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Poetry Canadian

Return to Open Water

Poems New and Selected

by (author) Harold Rhenisch

Ronsdale Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2007
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2007
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 15
  • Grade: 10


To Harold Rhenisch, poetry is a wisdom path equal to Zen, or a pilgrimage on the holy road from Seville to Minsk. Here is a breadth of musicality ranging from solo piano improvisations to jazz quartets, klezmer music, music hall, and even operatic arias. In this spirited celebration of the creative spirit, Rhenisch presents a vision of the world that places Canada, and poetry, at the crossroads of world culture.

Included are a hymn for whales, a love poem for herring, black-comic stagings of Shakespeare, tongue-in-cheek deconstructions and celebrations of philosophy and literature, laments for the missteps of history, enraged political blasts, and deep ecological lyrics. Mozart enters riding the bulls into the Williams Lake Stampede, and a rhinestoned Jesus sings Elvis lyrics on a car hoist at Canadian Tire.

In Return to Open Water this award-winning poet, critic, and cultural critic fuses American, British and European verse traditions into a poetics able to reimagine literature and history and return them to us in illuminated form. Long-praised for his innovative creative nonfiction and his mastery of the long poem form, in this volume Rhenisch presents the roots of that intelligence and its furthest extensions. This "New & Selected" presents the best poems - comical, elegiac, satiric and lyrical - from the twelve volumes of verse of one of Canada's best, most original, and most mercurial poets.

About the author

Harold Rhenisch is an award-winning poet, critic, and cultural commentator. His awards include the Confederation Poetry Prize in 1991 and the BC #38: Yukon Community Newspapers Association Award for Best Arts and Culture Writing in 1996. He is a seven-time runner-up for the CBC/Tilden/Saturday Night Literary Contest. In 2005, he won the ARC Magazine Critics Desk Award for best long poetry review and the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize for "Abandon." He won this prize again in 2007 for "The Bone Yard." His non-fiction book Tom Thomson's Shack was short-listed for two BC Book Prizes in 2000. For its sequel, The Wolves at Evelyn, he won the 2007 George Ryga Award for Social Responsibility in Literature. He is the author of 32 books of poetry, fiction, biography and essays and choreographed Richard Rathwell’s Human Nation for the paper stage. Along with the Norwegian Olav Hauge, he is one of the two poets in the world who learned to write and edit poems by pruning fruit trees, an experience documented in his The Tree Whisperer (Gaspereau, 2021). A direct heir of Bertolt Brecht’s theater, through the dissident playwright and novelist Stefan Schütz, whose radio play Peyote he translated and published, he has invented a theatrical set of cross-genre literary interventions. He has secretly edited and mentored over a hundred writers in the hinterlands of Canada unserved by its university and publishing system and is currently writing a transcultural natural history curriculum and a history of British Columbia centred in the Indian Wars of the American West.

Harold Rhenisch's profile page

Librarian Reviews

return to open water: Poems New & Selected

Despite his many honours and awards, Harold Rhenisch remains lesser known than he should be. This collection contains selections from some of his many poetry books (ten poetry collections and five chapbooks, the translation of a play from German, a collection of essays, a novel and three books of non-fiction). These poems are imbued with a sense of all that is BC; even the geography is our own—Skeena, Keremeos, Okanagan. Besides containing highlights of Rhenisch’s poetic career, Return to Open Wateroffers a section of new poems.

Rhenisch has been honoured by the CBC Literary Awards, been a finalist for the BC Book Prizes, and has won the George Ryga Award for Social Responsibility in Literature.

Caution: There are some sexual references, a few instances of language that some might find offensive, and references to drinking.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2008-2009.

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