Richard Sommer taught myth and poetry at Montreal's Concordia University for many years, served three decades as a volunteer game warden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and led a citizens' environmental group in a seven-year battle, ultimately successful, to save the Townships' Pinnacle Mountain from developers. Sommer's previous books include Homage to Mr. Macmullin, Blue Sky Notebook, left hand mind, Milarepa, The Other Side of Games, Selected and New Poems, Fawn Bones, and The Shadow Sonnets. In 2004, Sommer was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the verse journal, Cancer Songs, has been an important part of his response to this challenge. He lives on a dirt road outside Frelighsburg with his wife of more than forty years, dance improvisationalist, teacher and artist Victoria Tansey. They have three grown children, three grandchildren, and currently three cats.
Posted on: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
In December 2011, CBC journalist David Gutnick visited Richard Sommer at home near Freligsburg. He interviewed Richard and recorded him reading poems from his recently released Cancer Songs. Shortly after Richard's death, when the documentary played on CBC Montreal's Cinq à Six, Vicki Tansey, Richard's wife and partner of more than 40 years, listened in studio and was interviewed by Jeanette Kelly. Hear the reading and interview here: Richard & Vicki on 5 à 6
Posted on: Thursday, March 1, 2012
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Richard Sommer, on February 13, 2012 after a courageous battle with cancer.
Richard was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004 and his recently published verse journal Cancer Songs was an important part of his response to this challenge. As Richard said, these were songs of refusal to go under, to surrender to the undertow of the disease, songs of newly discovered yearning, courage and awe. Despite the pain and suffering, or perhaps because of it, he recognized that there was also a heightening, a vividness and intensity of perception, a kind of awakening that resulted from experience of dealing with cancer.
Richard’s love of music ran deep and he was an accomplished flautist who in his later years volunteered in hospitals and personal care homes, playing for the sick and elderly. He also had an enthusiasm for dance; when some might retreat to their rocking chairs, he performed with his wife of more than forty years, dance improvisationalist, teacher, and artist Victoria Tansey.
The author of ten books of poetry — Cancer Songs, The Shadow Sonnets, Fawn Bones, Selected and New Poems, The Other Side of Games, Milarepa, left hand mind, Blue Sky Notebook, and Homage to Mr. Macmullin — Richard also taught poetry for many years at Concordia University and will be remembered by many as an engaged and generous teacher. Others will remember him as an ardent environmentalist. He served for three decades as a volunteer game warden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and led, with others, a citizens’ environmental group in a seven-year battle, ultimately successful, to save the Townships’ Pinnacle Mountain from developers.
May you rest in peace, Richard.