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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 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

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “This Elastic Moment”

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
recurrence.

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

Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney 1925-2012

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

Links 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

© 2017 Colleen Thibaudeau