Monthly Archives: March 2015

“There are still souls for whom love is the contact of two poetries, the fusion of two reveries.”

poetics-of-reverieCreative writing, like a day-dream,” Freud observed, “is a continuation of, and a substitute for, what was once the play of childhood.” But how, exactly, does the playful imagination weave dream and storytelling together to frame our creative experience?

Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962) is one of the most wonderful — literally: full of wonder — philosophers of the twentieth century, yet one of the most under-appreciated. His writings on poetics and the philosophy of science fall — rise, rather — somewhere between the erudite and the enchanting, but never more so than in his 1960 treatise The Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language, and the Cosmos (public library), published in English seven years after Bachelard’s death — an exploration of “the remarkable psychic productivity of the imagination” and its relationship to memory, happiness, and our capacity for love, as well as of poetry’s singular ability to catalyze our sense of wonder.

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Shakespeare’s grave should be exhumed using techniques honed for Richard III

ShakespeareThanks to Geoff for bringing the following to our attention:

An academic has called for Shakespeare’s remains to be exhumed so that more can be learned about his life, following the successful analysis of Richard III’s bones.

Francis Thackeray, from the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, said he was “very interested in the possibility” of examining Shakespeare’s grave.

“Given the extraordinary success of the study of the skeleton of Richard III, we recognise the potential of undertaking forensic analyses of the Bard,” he said.

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The healing nature of poetry

Black_RainbowBy Rachel Kelly

Poetry workshops held in prisons, libraries and bookshops are becoming increasingly important therapy for those who suffer from anxiety and depression.

For many people, the last time they read aloud was as a child. It is wonderful to see the practice rediscovered in adulthood and it also provides a valuable confidence boost for the reader. Poems are often my companions when I feel at my most desperate and alone; sharing poetry with others is one of the most effective ways I can think of to dispel isolation. As I leave the prison or the charity offices, I always feel cheered. We know helping others is one of the best ways to help ourselves. My strength is indeed very slowly being made more perfect in weakness.

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Rachel Kelly’s memoir, Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me – My Journey Through Depression, is published by Hodder & Stoughton

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Let’s Celebrate the Bard’s 451st Birthday on Thursday, April 23!

Shakespeare_451Thanks to all who participated in an engaging and, at times, hilarious follow-up session on Canadian poets on Thursday, March 26.

This is an early reminder that on Thursday, April 23, precisely on Shakespeare’s 451st birthday, we will celebrate by reading and discussing our favourite dramatic excerpts or soliloquies from the Bard. Please post your selection(s) in the “Leave a Comment” box below, on the “Contact Us” page, or email me directly.

Submissions to date:

Geoff Mynett:
Anthony and Cleopatra: Act II. scene ii- lines 190 -204 and lines 228- 240

The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Download PDF: Anthony-and-Cleopatra

Anne Fletcher:

Romeo and Juliet, Act 1; Scene Five; starting at Line 91

Romeo:  “If I profane with my unworthi’st hand”
Anne reminds us that this excerpt is itself a sonnet. Download PDF: Romeo-and-Juliet

Bruce Burnett (to be listened to as time allows):

King Richard II, Act III, Sc. II (read by Richard Burton)
“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;”

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19-28 (read by Ian McKellen)

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,”

Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1 (read by Kenneth Branagh)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:”

The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1 (read by Richard Burton)
Our revels now are ended. These our actors…”

Download a PDF of the texts of the above: Shakespeare_Recordings

A reminder of a different sort: It’s time to register with the Roundhouse Community Centre for the next three sessions of the Roundhouse Poetry Circle. You may register in person, via telephone (604-713-1800), or online at:

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A final reminder that we will be completing unfinished business by reading and discussing Canadian Poets this Thursday, March 26

Canadian_PoetsPoems to be featured include the following:

Geoff Mynett: More and More by Margaret Atwood

Bruce Burnett: The Beacons of the Bad Days (download PDF: The-Beacons-of-the-Bad-Days) by Peter Trower and Green Rain by Dorothy Livesay

Susan Koppersmith: Alden Nowlan – Morning of the Third Operation (download PDF: Morning-of-the-Third-Operation)

Rosaleen CowanThe Glass Essay by Anne Carson

Maureen Malcolm: Duncan Campbell Scott – The Forsaken

Bill: Bronwen Wallace – Common Magic.

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19-Year-Old Sylvia Plath on the Transcendent Simplicity and Reverence of Nature

Plath_journalsNo matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique rightness and beauty to life which can be shared in openness, in wind and sunlight, with a fellow human being who believes in the same basic principles.”

Carl Sagan believed that nature itself is a source of spiritual awe. Alan Lightman captured this beautifully in his account of a secular transcendent experience. And yet it’s not the scientists but the poets and writers who are best able to capture that sense of earthly reverence, from Virginia Woolf’s intoxicating account of visiting Stonehenge to Hans Christian Andersen’s chronicle of climbing Vesuvius.

From The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (public library) — the same volume that gave us the young poet’s exuberant celebration of curiosity and life and her thoughts on life, death, hope and happiness — comes an achingly beautiful meditation on the transcendent simplicity of nature, spurred by the feeling awakened in Plath by “an anonymous part of the Massachusetts coastline.”

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A Poem For Ireland

Poem-for-IrelandMany thanks to Anne Fletcher for bringing this newsworthy announcement to our attention:

Six months, hundreds of poems and thousands of nominations, comments and votes later, the Irish people have chosen their Poem for Ireland. At a ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street on Wednesday, March 11th 2015, President Michael D. Higgins announced that the people’s chosen RTÉ A Poem For Ireland is Seamus Heaney’s ‘When all the others were away at Mass’ [from Clearances in memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984].

Visit to read and hear the winning poem and go to The Shortlist to read and hear the top 10 finalists.

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In cold spring air

BlackbirdIn cold spring air

Reginald Gibbons

In cold

spring air the

white wisp-


breath of

a blackbird


we don’t know

to un-

wrap these blind-

folds we

keep thinking

we are

seeing through

From Creatures of a Day by Reginald Gibbons. Copyright © 2008 by Reginald Gibbons.

Reginald Gibbons is the author of Slow Trains Overhead: Chicago Poems and Stories (University of Chicago Press, 2010).  He is the Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities at Northwestern University, and lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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Corned Beef and Cabbage: Classic and contemporary poems to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

St_Patricks_Day-2Whether you’re homesick for your bonny isle or you’re only Irish one day a year, here are some poems to help you mark St. Patrick’s Day. Transport yourself to the homeland with a classic by Yeats, such as “Down By the Sally Gardens” or a Celtic revival poem by Eva Gore-Booth. Follow up with contemporary Irish verse, “Game Night,” by Conor O’Callaghan. If you’re celebrating with spirits, you might down another one by Yeats, “Drinking Song,” or try a shot of Hayden Carruth’s “Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey.” But don’t forget to come back in the morning for your penance: “Sober Song,” by Barton Sutter might help dry you out.

Down By the Sally Gardens
William Butler Yeats

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
William Butler Yeats

The Lost Land
Eavan Boland

The Little Waves of Breffny
Eva Gore-Booth

James Joyce

Game Night
Conor O’Callaghan

A Drinking Song
William Butler Yeats

Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey
Hayden Carruth

Sober Song
Barton Sutter

St. Patrick’s Day: With an Irish Shamrock
Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna

St. Patrick’s Day
Eliza Cook

St. Patrick’s Day
Jean Blewett

Easter Week
Joyce Kilmer

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Geroge Bilgere

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How John Clare captured the peasants’ calendar

John_Clare-2Adam Foulds on a vanished world of natural wonders and cyclical labour.

Last spring was one of the coldest ever recorded in the UK. This year, widespread floods preceded a hot spell that gave way to chilly rain. Latterly, Saharan dust has blown up from the south, imparting a sepia tinge to dangerous levels of air pollution. On the other side of the Atlantic, 2014 began with a cold system stuck in place, a polar vortex that blew weeks of snow down America’s east coast. There have always been variations in the weather but they seem now to be of a new swiftness and severity and there is plenty of climate science to tell us why. We are heating the planet; there is simply more energy in the atmosphere. I don’t think I am imagining that I can feel it sometimes outside, this arrhythmical turbulence, the weather not knowing what to do with itself.

For previous generations, the changing of the seasons was more orderly. Year rhymed with year and a form of poetry emerged to celebrate the pleasures and labours of each part. Around 42BC, Virgil began writing his bucolic Eclogues. A thousand five hundred years later, Edmund Spenser used them as the model for his Shepheardes Calender and three hundred years after that John Clare published his own Shepherd’s Calendar, a handsomely illustrated reissue of which has appeared this month from Oxford University Press to commemorate the passing of 150 years since Clare’s death. His poem, a month-by-month description of the peasant’s unfolding year, has a sparkling freshness. Here is his spring arriving in April:

Young things of tender life again

Enjoys thy sunny hours

And gosslings waddle oer the plain

As yellow as its flowers

Or swim the pond in wild delight

To catch the water flye

Where hissing geese in ceasless spite

Make childern scamper bye.

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