James Reaney was engaged in an energetic program of "rousing the faculties" by holding up the shaping mirror of literary forms to life in Canada, particularly in southwestern Ontario. His first book, The Red Heart (1949), won the first of his 3 GOVERNOR GENERAL's awards, the other 2 going to A Suit of Nettles (1958) and a joint award to Twelve Letters to a Small Town (1962) and The Killdeer and Other Plays (1962). Reaney's poetry, collected in Poems (1972), earned him a reputation as an erudite poet at once deriving structures from metaphor, mythology and a cosmopolitan literary tradition while deeply rooted in a regional sense of place. His books of poetry, Performance Poems and Souwesto Home, were published in 1990 and 2005 respectively.
In 1960 James Reaney moved from Winnipeg, where he had been teaching English at the University of Manitoba, to London, Ont, to join Western's English department. In a shift of emphasis from poetry to the public and communal form of drama, he followed up The Killdeer with Colours in the Dark (1969), Listen to the Wind (1972), Masks of Childhood (1972) and plays for children. Juvenile fiction included The Boy with an R in his Hand (1965) and Take the Big Picture. In such plays as Wacousta (1979), King Whistle (1980) and his landmark trilogy The Donnellys, comprised of Sticks and Stones (1975), The St Nicholas Hotel (1976) and Handcuffs (1977), James Reaney combined archival research, poetry, elements of romance and melodrama, mime and myth to tell the central stories and legends of Ontario. Other dramatic work includes Alice Through the Looking Glass (1994), staged at Stratford in 2004 and 2006, and Scripts: Librettos for Operas and other Musical Works (2004), edited by John Beckwith.
Honours include honorary degrees from Carleton (D Litt 1975), McMaster (D Litt 1979), Brock (Doctor of Laws 1991) and Western (D Litt 1992). He became on officer of the ORDER OF CANADA in 1976 and was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1978. The University of Western Ontario holds the James Reaney fonds, including records illustrating Reaney's academic, literary and theatrical activities.
James Reaney was married to Colleen THIBAUDEAU, also a distinguished Canadian poet.
Author CATHERINE ROSS
Links to Other Sites
CANADIAN HISTORICAL DRAMA: PLAYWRIGHTS IN SEARCH OF A MYTH
A comparative analysis of landmark Canadian historical drama. From the journal "Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne," University of New Brunswick.
See biographical notes of poet Colleen Thibaudeau and photos of her with husband James Reaney. From a website devoted to writer and educator James Reaney.
Reaney never forgot ‘spiritual home’
This article provides a glimpse into the family history of renowned author and playwright James Reaney. From the "The Beacon Herald."
Community mourns loss of literary icon James Reaney
An obituary for acclaimed Ontario poet and playwright James Reaney from the "Beacon Herald."
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...