Colleen Thibaudeau’s Inwhich I put on my mother’s old thé dansant dress

Inwhich I Put On My Mother’s Old Thé Dansant Dress

“Yes,” said Janos, “you can put on a costume!”
So I go for a favourite, my mother’s old thé dansant dress
(black georgette and hand-made lace). When I was a child
I looked through snowy windows, seeing her leave
for “Tea For Two.” Leaves whirled, the hem dragged
in the mud when granddaughters sortied out for Hallowe’en;
and then I rescued, laundered, aired, and pressed
(black georgette and hand-made lace). Now it’s a humid Sunday
in the scorching summer of ’88. Jamie retreats to the doorway.
Janos, taking the photos, says, “Nearly done now.”
I think, my whole life-span is in this dress.
And, as I strew these words,
rose petals are falling from the matching hat she made.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1988

( ( ( o ) ) )  Listen to Jean McKay read the poem here.

Colleen’s poem appears in The Artemesia Book (1991),
available from Brick Books.

Colleen Thibaudeau in her mother's old the dansant dress, at her home in London, Ontario, 1999. Photo by Janos.
Colleen Thibaudeau in her mother’s old thé dansant dress, at her home in London, Ontario, 1988. Photo by Janos.

Poetry Stratford celebrates Four Women for National Poetry Month 2013

On April 21, 2013, Poetry Stratford featured the four poets from the Red Kite Press anthology Four Women: Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy, Penn Kemp,  Marianne Micros, and Colleen Thibaudeau. Gloria, Penn, and Marianne read their own work, and poet Patricia Black read the late Colleen Thibaudeau’s poems. Here is one of Colleen’s “Inwhich” poems from Four Women:

Inwhich I Decide To Look Once More at the Story of Never Meeting Pete & Doris, But Solving the Puzzle of the Valuable Little Stamp My Mother Has Pressed Into My Hand

I am once more in the street and just at that time of day
which the poets of the future will make much of.
The violet hour of the pearly exhaust fumes
(can’t you hear them chanting?) like the inside
of a fresh-water clamshell, the sky (once long-ago
their grandfather showed them where they had been).
Soon the greenish fluorescent lights of the great city
will stratify, very regular (lichen bands), very exact,
the steep, straight-up mountainsides of the great downtown.
Luminous lichen bands.  In the darkness they will hear
the small incessant torrents of electricity falling.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1999


April 21, 2013: Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy, Patricia Black, Penn Kemp, and Marianne Micros read from Four Women.



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.”

Brick: A LIterary Journal Issue 89, Summer 2012
Brick: A Literary Journal Issue 89, Summer 2012

Colleening: The Poetry and Letters of Colleen Thibaudeau, March 1-9, 2013

On March 1-9, 2013, Colleening, a play by Adam Corrigan Holowitz celebrating the life and poetry of Colleen Thibaudeau, was presented by the Alvego Root Theatre Company at the Arts Project Theatre in London, Ontario. Colleening features many of Colleen Thibaudeau’s poems, some set to music and sung, as well as excerpts from letters Colleen wrote to friends and family throughout her life.

Patsy Morgan, Chris McAuley, Paul Grambo, and Donna Creighton were the wonderful performers and interpreters of Colleen’s work. Stephen Holowitz and Oliver Whitehead composed the music, adding vibrant settings for Colleen’s words.

"Colleening" by Adam Corrigan Holowitz and music by Stephen Holowitz and Oliver Whitehead, March 1-9, 2013 at the Arts Project Theatre, Lomdon, Ontario.
“Colleening” by Adam Corrigan Holowitz; music by Stephen Holowitz and Oliver Whitehead, March 1-9, 2013 at the Arts Project Theatre, London, Ontario.

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.”

Penn Kemp in The Beat: “The triumph of this play is that it acknowledges our own local heroes/heroines, and carries on the tradition in such a grand collaboration. Here’s celebrating our talent, both past and present, in this production of Colleening!”

Kenneth Chisholm in Theatre in London: “Watch this play and you will see a magical show of music, verse and prose like you’ve never seen before in Downtown London.”

Here are the poems and letters featured in Act I and Act II of the play,
some spoken and some set to music*:

Act I
Miniature One
Childlight Town
My Grandmother’s Sugar Shell, Ontario Baroque
St. Thomas
Watermelon Summer
Children in the Storm
Listening Together
Miniature Two
The Obvious Skies
The Dieppe Gardens Poems
Sociable People Wondering What I Do
Going to Winnipeg
King’s Park, Manitoba
Letter to Margaret One
What Happened to the N.Y. Sunday Times
Letter to Margaret Two
Aristide Bruant au Honey Dew
Letter to Margaret Three
Name Dropping as Skipping Stones
Letter to Margaret Four

Act II
Miniature Three
About Noon
London Observations
Last Night I Dreamed
Lullaby for the Mother
Little Anne Running
All My Nephews Have Gone to the Tar Sands
Sunday Morning
Malcolm Working
A Page of Rage
Running Down to Barachois
Miniature Five
Canada Trust Tower More bird stuff
The Tomato Pickers Observed
The Brown Family
The Cooper
Looking at The Artemesia Book
Miniature Four
White Bracelets
Letter One
Rainy Day in March
Letter Ten

The play’s collage of poems, letters, and reminiscences also included extracts from other writing about Colleen Thibaudeau or about her family: Stan Dragland’s “Prologue”, Herman Gooden’s “Colleen and Jamie”, Stewart Thibaudeau’s story “The War”, and other selections from “A Biographical Sketch” from earlier interviews conducted by Stan Dragland, Peggy Dragisic, Don McKay and Jean McKay.

*About the music:

Music for the “Miniature” series poems was composed by Stephen Holowitz and Oliver Whitehead.

♦  Stephen Holowitz composed music for “Childlight Town”, “Watermelon Summer”, “The Dieppe Gardens Poems”, “Sunday Morning”, “Malcolm Working”, “The Cooper”, and “Rainy Day in March”.

Oliver Whitehead composed music for “The Obvious Skies”, “King’s Park Manitoba”, “Aristide Bruant au Honey Dew”, “Lullaby for the Mother”, “Little Anne Running”, and “White Bracelets”.

Stephen Holowitz and Oliver Whitehead are members of the London jazz group The Antler River Project:

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “Balloon” for National Poetry Month 2012

To honour poet Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012), Colleen’s poem “Balloon” was displayed on a billboard near Stanley Street and Wortley Road in London, Ontario. The billboard was a joint project of Poetry London, London Public Library, and Brick Books, in celebration of National Poetry Month.

“Balloon” was first published in Colleen Thibaudeau’s book of concrete poems, Lozenges: Poems in the Shapes of Things, by the Alphabet Press in 1965.

April 14, 2012: “Balloon” by Colleen Thibaudeau, 1925-2012
April 14, 2012: “Balloon” by Colleen Thibaudeau, 1925-2012
April 14, 2012: Celebrating National Poetry Month. Jean McKay was on hand to play her fiddle.
April 14, 2012: Celebrating National Poetry Month. Jean McKay was on hand to play her fiddle.


April 4, 2012: Elizabeth Reaney celebrates her grandmother’s poem
April 4, 2012: Elizabeth Reaney celebrates her grandmother’s poem “Balloon”

Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney 1925-2012

Colleen Thibaudeau, poet and beloved wife of James Reaney, passed away on February 6, 2012 in London, Ontario. Colleen will long be remembered by her family, neighbours, and many friends.

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

Articles celebrating Colleen and her work:

Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney, Dec. 29, 1925–Feb. 6, 2012 by James Stewart Reaney, London Free Press, February 6, 2012

“Greatness in Poetry” by Marty Gervais, February 7, 2012

“Poet found magic and mystery in the everyday” by Sandra Martin, The Globe and Mail, February 9, 2012