Archives: Canadian poetry

Colleening: An Evening with Colleen Thibaudeau

Join us March 1-9 at The ARTS Project Theatre, 203 Dundas Street in London, Ontario for the world premiere of Adam Corrigan Holowitz‘s play Colleening, a play celebrating the life of late poet Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012).

With original music by Stephen Holowitz and Oliver Whitehead, Colleening is a collage of poetry, personal letters, spoken word and song that lets us discover Colleen through her own words.

The ARTS Project Theatre, 203 Dundas Street

March 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 at 8 pm
March 2 and March 9 at 2 pm

To order tickets, call The Arts Project Box Office at 519-642-2767
Admission is $15; Students and Seniors: $10

Colleen Thibaudeau, poet and late wife of James Reaney, died on February 6, 2012.
For more about Colleen and her work, see Jean McKay’s Colleen Thibaudeau: A Biographical Sketch from Brick, Issue 5, Winter 1979.

For more about Colleening, see JBNBlog’s review: “Mom had often said her lines were too long to be set to music. Not so, mom, as I am sure you are hearing whether it’s Oliver or Stephen who is working with your beautiful words.”


Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney, 1925-2012 Photo by Diane Thompson, 1997

Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney, 1925-2012 Photo by Diane Thompson, 1997


Reaney plays planned for 2013

Four productions of plays by James Reaney are planned for 2013. Colleening, a new play by Adam Holowitz, features the poems and letters of Colleen Thibaudeau.

February 13-16
Althouse College Auditorium, London Ontario

A play with music using Colleen Thibaudeau’s poems and letters
Created and Directed by Adam Holowitz
March 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 at 8 pm
March 2 and March 9 at 2 pm
The Arts Project, London Ontario

Directed by David Ferry
March 14-17
Bishop’s University
Sherbrooke, Quebec

Directed by Barbara Larose
April 12-27

Alumnae Theatre, Toronto, Ontario

Directed by Jason Rip
May 24, 25, 29, 30, 31, and  June 1 at 8 pm
May 24 and June 2 at 2 pm
The Arts Project, London Ontario

Colleen Thibaudeau and James Reaney at the University of Toronto in 1950.

Updates and further details to follow in the new year. Hope to see you there!

The 2012 James Reaney Memorial Lecture with Jean McKay

Thank you all for coming on Sunday October 21 to hear Jean McKay talk about her memories of being part of James Reaney’s Wacousta workshops in 1981 in London, Ontario. She also spoke about being James Reaney’s research assistant for The Donnelly Documents: An Ontario Vendetta. Jean was a student of James Reaney’s in the mid-1960s and a long-time friend of the family.

Thank you, Jean, for bringing your fiddle and reminding us about all the good times shared.

October 21, 2012: Jean McKay regaled us with jigs and reels and other period music from the Wacousta workshops and the Donnelly plays.


October 21, 2012: Jean McKay remembers James Reaney.

If you missed Jean’s lecture, Charles Maidment has posted a video recording on Thank you, Charles!

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

For more about the lecture, see Laura Cudworth’s article in The Stratford Beacon Herald and roving reporter JBNBlog.

The Story of North Easthope by James Crerar Reaney

From the 1982 Illustrated Historical Atlas County of Perth, here is James Reaney’s history of North Easthope. (James Reaney grew up in neighbouring township South Easthope, and his mother, Elizabeth Crerar, was born and raised on a nearby farm in North Easthope.)

The Story of North Easthope
Sometimes pronounced NORTHYSTOPE
and for reasons of space herein called N.E.

Prepared by James Crerar Reaney, 1982

They named the township after Sir John Easthope, a Canada Company director. Although he also owned a British newspaper called The Chronicle, I doubt if Sir John ever found out what farmboys in his township liked to do on Sunday afternoons in the 1890s. They’d go down to the Huron Road [Hwy. 7 & 8] to fight with their South Easthope contemporaries about which township was better. Picture them lined up on either side of the boundary exchanging stones, scoffs and fisticuffs. Well, whose is the better township has still not been decided. Born in the southern one, I say this: they’re very different from each other. With road names like Porkstreet and Hessenstrasse, musical instruments brought over from Germany such as pianofortes and trumpets, S.E. feels like a gently rolling part of Germany: with its steep roads going up into higher and even bluer hills and also with its kilted pipers at picnics, N.E. seems like a translation of Scotland.

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“The Fryfogel Tavern” by James Reaney, 1962


James Reaney Memorial Lecture on October 21 in Stratford

Join us on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00 pm at The Stratford Public Library Auditorium in Stratford, Ontario, for a talk by Jean McKay, James Reaney’s research assistant on several projects, including The Donnelly Documents: An Ontario Vendetta. Jean will also share her memories as a student and workshop participant in James Reaney’s play Wacousta.

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.

Alphabet Number 11 and Poems by John Hirsch

From Alphabet Issue 11 (1966), here is John Hirsch’s poem “My Grandfather”:

My Grandfather

Old men love the sun.
My Grandfather, eighty four,
in black bowler,
black overcoat,
in the same chair
through Spring, Summer and Fall
always against the same white-washed wall
sat soaking up the sun.
Hands spread on his knees—
Skin like dried guts
cracked with veins like the indigo ink
he dipped his pen in to write
in velvet covered, silver-locked ledgers.

Dozing in the sun
his skin drew the heat
till he seemed to glow
like a black swathed mummy
of a gold-leafed Pharaoh.

John Hirsch, 1966


Cover banner for Alphabet Issue 11, 1966

John Hirsch (1930-1989) lost his family in the Holocaust and came to Winnipeg, Canada as a war orphan in 1947. With the help of his foster family, he pursued his love of the theatre and became one of Canada’s most renowned directors. John Hirsch directed James Reaney’s play Names and Nicknames at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg in October, 1963.

Earlier this summer at the Stratford Festival, Alon Nashman performed his one-man play Hirsch, a tribute to this inspiring director. For more about John Hirsch, see A Fiery Soul: The Life and Theatrical Times of John Hirsch, by Fraidie Martz and Andrew Wilson.

Twelfth Letter: The Bicycle

Here is James Reaney’s poem “The Bicycle” — the Twelfth Letter from Twelve Letters to a Small Town, a suite of poems James Reaney wrote for composer John Beckwith in 1962.


The Bicycle

Halfway between childhood & manhood,
More than a hoop but never a car,
The bicycle talks gravel and rain pavement
On the highway where the dead frogs are.

Like sharkfish the cars blur by,
Filled with the two-backed beast
One dreams of, yet knows not the word for,
The accumulating sexual yeast.

Past the house where the bees winter,
I climb on the stairs of my pedals
To school murmuring irregular verbs
Past the lion with legs like a table’s.

Autumn blows the windfalls down
With a twilight horn of dead leaves.
I pick them up in the fence of November
And burs on my sweater sleeves.

Where a secret robin is wintering
By the lake in the fir grove dark
Through the fresh new snow we stumble
That Winter has whistled sharp.

The March wind blows me ruts over,
Puddles past, under red maple buds,
Over culvert of streamling, under
White clouds and beside bluebirds.

Fireflies tell their blinking player
Piano hesitant tales
Down at the edge of the bridge through the swamp
Where the ogre clips his rusty nails.

Between the highschool & the farmhouse
In the country and the town
It was a world of love and of feeling
Continually floating down

On a soul whose only knowledge
Was that everything was something,
This was like that, that was like this–
In short, everything was
The bicycle of which I sing.

September 1966: James Reaney on Richmond Street bicycling to Middlesex College (from William Ronald’s CBC arts magazine show “The Umbrella”)

September 1966: James Reaney bicycling to Middlesex College on the campus of the University of Western Ontario (from William Ronald’s CBC arts magazine show “The Umbrella”)

Twelve Letters to a Small Town was first published in 1962 by the Ryerson Press. The poems were specially written for composer John Beckwith, who then set them to music for broadcast on CBC Radio’s “Wednesday Night” program.

These photos are from September 1966, when painter and broadcaster William Ronald brought a CBC TV crew to London, Ontario to interview Greg Curnoe, Jack Chambers, and James Reaney for the arts magazine show “The Umbrella.”  In ¨The Umbrella¨ segment on London, Ontario’s art scene, William Ronald praises James Reaney as “the best known bike rider in London.″

James Reaney’s drawing for the poem “The Bicycle” from Twelve Letters to a Small Town (1962)

League of Canadian Poets awards 2012 Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award

Saturday June 16, 2012 — Here in Saskatoon at the Poetry Festival and Conference of the League of Canadian Poets, poet Wendy Morton of Sooke, B.C. was the winner of the first-ever Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award.

Established in memory of late poet and honorary member Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012), the award was created by the League of Canadian Poets and Colleen Thibaudeau’s family to honour and recognize a substantial volunteer project or series of projects that significantly nurture and support poets and poetry across Canada.

Wendy Morton is the founder of Random Acts of Poetry, which involved hundreds of Canadian poets over a period of seven years. She is also the recipient of the 2010 Spirit Bear Award and The Golden Beret Award, and was made an Honorary Citizen of Victoria in 2011.

Also honoured were poet Sue Goyette, who won the 2012 Pat Lowther Memorial Award for her book outskirts (Brick Books), and Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang, the winner of the 2012 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for her book Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books). The League also recognized the contributions of Oscar Malan of Novel Idea Bookstore in Kingston, Ontario, who is now an Honorary Member, and Penn Kemp, Poet Laureate of London, Ontario (2010-2012), who is now a Life Member.

Short-listed poets for the Pat Lowther Award were Stephanie Bolster for A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth  (Brick Books), Lorna Crozier for Small Mechanics (McClelland & Stewart Ltd.), Rosemary Griebel for Yes. (Frontenac House), Amanda Jernigan for Groundwork (Biblioasis), and Jan Zwicky for Forge (Gaspereau Press).

The runners-up for the Gerald Lampert Award this year were Kirsty Elliot for True (Leaf Press), Rosemary Griebel for Yes. (Frontenac House), Suzanne Robertson for Paramita, Little Black (Guernica Editions), Lisa Shatzky for Do Not Call Me By My Name (Black Moss Press), and Leslie Vryenhoek for Gulf (Oolichan Books).

Congratulations to all the award winners and shortlisted poets, and also to Robert Currie for presenting the Anne Szumigalski Lecture. Anne Szumigalski (1922-1999) was a much-loved Saskatchewan poet and winner of the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for her book Voice in 1995. Robert reminded us of Anne Szumigalski’s work as a mentor for other writers and her commitment to the arts in her province.

Thank you to the sponsors of the event: The Canada Council for the ArtsWestJetSaskatchewan Arts BoardJennifer Boire and Jacques Nolin and the estate of Diane Brebner.

Poetry is alive and well in Canada and in Saskatchewan! ♥

Wendy Morton of Sooke, B.C. is the winner of the 2012 Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award




Colleen Thibaudeau’s “This Elastic Moment”

Many thanks to the editors of Brick (Issue 89, page 182) for printing this poem by Colleen Thibaudeau.

This Elastic Moment

Yes we are that too: we are everything who feel it.
Everything that has meaning has the same meaning as angels: these
hoverers and whirrers: occupied with us.
Men may be in the parkgrass sleeping: or be he who sits in his
shirtsleeves every blessed Sunday: rasping away at his child who
is catching some sunshine: from the sticky cloud hanging over the
Laura Secord factory: and teetering on the pales of the green
iron fence: higher up than the briary bushes.
I pass and make no sound: but the silver and whirr of my bicycle
going round: but must see them who don’t see: get their fit, man
and child: let this elastic moment stretch out in me: till that
point where they are inside and invisible.
It is not to afterward eat a candy: picket that factory: nor to
go by again and see that rickety child on the fence.
When the band of the moment breaks there will come angelic

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1977

Also in Issue 89 of Brick, Stan Dragland  remembers Applegarth Follies, another London, Ontario publisher:

“… Colleen Thibaudeau’s Ten Letters, the first chapbook I published [under the forerunner of Brick Books], was printed offset by Mike Niederman at Applegarth Follies. I had set the text in the Baskerville type donated by James Reaney to The Belial Press at the university after he completed his ten-year run of Alphabet. One of Applegarth’s presses was the old foot-pumped jobber on which Reaney had printed his magazine. There was plenty of literary interconnection in London back then.”


Ranjana Harish, Director of the Reaney Canadian Centre, visits London, Ontario

On May 25-28, we were pleased to welcome Dr. Ranjana Harish, the Director of the Reaney Canadian Centre at Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, India. Dr. Harish was happy to see London, Ontario and visit the Reaney family home, and also see the farm where James Reaney grew up near Stratford, Ontario.

May 26, 2012: James Stewart Reaney with Dr. Ranjana Harish at the Reaney family home in London, Ontario


May 28, 2012: James Stewart Reaney and Dr. Ranjana Harish visit James Reaney’s childhood home near Stratford, Ontario

Before her visit to London, Dr. Harish attended the International Council for Canadian Studies Biennial Conference in Ottawa on May 22-24, where she presented her paper “Linguistic Crossings in the Chase of a Rainbow: Gujarati Immigrants in Canada.” The theme of the conference this year was Cultural Challenges of Migration in Canada.  We wish Dr. Harish continued success in all her endeavours, and hope she’ll come back to explore Canada soon.

May 28, 2012: Dr. Harish at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival in Stratford, Ontario

© 2017 James Reaney