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Mary's words | Glenn Peirson: physician, musician, poet

Mary’s words

Glenn Peirson, M.D.; C.C.F.P.
July 22, 1965 – November 10, 2009

I first met my husband Glenn when I was a new resident at McMaster University Medical School in 1990. Glenn and I had been assigned to the same family practice unit. He apparently took notice of me, so the story goes, because in the pocket of my lab coat along with my stethoscope, pager and notebooks, was a slim, tattered volume of poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley. At the time I was reading the romantic poets as an antidote to the daily academic pressures and the long, late nights of call…

Little did I realize that Glenn was nurturing a deep and abiding love of poetry that would one day be his lasting legacy. Glenn was never one to venture into his areas of interest lightly. He was passionate and deeply committed to his pursuits whether it was his medical career, his family, his music or, of course, his poetry.

For years he principally read poetry and rarely wrote. He wished to know and understand the oeuvre. He read widely and formed deep attachments to certain poets – John Donne, John Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Mary Oliver, and Denise Levertov were among his favourites.

He did write some poetry in the early years of our married life (and before I knew him) – often to mark important milestones or as gifts to friends. However, he still considered himself an amateur as he furthured his reading and study of poetry. In the early years of the new millennium I gave him a book called “In the Palm of Your Hand” which was a textbook of sorts on poetry. It delved into the technical details of forms of poetry. Glenn loved this book – the esoterica of the minor forms fascinated him (an aubade anyone?).

Early in 2007 he was diagnosed with sinus cancer. As he began the long and torturous road of treatment and more treatment, he drew greater and greater comfort from reading and now writing poetry. Because he could not work, and was often confined to hospital or home, his considerable mental and spiritual energies were directed to writing poetry. While some of his work reflected on his cancer journey (Bag-of-bones), suffering (Job) and the transience of life (I am Keats as you are), much of his poetry at this time reflected on the beauty of our world (Dappled Days End), the small graces in everyday life (It is just the coffee?), the solace of music (That makes us dream – unfinished), his steadfast Christian faith (O vos omnes) and exercising his undiminished sense of humour (Of Importance). Keeping the boredom of illness at bay, he found intellectual challenges in the technical aspects of poetry (Poetic Ideas Come and Float). He enjoyed the discipline of his daily Haiku and found consolation in his ongoing exploration of the sonnet form (Snowy Song Sonnet, Sonnet’s Sonnet).

I hope that by experiencing this canon, the reader will get some sense of the man. In choosing to name this volume “I am Keats as you are,” I acknowledge it was not lost on Glenn that he was like Keats – a young poet of great passions and loves snatched from us by illness at an all too early age.

Mary Claire Peirson
August 9, 2010

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a man for all seasons