About the Author

Rosemary Clewes in the Arctic

I have known the pristine world
seen with the new eyes of a child
who puddled in the sand by the shore
on a high summer day
as the lake’s blue lap burst
bubbles between my toes.
But I fell out of that world …
I grew and fell
and the world grew
                     and it fell …

Until age nine, I spent July and August in the Muskoka Lakes, then grew into my strength at summer camp; learning skills that made me feel at home in the woods and on water. The memory of a cedar stump’s fragrance burning in the night brings me joy: the flames sparking the pines, while guides’ told tales of trapping. Bears. I can still feel the wind in my sails and the perfect grip of my very own George paddle.

As I climbed over mountains, one at a time, mentors said, push the boundaries but not the river. “Don’t Push The River” by Barry Stevens, becomes one of many bibles for the future.

Another way to fall out of the world comes to me decades later. At sixty years of age I take up exploration. I travel to the High North. Not only because North is three latitudes above the 49th parallel where I come from, but because I am longing for the roofless world, for maps with no names, for dependable rock. I give up my keys, my passport, my wallet. I witness how the world re-makes itself in the loop between the life and death of ice: how I have changed.

I had wanted to suckle the light
and land to mirror my desires
and the daily bread of beauty
given to please my eye

I had wanted to take my grief in small bites

yet it is on record that the Twin Glaciers
at Alexandra Fjord are uncoupled now
and walking inland; cycles
once linked are breaking.

I stand on the threshold
of wind born calamity
ice-lock caving to rain,
high tech toxins in Inuit milk.

Not only the birds see
how maps are redrawing whitest habitat
in brown and blue.

Rosemary Clewes at Banff

Other Activities

Clewes is an alumna of the Banff Writing Studio (2005) and the Sage Hill Writing Experience, Saskatchewan (2006).

She is a member of The League of Canadian Poets and The Ontario Poetry Society.

As alumna, The Bishop Strachan School in Toronto invited her to teach in their Outdoor Education Program in Algonquin Park, Ontario, where she introduced 120 students to Thule Explorer: Kayaking North of 77 Degrees (2009).

Rosemary was interviewed on Open Book Toronto, as part of their Poets in Profile interviews.

Publications, Reviews, Journals, Anthologies & Awards

  • Woodstove in the July Heat from Rain on My Skin, (League of Canadian Poets, 2022)
  • Review of Paper Wings (Michael Dennis), 2016
  • A Taste of Lemon in the Anthology, Untying The Apron: Daughters Remember Mothers Of The 1950s. (Guernica Editions, 2013)
  • Ode to Naps (Ontario Poetry Society, Verse Afire, 2013)
  • Snow won the favourite poem award in Verse Afire, Ontario Poetry Society, 2010
  • Ellesmere Island received a Judges Mention in The Saving Bannister: 25th Anniversary Anthology. Canadian Authors Association, Niagara Branch, 2010
  • Retreat in Community Life, Volume 19, Issue Three, 2009
  • Out of Sync and Clivia Loose on a Maundy Thursday in Frost & Foliage: A Canadian Anthology of Poetry, 2009
  • For it is innocence— from Thule Explorer: Kayaking North of 77 Degrees, Hidden Brook Press. Poem set to music as an art song. Composed by Peter Skoggard, Elora, Ontario, 2009
  • Lookout in The Fiddlehead, Spring Issue, 2007
  • Calle Obispo in Descant 134: Cuba/Inside/Out, 2006
  • Small in The Literary Review Of Canada, November issue, 2006.
  • A Taste of Lemon in The Dalhousie Review, Autumn issue, 2006.
  • The Longing, the night before I go to the high arctic, Ice and Walrus in Talk That Mountain Down, 2005 from Littlefishcart Press, 2005.
  • Maps in Queen’s Quarterly. Winter issue, 2005.
  • Thule Explorer nominated by The Malahat Review for The National Magazine Awards, 2005.
  • “Arctic Hare” in Arc Poetry Magazine. First honourable mention in the 10th annual Poem of the Year Contest, 2005.
  • Thule Explorer − crown of sonnets in The Malahat Review. Fall Issue, 2004
  • Dawn Paddle On Lake Huron in The Fiddlehead. Summer Issue, No. 220, 2004.
  • High Art In British Columbia, Swings and Listen To The View in The Saving Bannister, Niagara Poetry Anthology,19th Edition, 2004.
  • Winter White in Variety Crossing, 4th Edition, 2004.
  • The Kitchen Window and Measurement in The Fiddlehead. Issue No. 217, 2003.
  • Just Enough – Third Prize, My Father, Crosswind and Arctic Twilight in The Saving Bannister. Niagara Poetry Anthology,18th Edition, 2003.
  • Maureen Forrester in the Dalhousie Review. Spring Issue, 2001.
  • Subtraction Threads Yukon Journey Sleep in Pagitica Issue No. 4, 2001.
Rosemary Clewes


Poets in Profile interview series with Open Book – Rosemary Clewes, October 25, 2014

1. Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?
We camped on the shore at St. Mary’s Bay just five miles from Cortez Island in the Canadian West. The salal grew so thickly by the shore as to be impenetrable. Thus we were left with twenty feet of beach and the tide coming in. Our kayaking instructor build a fire like a small log house and after dinner we sat in a circle around it. We passed around a boy’s adventure book and took turns reading to each other until it was finished. We moved the fire inland a tad, and by the light of the moon and blazing stars, he began to read from Mary Oliver’s “New and Selected Poems”. It was then that I decided to become a poet.

2. What is the first poem you remember being affected by?
Learning poems was part of the Literature curriculum when I went to school. The words, “Norse am I when the first snow falls;…” from Song of the Ski by Wilson Pugsley MacDonald (1880 – 1967) stills ring in my ears. I have just Googled it and I understand why I loved that poem then. MacDonald has written it with a rollicking rhythm and it flies “with a dauntless air” through snow ’scapes and pine forest where “the snow is fresh and the banks are deep”. Just the poem for a ten year old, who later skied in the Austrian Alps with the “white wind” and under “the roofless world”.

3. What one poem—from any time period—do you wish you had been the one to write?
I would like to have written (anyone lived in a pretty town) by E.E.Cummings. I like his ‘loose’ mind.

4. What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?
The most unlikely and the most obvious inspiration has been the natural world, which has inspired me.

5. What do you do with a poem that just isn’t working?
When a poem isn’t working, I put it aside and let it cook. If I am still unhappy and it retains some energy, eluding me still, I may write quick, non-stop prose ‘blasts’ or simply turn it on its head. “What am I trying to say?” is always a best question.

6. What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?
My socks have fallen off my feet many times, but the longest lasting love and the one I still turn to for all kinds of help and comfort is “Four Quartets” by T.S.Eliot.

7. What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?
The best thing about being a poet is the self-reflection that digs until it finds the truth I am reaching for. The worst part is waiting for a publisher’s response assuring me that my dear manuscript has truly left home for good and will become a book.