January 1, 2015 in Celebration of Canadian Poetry

Week 1 – James Reaney presented by his family

James Reaney’s poem “Brush Strokes Decorating a Fan” on p. 17 of Souwesto Home (Brick Books 2005, dedicated to his granddaughters Edie and Elizabeth) is beautifully simple. It has 26 “stanzas,” each identified by a letter of the alphabet. (From 1960 to 1971, Jamie edited and published a literary journal called Alphabet . He was seven short of his goal to publish 26 issues based on “the iconography of the imagination”.)

So stanza (a) muses with stunning, child-like clarity

In bed at night

I think of you

Downstairs there

In the dark –

Chair, table, cupboard,

Dishes, books, my outside boots,

Dear good things

That wait



All night

For me & the morning.

Still there

When I get up

And come down

To you

“Dear good things” seems opposite to the “Dear bad poets” Jamie writes about in his “First Letter – To the Avon River Above Stratford, Canada” (in Twelve Letters to a Small Town which won his third Governor General’s Award in 1962). Yet all are loved: they are “dear” to Jamie’s heart.

Stanza (g) “Ernie’s Barber Salon Near the College” was set to a jazzy beat by Londoner Steve Holowitz and hauntingly sung by soprano Sonja Gustafson. I can still hear Sonja sing “scything away”. Who else but Jamie would name a barber “Mr. Delilah” who “cuts a field of hair”?

Finally, (z):

Up a walk into a house

I ran

They put me in the stove

Out  its chimney smoke

I rose

Into heaven’s love

A fairy tale ending – magical, simple – and this lovely poem, written when Jamie was not well, ends with love.

To learn more about James Reaney, please visit this website. http://www.jamesreaney.com/

Prepared by the family of James Reaney

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