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 poemhere.
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.
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.”
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.
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!”
Here are the poems and letters featured in Act I and Act II of the play, some spoken and some set to music*:
My Grandmother’s Sugar Shell, Ontario Baroque
St. Thomas Watermelon Summer
Children in the Storm
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
Last Night I Dreamed
Lullaby for the Mother Little Anne Running
All My Nephews Have Gone to the Tar Sands
A Page of Rage
Running Down to Barachois
Canada Trust Tower More bird stuff
The Tomato Pickers Observed
The Brown Family
Looking at The Artemesia Book
Miniature Four White Bracelets
Rainy Day in March
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”.