The First Sky Is Within You: A Generative Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat with Richard Osler logo image

The First Sky Is Within You: A Generative Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat with Richard Osler

18-19 October 2019 $87.50
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Dates & Times

  • 18 Oct 2019
    7:00pm - 9:30pm
  • 19 Oct 2019
    9:30am - 4:30pm


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We are excited to present acclaimed writer and poetry therapist Richard Osler for his fifth annual Poetry as Prayer retreat at Hillhurst. Richard Osler is a poetry workshop facilitator and author of the full-length poetry collection, Hyaena Season.

October 18 | 7 pm - 9:30 pm
October 19 | 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

Space is limited to 18. Please register early as there is a pre-retreat assignment that will be distributed on September 20.

Retreat Introduction

When we address the world with unmixed attention it’s prayer, said the artist, poet and mystic, William Blake. Simone Weil, the scholar and mystic goes further and says: absolute unmixed attention is prayer. Another way to address the world prayerfully is through the absolute unmixed attention of poetry. Poetry as prayer. The celebrated American poet Mary Oliver says this clearly: Poetry is prayer, it is passion and story and music, it is beauty, comfort, it is agitation, declaration, it is thanksgiving.

In this retreat you will be invited to discover what Mary Oliver says in her poem Praying: just pay attention, then patch//a few words together and don’t try/to make them elaborate, this isn’t/
a contest but the doorway//into thanks, and a silence in which/ another voice may speak. Again, this admonition to pay attention to hear a voice other than your own. And with this attention, you may discover The first sky is inside you, as the Asian-American poet Li-Young Lee discovers in his poem One Heart:

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born/out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Come and join fellow retreatants for an evening and a day of fellowship and poetry and experience your gift of words, words both your own and seemingly not your own. Because what are words that come to us when we write poems, if not the air from a sky larger than all skies. And discover a truth claimed Li-Young Lee when he talks about poetry as prayer: We pray through a poem… Poetry is a gate to what contains the Thing. Go to the Thing. In addition to the writing of a pre-retreat poem you will have the opportunity to write two more poems during the retreat. These poems will be supported by full handouts with example poems and commentary.

Retreat Details

We will start at 7 PM on Friday, Oct. 18th with a brief introduction and then a reading of the poem each of you will bring based on the pre-retreat adventure you will receive on September 20th. Your poem will be a way of introducing yourself to the group. Please Note: Whatever time you can give to your poem (fifteen minutes or days! will be enough. My invitation is that you have fun with the writing adventure and don’t stress over it. I have found that meeting each other through your poems adds so much to the retreat.

The Schedule
Friday, Oct. 18th Saturday, Oct. 19th
7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. 9:30 a.m to 4:30p.m.
A light lunch and snacks will be provided. Please being writing material or a device to write on.

Registration fee: $87.50

Hillhurst United Church
1227 Kensington Close NW,
Calgary, AB
T2N 3J6

The Retreat Leader – Richard Osler

I am so pleased to be returning for this 5th annual Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat at Hillhurst. I am the author of the full-length poetry collection, Hyaena Season (2016), a poetry workshop facilitator and former president of specialty money management company based in Calgary. I have conducted numerous weekend writing retreats in Canada and the U.S. and three ten-day poetry writing retreats In Italy. Also, I lead, on average, about 70 poetry workshops per year of up to three hours at addiction recovery centers and out-patient recovery clinics in Canada. For more details on Richard and poetry please visit his website at website