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12 |december january 2008 | london citylife



Words on words

Arguably London?s greatest poet, Colleen Thibaudeau reflects on career, family and life with James

WHEN COLLEEN THIBAUDEAU and James Crerar Reaney married in a St. Thomas church on December 29, 1951, friends called it the literary wedding of the century. The groom, who passed away last summer, went on to become one of Canada?s most celebrated playwrights and poets. And the bride? She raised three children, cared for her father-in-law, and produced six collections of poetry, achieving particular critical and popular acclaim for My Granddaughters Are Combing Out Their Long Hair in 1977. Thibaudeau, who turns 83 in December, recently reminisced about her literary career and life with her famous husband. Q> HAVE YOU ALWAYS WRITTEN POETRY? A> Yes. I think I sold the first one when I was about six. The Toronto Star used to buy poems from children during the depression. They paid 50 cents. Q> YOU MET YOUR HUSBAND AT UNI- VERSITY. DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH JAMES CRERAR REANEY? A> During the war they didn?t heat very well. I had my coat on in class with my collar up. This person tapped me on the shoulder and said, ?Would you mind l owering your coat collar?? And I thought, What a shrimp! Q> IN A 1979 INTERVIEW WITH BRICK, YOU SAID YOU FOUND IT DIFFICULT TO WRITE WHILE YOUR HUSBAND WAS WORKING ON HIS OWN PROJECTS. WHY? A> His creative energy made all these whirlwinds around the house. He went from one project to another very fast, within different fields. And I was not a good planner, so I just wrote if I got an idea. Q> DID YOU CRITIQUE EACH OTHER?S WRITING? A> No, we kept everything quite separate. He was rather secretive about what he was working on because they consider it bad luck to discuss things that are underway. Jamie taught creative writing and all he would ever say to me was, ?That?s good, but do some more work on it.? That didn?t sit too well with my way of being. Colleen Thibaudeau Q> YOUR POETRY HAS BEEN PRAISED FOR ITS ABILITY TO MAKE THE ORDINARY EXTRAORDINARY. IS THAT WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO? A> At the time that I wrote a lot, I was mostly trying to record little milestones so the family would have something to remember. Like most people, you get these little moments of illumination. Most of the time the world is in turmoil and not very wonderful and so, if you have the time, it?s nice to have those illuminations, the good things, recorded. NICOLE LAIDLER

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