Mr. Gravelle, a former English teacher at Orangeville District Secondary School, used poetry as a tool to help him through their heartbreaking journey of love, life, suffering and loss. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to The Huntington Society of Canada. As well as reading some of the poems to us, he shared his story and his writing process.
The book is broken down into three parts, the three stages of the journey, beginning with brief personal essays which bring the collection together to form a story. Photographs of roses are scattered throughout the book, including a picture of the rose engraved on his wife’s tombstone. One of his writing students, Emily MacInnes, produced the collection of 100 poems. It begins with The Empty Chair which sets the theme and is one of the most powerful pieces in the book along with Hands and Vigil. The two final poems, Retrospective and The Finale, were written five years after his wife passed away. The titles speak for themselves. You will no doubt cry while reading this emotional collection of poems.
Mr. Gravelle told us that when he writes he creates an environment with music and a candle, though he has been known to scribble a poem on a napkin at a stoplight. After writing a poem he does not look at it again for 24 hours. At that time the only editing he will do is with setting the structure and any spelling errors. His poems do not rhyme. In fact, “Thou Shalt Not Rhyme” is one of his rules. Rhyming is confining and limits the freedom of expression.
Harry asked, “What makes a poem a poem if it doesn’t rhyme?” Mr. Gravelle responded that poetry is about emotion, saying the most in the fewest words, breaking up the lines. He recommends writing prose first and then playing with the structure, the line breaks. Gravelle says space is as important as spelling.
Clare asked, “What does writing do for you?” Mr. Gravelle said that writing poetry was a way of releasing anger, frustration, questioning God. It is a personal thing, feelings of human emotion. He finds writing poetry very cathartic. He added that he did not write poetry from the time he and Joanne met in 1968 until about 1994. “Why? Because we were happy.”
Harry told us that he had only begun taking poetry seriously three years ago. When asked what “taking it seriously” means, Harry said that he thinks about it every day.
Mr. Gravelle finished up by reading some of his more humourous poems from Trail of Stones, a darker look at fairy tales. “Humour and emotion go hand in hand,” he said. “One balances the other.”
You can purchase Paths Through Heartache from GTG at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this time he has sold 130 of the 200 copies originally produced. It is his hope to have more published after the first run is sold out.
Judy shared some of her personal and humourous poems with the group.
There was no time for writing. The prompts were handed out as homework. They are:
1. You’re listening to the radio.
2. “And it was at that age...”
3. It’s snowing.
4. Write about a time someone said yes.
5. Before I was born
6. If I could do it over again
7. You hear a siren.
8. It’s too soon to tell.
From Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days
Another option is to write a story or poem using one or a combination of words from the list below:
May, Capacity, Banjo, Pink, Echo, Exploration, Recover, Affection, Formal, Butterfly, Watery, Silky, Cheerful, Ostrich, Obvious, Spring, Juggle, Nostalgia, Magnolia, Dominate.