Lady, in the country of my coming
there will be lush peaches
ripe on ev’ry tree.
Ev’ry little cloud will glide
clear as a magic lantern slide.
The golden serpent sun will throw
his body like a light lasso
about the heart of each dark centre,
to fashion flowers of strange splendour.
You will fill your panier, lass,
with blooms like ornamental glass
You will hear their Christmas chime
all the glorious summertime.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1950

Composer John Beckwith set music to “Serenade” and entered it in the 1950 CBC Songwriting Contest. It won a prize and was performed on CBC Radio by Charles Jordan (baritone). “Serenade” was performed by Russell Braun (baritone) at the John Beckwith Songbook concert in March 2021.

Pamela Terry Beckwith, John Beckwith, and Colleen Thibaudeau (1960)

( ( 0 ) ) In this audio clip, soprano Katy Clark performs “Serenade” at Wordsfest November 5, 2023 in London, Ontario.

Colleen Thibaudeau’s This Elastic Moment

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

“This Elastic Moment” is included in Colleen Thibaudeau’s The Artemesia Book (1991), available from Brick Books.

Our grateful thanks to translator Patricia Godbout, who created this French version of Colleen Thibaudeau’s poem for Ellipse magazine in 1990.

Élastique, ce moment

Oui, nous sommes aussi cela : nous sommes tout ce qui est sensible.
Tout ce qui possède un sens possède celui des anges : qui planent et qui vrombissent : veillent sur nous.
Des hommes dorment-ils dans l’herbe du parc : un homme s’assoit-il en bras de chemise tous les dimanches : parle d’une voix grinçante à son enfant qui s’amuse au soleil : perçant le nuage collant au-dessus de l’usine Laura Secord : chancelant sur les pieux de la clôture de fer peinte en vert : bien plus haut que les buissons d’églantier.
Je passe sans bruit : mais l’argent mais le vrombissement des roues de ma bicyclette : je dois voir qui ne me voit pas : prendre la mesure de l’homme et de l’enfant : laisser ce moment élastique s’étirer en moi : jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient intérieurs, invisibles.
Nul besoin d’aller ensuite manger des friandises : ni de dresser des piquets devant l’usine : ou de repasser par là  pour apercevoir l’enfant vaciller sur la clôture.
Une fois brisé l’élastique du moment, viendra le retour angélique.

(Traduit par Patricia Godbout, (1990) Ellipse. (44) 99.)

Colleen Thibaudeau at the Writing in Our Time poetry conference in 1979, Vancouver, BC
(Photo by Michael Lawlor)

Il palloncino di Colleen Thibaudeau

Thrilled to discover this Italian version of Colleen Thibaudeu’s concrete poem “Balloon”!

“Il palloncino” is part of the online children’s collection of

(The poem first appeared in Italian in 2000 for the collection Tante rime per bambini published by Mondadori.)

“Balloon” is from Thibaudeau’s 1965 book of concrete poems Lozenges: Poems in the Shapes of Things.

“Balloon” celebrated in 2012

In April 2012, a giant version of “Balloon” was displayed on a billboard near Stanley Street and Wortley Road in London, Ontario. The billboard was a joint project of Poetry LondonLondon Public Library, and Brick Books, in celebration of National Poetry Month.

April 4, 2012: As big as ball, as round as sun…

“Balloon” also appears in
The Wind Has Wings: Poems From Canada (1968, Oxford University Press) and
A Poke In The I — A Collection of Concrete Poems (2001, Candlewick Press).

Colleen Thibaudeau featured in Women in Concrete Poetry 1959-1979

“Bell” by Colleen Thibaudeau (1965)

Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979, a new collection from visual arts publisher Primary Information, includes Colleen Thibaudeau’s concrete poems from her 1965 book Lozenges: Poems in the Shapes of Things

Inspired by Italian artist Mirella Bentivoglio’s exhibition of visual and concrete poetry by women at the 1978 Venice Biennale, editors Alex Balgiu and Mónica de la Torre have brought together 50 writers and artists from 17 countries to trace women’s use of this form during the period.

Women in Concrete Poetry 1959-1979 brings together a range of graphic, textual, and photographic approaches to poetic works:

Thibaudeau’s earlier work used free verse forms, and an interest in concrete poetry came perhaps from her French literature studies and poet Guillaume Apollinaire’s (1880-1918) Calligrammes:

The Calligrammes are an idealisation of free verse poetry and typographical precision in an era when typography is reaching a brilliant end to its career, at the dawn of the new means of reproduction that are the cinema and the phonograph. [Apollinaire in a letter to André Billy, 1916]

Conceived as a small format book, Lozenges: Poems in the Shapes of Things draws on everyday themes and objects from children’s lives – bell, ball, hockey stick, balloon – and invites readers old and young to discover the picture the words make.

“Balloon” by Colleen Thibaudeau (1965)

View the original Lozenges poems here:

Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979 is available from

“Voicing Colleen” at the London Public Library


Voicing Colleen at the London Public LIbrary: James Stewart Reaney and Susan Reaney (Colleen’s children) read Thibaudeau’s poem “Looking at The Artemesia Book”. (All photos from this event are  by Cameron Paton.)

Thank you all for joining us on Monday May 7th at the The London Public Library‘s Stevenson & Hunt Room for “Voicing Colleen” — an evening of poetry by Colleen Thibaudeau.

Host Peggy Roffey chose 33 of Thibaudeau’s poems read by  a choir of voices — some solo, some shared, some with the audience. Unique to this evening was the chance to hear the ten poems in Thibaudeau’s elegiac sequence “Ten Letters” read by ten different voices.

Voicing Colleen: Jean McKay leads on “I do not want only” accompanied by Kelly Creighton, Angie Quick, Kelly McConnell, Koral Scott, Brittany Renaud, Susan Wallace, and Susan Reaney.

Angie Quick reads Colleen Thibaudeau’s poem “The Rose Family”.

Thank you Peggy Roffey for organizing this event and inviting an intergenerational group of readers to voice Colleen’s work — Patricia Black, Kelly Creighton, Carolyn Doyle, Kelly McConnell, Jean McKay, Angie Quick, Brittany Renaud, and Koral Scott, along with members of Colleen Thibaudeau’s family — her son James Stewart Reaney, daughter-in-law Susan Wallace, and daughter Susan Reaney.

Voicing Colleen: Left to right: Patricia Black and Kelly Creighton enjoy Susan Reaney and James Stewart Reaney reading “Looking at The Artemesia Book”.

Special thanks to the London Public Library and Carolyn Doyle for including Colleen Thibaudeau in the “Women Trailblazers” series celebrating Canadian women writers. The series concludes on Monday May 28 at 7 pm with Judy Rebick and Penn Kemp reading from their new books.

Brick Books has three titles by Colleen Thibaudeau: The Martha Landscapes (1984), Ten Letters (1975), and The Artemesia Book (1991), which are also available in e-book versions.



2016 Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award

Saturday June 18, 2016 in Toronto — The League of Canadian Poets has chosen poet Bruce Rice as the 2016 winner of the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award for his efforts in establishing the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge. Thanks to Bruce, mayors across Canada can now bring poetry into politics by inviting a poet to read at a council meeting during National Poetry Month. Congratulations Bruce! And thank you, Penn Kemp, London Ontario’s First Poet Laureate and long-time friend of Colleen Thibaudeau, for presenting the award to Bruce — true poeticians all!

June 18, 2016 -- Poet Bruce Rice is the 2016 winner of the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award.
June 18, 2016 — Poet Bruce Rice is the 2016 winner of the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award. (Photo courtesy The League of Canadian Poets.)

Past recipients of the Colleen Thibaudeau Award for Outstanding Contribution to Poetry are Glen Sorestead (2015), Allan Briesmaster (2014), Dennis Reid (2013), and Wendy Morton (2012).

Established in memory of late poet and honorary member Colleen Thibaudeau (1925-2012), the award was created by the League of Canadian Poets and Colleen Thibaudeau’s family to honour and recognize a substantial volunteer project or series of projects that significantly nurture and support poets and poetry across Canada.

For more about the League of Canadian Poets and this year’s Canadian Writers Summit, see the League’s write-up of the event, “Lorna Crozier is double-winner at 2016 LCP book awards”.

Saturday June 18, 2016 -- Poet Lorna Crozier (far right) -- winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the Raymond Souster Award for her collection "The Wrong Cat".
Saturday June 18, 2016 — Poet Lorna Crozier (far right) — winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the Raymond Souster Award for her collection “The Wrong Cat” published by McClelland & Stewart. (Photo courtesy The League of Canadian Poets.)

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.



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”