Monthly Archives: June 2010

Souwesto Home and Ice Cream

“Ice Cream” is a poem from Souwesto Home, James Reaney’s recent collection of new poems, published by Brick Books in 2005.

Ice Cream

The local poet is riding his bike uptown
On a fairly hot summer day
Bent on Jumbo’s Ice Cream booth
Before mailing a poem to Chimaera at the Post Office
At Jumbo’s Ice Cream booth there are
Thirty flavours available including—
Licorice, fudge, lemon, orange, apple, grape,
Banana, chocolate, cherry, Maple Walnut (my favourite)
Vanilla, of course, peppermint, strawberry, raspberry—
Weren’t there some vegetable ones? Do I remember—
Onion ice cream?
And this pair of double dip skim milk flavours
Cost only a nickel each!
And the ceiling was of pressed tin!
So, I plunk down a nickel for a Maple Walnut!
And so out the door bent on making the cone
Last till I reach the Post Office door—
The Post Office is French Provincial with 4 clocks.
The poet holds his bicycle up with his left hand.
Walks slowly licking as he proceeds.
Two little girls say scornfully: “He’s acting
Just like a little kid!”
But he thinks— “Isn’t this what life is all about?”

James Reaney, 2005

It was two years ago today that James Reaney passed away. His nephew, Scott Thibaudeau, read “Ice Cream”  at a celebration of James Reaney’s life held in early July at Aeolian Hall in London, Ontario. There was Maple Walnut ice cream for everyone at intermission. Dear Jamie, we remember you always!


James Reaney in the 1970s

The Iconography of the Imagination: The Art of James Reaney

Seen in the context of Reaney’s writing, this exhibition probes ideas of play, home, regionalism, symbolism, and the interplay between text and image. Through sketches, drawings, and paintings of emblems, figures and archetypes, as well as the Canadian landscape, the exhibition explores the themes most prevalent in his writings. (From the Spring Exhibitions invitation, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, April 17, 2008)

The Iconography of the Imagination:
The Art of James Reaney

McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario
January 26 to May 18, 2008

London, Ontario-based James Crerar Reaney has been a prolific and celebrated writer for more than six decades. During this time, Reaney has also found other means to express his thoughts. Although less known than his writings, visual art has been an ongoing component of Reaney’s creativity.

The Iconography of the Imagination: The Art of James Reaney is the first major public gallery exhibition to introduce Reaney’s artwork. It surveys his art from the 1940s to the late 1990s, and examines a variety of ideas that have accompanied Reaney throughout his literary career. Named after his periodical, Alphabet: A Semi-annual Devoted to the Iconography of the Imagination, the title of the exhibition reflects Reaney’s attitudes towards the process of art making. For Reaney, art is a symbol or expression of the human mind and its ability to imagine and create.

Reaney’s art is as diverse and multilayered as his writing. While it has a lighthearted and playful quality, it can also be thought-provoking. There are aspects of his artwork that tend towards the folkloric, revealing a fascination with archetypes, local subjects, and mythmaking. Similarly both his landscapes and figurative works are preoccupied with concepts of regionalism, home, and small town life.

Some of Reaney’s art can be described as semi-autobiographical, documentary, occasionally spiritual as it exposes the theological underpinning of his beliefs, and largely iconographical for its strong usage of symbolism. What is most unique in his art, however, is its consistent connection to the field of literature from where it is drawn. This continuity between the two creative disciplines is not only evident in the cross-referencing of ideas, but also in the incorporation of text with image.

Note from Susan Reaney: This text was written by Tom Smart, Director at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 2006-2010. The images below were taken by Linda Morita, Librarian and Archivist at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and are used by permission.

〈〈〈  〉〉〉 To view the images in sequence, go to the large featured image at the top of this page and then click on the left and right arrow keys.

Photographer:  Linda Morita, 2008
Photos courtesy of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

© 2017 James Reaney