Yearly Archives: 2013

Merry Christmas!

"Winter Sky" design by James Reaney, <a href=

Winter Sunset
Fading slow.
Dark trees, red sun
White snow.

Short the days
And long the nights
Until our earth
Sets things to rights

All the best for the holidays and for 2014

December 25, 1985 in London, Ontario: James Reaney at the piano accompanied by his granddaughter, Elizabeth Reaney, and his son, James Stewart Reaney. Photo by Susan Wallace.

December 25, 1985 in London, Ontario: James Reaney at the piano accompanied by his granddaughter, Elizabeth Reaney, and his son, James Stewart Reaney. Photo by Susan Wallace.

Video link to David Ferry’s lecture on Directing Reaney

Thank you all for joining us on October 20 for the Fourth Annual James Reaney Memorial Lecture to hear David Ferry’s talk on “Directing Reaney: From Black Feet to Main Street.” (If you missed David’s presentation, a video link is available on genienet.ca.)

Forty years ago on October 20, 1973, David Ferry began rehearsals for the Tarragon Theatre’s production of James Reaney’s Sticks and Stones: The Donnellys Part I. Earlier that summer, director Keith Turnbull and James Reaney workshopped the play in Halifax with actors David Ferry, Patricia Ludwick, and Jerry Franken, along with other actors from the Neptune Theatre.

David spoke about his experiences both acting in and directing the Donnelly trilogy, including The St. Nicholas Hotel and Handcuffs. Questions from the audience included what attracts actors to the plays, what are the prospects for future professional productions, and whether each play truly stands alone outside of the trilogy.

 

David Ferry's lecture on James Reaney, October 20, 2013 at the Stratford Public Library

David Ferry’s lecture on James Reaney, October 20, 2013 at the Stratford Public Library

Charles Maidment has posted a video recording of David Ferry’s lecture on genienet.ca. Thank you, Charles! (Be advised that this video is 58 minutes long and takes about four minutes to load. To boost the volume, click on the audio button at the bottom of the viewing screen.)

Many thanks to the organizers of the lecture at the Stratford Public LibraryCharles Mountford, Anne Marie Heckman, and Sam Coghlan — for your continued support of this event.

Next year’s speaker will be Tim Inkster, publisher at Porcupine’s Quill. See you then!

Here are photos David Ferry shared from his production of Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University in March 2013.

 

March 2013: Set for Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University

March 2013: Set for Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University

March 14, 2013: Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University

March 14, 2013: Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University

March 14, 2013: Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University

March 14, 2013: Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University

 

 

The Emblems of James Reaney: October 17 at the London Public Library

On October 17 at the London Public Library (7:00 pm), Thomas Gerry will speak on his new book The Emblems of James Reaney.

Former doctoral student of James Reaney’s and now professor of literature at Laurentian University, Thomas Gerry explores the history of the literary emblem, and explains the meanings behind ten of James Reaney’s emblem poems.

“The Tree” and “The Riddle” are two of Reaney’s emblem poems featured in The Emblems of James Reaney:

"The Tree" by James Reaney. First published in Poetry (Chicago) 115.3, December 1969.

“The Tree” by James Reaney. First published in Poetry (Chicago) 115.3, December 1969.

"The Riddle" by James Reaney. First published in Armadillo 2 1970.

“The Riddle” by James Reaney. First published in Armadillo 2 1970.

On the same evening, Tom Smart, author and former executive director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, will read from his new book Jack Chambers’ Red and Green. Red and Green is a collection Jack Chambers (1931-1978) made of hundreds of quotations that set out his ideas on art and the nature of reality.

Both The Emblems of James Reaney and Jack Chambers’ Red and Green are available from The Porcupine’s Quill.

TS and TG

 For more about the book launch, see JBNBlog‘s review.

James Reaney Memorial Lecture October 20 in Stratford

Join us on Sunday, October 2o at 2:30 pm at The Stratford Public Library Auditorium in Stratford, Ontario, for a talk by actor and director David Ferry on “Directing Reaney.”

David Ferry was one of the original cast members of James Reaney’s The Donnellys Part I, Sticks and Stones, which was first performed in 1973 at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario.  He has won Dora Mavor Moore Awards for both his acting and directing, and recently directed James Reaney’s Sticks and Stones at Bishop’s University in March 2013.

The annual lecture is a project developed by The Stratford Public Library and Poetry Stratford, and features a talk by a person who is knowledgeable about the life and work of Stratford poet and playwright James Reaney and of writing in the Southwestern Ontario region, which is such a strong element in Reaney’s writing.

The Stratford Public Library is located at

 19 St. Andrew Street,

 Stratford, Ontario

 N5A 1A2.

James Reaney’s Department Store Jesus

Department Store Jesus

May I help you? You want a Jesus?
We have a different style for each of our four
Floors, for
Example, in the basement we stock the demonic Jesus
with the hardware & the mousetraps and the col
-chicum bulbs & the rat poison.
Demonic Jesus, yes—
As portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s film where Christ giggles,
An efficient young carpenter apprenticed to his dad,
Helps his father make crosses for the Romans to use.
As portrayed in a Handmade film bankrolled by one of the Beatles
He says: “Blessed are the Cheesemakers”
And his much more attractive rival is a well-endowed male,
Amiable, but not too interested in changing the world,
Named Brian.

Now, let’s take the escalator
To the First Floor where you may prefer
Christ as He really was,
Classified with Kodak film, notions, perfumes,
Stationery & Men’s Wear.
This historical Jesus is made up of verifiable only facts,
Of which there are practically none;
Do you know there is a serious doubt that he even existed,
But finding his grave would help.
They’ve just found that of Caiaphas, the Chief Priest of his time.
The archeologists are busy.
Water-walker, speed baker & fisher? Virgin birth?
We’ve scrubbed him clean of all that midrash rubbish.
After all, can you cure leprosy, blindness & death
That easily?
Meanwhile, a monastery in Turkey has coughed up
A rather interesting Gnostic scrap with regard to
A hitherto obscure passage—Mark IX: 51, 52.
At last our suspicions about his sexuality may be—
Explained.

Let us take the Elevator to the Second Floor
Where the Christ of the creeds & the New Testament
Is still available
(Buyers, not many lately)
Among the patterned china, the records for gramophones,
The furniture & dining room suites.
Now this model was born to a Virgin, raised the dead,
Often corpses not so recently deceased,
Bent reality with his magic, died,
Then, like Snow White, came alive again:
Dared to be a crucified wretch on a cross;
Somehow destroyed & renewed a large empire,
Is, no doubt, our only hope for translating us out of here.
But, you know, we get a lot of returns
And customers asking for something really true this time,
Not so exciting & poetic, more real.

A man who walks on rain
Is too great a stretch for their brain.
Others say they are more than happy, but you can tell
They’re not by the funny look in their eyes,
And, of course, we provide a booklet, one of many,
Just in case your difficulty is, say, the Ascension,
Speaking of which, let us climb these stairs
Up to the roof of this Department Store.

On the roof of this Department Store
Having a cigarette on his break,
I saw a young floorwalker
Leaning against the elevator shaft.
By the sudden flash, I recognized Him,
Yes, by the moment glimpse
Of the nailmarks
On His hands.

James Reaney, 2005

“Department Store Jesus” is from Souwesto Home, a collection of James Reaney’s poems from 2005 and published by Brick Books. Listen to Jeff Culbert perform “Department Store Jesus” here.

James Reaney, 1995 in London, Ontario. Photo by Marian Johnson.

James Reaney, 1995
Photo by Marion Johnson

 

 

James Reaney’s “Grand Bend” from The Great Lakes Suite

Grand Bend

It is the rutting season
At Grand Bend
And the young men and the women
Explode in each other’s arms
While no chaperons attend.
By this furious activity
Of the loin
No children are conceived
For they have avoided this.
While the sun
Sprays everyone with iodine
And old men sit
Upon the dirty beach
With great bellies big
Not with child
But with creamed asparagus
And to somewhat more disgust
Someone has spilt a bottle of scent.
Crazily the cheap sweetness
Leaps through the air
Making some think of something decaying
And others of stenographers in the rain
And another to say giddily,
“How violent, at Grand Bend this year,
How violent the violets are!”

James Reaney, 1949

Lake Huron near Grand Bend, Ontario, July 11, 2013

Lake Huron near Grand Bend, Ontario, July 10, 2013

“Grand Bend” is from The Great Lakes Suite, a series of poems James Reaney wrote in 1949 in The Red Heart, his first collection of poems. For more about the poem, see JBNBlog.

The Boy Who Lived in the Sun

In the summer of 1961, James Reaney wrote and illustrated a story for children called The Boy Who Lived in the Sun. He made 32 watercolour illustrations to go with the text, stitched them together, and for many years it was only shared with family and friends.

In the story, a boy who lives in the sun dreams of going to earth to meet other children. He discovers that it’s not that easy for a luminary being to have contact with humans, and that the process of becoming human will require lengthy and celestial labour on his part.

Once there was a little boy who lived in the sun. (Illustration and text by James Reaney, 1961)

Once there was a little boy who lived in the sun. (Illustration and text by James Reaney, 1961)

Every morning he watched the earth get up.

Every morning he watched the earth get up

And all the other planets too -- even tiny Pluto.

and all the other planets too — even tiny, gray Pluto.

He liked earth sets best though.

He loved watching earth sets best though.

He dreamed of walking on earth. Beneath trees!

He dreamed of walking on earth. Beneath trees!

No trees, no shadows on the sun! In the dream there

No trees, no shadows on the sun! In the dream, there

were children picking berries in  lane. They looked at him as if they knew who he was.

were children picking berries in a lane. They looked at him as if they knew who he was.

Illustration by James Reaney, 1961 for The Boy Who Lived in the Sun

Illustration by James Reaney, 1961 for The Boy Who Lived in the Sun

So the boy wanted very much to live on teh earth, to pick berries, to meet the children in his dream. He wanted to be a little boy who lived on the earth. "Do you," said the Archangel of the sun when he went to see him. "[I] wonder. It's a very slow process. You can go to earth but first you must go to Pluto and then to...

So the boy wanted very much to live on the earth, to pick berries, to meet the children in his dream. He wanted to be a little boy who lived on the earth.
“Do you,” said the Archangel of the sun when he went to see him. “[I] wonder. It’s a very slow process. You can go to earth but first you must go to Pluto and then to…

"No," stamped teh boy, "I wish to go now." "Then go," laughed the Archangel. "[I] think it may do you some good."

“No,” stamped the boy, “I wish to go right now.” “Then go,” laughed the Archangel. “[I] think it may do you some good.”

and down to earth went the boy -- right through a big rainstorm.

and down to earth went the boy — right through a big rainstorm.

It was night & a large moth pursued him all over. Since he was a child of the sun he glowed in the dark.

It was night & a large moth pursued him all over. Since he was a child of the sun he glowed in the dark.

He hid in a hollow tree but did not sleep. He did not need to. he did not know how to.

He hid in a hollow tree but did not sleep. He did not need to. He did not know how to.

A bough of green apples ripened at one glance from him!

A bough of green apples ripened at one glance from him!

A farm girl threw a pitcher of milk at him

A farm girl threw a pitcher of milk at him

He melted the ice beneath skaters!

He melted the ice beneath skaters!

He caused a thistle and a butterfly to come out although it was snowing

He caused a thistle and a butterfly to come out although          it was snowing

In a minute a little baby he paused to talk to grew up into a woman & then down into a very old lady.

In a minute a little baby he paused to talk to grew up into a woman & then down into a very old lady.

He could make no contact with earth-people. To them he was often just a sunbeam in the corner of the room.

He could make no contact with earth-people. To them he was often just a sunbeam in the corner of the room.

There were no children picking berries and the leaves had fallen off the trees

There were no children picking berries and the leaves had fallen off the trees

Next he saw a crowd of people. He must have been in a city. The boy was discovering that he often had very little control over where he was. he was not human yet and so bounced about like a flashlight.

Next he saw a crowd of people. He must have been in a city. The boy was discovering that he often had very little control over where he was. He was not human yet and so bounced about like a flash of light.

One day he went back to the sun. It was harder to go to earth than he had thought.

One day he went back to the sun. It was harder to go to earth than he had thought.

As I was saying," said the Archangel of the Sun. "In order to go to Earth first you must go to Pluto and be...

“As I was saying,” said the Archangel of the Sun. “In order to go to Earth first you must go to Pluto and be…

an old beggar man for 100 years

[…] an old beggar man for 100 years

On Mars you must lead the toy soldiers against the mad mice

On Mars you must lead the toy soldiers against the mad mice

You must be a madcap on the Moon for a full Leap Year

You must be a madcap on the Moon for a full Leap Year

You must on Saturn think a 1000 thoughts

You must on Saturn think a 1000 thoughts

On Mercury steal the ogress' magic horn

On Mercury steal the ogress’ magic horn

[On Neptune...]

[Neptune]

sail the stormy seas of Neptune

sail the stormy seas of Neptune

on Uranus harvest the enchanted hay

on Uranus harvest the enchanted hay

On planet Venus find the tree whose leaves are flowers

on planet Venus find the tree whose leaves are flowers

Note from Susan Reaney, July 2, 2013: The Boy Who Lived in the Sun was never published and existed in the manuscript form you see here from my early childhood. Is the story finished? Does the boy get to go back to the earth? If he does, will he remember being a boy who lived in the sun? Perhaps he does.

James Reaney at home, age 6. Summer 1932

James Reaney at home, age 4. Summer 1930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Reaney’s The Boy Who Lived in the Sun

In the summer of 1961, James Reaney wrote and illustrated a story for children called The Boy Who Lived in the Sun. He made 32 watercolour illustrations to go with the text, stitched them together, and for many years it was only shared with family and friends.

In the story, a boy who lives in the sun dreams of going to earth to meet other children. He discovers that it’s not easy for a luminary being to have contact with humans, and that the process of becoming human will require lengthy and celestial labour on his part.

Once there was a little boy who lived in the sun. (Illustration and text by James Reaney, 1961)

Once there was a little boy who lived in the Sun.     (Illustration and text by James Reaney, 1961)

Every morning he watched the earth get up.

Every morning he watched the earth get up

And all the other planets too -- even tiny Pluto.

and all the other planets too — even tiny, gray Pluto.

He liked earth sets best though.

He loved watching earth sets best though

He dreamed of walking on earth. Beneath trees!

He dreamed of walking on earth. Beneath trees!

No trees, no shadows on the sun! In the dream there

No trees, no shadows on the sun! In the dream there

were children picking berries in  lane. They looked at him as if they knew who he was.

were children picking berries in a lane. They looked at him as if they knew who he was.

Read the rest of the story here >>>

Devil’s Artisan 72: A new home for Alphabet’s Nolan proof press

Devil's Artisan Issue 72, Spring/Summer 2013

Devil’s Artisan Issue 72, Spring/Summer 2013

Issue 72 of Devil’s Artisan features Gasperau Press owner Andrew Steeves’ account of his journey in September 2012 from Black River, Nova Scotia to Linotype U, a symposium on the art of linotype printing, in Denmark, Iowa. On the way there and back he visited as many letterpress print shops as he could, including The Porcupine’s Quill in Erin, Ontario.

Tim [Inkster] took me over to the PQL warehouse (located in the basement of the building next door) to show me what he felt should be the first press photographed on my journey. Not his own Heidelberg KORD 64 offset press (the model also used at Coach House Books in Toronto and at Gaspereau Press), but rather a small Nolan proof press that once belonged to the poet James Reaney. Reaney is perhaps best known as the editor of Alphabet, an innovative literary journal he published in London, Ontario, between 1960 and 1971. Early issues of the publication were set and printed by Reaney himself, though it is doubtful that this particular little press was used in the production of the journal for anything besides proofing type. I was glad of Tim’s suggestion, for it would turn out that Nolan proof presses would keep popping up everywhere along my route.

James Reaney's Nolan proof press at The Porcupine's Quill in Erin, Ontario

James Reaney’s Nolan proof press at The Porcupine’s Quill in Erin, Ontario

Andrew Steeves is the co-owner of Gaspereau Press in Kentville, Nova Scotia. Tim Inkster of The Porcupine’s Quill is the publisher of several titles by  James Reaney, including A Suit of Nettles, The Box Social and Other Stories, and The Essential James Reaney.

 

Illustration by James Reaney from Twelve Letters to A Small Town (1962).

Illustration by James Reaney from Twelve Letters to A Small Town (1962)

 

Reaney on Reaney: The Easter Egg

Kim Kaitrell stars as Bethel in James Reaney's The Easter Egg

Kim Kaitell stars as Bethel in James Reaney’s The Easter Egg

By James Stewart Reaney, courtesy of lfpress.com

A new London production of The Easter Egg runs May 24 to June 1 in London, Ontario, produced by the Alvego Root Theatre Company and directed by Jason Rip. Here are James Stewart Reaney’s thoughts on his father’s play.

james reaney, London, Ontario. Photo by Deborah Tihanyi, courtesy lfpress.com

James Reaney (1926-2008), London, Ontario. Photo by Deborah Tihanyi, courtesy of lfpress.com

My father never really tired of hatching new ways to stay on message about The Easter Egg.

When James Reaney was given the chance to talk about the play, a 1962 comedy, he always worked in important details. The Easter Egg was a “neat, tidy” play with a few characters and it was relatively short.

“All I was trying to do, at the time, was create a short, little play with only a few characters.” he told former Free Press colleague Noel Gallagher decades after the play’s premiere at Toronto.

The occasion was the 2002 revival of The Easter Egg by a Toronto company. Their production came to London the next year.

Back in the 1970s, he had used that “neat, tidy” phrase to describe the play he wanted to write for a favourite director and collaborator, the late Pamela Terry.

Once, when we talked about it, he said he had wanted to answer critics who said he could only write a drama on the long and epic scale of The Killdeer, his first major play. Still, short in stage time meant coming in at 113 minutes — by his count — Easter Egg intermissions not included. He also wanted to write something absurdist, where “things just happened.”

These thoughts, and more, have been swirling around on the eve of a new London production of The Easter Egg. The AlvegoRoot company staging opens May 24.

Eagerly anticipated in My London, the 2013 production follows at least two other Easter Eggs here. The Free Press reviewer in 1967, Helen Wallace said: “The Summer Theatre production . . . tells a story, on its most superficial level, of a mentally disturbed boy (Kenneth Ralph) hidden away so his stepmother (Bethel Henry) can claim his inheritance . . . the psychiatric tangle of a 20th-century Cinderella theme is twisted against the secret Victorian shame of a ‘different’ child who has to be hidden away.”

Adam Corrigan Holowitz and Maya Wong as Polly in The Alvego Root production of The Easter Egg

Adam Corrigan Holowitz as Kenneth and Maya Wong as Polly in The Alvego Root production of The Easter Egg

That perceptive comment accounts for the play’s basic conflict. On Kenneth’s side are Bethel’s stepdaughter Pollex (Polly) Henry and Dr. Ira Hill, who is pursuing Bethel. Tending to ally himself with stepmonsterish Bethel is the Rev. George Sloan. The faith leader really should be standing by Polly because they’re engaged, more or less. The cruel and weak Sloan is probably overwhelmed by the endlessly comic caustic chatter from the tireless schemer Bethel.

Demis Odanga as George Sloan and Kim Kaitell as Bethel

Demis Odanga as George Sloan and Kim Kaitell as Bethel

“Among other mysterious elements in the mix are the bat (‘a flying mouse’) that stalks the house; a young girl’s ghost haunting the garden; a cat’s skeleton and a metal box containing a glass Easter egg,” Gallagher wrote in his review of a 2003 production. True — and it was an Easter egg from my father’s beloved collection which served as a prop all the way back in the Terry-helmed 1962 debut.

Chris McAuley as Ira Hill with Adam Corrigan Holowitz, Maya Wong, and Kim Kaitell in The Easter Egg

Chris McAuley as Ira Hill with Adam Corrigan Holowitz, Maya Wong, and Kim Kaitell in The Easter Egg

Re-reading Gallagher’s story from 2002 makes me smile because, as an interviewer, he drew out charming and characteristic details.

Easter Egg’s still one of my favourite plays because it mentions Paradise, Manitoba, which is where my father once worked as a farmhand,” my father said at one point.

Then, there was his loyal salute to the play’s successful world premiere at Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre in 1962. Just as typical and true to my father’s character was his brusque dismissal of an Ottawa production soon after as “a dreadful failure.” That comment carries the eye-watering sting of burned-bridge aroma No. 1 — guaranteed to linger forever.

Best of all is his praise, wearing the mask of the practical playwright, for the 1964 version staged by a United Church group in Woodstock. “They were raising money to build a gymnasium and The Easter Egg helped them reach their goal,” my father said.

What: Revival of The Easter Egg by London poet and playwright James Reaney (1926-2008) by AlvegoRoot Theatre Company.

Adam Korrigan Holowitz appears as Kenneth in The Easter Egg

Adam Korrigan Holowitz as Kenneth

“A Canadian Classic. The Easter Egg starts with Gothic darkness and builds to a beautiful conclusion of new beginnings.” — AlvegoRoot

When: Opens Friday, 8 pm and continues to June 1.

Where: The Arts Project, 203 Dundas St.

Tickets: Call The Arts Project box office at 519-642-2767.
Adults $15 and $10 seniors/students

Here’s a selected look at past presentations of The Easter Egg in London:

March 2, 1962: Rehearsed reading by Western staff and students.

July 4-7, 1967: Production directed by Pamela Terry at then-new Talbot College stage.

Jan. 17-19, 2003: Staged by TH&B Company, directed by David Eden at Grand’s McManus Studio Theatre.

For more about the 1967 production of The Easter Egg at Talbot College, see JBNBlog. For a review of AlvegoRoot’s The Easter Egg, see The Beat Magazine.

 

© 2017 James Reaney