Ottawa's literary community has lost one of its icons. Jane Jordan passed away on Tuesday, 28 August, after a battle with cancer. She was 81.
Sometimes referred to as the godmother of poetry in Ottawa, she was instrumental in developing the poetry scene in this city.
Jane was born in Toronto on August 6, 1926. Having written her first poem at age 7, it wasn't until age 40 that she began writing seriously, producing work under her married name Jane White until 1972. Being rather self-effacing about her own poetry, she preferred to promote the works of others. So Jane is best known for her other contributions to the literary scenes in Toronto and Ottawa.
While in Toronto, she established a series of programs named Folk & Poetry in a number of locations there and in North York, promoting other poets and artists from across Canada. She also co-established The House on Gerrard Street with Ted Plantos.
After moving to Ottawa in 1971, she changed her name to Jane Jordan. Here she
established the Folk & Poetry - The Underground Up programs, which were held at local libraries, community centres and a number of notable venues, such as Le Hibou, Wallack's Gallery and Pestalozzi College. When Jane retired from active involvement with the program in 1982, she turned it over to Juan O'Neill, who renamed the reading series Sasquatch based on Jane's assertion that "Often, the artist is like a hairy beast hiding in the forest..." The program continues to this day under the same name.
Through her poetry programs, Jane brought many renowned Canadian poets to audiences in Toronto and Ottawa -- Milton Acorn, Dorothy Livesay, Cyril Dabydeen, Bill Hawkins, Al Purdy, Patrick White, Alden Nowlan and Gary Geddes among them. And even in retirement, she continued to appear occasionally at Ottawa's various poetry readings, offering encouragement and advice to emerging local writers.
In 1988, the Tree Reading Series established the Jane Jordan award to honour a living Canadian poet, which has been done for only one other poet, and held competitions on an annual basis until a few years ago.
Despite her reluctance to self-promote, Jane published two chapbooks, in 1974 and 1976, and her poems appeared in a number of periodicals and anthologies, and were broadcast on CKCU-FM, CHEZ-FM, Q101-FM and the CBC. In 2004, Penumbra Press published her book of poetry - A Signature of Leaves.
A few days earlier, the email from Chris Sorrenti:
I'm afraid the inevitable has finally happened. Ronnie Brown phoned me this afternoon to say that Jane passed away earlier today.
She was in and out of coma and in a lot of pain these past few days, so probably for the better, considering her diagnosis/prognosis.
I did manage to send a letter to Jane via her daughter Barbara, thanking her for her friendship with both myself and Sasquatch, however I don't think she had a chance to read it to her in light of the above. Needless to say she will be missed, especially at the Oak on Laurier Avenue.
As with previous friends I don't as yet have any information on the service, so please check The Citizen for funeral arrangements.