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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.
here to go to John Woodsworth's professional website
To Peter Gzowski
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.
26 January 2002
voices in a crowd
Other times, other places,
Other climes, other faces,
Swim before mine eyes:
In little swirls of strange
Other sounds, other noises,
Other heartbeats, other voices
As though I'd quite forgot
Just where I am and where I'm
People round me, people near
Though they see me, cannot
Singing to the rhyme
Of a past and distant time.
People listening and
People from that time are
With my searching thought
And sharing with me what I
Pleasant smells, pleasant flavours,
Pleasant thoughts the heart
Feed my hungering mind
With crumbs of comfort sweet
In this state inspiration
Inculcates the revelation:
All the good life's had
Remains to make the now-time
Poem written in English
Centrepointe Theatre, Ottawa,
9 March 2001
Slippers in the snow
‘No more dashing off to the letter‑box
in slippered feet through the snow to see if there’s any mail’
-- Halyna Pahutiak, ‘Burnt
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
Just my old slippers, but I didn’t care.
I stepped outside and
closed the door…
minus twenty‑five or more…
One slipper probed the upper stair --
It slid on the ice, but I didn’t care.
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
My slippers didn’t
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, I’d have a go
And try my slippers in the snow…
a metre high -- that’s
Around these parts, but I didn’t care.
I took my first step in
And plunged in right up to my waist…
quite know just how I’d
From here on in, but I didn’t
I took my next step,
and several more…
never felt so thrilled before!
never have done this on a dare,
But today was different -- I didn’t care!
But one step wasn’t 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
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
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 --
not that old, but I didn’t 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 I’d had enough
Excitement -- I’m
really not that tough!
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…
a bold adventure we did share --
My slippers and I -- though I didn’t 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
Poem written in English
Woods (John Woodsworth)
Ottawa, 27 February 1999