Lillian Tickles has really upped the bar when it comes to presentations at CWLC. Not only did she do a presentation on this poet; She even invited him to attend to read his poetry. What a coup for everyone! Bravo, Lillian!
Christopher Stephen Wiseman
A resident of Calgary and winner of several awards in the literary arts, Christopher Wiseman was a unanimous choice on our list of critically acclaimed local writers to be reviewed and discussed in our CWLC program for 2015 – 16.
Since poetry is enjoying a resurgence on my “reading for pleasure” menu of options, I happily volunteered to explore his life and work. The research has been most rewarding.
The following selective anthologies of his poems provide a basis from which to draw some insight.
- 36 Cornelian Avenue
- In John Updike’s Room
- An Ocean of Whispers
- The Upper Hand
- Remembering Mr. Fox
- Crossing the Salt Flats
Recognition for his poetic contributions has come from both sides of the Atlantic.
Born in the United Kingdom just prior to WW II, Wiseman spent two years in the RAF before attending Cambridge University where he achieved both a BA and an MA. Many of his poems stem from remembered experiences in British settings…bombed villages, schools, playgrounds, pubs, churches. Further educational pursuits took him to the University of Iowa, where he obtained his PhD under the influence of friend and mentor, Donald Justice. While there, he met and married Jean Laytem with whom he had two sons. Recalled places in the heartland of America are preserved and celebrated in his writing.
The major portion of Wiseman’s career unfolded at the U of C. His arrival in the English department resulted in the development of the Creative Writing program with classes for credit in writing poetry. Several from his class lists have become recognized writers. His ability to motivate and mentor did not go unnoticed. He won an excellence in teaching award which he acknowledges as a highlight of his career.
My travels through a significant itinerary of Wiseman’s work have been moving and inspiring. He has a remarkable talent for drawing the reader into each poem. It is easy to relate to the people, the places and the time depicted. Scenes come to life in three-dimensional clarity. In many instances the reader feels compelled to read a poem aloud. Because family was extremely important to him, several selections are dedicated to “mother, father, sons, grandparents and wife.” To the reader, they are valued new acquaintances.
Throughout his collections, Wiseman seems to be seeking a balance between “what I was and what I am.” The pieces in that quest have come together through the pen of an adult Canadian poet reclaiming images of people, places and events from his life’s memory landscape. Some perceptions of his past encounters have to be re-evaluated. Feelings about them shift in intensity. In some poems that shift occurs in the last stanza or the last line. The “what I am” part of the balance is still unfolding as he continues to write, to play a role on various juries that critique literary submissions, and to have his work broadcast nationally and internationally, to keep in touch with former students, and to give countless readings to groups such as us.