A Farewell to Richard Sanger

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Richard Sanger, Biblioasis poet, friend and bon vivant. We knew that this moment was approaching: Richard had been working the last few months with his editor, Vanessa Stauffer, to prepare the manuscript of his final collection of poems, Way to Go, delivering it only last week. He remained himself to the very end: playful, enthusiastic, devilish. At one point, after making yet another death joke, he stopped and asked us if he was making us uncomfortable: he couldn’t help it, he told us, he found his own impending demise somewhat ridiculous. He kept laughing, and making others laugh, right to the end. We will miss that spirit, and his kindness, generosity and sharp-edged intelligence. And we will miss celebrating the launch of Way to Go in his person, raising a glass or three, though we take some solace in knowing that this book exists and he was able to get it where he wanted it to be, and that we will one day soon be able to share it with all of you who loved him, and hopefully a few more besides.

—Dan Wells


To honour Richard, we thought we’d share one of our favourite poems from his forthcoming collection, about the joy of movement and embellishment and friendship:

November Run

for Harold Hoefle

I read your letter, Harold,
as one nurse describes her new dessert
—rice krispie squares, peanut butter, chocolate—
to another who hooks me up to my IV drip
and I want nothing more than to go
for a run with you as wild
and muddy and unpredictable
as your letter, a long November run
to commemorate the races we never ran
against each other, the OFSAAs we never placed;
I want to head off hanging on your shoulder
—light-footed, loose-limbed, easy-breathing—
as you lead the way along the gravel shoulder
of the highway out of town, past the 7-Eleven,
the gas station, the monster homes,
then cut off down a path into the woods
and up whatever kind of hills you have
in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, or pastures
overgrown with sumac, I suppose,
or maybe we’d go for a run in the Gatineau,
why not, hell, up and down those ski trails,
over branches and rocks and puddles and streams
when there are still a few leaves
left on the hardwoods and also perhaps
a few precocious snowflakes in the air
appearing like over-keen students
to try their luck and melt on contact
as our cheeks and thighs redden,
and now you hang on my shoulder
as I lead the way, taking you on, pressing the pace
until we fall into a rhythm, brisk, mechanical,
each of our bodies telling the other’s
I can do this all I want, I can cream you,
our bones and sinews making themselves known
shedding all superfluous weight and thought,
as we run those Gatineau trails and this steep slope
and I attack, putting my forehead into it,
pumping my arms, thinking now I can do it,
administer the coup de grâce,
and leave you in the dust . . . No such luck.
At the crest, you’re still with me, surprise,
and so we head back, lungs panting, thighs aching,
letting our legs freewheel as fast as they can,
you ahead of me, or me ahead of you
breathing down my neck, laughing,
ready to pick me off and whoosh past
to the chalet where there’ll be showers and beer,
some women who’ll understand our jokes,
who’ll ooh and ahh over our mud-spattered calves,
and tell us we’re full of shit, if necessary,
and a roaring fire to get roaring drunk beside
as we proceed to purify the dialect of the tribe
and forge in the exuberance of our talk
the only lightly embellished story of our race.