It was winter, and Bill Royds was snowshoeing. As he crunched through the snow near McCarthy Woods in February, 1995, the words of a poem flashed through his mind. “Winter Uplands” was a poem he had studied in high school. The Poets’ Pathway began in that moment.
Bill took his idea of a park and path to honour Ottawa’s poets to Erwin Dreessen, chair of the Greenspace Alliance; they contacted the University of Ottawa and Steven Artelle, specialist in 19th Century Ottawa and the writers who wrote here then. The group worked hard, pressing for recognition of an ambitious idea that would not only celebrate the poets but maybe help save green space from development. In 2006, with the help of the Beechwood Foundation, Poet’s Hill was inaugurated. Bill won an award from the Ontario government for his environmental work. But Bill was ill – he died just too soon to know that in 2009 the Poets’ Pathway group would receive a small grant from the City of Ottawa to furthur his dream.
Here is the link to the speech by Rhoda Bellamy, Bill’s wife, made at the unveiling of a plaque at McCarthy Woods, the first plaque of the Poets’ Pathway, Sept 9, 2010.
Until 2007 the Poets’ Pathway was chaired by Erwin Dreessen and Steven Artelle.
The new committee, chaired by Jane Moore, and for a while George Wilson, also knew and loved the 19th Century poetry about Ottawa, and Ottawa’s lands. Ben Glossop rode, modified and mapped the route. Clive Doucet helped us. Since 2007, the Poets’ Pathway Committee has earned money through concerts and sales, held poetry readings and walks, and received a small grant from Ottawa’s Arts and Heritage department. The committee gave presentations gained the support of poets and community associations and city councillors, created a newsletter, the Pathway Post, and had this website developed. With the generous help of the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation they unveiled three beautiful bronze plaques, one in each anchor, in 2010.
Councillor Maria McRae asked us to unveil our first plaque, with Archibald Lampman’s poem, “Winter Uplands” at the inauguration of the newly renovated Hunt Club- Riverside Community Centre.
The first plaque, at the entrance to McCarthy Woods, marks the heart of the Pathway, both geographically and symbolically. It was unveiled Sept. 9, against green trees and under a large maple tree.
The speakers were Clive Doucet, Steve Artelle, Rhoda Bellamy, John Sankey and Maria McRae. After the unveiling, a reception was held in the community centre.
The poem, “Winter Uplands” is the one that came to Bill Royds’ mind, as he was snowshoeing near this spot. It sparked his vision of the Pathway. It is Lampman’s last poem – always frail, he caught cold, probably while writing it, and died of pneumonia, at the age of 37, nine days after he wrote it.
Britannia Beach is the starting point of the Poets’ Pathway. The second plaque, to Emily Pauline Johnson, with lines from “The Song My Paddle Sings,’ was unveiled at beautiful Britannia Park, on the edge of the water, in a ceremony Sept 29th. The speakers were Claudette Commanda
of the Algonquin Nation, poet and professor Armand Garnet Ruffo, Erwin Dreessen, Steven Artelle
and Alex Cullen
. The sun set during the ceremony, and the red sky cast its rays on audience, rock and plaque, trees and birds. The reception was held inside the glass walls of the Atrium. People were reluctant to leave this lovely event.
Emily Pauline Johnson was born to a Mohawk father and a caucasian mother. She was famous for her poems on native life, and for performing half her recital dressed as a native woman, and half as a Victorian lady. The poem, Johnson’s most famous, is about paddling through the rapids.
Poet’s Hill, Beechwood National Cemetery
Our third plaque was unveiled Nov. 1st on lovely Poet’s Hill in Beechwood National Cemetery, on the pathway leading to the podium. This plaque links the Pathway to Poet’s Hill, the final anchor of the pathway. Within the cemetery are the graves of Archibald Lampman, William Wilfred Campbell and Duncan Campbell Scott.
The plaque explains the literary significance of Beechwood Cemetery, Poet’s Hill and the Poets’ Pathway. The speakers were Steven Artelle, Lucie Hotte, Susan McMaster and Councillor Jacques Legendre. Roger Boult was the master of ceremonies. Arc Poetry Magazine and many guests attended. The ceremony included a catered reception in the Memorial Room, where candidates for Arc Poetry’s Archibald Lampman Award read from their new books of poetry. The poem “In Beechwood Cemetery,” on a bronze plaque near Poet’s Hill, was written by Lampman, after the death of his little boy, who is buried beside him.
Le cimetière Beechwood est riche en histoire littéraire puisque ici reposent de nombreux poètes et écrivains canadiens. L’aire des poètes, dédiée en 2006, fait partie du Poet’ s Pathway, qui s’étend de Britannia à Beechwood reliant les environnements naturels en l’honneur des grands poètes de l’époque de la Confédération.
Beechwood Cemetery is rich in literary history as the resting place of many Canadian poets and writers. Poet’s Hill, dedicated in 2006, is part of the Poets’ Pathway, which spans Ottawa from Britannia to Beechwood, linking natural environments to honour Canada’s great Confederation-era poets.