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The Dieppe Gardens Poems

The Dieppe Gardens Poems

“The Dieppe Gardens Poems” is one of Colleen Thibaudeau‘s poems from The Martha Landscapes (1984), available from Brick Books.

The Dieppe Gardens Poems

Eugene and Peter read their poems
about Dieppe Gardens, Windsor,
a September evening, here in London.

Dieppe Gardens, it’s not a park where I’ve walked,
but I remember the news of it coming — Dieppe — it came over the fences,
(field by field, farm by farm): “bad news from home.”

Someone called and we would leave off hoeing,
go to the fence, and there, crying or trying not to cry,
a Windsor girl asking us to pass bad news along

though all the lists not in… We threw ourselves at the ground,
and that day passed, (half-hope half-fear) as if just striving
might somehow balance out the half-knowing.

A time of drought: the fine dust caked our hair; our cracked
hands, blunt fingers scrabbled to put right
a bent plant; all was more bitter-precious on that day.

Evening came; on the gravel we walked barefoot, asking,
(field by field, farm by farm), could we use the phone,
but nothing changed: only “bad news from home”

day halved slowly into night.     Your words,
Peter and Eugene, go active into memories long stilled,
and I am filled with wonder for the walkers there
in Dieppe Gardens now.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984

Note from Susan Reaney: In the poem, Colleen Thibaudeau recalls her own war-time experience working as a volunteer farm labourer for the Ontario Farm Service Force in August 1942 near Windsor, Ontario. The Dieppe Gardens in Windsor, Ontario are named in memory of the many members of the Essex-Kent Scottish Regiment who lost their lives during the World War II landing at Dieppe, France on August 19, 1942.

 

August 1942: Ontario Labour Force volunteer farm workers. Courtesy The Estate of Colleen Thibaudeau.

August 1942: Ontario Farm Service Force volunteer workers near Windsor, Ontario. (Photo ourtesy The Estate of Colleen Thibaudeau)

August 1942 near Windsor: Colleen Thibaudeau (age 16) was a volunteer farm worker. Courtesy The Estate of Colleen Thibaudeau.

August 1942: Colleen Thibaudeau (centre, age 16) was a volunteer farm worker that summer on a farm near Windsor, Ontario. (Photo courtesy The Estate of Colleen Thibaudeau)

 

Brick Books’ Celebration of Canadian Poetry

Brick Books’ Celebration of Canadian Poetry

Brick Books 40th Anniversary Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qclaYEWuN3A

Brick Books 40th Anniversary Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qclaYEWuN3A

Congratulations to Brick Books on 40 years of publishing! For a closer look at Brick Books past and present, see Celebrating 40 Years of Publishing Canadian Poetry (YouTube).

Brick Books‘ year-long project “Celebration of Canadian Poetry” continues with Colleen’s poem The Glass Cupboard.

From Brisk Books' video "Celebrating 40 Years of Publishing Canadian Poetry" -- this photo of Colleen Thibaudeau appears at the 3:45 mark.

From Brick Books’ video “Celebrating 40 Years of Publishing Canadian Poetry” — this photo of Colleen Thibaudeau appears at the 3:45 mark.

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “White Bracelets”

White Bracelets

we all have old scars
and sometimes in winter
I can still see what was
white bracelets
(let’s call them white bracelets
just as my grandmother used to say
when we fell down steep stairways,
stop crying or you’ll miss hearing
the stairs—they’re still dancing)
what was once white bracelets
what before that showed pink
what before that was raw & festering
what before that was agony
down to the bones
what before that was
almost blacked out
& being dragged by the tractor
in the barbed wire
what before that was
surprise & yelling:
can’t you STOP  STOP
what before that was
lying in the grass
reading a blue letter
looking up into sun & clouds
that were riffed
and quiet like white bracelets.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1971

“White Bracelets” is from The Artemesia Book (1991) and available from Brick Books.

∞♥∞♥∞♥∞

Note from Susan Reaney:  Stan Dragland, poet and novelist, has high praise for Colleen Thibaudeau’s poetry in his new book The Bricoleur and His Sentences:

“Thibaudeau may be diffident about her process, but her leaping poems stretch wide from the domestic to the mythic and do so as naturally as if they had not actually been written but somehow just occurred. And I have never had the pleasure of editing any writer whose work called for less alteration.” (page 29)

 

 

G.G. and Elizabeth at Port

G.G. and Elizabeth at Port

G.G. AND ELIZABETH AT PORT

Elizabeth (four) would fete Mackie’s 75th anniversary
just as often as the car would get there.

Her “G.G.,” great-grandmother, also
favours Mackie’s, especially the “Specialty Sauce”

on chips. In sunlight sharp as Mackie’s Orange,
they sit together – eighty years seems not to separate

for both love waves, love water. “I could look forever, couldn’t you?”

That Sunday, though, their eyes harden,
for the waves are black, flung up coal dredged from the lake bottom.

“It is as if beasts are leaping out of the foam,”
G.G. shivers.    Elizabeth, only: “Let’s go home.”

 Colleen Thibaudeau, 1986

Colleen Thibaudeau’s poem “G.G. and Elizabeth at Port” is from The Patricia Album and Other Poems (1992).

GGElizabeth1986

Alice Pryce Thibaudeau (age 85), Colleen Thibaudeau’s mother, with her great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Reaney (age 4), August 1986 in Port Stanley, Ontario.

Mackie's at Port Stanley, Ontario.

Mackie’s at Port Stanley, Ontario.

Elizabeth Wallace Reaney, Colleen's granddaughter, at Port Stanley, August 1986

Elizabeth Wallace Reaney, Colleen’s granddaughter, at Port Stanley, August 1986

 

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “The Glass Cupboard”

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “The Glass Cupboard”

The Glass Cupboard

Lights from the Highway sparser, softer now
and the Gorst lights gone and their house gone
away,
just lost rib to new life in dark seas,
just dark seven sleepers gone seasabout the foot of our hill,
just the foot of the hill and a great cave opening up.

Lights from the glass cupboard !spark! the house dark;
And it’s up to the glass cupboard now! It looms
at James’ headheight, three paces from the kitchen sink,
one from table, length approximately my armspan, crafted
by an Albertan who loved the bush, the hills.

The Bay Highway kindles to blue Italian grotto glasses;
and green glasses, safe-and-wide as Sweden; and cheap
little ruby liqueurs sing; and cocktail Libbys supermart
violent and fresh from fists that swung axes, pounded down a territory
and rolled Malcolm Lowry into the soundmad surf dazzling no warning…

By an Albertan who loved the bush, the hills,
who made this cupboard ark that tends the tides
of dream. They light, they guard the house,
glow like an icon of Mike Todd, thirty-odd glasses,
touched off by random headlights moving toward the Bay.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1969

“The Glass Cupboard” is from The Martha Landscapes (1984), now back in print and available from Brick Books.

 

The Martha Landscapes by Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984.

The Martha Landscapes by Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984.

Colleen at the University of Toronto 1949

Colleen at the University of Toronto 1949

Colleen Thibaudeau was a graduate student of Marshall McLuhan‘s at the University of Toronto in 1948-1949. Colleen remembers Professor McLuhan in this excerpt from an article by journalist James Stewart Reaney:

“I remember him from ’48, ’49 when I was in his M.A. class. Although ’49 wasn’t over yet, he bravely suggested the topic to me: Canadian poetry of 1949,” mom says. Later McLuhan would become famous for saying such things as: “Tomorrow is our permanent address.”

Back in 1948-1949, he was already using a similar approach. Mom calls it: “Writing about it before it’s taken place – almost.”

 The thesis flourished as mom encountered such Canadian poets and creators as A.M. Klein, P.K. Page and Earle Birney. With his Cambridge ties, McLuhan also helped by introducing my mom to British critics like Queenie Leavis.

 “When you get into the world of the ’49ers,’ you’ve left behind the pastoral world of earlier Canadian poetry, not entirely, but it’s going,” mom says.

>>> Read the full article here.

Two of Colleen’s poems from from her student days are “The Clock Tower” (1947) and “Aristide Bruant au Honey Dew” (1948).

Colleen Thibaudeau 1949 at the University of Toronto

Colleen Thibaudeau at the University of Toronto in 1949

 

 

 

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “Beatie’s Palaces” from The Martha Landscapes

Here is Colleen’s poem “Beatie’s Palaces” from The Martha Landscapes (1984), now back in print and available from Brick Books.

Beatie’s Palaces

“Jeez, you got good leaves.” says Beatie.
Leaves are her luxury; no trees, no leaves on the cinderhill
where she lives by the dump.

Mother Madam Witch
wind lashes trees for her
we all fall down

Without asking she grabs the rake; she eyes
our corner lot. Beatie is by far the best raker, maker;
her house begins to grow, a rich emerald carpets
every room. “Thirteen rooms maybe,” she says tersely,
“anyways a room for each of you.” Palaces
are what Beatie makes, raking.
And I can still see, squinting through a chink of time,
Beatie’s hands, short-fingered,
(chipped, the polish on her nails, but she’s “allowed”),
her short, strong hands lengthening fiercely into our rake,
small lady of the strangely long arm, she manoeuvers
right round the corner onto East.

“I sure like your leaves,” says Beatie.
Grade Seven will be her last year at school.
She flies around, adjusting the wind-bruised walls;
her red sweater is nubby and too small,
her skirt hitches up, her legs are chapped,
her pushes are energetic:
“In there. In. And don’t come out till I say so.”
We fall separately onto our too-short leaf beds,
try not to annoy Beatie, amazed and proud
she likes our leaves.
What did we dream of there on Beatie’s palace beds?
Infinite luxury, oriental harems… Abruptly,
“All right, you can come out now.”
“What’s for supper?” one of us asks audaciously.
“Macaroni with catsup,” says Beatie positively, “and don’t ask
for seconds, because you’ll get none.”
We look with respect at Beatie, who hands out leafplates
in the big kitchen room. Even the kids taller than Beatie
look with respect and envy at the short, leaf-stained fingers
and the ruby glass ring – (she has privately ‘promised’
it to each of us ‘if we are good’):
Beatie doesn’t shift her ring around, finger to finger,
about thirteen, she is already married to life.

*

We got called in to supper
to do homework
to practise
to get our hair washed.
Beatie didn’t go home till it got good and dark.
Beatie didn’t have to.
She raked by streetlight with a harp sound attached to the long arm,
We missed it when it stopped,
for it had gotten into our blood, the idea of Beatie raking, making.
From the window (a last look before the wind scatters),
there is Beatie’s palace glowing gold and green.

Mother Madam Witch
wind lashes trees for her
we all fall down

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984

Listen to Jean McKay read “Beatie’s Palaces” here.

The Martha Landscapes by Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984.

The Martha Landscapes by Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984.

CTRBeatie

From “Beatie’s Palaces”:  “And I can still see, squinting through a chink of time…”

Colleen Thibaudeau in Grey County: “Big Trees”

Colleen Thibaudeau in Grey County: “Big Trees”

To celebrate National Poetry Month, the community news website The Flesherton has published Colleen’s poem “Big Trees” about her childhood days in Grey County, Ontario.

Big Trees

Our backyard is beautiful to-night:
I could replant every tree
put it into its proper saucer of snow:
mr by mrs/ great-uncle by great-aunt;

I light out from an old photo, cross careless
before paving days into your yard
where winds are rocking a hammock,
wintertime moonlight & twigs,

(broom & unbuckle) and in handknit stockings from Ireland
now I’m skating icicletoed on the kitchen lino
past the black & silver kitchen stove
— just let it blast my middle — till

I see her, graybrown tree of the past,
rocking with her crochetflowers laid in rows,
and I see him, flannel shirt, grey sweatercoat,
newspaper & Bible, glasses there at hand.

*

you know, I was so small then, I let
your winds & waters rock me round
and couldn’t talk enough to tell you
– Big Trees, I like to be with you to-night.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1971

“Big Trees” appears in The Artemesia Book (1991), available from Brick Books. For more about Colleen’s early days in Grey County, see Colleen Thibaudeau: A Biographical Sketch by Jean McKay.

 

Near Flesherton, Ontario; courtesy The Flesherton, 2014

Near Flesherton, Ontario; courtesy The Flesherton, 2014

Welcome!

Welcome to collenthibaudeau.com, a celebration of poet Colleen Thibaudeau’s life and work.

Colleen Thibaudeau was born in Toronto on December 29, 1925. She grew up in St. Thomas, Ontario, and wrote poetry and stories from an early age.

Join us on our journey through Colleen’s poems, stories, and memories. We look forward to remembering and discovering Colleen with you.

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

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

 

© 2017 Colleen Thibaudeau