LONDON, ONTARIO – It was three years ago this fall (on the very eve of Donald Trump’s spectacularly upsetting electoral victory) that Leonard Cohen died in Los Angeles at the age of 82, leaving a hole in the world of music and letters that never will be filled; not even temporarily by the release next month of what will be Cohen’s 15th studio album of original material. Cohen's latter-day producer and son, Adam, has diligently gathered and dressed up some leftover tracks to compile one final album, entitled Thanks for the Dance. I confidently say that the hole never will be filled because – for me, at least – the real glory of Cohen’s music and poetry (I never made much progress with his novels) has always been a richly suggestive Zen-like emptiness that haunts the imagination. Cohen was a master of audaciously expressed intimations, impressions and allusions that you can’t quite take hold of to analyse how or why they work so brilliantly well.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Back in June of 1995 when I was editing SCENE magazine and my wife was doing the layout, I turned a review of Susan Wallis’ just-released book, Bicycle Day Trips in and Around London, into a full-length column which I entitled Recovering the Thrill of Messing Around on Bikes. Wallis’ book had inspired me to drag the Raleigh ten-speed which I had been ignoring for almost 20 years out of our garden shed and take it for a spin. It was then I realized how much I’d never liked that bike and how much I preferred the old one-speed coaster bikes of my youth which didn’t require me to crouch forward in a way I found unnatural and uncomfortable.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801–90) who was elevated to sainthood on Sunday, October 13, is widely regarded as one of the supreme prose stylists of the English language; a distinction which is avidly accorded him by temperaments as diverse as G.K. Chesterton and James Joyce. Less central to the reputation of this remarkably prodigious thinker and writer is the poetry he occasionally tossed off on the side. Newman had no illusions that his poetic gifts were of any accomplishment or significance. He took to poetry as nothing more than a form of recreation; a different modality in which to exercise his literary inclinations.
HAMILTON, ONTARIO – My wife and I went down to Hamilton last Sunday in a bus full of supporters from the London Ontario area to attend a fund-raising rally for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) being held at the McIntyre Art Centre on the campus of Mohawk College. Though the party – founded last fall by breakaway Conservative Quebec MP Maxime Bernier – has candidates running in every riding in the country, they had to fight to get Bernier a slot in the two nationally televised leaders’ debates taking place this week (one in English and one in French) and the party and its candidates are routinely given short shrift in both local and national news coverage.
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THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :