I met Richard (like I met every other Peterborough Poet) at Trent University through the poetry section of the student newspaper Arthur (aside from Riley).
(There were more than a couple of times I was all for booting Richard from that week’s poetry page but Riley was an early champion of Richard’s. I digress.)
This is about Richard and me. Except it includes Riley.
Two people in my life have kept me writing when I gave up — Riley & Richard.
When I was at Trent University (some time in the 70’s — let’s not be precise) Riley went through my belongings when I went on a trip to the Gaspé at the end of summer, and published 3 poems of mine he found that he liked (without my permission). The shame of seeing them in print induced me to do better. That, and I was utterly flattered beyond what my little heart could bear that Riley would do that. Riley inspired us all.
Richard offered me the same kindness at a moment of complete annihilating despair. My son Arlen was in hospital with leukemia. He had relapsed. I cannot describe how drained I was. For those who followed 12 Books in a Year, Deep Water was written over 7 years — that is all I wrote.
One day, out of the blue, Richard called me. He told me had been teaching a class and mentioned me, and decided at that point, we were going to get a book of my poems mine published. He encouraged me to send me all my poems and he would edit them. I did. Then Richard proceeded to demand my best.
I will try to describe how this affected me. This is how it felt: I was deep in a well, a cold dank well and the world was a little golden disk way up there. And I was sinking. And there was nothing I could do. And then a rope fell and it said “Climb Me,” and I started my way back to the world. Which this blog is part of. So, Richard started this too. Thanks Richard.
Why did I want to exclude Richard from those early poetry pages? Just like I wanted to leave out Mike Dennis — competition — I hate it. Good thing Richard helped me grow up.
On a final note — Richard is professor of Creative Writing, and other stuff — what am I? a syllabus? — here’s the link: http://www.mtroyal.ca/ProgramsCourses/FacultiesSchoolsCentres/Arts/Departments/English/Faculty/r_harrison.htm at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1998. He has published five books of poetry, numerous essays and … the list goes on.

Ward Maxwell

 

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