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John Woodsworth   


Bio:

John Woodsworth is a Russian-language specialist -- translator, teacher, editor, poet (writing mainly in Russian), administrative assistant and research associate with the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa.  He has had more than 80 of his poems published in various Russian-language print magazines and literary websites in both Russia and Canada, and has given several conference papers on Russian-English poetry translation.  He has two specific musical interests: (a) singing Russian folk songs with his own balalaika accompaniment, and (b) improvising on the piano, especially to accompany poetry reading.  A complete c/v (including poetry and musical activities) may be found on his website; link below. 

P.S. This page includes some of the first English-language original poems he has ever published.



Click here to go to John Woodsworth's professional website






To Peter Gzowski

(1934—2002)

 

What can I say?
A man this country loved has passed away.


An ordinary being
With a capacity for extraordinary seeing.


Bright and keen of mind,
You brought us ear to ear with all mankind.

.
A modest soul, indeed,
You reached out to people, and met a national need.


You held close conversation
One-to-one with millions in this nation.


Your ease masked tireless labours
As you made your guests and all your listeners neighbours.


You turned this country on
From Clayoquot to Igloolik to St-Johns.


Your legacy remains:
You introduced us to ourselves again.

 

John Woodsworth
Ottawa
26 January 2002


 

 

 



 

Distant voices in a crowd

 

John Woodsworth

 

 

Other times, other places,

Other climes, other faces,

Swim before mine eyes:

In little swirls of strange surprise.

Other sounds, other noises,

Other heartbeats, other voices --

As though I'd quite forgot

Just where I am and where I'm not.

 

People round me, people near me,

Though they see me, cannot hear me

Singing to the rhyme

Of a past and distant time.

People listening and responding,

People from that time are bonding

With my searching thought

And sharing with me what I sought.

 

Pleasant smells, pleasant flavours,

Pleasant thoughts the heart still savours,

Feed my hungering mind

With crumbs of comfort sweet and kind.

In this state inspiration

Inculcates the revelation:

All the good life's had

Remains to make the now-time glad.

 

 

Poem written in English

Centrepointe Theatre, Ottawa,

9 March 2001

 

 

 

Slippers in the snow

 

Jalan Woods

 

 

No more dashing off to the letter­‑box in slippered feet through the snow to see if theres any mail
-- Halyna Pahutiak,
Burnt Souls

 

 

I thought I might take a walk in the snow
I really had no place to go

I really had no boots to wear --
Just a pair of old slippers, but I didn
t care.

 

I dressed up warm in my hat and coat,
A scarf to warm my neck and throat

But boots -- there were none anywhere,
Just my old slippers, but I didn
t care.

 

I stepped outside and closed the door
Twas minus twenty­‑five or more
One slipper probed the upper stair --
It slid on the ice, but I didn
t care.

 

My slipper­‑scout yelled Come on down!
Just bring my mate, and we
ll go to town!
So what if people stopped to stare
As my feet turned purple?  Well, I didn
t care!

 

And as I tiptoed down the walk,
My slippers didn
t even balk
They seemed to enjoy the cold, crisp air,
At least more than I did, but I didn
t care.

 

As I trundled along in my coat and hat,
My slippers slipped this way and that,
For the ice beneath was all aglare,
Like a skating rink, but I didn
t care.

 

So then, I thought, Id have a go
And try my slippers in the snow

Twas a metre high -- thats something rare
Around these parts, but I didn
t care.

 

I took my first step in some haste
And plunged in right up to my waist

I didn
t quite know just how Id fare
From here on in, but I didn
t care.

 

I took my next step, and several more
I
d never felt so thrilled before!
I
d never have done this on a dare,
But today was different -- I didn
t care!

 

But one step wasnt on my mind:
One slipper -- it got left behind!
My foot came up, and it was bare!
My slipper was buried, but I didn
t care!


In fact I realised, clear as a bell:
I should let the other one go as well

For after all, the two were a pair --
And I was now barefoot, but I didn
t care.

 

And then as from the snow I rose,
I decided to take off all my clothes --
Well, all except my underwear

I was freezing cold now, but I didn
t care.

 

I pretended that my feet and hands
Were white with South Pacific sands,
And the cold that stung me everywhere
Was really heat -- I just didn
t care.

 

I pretended that the freezing rain
Was surf and spray on the wild blue main

I frolicked on my beach with flair

(My beach would melt one day, but I didn
t care.)

 

The white stuff covered my shoulders and chest,
My legs and my back, and all the rest

It even gave me some new white hair --
And I
m not that old, but I didnt care.

 

And then for a lark I dug down deep
To find my old slippers, fast asleep!
I put them back on right then and there --
Now that was silly, but I didn
t care.

 

And then I really put on a show:
Romping, somersaulting through the snow

My slippers survived without a tear --
Better than my skin, but I didn
t care.

 

Well, by this time Id had enough
Excitement -- I
m really not that tough!
I
d had as much as I could bear,
So I retreated indoors, but I didn
t care.

 

I had, though, gained a sense of power,
I thought, as I took a nice warm shower
Twas a bold adventure we did share --
My slippers and I -- though I didnt care.

 

I might even decide to do it again --
Perhaps next time in a warm summer rain

But I shall never again despair:
Just slip into my slippers, and I
ll never care!

 

 

Poem written in English

Jalan Woods (John Woodsworth)
Ottawa, 27 February 1999