirled around this city before it fell after repeated bombing and direct engagement by Allied forces on June 15th, 1944, just seventy-three years ago. Yes, forested slopes, jasmine, factories, bombed cites. Our world. Our miracle ache. Our job, as we can: to love it. To praise it.

Our fate as poets, as Walcott says, is to fall in love with the world, in spite of history. But it doesn’t mean we forget history. Its ache. We fall in love with the beauty, the wonder of this world as Lee says, knowing its harsh undertones and when its harsh overtones block out our sense of its beauty we must never forget its beauty. And when poets can bridge these opposites they make art that matters. They give us the miracle ache. A miracle ache I hope, through a wider eye, we will taste, smell and hear in each other’s poems during our retreat.

But why wait for five weeks. Let’s go to Italy! Right now! With Derek Walcott!

from In Italy


 Road shouldered by enclosing walls with narrow
cobbled tracks for streets, those hill towns with their
stamp-sized squares and a sea pinned by the arrow
of a quivering horizon, with names that never wither
for centuries and shadows that are the dial of time. Light
older than wine and a cloud like a tablecloth
spread for lunch under the leaves. I have come this late
to Italy, but better now, perhaps, than in youth
that is never satisfied, whose joys are treacherous,
while my hair rhymes with those far crests and the bells
of the hilltop towers number my errors,
because we are never where we are, but somewhere else,
even in Italy. This is the bearable truth
of old age; but count your benedictions: those fields
of sunflowers, the torn light on the hills, the haze
of the unheard Adriatic, while the day still hopes
for possibility, cloud shadows racing the slopes.

Derek Walcott from White Egrets, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010

Names that never wither. The torn light on the hills. Welcome to Italy! I was so excited when a friend told me of Derek Walcott’s sonnet sequence On Italy! This poet of the Caribbean writing a travelogue of word pictures on a trip to Italy. I hope many of his images, seen through your wider eyes, might appear in your poems. But what struck me in his poem were these lines: because we are never where we are, but somewhere else,/ even in Italy.

These lines have stayed with me. All the somewhere elses we are going to bring to Italy. And make poems from them! Our aches, joys, worries, anxieties, successes: how we will make poetry from them! But the trick: not to let them blind us to what we see, lost in preoccupations. Let what we see be seen and take us to where we need to go. Not let mind clutter clog our poetic arteries.

For a poetic example of what I mean here is a poem by American poet Ruth Stone who only became celebrated as a poet when she reached her 80’s!


This borrowed pressed-wood table
is molecularly unhooked in parceled impulses,
stored in my lobes where Adolf Hitler
is also shredded, his repulsive
mustache distributed throughout
my eclectic electrical system.
But that’s not all.
His hoarse disembodied voice,
without a decibel, still shouts,
goose-stepping through my cracked
cranium. As now, another snowfall
sculptures an unreality, clean and fresh,
bringing down in its light crystals
industrial particulates as it settles.
Out there, a miracle;
in here, disassembled
encoded visually, linguistically,
tagged with the rest of the garbage
that my brain recycles, that is myself;
this cumulative trash that goes with me.

Ruth Stone (1915 – 2011) from Ordinary Words, Paris Press, 1999

Ah, what a job sorting that trash. Because, in some are gems! Like the gem, Jamaican/American poet Ishion Hutchison found looking at a bicycle in Florence. West Indian poets and Italy! Go figure!


That red bicycle left in an alley near the Ponte Vecchio,
I claim; I claim its elongated shadow, ship crested on
stacked crates; I claim the sour-mouth Arno and the stone
arch bending sunlight on vanished medieval fairs;
but mostly I claim this two-wheel chariot vetching
on the wall, its sickle fenders reaping dust and pollen
off the heat-congested city coiled to a halt in traffic.
And I, without enough for the great museums,
am struck by the red on the weathered brick, new tyres
on cobble, the bronze tulip bell— smaller than Venus’s nose—
turned up against the river, completely itself for itself.
The scar in my palm throbs, recalling a tiny stone
once stuck there after I fell off the district’s iron mule,
welded by the local artisan, Barrel Mouth— no relation
of Botticelli— the summer of my first long pants.
The doctor’s scissors probing my flesh didn’t hurt,
nor the lifeline bust open when the stone was plucked out;
what I wailed for that afternoon was the anger in mother’s
face when she found out I had disobeyed her simple wish
to remain indoors until she returned from kneeling
in the harvested cane, tearing out the charred roots
from the earth after cane cutters had slashed the burnt field.
It was her first day, and her last, bowing so low to pull
enough for my school fee; for, again, the promised money
didn’t fall from my father’s cold heaven in England.
As we walked to the clinic on a rabble of hogplums,
her mouth trembled in her soot frock, my palm reddened
in her grip, plum scent taking us through the lane.
By the time we saw the hospital’s rusty gate, her fist
was stained to my fingers’ curl, and when I unfastened
my eyes from the ground to her face, gazing ahead, terribly calm
in the hail of sunlight, a yellow shawl around her head,
something of shame became clear, and if I had more
sense as my blood darkened to sorrel at the age
of twelve or thirteen, I would have forgotten the sting
and wreathed tighter my hold before letting her go.
And now, as I raise my camera, bells charge the pigeon
sky braced by the Duomo, a shell fallen from the sun.
I kneel, snap the cycle, rise, hurry away.

Ishion Hutchinson (1983 – ), House of Lords and Commons, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

In Italy Hutchison brings his clutter with him but finds in it a gem. A bicycle triggers a a love poem (that miracle ache) to his mother. I hope you too may find something you see in Italy that will open a wider eye and make from what you see, poetry. La Romita including, Rome, Assisi, Perugia, Spoleto and some of the many towns that dot the hilltops of Umbria, each with their own special features and histories.




Further Endorsements:

Richard Osler knows poetry the way most of us know food—he smells it, tastes it and swallows it whole. He cooks up another batch and shares it with those of us hungry for words. Judy Mayhew

Richard provides support and encouragement for poetry lovers at all levels of experience. His warm, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable approach is contagious; he provides exercises that challenge participants without discouraging them, and all were fully engaged throughout the retreat. Wendy Donawa,  Wendy is a Ph’D and writer who currently teaches at Royal Roads University and the University of Lethbridge. Her latest full-length poetry collection is coming out through Brick Books in  2018.

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