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Poetry Canadian

Cancer Songs

by (author) Richard Sommer

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Initial publish date
Apr 2012
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2012
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A writer's response to diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer, the pieces making up this verse journal are best described as spoken songs. Often, these are songs of refusal to go under, to surrender to the undertow of the disease. Songs of newly discovered yearning, courage and awe. There is no discounting the pain and suffering in the process, but as many “victims? of cancer experience, there can also be a heightening, a vividness and intensity of perception, a kind of awakening.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Richard Sommer taught poetry writing at Montreal's Concordia University for many years, served for three decades as a volunteer game warden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and led a citizens? environmental group in a seven-year battle, ultimately successful, to save the Townships? Pinnacle Mountain from developers. Sommer's previous books of poetry include Homage to Mr. Macmullin, Blue Sky Notebook, left hand mind, Milarepa, The Other Side of Games, Selected and New Poems, Fawn Bones, and The Shadow Sonnets. In 2004 Sommer was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the verse journal, Cancer Songs, has been an important part of his response to this challenge. He lives on a dirt road outside Frelighsburg with his wife of more than forty years, dance improvisationalist, teacher, and artist Victoria Tansey. They have three grown children, three grandchildren, and currently three cats.

Excerpt: Cancer Songs (by (author) Richard Sommer)

The Real World

Obstinately wordless this morning is.

Pale crystal sunlight cracks & breaks everywhere.

Rain last night, but now ice crunches under boot.

Dog is at her ease, lying on the driveway ice.

All seems untranslatable. No one thing stands for any other.

No thoughts that might become words. No words taking sudden fire

so nothing is what's happening & you could get lost in there.


Morning after long night's rain then freeze the steady rain sound a part of sleep

& now as I close the back door behind me

tiny crystals scattered on the ground wake up to light or dharma or a god or

whatever you want to call it; in any case I am stepping carefully among them.

Other titles by Richard Sommer