Dorothy Livesay

Dorothy Livesay was born in Winnipeg in 1909 to Florence Randal , writer and John B.Livesay , general of the Canadian Press. She studied at the Univesity of Toronto, from which she received a B.A. She then attended the Sorbonne , France and received a "Diplôme d'Études Supérieures". After that, she studied social sciences in Toronto .

Even after she married Duncan Macnair in 1937 she kept being a social worker in Vancouver. After that she worked as a correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star, as a documentary scriptwriter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as a UNESCO English specialist in Paris, as an English teacher in Nothern Rhodesia ( Zambia), as an editior of Canadian literary journals and anthologies, and as a lecturer and writer-in-residence in many Canadian Universities.

As a widow with two children in her charge she kept writing lyrical and documentary poetry. For more than six decades she wrote prize winning volumes, She wrote about many different topics such as : politic, poverty, fascism, family and love.
She died in December 1996 in Victoria B.C.

In her 1972 poem "The Children's Letters" , she talks of family memories and of getting older.

The images that come to mind while reading this poem are some of an old woman sitting in a chair , next to a window, in her room by herself with a pile of letters on a small coffee table next to her. That's how I could imagine and interpret the text.
The poem relates a moment in a woman's life. The woman reads her children's letters and remembers all the events that were written just like "a child's tentative first footsteps" .
These are precious memories that are only hers and that she cherishes. These letters are the way to activate the memories, she is getting older and her mind seems to be starting to fade away . Those letters are the connection with those people because she seems to be living in soitude and having time to read those letters and think.
Those letters are the reflection of the past, her past, a past she wants to recollect. "I hold them (letters)up to sunlight at the window to see aright".

This poem is really touching and makes me think of all the older people who are left alone with their memories and with nobody to share their beautiful stories. It touches on one of the most important part of everybody's life : their family and the memories they have of it.


The children's letters

They are my secret food
consumed in the most hushed corners
of my room
when on one's looking
I hold them up to sunlight
At the window
To see aright
To hear behind the spindly words
A child's tentative
First footsteps
A small voice stuttering
At the sky

whether these be
my children or my grandchildren
they're ghostly visitors
food of a solitary kind-
they leap on shafts of sunlight
through the mind's


By Katie St-Pierre