Remembering Heather Spears


Heather was a fine and caring person, a wonderful poet, a light of shining energy. I’ll certainly miss her and remember her with love.

-Susan McMaster


To say that the death of Heather Spears leaves the world poorer is both a cliche and a truth. Many TWUC members who did not know her personally will remember her sketching us at TWUC AGMs. I met Heather through TWUC, and at more or less the same time my partner (Timothy J. Anderson) and I got to know her better through our publishing work. We quickly became friends–she had the gift of forming deep and direct bonds with people that obtained despite geographic distance, as she spent much of her time latterly in Copenhagen, coming to Canada yearly to teach workshops and visit friends and family across the country.

Heather was a poet and fiction writer on top of a vibrant visual arts career. Sketching was her core practice. She famously sketched children in war zones (one of her books was Children of the Intifada) and babies in NICUs (often making sketches for parents if a baby was at risk or died, which they appreciated as they had no other image of their child). Another of her books was a brilliant collaboration with a neuroscientist to look at art and the nature of vision. Her astonishingly original speculative//far-future fiction was full of thought, vivid imagery, rich literary language, and wild innovation.

As a person, she was clear-eyed and energetic–nay, dynamic! Even in her eighties she was spry enough to get down on the floor to sketch on huge sheets of paper at her workshops (and probably in her studio to, though alas, I never did get to visit her there)–then she would spring up with vigour to look anew at the subject or model. She always seemed to see the world with “”newness””–not childlike, but Zenlike–and her art reflected that immediacy of vision. I admired that, and tried to learn from her to see more simply, without filters, in my own work. She was a true original, a kind and good friend and colleague, and a significant talent.

-Candas Jane Dorsey


Since Heather and I were dual artists and writers, she invited me, and my husband Jack, to Copenhagen in 1996 for a glorious week where I showed my art in her warmly welcoming front gallery, read my poetry there and taught poetry at the high school. We talked about art, poetry, life over Jack’s and Heather’s Scrabble games and my sketches of their spirited dueling. Heather introduced us to lively friends before my reading and we took the train to see Picasso’s Vuillard Suite of drawings. Heather also read in Parry Sound and stayed with us. She’s irreplaceable, such a bright light and multi-talent as well as warm and inviting. I had a cast on my left knee but Heather enticed me to show her the wilds of Parry Sound and she wore her kilt to her much appreciated poetry reading. I have her poetry, The Book of Sand, which won the Governor General’s Award, some of her infant memento mori drawings, and her highly instructive and humorous book Vision about figure drawing plus tricks to sidestep drawing what you think you see and not what is. I’m so glad Danial is carrying on her artistic tradition. Heather also wrote fantasy. Now she’s with her friend Jay McPherson, but what a loss for us.

-Katerina Fretwell


Ah, what a beautiful woman in all her kindness, compassion and talent. Heather lived such a rich life that lives on, all her talents explored. In AGM after AGM across Canada, Heather caught us in the moment, in the delivery of our poems and in our attention as we listened to speakers. I very much admired the way Heather took advantage of meetings to present us as we are: a gift that was almost shamanic in its power. So much was conveyed by the compassionate attentiveness and skill with which Heather drew us, drawing out our essence in a few lines, immortalized.(Does anyone else admit to diving into the garbage pail to pull out some of the rejects Heather had tossed into a ball? I’d spend the rest of the meeting attempting to smooth out the creases in some of my favourite drawings!

Mona Fertig quotes a special anecdote from Heather’s 2010 letter to her: “When in Toronto at a student work camp 1955? I took my paintings to show Fred Varley, then an old man, a hero of mine, he looked at my drawings and said he could not teach me anything, except to stop cross-hatching “”You learned that at the VSA [Vancouver School of Art] didn’t you?”” and said to just “”do this”” and wiped a shadow in with his thumb. I have done so ever since. He looked at my paintings and said “”One day you will discover colour.”” But I did not, and finally gave up painting for drawing.”

Heather Spears was a woman who followed her own many paths to the end! Here’s to the community of poets, living through the dimensions of time.

-Penn Kemp


Remembering Heather Spears: She was our shoulder to cry on; our friend, our eyes and ears as well as the song we frequently had in our hearts. Her poems unfolded in melting eloquence…with layers of meaning, alive with nuanced emotion, and rich and vivid imagery that would caress the senses with invisible hands and skin that felt like expensive raw silk… Sometimes her poems could be extremely tactile poems and often they could be like scorpions – their bite was in the tails that would suddenly whip around and plunge their meanings into your very soul.

-Raul da Gama


I didn’t know Heather. But received an email today about her; right after a poetry workshop. I went to her website, then finished the poem I’d been working on with my group.

Drawing Breath

a scarred bench in an apse

of red and yellow sumac

is a good place

to remove the stone

from your shoe

as starlings clown

the pebbled path

then startle ⎯

an iridescent gust of night

swept up

leaving you in your patch

of sun

with finches

hanging on stems of light


-Keith Inman



I wish

to take

your face in the

trusty fingers my hands

have to offer,

all the wish

wants to be.


I sit

on a

stone waiting in a hope

as sturdy as it is

with a second wish,

to see the chipmunk

April-chill brought close

during another

Nova Scotian Spring.


I think

of Yevtushenko’s I,

how he

stood alone in a country

when 1950s Russia

had the poets we now read,

when we take advantage

of his available words.


I walk

out into the mellow year

even though a virus

rules us

regardless of hair left uncut,

and certain arses

left unkicked

there in the house

occupied by liars

who worship white skin.


I cry

knowing not what to do

with the news

of you and your 86 years

leaving us,

only to feel the hugs

shared there in Copenhagen,

shared in the sun

finding the windows

of your thankful gallery.

-Chad Norman


I remember your name and your hand drawing something out of me, as if I was worth your keen vision. I never saw you again, yet here you are still, stuck like glue somewhere inside my head.



Heather was such a remarkable person and, to my mind, a sprite-like character. Maybe it was her bright blue eyes and small stature. But Heather had an impish curiosity about things.

It always seemed magical to me how she would be present at League panels during AGMs, hunched over a piece of paper, her head bobbing up and down. After the presentation, she would show us how in a complex and yet simple crosshatch of lines, she had captured the likeness of the panellists – sometimes individually, sometimes scattered across the page. It was only later I found out how her early interest in drawing began as a child of five and of her training in both Canada and Denmark.

Heather’s poetry had a similar memorable and haunting quality to it. It was at the League AGM in Kingston in the late 80s that I first met her. I bought her Pat Lowther-Award winning book, How to Read Faces, which seemed to me a perfect title given her constant sketching over the weekend. At another AGM I bought her collection The Word for Sand, which also won the Lowther Award. Her poems had a deep humanity to them. The lines were infused by her strong visual eye. Like herself, her poetry could seem personal, private, yet they spoke with a clearly compassionate and engaged voice.

After one AGM in Ottawa, I arranged some readings for her, including one at my son’s high school. Her reading included poems from two of her books, Drawings from the Newborn: Poems of Drawings of Infants in Crisis and Drawn From the Fire Children of the Intifada. This reading raised the ire of some parents of students at the school, who felt it was not age-appropriate, my son reported back. I asked him what he and the students in his class thought. They were fine with it. Later when I mentioned this to Heather, she simply shrugged. Heather was a socially committed poet and artist who looked into the face of death and suffering and drew inspiration from it. She was someone who would not flinch,

I have not seen Heather for decades but my memories of her at League events remain as fresh as I had just talked to her a few months ago. She was unforgettable. I am sure that all long-time members of the League will feel s deep sorrow at her passing

-Blaine Marchand

Heather was the sort of person who made everyone feel as if their relationship with her was special. I say this as her daughter, but I know her numerous friends felt the same. She somehow had time to devote to each of us. Yet I was aware that she had an existence on another level, where her creative drive dictated her actions. At the same time she was as earthy and present as you could want, sharing chocolate, obsessed with scrabble, enjoying tiny shots of whiskey, laughing at britcoms.

Her letters (I was raised in Canada), and later her emails, were full of succinct observations and vivid imagery… someone “brought his psychologist to the party, a thin woman with eyes like drills.” When Heather described something, she shared the interesting, funny parts.

I read mostly science fiction until I was about 18, when she started sending me Canadian literary fiction, with the strong suggestion that I try it – I did, and it really elevated my appreciation of language. I loved her poetry and how she could make me see the world and myself in new ways. When I decided I wanted to write, she was my tireless editor, supportive and generous. When I had some small successes, she was as pleased as I was.

I built her website,, now completely dated, and did webmaster duty along with several devoted friends over the years. I worked with her on various projects – in later years she was technically challenged with her computer and the web, but when it came to what she wanted on web pages, or the layout of a brochure, her directions were impeccable. Those of us who helped with blogs, fixing gmail, finding lost files and making updates know the fond frustration we felt at times, but we all knew how important it was that she could do what she needed to do.

I followed all her adventures; one of the last was drawing bell ringers at Oxford, along with crawling up ladders into cramped belfries to see the bells. She also found the time to draw Tolkien’s grave for me, complete with the little remembrances people had left.

During the pandemic I found an old note in a book I was donating. She’d written a web URL on it for me, a place that listed fiction markets, and I decided it was time to renew my writing efforts. We had fun discussing edits on Skype calls. One of my happiest recent memories is from 3 weeks before she died, in the hospital, my brother assisting with a video call. I was thrilled to be able to report the publication of an anthology containing one of my stories, and another one accepted the day before. She cried out in delight, laughing and telling me I must be “so chuffed.”

There are so many parts of her life that I won’t ever know about, wish I’d asked more about. I thought we had more time.

-Lesley Morrison


Dearest Heather,

The last time I saw you, you had invited a number of writers over to your place in Frederiksberg and had served up a mean apple pie. I was so grateful that you welcomed me into your community with open arms, even though we hadn’t known each other for very long. I am so sad to hear of your passing. I will remember your warmth, inspiration, artistry and good company – and look back fondly on those dark nights in Copenhagen, surrounded by friends.

-Shirley Camia


I am sorry to hear of the loss of this wonderful poet and artist. After meeting Heather when she read in Nelson, BC, I was so moved I wrote this poem.


On joy’s urgent threshold, the door is held ajar*

The artist draws dead babies,

delicate loss, beauty in accuracy.

Still, I want her to draw my twins who live,

so I may understand the origin of their wills.


In the first snapshot they lay side by side,

on their faces no disdain,

their bodies perfect and small—


Would her pencil lines stray to feeding tube,

heart monitor,

stump of umbilicus?

Could hatching convey them in their joint orbit—

private sphere of belonging?


As they hover between worlds,

the door held ajar for thirty days by a resolute team:

nurses, social workers, even the birth mother,

eventually their foster mom.


Thirteen months until we found the fixed gaze of their cacao eyes.

A couple searching. Babies who didn’t yet know they were waiting.

Joy postponed.


*from “Undiagnosed” (The Word for Sand c. 1988, Coach House Press) by Heather Spears.

by Jane Byers from Steeling Effects (Caitlin Press, 2014, Half-moon Bay, BC)”

-Jane Byers


Amang the Heather

I did not know Heather Spears well, but often bumped into her at readings, conferences and annual general meetings. She was never busy socializing, but rather observing, taking in the scene, listening and watching the faces of those who were delivering poems or pronouncements. The resulting sketches, though done quickly, were always of interest, catching something whimsicial but essential about each individual. Her poems I knew less well than her drawings, but they were always done with the same delicate accuracy, a lightness of touch that often went much deeper than one’s first impressions. I had no idea how broad were her talents or the reach of her contacts and impacts on others, until one of my neighbours on Thetis Island, Veronica Shelford, sent me the following note, in case I  had not heard of Heather’s passing. She’s given me permission to share it with you:

Hi Gary: I saw Ann at the farm this morning, and she wasn’t sure if you had heard about Heather’s passing, or not.  Here’s the link to the FB page I learned about it from:   It doesn’t seem to have made it into other search engine sources yet.

Very sad to hear it – I still treasure the memories of the week-long class I had with her at MISSA.  Sculpting the human head in clay. She had some skulls lovingly packed in her boxes of materials, as models, and she made sure we knew the history of each.  Then groups of us would have one in front of us as she took us through the stages of building up a head from the inside out.  Each organ and muscle was built separately and added in, on the basis both of her demonstration, and images of each, and an understanding of what each did.  You really knew and respected what goes into the shape of the head by the time you were done.  Her years of anatomical study in the cellars of hospitals in Denmark, gave her the kind of art education that sounds medieval now, but the accumulated understanding shone through her sketches, and in her poetry.  A true humanist.  The opportunity to get to know her a little, that week, was and still is a gift I treasure.

Sad, but a chance to remember with love!

– Veronica

Not only packing the skulls with tender care, but also knowing something to share of the history of each. I share Veronica’s gratitude and affection.

-Gary Geddes


Heather Spears was an exceptional poet and artist; in both art forms, she was a perceptive, but gentle and compasionate observer.  I cannot claim that I knew her well, but I liked her very much. Her eloquent endorsement graces the back cover of my collection Passenger Flight, and I am happy to own of one of her sketches of me performing at the LCP New Member’s Reading years ago. Leafing among the books of hers on my shelves, here’s a poem from her Selected that says much about her relationship to us all:



I am always moral

at poetry readings

I pay attention, or I try

I always get lost

i begin to arrange the hair of the poet

or to trim (or eliminate) his beard

I press his trousers

I am fascinated by his fingers

I love his pleasure and his disarming smile

at a particular phrase

I love the little pieces of paper sticking out of his books


Some poets are austere

they read impatiently

they frown

they do not ingratiate

they dare you to alter their appearance by one thread

they look at you


under this kind of pressure

I am dismayed to find

I have again lost track of what they are saying


It is necessary for the poet

to be present

it is to be hoped

that an audience of twelve or over

(twelve being a respectable, even apostolic number)

and that the poem, having been as it were reborn

foundering among the chairs

will be received here and there

by the large if fallible pale ears of the listeners

cupped for it like hands


—We will all miss her quiet and supporting presence.


-Brian Campbell



Thank you for sharing the sad news with me. We have just been told about Heather’s passing. As a group of lifelong friends and colleagues we want to honour Heather’s long career in poetry and art, with personal reminiscence, reflective poetry, anecdotes from our life stories, and samples of Heather’s heartfelt drawings and visual images. Magie Dominic and I will be co-editing and producing a chapbook as a tribute to Heather’s Legacy and everyone is welcome to submit their work (including poems, prose, and images) to be included.

Heather’s drawings at League meetings were always apt and some provocative, she captured the essence in charcoal and we were delighted to publish some of them with the Feminist Caucus and The Prairie Journal over the years. In particular, her memento mori drawings of stillborn infants were featured in our Pregnancy Loss issue which was displayed under glass in an art gallery by the University of Toronto Medical Department. Another opportunity was to publish Heather’s personal essay on a friend and poet Anne Marriott; the piece was both revelatory and poignant.

The first time I met Heather was at (then) Victoria College and she had just returned from reading in the Rose Garden at the White House. An outstanding talent and yet she remained humble despite her many talents. I feel honoured to have known Heather as a friend and colleague; I feel certain we will always cherish our many memories of her as an exquisite poet, indelible artist, and humanitarian. Peace and love, Heather!

-Anne Burke, Literary Editor of The Prairie Journal


Heather’s Compassion Sketch of Penny

Artist and poet Heather Spears cared intensely about others, the face of the other, the otherness of others and our common obligation to greet the faces of others with respect. As a visual artist, she manifested her compassionate gaze through her sketches. I would call her, along with the philosopher Immanuel Levinas, a phenomenologist of the face, la visage. In Totality and Infinity Levinas writes, “The face is a living presence; it is expression. . . The face speaks.” With a few deft strokes, Heather penetrates to the very essence of her subjects, connecting with their living presence, their irreplaceable otherness.

At a League of Canadian Poets AGM and Conference I attended in Toronto sometime in the nineties, I noticed Heather quietly sketching her fellow poets as they stood erect, slouched, or leaned at a lectern reading their poems. I later learned she had sketched me as well as so many others. I saw my sketch on the wall at a subsequent League event. I later learned about her poignant drawings of newborns in crisis, through which she drew attention to the most vulnerable among us and proved herself an artist whose work unites art with social-political concerns.

Heather’s last gift to me came as a complete surprise.

In 2015 our dog Penny was run over by a truck, instantly, brutally killed before my husband’s and my eyes just after Christmas. We endured the harrowing night ride to the pet clinic. Then we had to inform our daughter, who was in Germany at the time, that Penny, the mini-Australian shepherd she had picked for us from a litter as a pup and then raised, was gone. Penny was only five.

A bit later I posted a notice to Facebook friends about the circumstances under which we had lost Penny. Heather responded immediately, suggesting that, if I could send her a photo of Penny, she would be glad to create a sketch of our dog and mail it to me from Copenhagen. Deeply touched, I offered to pay her for her work, but she refused. She only allowed me to cover the postage.

Today Heather’s deft, coloured sketch of Penny graces our hallway. I am forever grateful to Heather for her artistry and magnanimity that keep our memories of the inimitable Penny alive.

-Susan McCaslin




Heather Spears has been a friend and correspondent for twenty-plus years. I refer to her in the present because her creative spirit continues.

At the League’s AGM in 1993, in Montreal, I was asked to chair the 1994 Feminist Caucus Panel – “Belle letters – Beautiful letters”. It would address correspondence and letters.  I had two simultaneous thoughts – I wanted a small panel, and with gentle people. Anne Burke came to mind instantly. She said yes. I thought of Heather but hesitated asking her because I never thought she’d say yes. I looked for Fred Cogswell and spoke to him in a Montreal hallway and he said yes! I then clumsily asked Heather as we were crossing a busy Montreal street together. She immediately said yes. She’d been wanting to ask me. Within one day the panel was complete – Heather in Denmark, Fred in eastern Canada, Anne in western Canada and me in New York.

In Montreal Heather drew a flurry of magnificent sketches, as she did yearly, and posted them on a wall at the conference. Her 1994 drawings later became the “Belle letters – beautiful letters” 1995 chapbook cover. The cover drawing includes Anne Burke and Fred Cogswell, and a bouquet of wildflowers I picked on a walk with Di Brandt somewhere before the panel.

(The originally planned cover drawing included – Anne Burke, Fred Cogswell and Magie Dominic. But for a reason known only to God, not to me, I made a copy of the original drawing, then removed myself from the copy, leaving the wildflowers, Anne and Fred. The copy became the chapbook cover.

I left the original drawing intact, thank God!!  I don’t know what I was thinking! Maybe I wanted the wildflowers to be symbolic.)

Heather and I shared a long lasting correspondence which included photographs of her life in Denmark and mine in New York, our homemade Christmas cards, and in July of last year when we shared thoughts about the impact of the virus on our lives and our families. Her daughter lives in New York.

Heather’s essay in “Belle letters – beautiful letters” is titled “The Poem as letter – audience and intent”. She quoted several poets and their various reasons for writing.  She wrote – “Take poems for the dead. Most poets address the dead at one time or another – and do so to celebrate them. Often they are addressed to a dead parent. There is a particular memory,……. “ and she quotes the first four lines from Pat Lane’s poem Fathers and Sons:

“I will walk along the long slow grass

where the desert sun waits among the stones

and reach down into the heavy earth

and lift your body back into the day.”


Dear Heather: Your grace, kind generosity of friendship, your genuine caring, all your beautiful letters, your magnificent gifts of writing and art, will remain with us and reach into our every day.

With love,

-Magie Dominic



I was lucky to have met Heather and to have spent some time with her in the 1990s when she visited the Okanagan where she had family at the time.   I’d arrange a reading for her at the college where I was teaching so she could access some funding and we’d have dinner together or lunch and I’d get to hear her read her poems and talk about her process and her drawing.  She had a memorable way of looking at you.  A gentle, back and forth sort of intensity. I’d not call it probing because that would be too invasive, nor direct because it was not assertive, but her gaze was palpably there, flitting, negotiating, supported by a warm smile at times, questioning, holding an invitation to be seen by her.  I think of her gaze when I read her poems which are so often about witnessing and seeing and then, through the power of the imagination, transforming embodied experience into another way of knowing.  Some of her most startling and wonderful poems are about what witnessing some things, especially human acts (to quote the title of one of her books), does to you.  In her poem “Necklace” from The Word for Sand she protects us from what seems to be a horror: “(his head in the necklace and what happened)/ … it’s in my head permanently/if this were a real poem/ I would describe the event/ so you could see it like I do–/ be lucky in your life, this isn’t/ a real poem”.  Of course it is a real poem and of course our minds, almost against our wills, see and imagine some kind of horror.  When I was putting together a nature poem anthology, I selected one of her poems called “How Animals See”.  Heather imagines the way bees see:  “they keep the real real,/ their tiny manifold eye/ closing in on/ the actual valuable/ planet, terrible in neon and violet.”  What is real, what is seen, how imagination mediates our beautiful and terrible relationships with each other and the planet- this was Heather’s territory.  Seeing was her nature, and seeing with imagination on fire was her practice.  How much our world will miss the manifold ways of her wisdom.

-Nancy Holmes


“It is an unapologetic juxtaposition–

Herself and Eternity:

For so long as Justice is an imposition

Rather than Heaven-shaking Mercy


Or Liberty, then so are her words no exaggerated

Insurgency nor redundancy,

But obstinate, never underrated–

Nor that gossamer gossip that’s Punditry.


Shakespeare flung a lance down to our time,

And sure it multiplied exponentially into “”Spears””:

We discover her Poetry as one discovers that rhyme

Can lampoon–harpoon–each tyrant into a hearse….


When Verse breeds conscientious Subversion and Sabotage–

And dictator drowns in tidal sand, Spears stands the prescient sage.


“I am so deeply sorry to hear that Heather Spears has died. I cannot claim to have been a close friend, but I miss her quiet, generous presence.

As a writer and visual artist, Heather  undertook the role of witness. In her books of poems and drawings about the Reena Virk trial, the children of Palestine or neonatal intensive care units, she took careful, engaged note of humanity, an always-thoughtful observer.

Her observing went deep. There is a fascinating short video about the exhibition “Stranger than a Wolf”, in which Heather talks about how to draw a face you have to understand—really understand—the skull beneath it, and the muscles that attach to it.

Her approach to teaching art, which she did for many years from her base in Copenhagen and outlined in the textbook “The Creative Eye”, was highly innovative and informed by brain science. She wanted her students to go beyond the ‘false knowledge’ and assumptions we make about what we are seeing.

That’s what she brought to her poetry too – the sense of there being more to see, more to understand. One of my favourites in The Panum Poems is called “Biking with Skulls through Copenhagen,” where she is returning skulls borrowed from the Panum Institute. Five skulls, enumerated, and biking through the busy traffic. But then we realize there is yet one more skull, the bicyclist’s own.

Heather might not have been a high-profile household word, but she won the Pat Lowther Award three times—I’m pretty sure that record is unequalled—as well as a Governor General’s award over the six decades since Northrop Frye called her first book “haunting and disconcerting.”

She was a committed part of Canada’s writing community for years and years. So many Canadian poets – including me – have one of the sketches she made of them at League annual meetings and writers’ conferences.

Here is the last stanza of another favourite from The Panum Poems, “M. temporalis.” That is the muscle clasping at each side of our forehead:

“…and time

touches first here with its white hair

who knows why? most beautiful

name, and shapely too the way these lie

steep at the caving in behind the eye,

two simple slips along the bone,

and hold the head in secret, and mean no harm.

As if a voice said, “Look, look forward, that

is what is coming,

do not flinch.””

-Alice Major


“In 2007 I attended my first League of Canadian Poets AGM in Calgary. My first book was shortlisted for a Gerald Lampert Memorial award. At the time, I had a new baby boy, so my family travelled to Calgary for the meeting and prize night. I’d never been to an AGM before but had friends and poets I knew there due to being part of the Planet Earth Poetry community in Victoria and on the cusp of taking over running it from Wendy Morton. At the AGM I felt like a small fry in an exceptionally large ocean. I was the only woman among a tall gaggle of male poets with first books on the shortlist. I had a desire, still do, to feel a part of the larger community, to feel I sat at the table and belonged there; a book helps with that feeling. At some point during the day’s events, I was introduced to Heather Spears. She was always drawing, quick accurate sketches of speakers and presenters. She had a beautiful kind face, and her presence was calming to this nervous newbie. At the evening performance for the awards, each shortlisted poet read for five minutes and again Heather made sketches. This felt like a profound moment of excitement and anxiety, the inevitable comparison, the marvelous win (Steven Price) and the celebration. There was a book table with every finalists’ books, except mine for some reason. My husband stood with my books fanned out in his hands and we chatted with people after the event. Heather came to me and handed me the sketch she’d done as I read. I realized the so-called big table I had in my mind, even  now, is not always a large board room table, but can be a kitchen table, a coffee table, a corner in a café, an easel.

Thank you, Heather Spears, for your beautiful poetry and art, and for making this poet feel connected and accepted. We will miss your tenacious spirit.

-Yvonne Blomer, April 29, 2021, Victoria, BC, the traditional territories of the WSÁNEĆ (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation.


“Heather Spears. Ah, what a beautiful woman in all her kindness, compassion and talent. Heather lived a rich life that lives on, all her talents explored. In League AGM after AGM across Canada, Heather drew us poets in the moment, in the delivery of our poems and in our attention as we listened to speakers. Does anyone else admit to diving into the garbage pail to pull out some of the rejects Heather had tossed into a ball? I’d spend the rest of the meeting attempting to smooth out the creases in some of my favourite drawings. Her rejects were my triumphs. So much was conveyed by the compassionate attentiveness and skill with which Heather caught us, drawing out our essence in a few lines, immortalized…

I admired the way Heather took advantage of meetings to present us as we were: a gift that was almost shamanic in its power. Her sketches were so vibrant that they seem to imply the subtle colours of a Varley, burnt orange and shades of tawny, because they were lit from within, from black and white. The strength of the line conjured transport into paint. Or maybe I have transferred the vibrant orange of her hair to the page.

Mona Fertig quotes a special anecdote from Heather’s 2010 letter to her: “When in Toronto at a student work camp 1955? I took my paintings to show Fred Varley, then an old man, a hero of mine, he looked at my drawings and said he could not teach me anything, except to stop cross-hatching “”You learned that at the VSA [Vancouver School of Art] didn’t you?”” and said to just “”do this”” and wiped a shadow in with his thumb. I have done so ever since. He looked at my paintings and said “”One day you will discover colour.”” But I did not, and finally gave up painting for drawing.”

Heather Spears was a woman who followed her own many paths to the end. And now she has joined the immortals, leaving a legacy of lovely memories and the drawings of the moment. Here’s to the community of poets, living through the dimensions of time.

-Penn Kemp


“Saddened to have one who so kept the faith gone to spirit. I remember through the years Heather travelled the world – literally – to attend the LCP AGM meetings, from geography to all the faces and places she gathered in. I also recall the days she put immediate drawings up for sale which brought the visual art she carried with her poetry into view, and opened the idea for other poets whose “”other arts”” had not yet been seen. It seems to me now that she often was a teacher or mentor in determinedly subtle but honourable ways, ways she never even fully intended perhaps. She was modest to a fault, and so often surprised at the full effect of her work, literary and pictorial, when praised. She was adept, being and showing and sharing everything she had freshly accomplished to reach other poets in Canada, especially those with feminist and humanist consciousness fully functional,  in terms of pinning together the life of an artist, one with personal and political commitments to changing the world,  for bettering. I have at least one drawing Heather Spears did of me, one which took me many years to realize, captured and celebrated strengths I wasn’t always sure I had, peacefully, or could protect from harm. Blessings, and thanks.

-Cathy Ford


I first met Heather years ago, in about 1987, when I owned a bookstore in Winnipeg.  Over the years, Heather did several book launches and readings  at Bold Print Bookstore. She sometimes stayed as a guest at our place.

We last saw Heather about 3 years ago in Ottawa where we have lived since 2003.  On her trips to Ottawa, Heather sketched our 3 grandchildren.

I also have many Christmas cards with sketches of babies, children, animals etc. that Heather did and sent us over the years.

Carol Rose and I co-edited an anthology  called Spider Women:  A Tapestry of Creativity and Healing and Caring Hands drawn by Heather is on page 123 of that book.

-Joan Turner