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A giant of Canadian poetry is gone

Richard Outram 1930 - 2005


Richard Outram committed suicide on Thursday. He was 74. A couple years ago, Richard and his beloved wife and collaborator, Barbara Howard, moved from Toronto to Richard's hometown of Port Hope in an effort to escape the bustle of the city and reconnect with Richard's roots. Shortly after, Barbara died in a tragic hospital accident. Richard had been at a loss ever since. I saw him this fall in Port Hope and he was very much still deep in his grief. I remember thinking, and talking with my friend about how he was obviously in a bad way. But grief is so private and needs to be worked through on one's own terms. All the onlooker can do is lend an ear and have patience. He had lost the centre of his life and was just living on the edges. Last week he went out into the night snow and didn't come in. Richard was a good friend and a poetic grandfather to me. I don't know anyone who doesn't crack a fond smile when his name is mentioned. He was a generous mentor and a poet of the highest order. His work is obscure and difficult, yet lauded by the greatest critical voices in the country as some of the only work that will ever make it out of the twin wells of Canada and history. His is the first suicide at which I'm not angry. It was unexpected but not surprising. I can see reason behind it. He held on quite a long time to make sure, and was in terrible pain during that time. I wish him well and hope he knows he's missed. Hopefully I'll have something longer to say later. I wouldn't normally do this, but here is a poem for him.


I sit in my day as though it were made
of china, eyes shifting from tock to tick
as if the weight of a rested glance might break
the view into pieces. Gone are all instants,

and in place, memory. The night was a bull
with eight muleta in his shoulders, a dog
stumbling in the last moments of rabies,
a bleeding wolverine caught and harassed.

To lay down and sleep under a full wolf moon
and end the quiet effort with snow;
I have seen your heart in your eyes, shining
with the fever of loss and a squalling

doubt about how long this could continue.
You held on quite some time. I saw. Good night. Go.



(discuss) (posted by George)


Outram on Poetic Practice
Outram's Broadsheets
A Brief History of the Guantlet Press
Outram bio at Porquepine's Quill
Essay on Outram at Maisonneuve
Benedict Abroad Toronto Book Award Citation
Poems at The Drunken Boat
Peter Sanger on Outram
BiC Dove Legend Review


Turns and Other Poems
Selected, 1960 - 1980
Mogul Recollected
Man in Love
Hiram and Jenny
Benedict Abroad
Dove Legend

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