About Harold


Harold Rhenisch was born three months early, in a blizzard, on January 5, 1958, and grew up on an orchard in Cawston, in B.C.’s Similkameen Valley, the second son of German immigrant Hans Rhenisch and second generation Canadian Dorothy Leipe. He started writing poetry when he was 15, under the dramatist Bill Greenland. From 1976-1980 he studied Creative Writing at the University of Victoria, with Charles Lillard, Derk Wynand, P.K. Page, W.D. Valgardson, Dave Godfrey, and Robin Skelton. From 1981-1992 Rhenisch worked in the vineyards and orchards of the Okanagan and the Similkameen, eventually running his own pruning, grafting, and nursery business. In 1992 he moved to the Cariboo plateau, and in 2007 to Campbell River on Northern Vancouver Island.

Harold in 1975

Harold in 1975

Rhenisch’s poetry explores the land on which he lives and where he grew up in an immigrant culture developing orchards and vineyards in the fertile Okanagan Valley. In the juxtaposition of new European cultures and an ancient land, Rhenisch sees again the Kenya of the 1920s portrayed by Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. After waiting in vain for a V.S. Naipaul to write of the colonial plantation cultures of the Okanagan, Rhenisch turned his sense of the land into a vehicle capable of speaking for a complex contemporary world: the autobiographical fiction of Out of the Interior: The Lost Country.

Inglewood, in the Similkameen Valley

Inglewood, in the Similkameen Valley

For over thirty years, Rhenisch has striven to create an authentic literature for the silent rural parts of Canada, to place their images and dialects on an equal footing with those of the modern urban world. At the same time, he has been a student of Ezra Pound, post-modern German literature, and trickster mythology. For Rhenisch, the work of starting a new literature is paramount, centred in the workings of consciousness and mythology.

The Centre of the Universe

The Centre of the Universe

Rhenisch has been an arts columnist for the 100 Mile Free Press and in 1996 won the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Association Award for Best Arts and Culture Writing. In 1980, the University of Victoria awarded him the Rosalind Hewlett Petch Memorial Prize in Creative Writing, and he won Arc Magazine’s first (1991) Confederation Poetry Prize, as well as their 2003 prizes for best long review of poetry and for poem of the year. He has won The Malahat Review Long Poem Prize (twice), and the CBC Literary Prize. His The Wolves at Evelyn won the George Ryga Prize for Social Responsibility in British Columbia Literature in 2007.  He has given many lectures on poetry at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, and has conducted workshops for teachers and elementary and secondary school students throughout  British Columbia. In 1996 he was writer in residence at Douglas College in New Westminster, and in 2003, 2004, and 2007 taught Work In Progress and Memoir workshops at the Victoria School of Writing. He has been the education chair and communication chair of the League of Canadian Poets and has worked as a member of the B.C. Ministry of Education Fine Arts Curriculum Overview Team. He actively mentors and edits writers from across North America.


7 thoughts on “About Harold

  1. Pingback: Poetic BC family history and Chinook | Chinook Jargon

  2. Hi Harold
    I live in the shadow of Hurley Peak and what people call the Sleeping Lady. I would like to know the native name for the Sleeping Lady. There must be a native legend/myth for the peak.
    What are the Sacred Peaks?
    Would be very happy to hear from you.

    • Hi,

      Yes, it’s Cipak.

      And, yes, there is a story.

      Pyramid Mountain is another sacred peak… the syilx map is down, so it’ll take a bit of searching. There’s another out by Falkland. Mount Baldy as well. Okanagan Mountain, of course. The Coyote rocks here and there. The Split Rock at Split Rock State Park. The Coyote. Rock drowned under the Enloe Dam≥

      Anyway, you catch me mid-gardening. More later when I drag out my Morning Dove and see what she has to say.

      You sure live at the centre of the universe, lucky you.


      A trip to Conconully seems to be in your future.

      • Oh, if you drive south from Nighthawk, you will get to Palmer Lake. The ancient village site is at the north west side of the lake. The old rock shelters are in a parallel valley. At the south of the lake is Split Rock. A sacred smalqmex site. You will then go through Loomis (once the central town), and the beautiful Sinlahekin Valley (now a nature preserve), and come out at the old mining town of Conconully. It was once the county seat, which has been moved to Okanogan, but people come annually in memory and fill the campground. It was the first Reclamation project, a boondoggle. Grand Coulee was a later one. The old mine sites are largely flooded. A lot of history there. South of the lake is Ruby, the worst, roughest, most violent and lawless mining camp of all. Not much left there. Many people from Penticton camp on Conconully Reservoir, as it’s still “real Okanogan”, vs. what passes for it in Canada. Don’t forget McLaughlin’s Canyon by Omak.

  3. Well, it’s about all I can do…leave a reply, that is. I have lovingly again in this covid-confined time leafed through my signed copy of Motherstone. It harkens to so many of my wilderness experiences on the Bonaparte Plateau where, south flank of the Wells Gray-Clearwater zone, I encountered many volcanic, seemingly static but flow-through geologies, that all things basaltic or derivative thereof became profound. Loved the line (p.81), “It is a wave, breaking into the shore of the stars.” Wish I could go back, but am always there. –Richard, retired teacher, Comox

    • I hope you are doing well in this time of isolation. And finding some volcanic things on the beach to toss between your hands. If not, it’s time to go to Campbell River. The ruins of volcanoes are lying all over the beach. I would find it hard to live long without them. Blessings, Harold

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