Now I think it’s merely
a matter of emphasis,
like the Globe & Mail
and the National Enquirer.
They’re both the same, really;
they both line words
like bars across the pages,
making you want to squeeze
between them into the white
where you think the truth is.
from “The Town Where I Grew Up”
Archive for the ‘Poems about Books’ Category
I was four
and leaving Cornwall,
Ontario, for a life at sea. What
possessed me? Not the effects
of the Howard Smith Paper Mill’s emissions on my
innocent sinus passages, nor the H-bomb,
nor the arrival of my younger brother
and the sudden fall from myth
to politics and history. I blame
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, whose
watercolour illustrations led the eye along the sweet
curl of the waves and the Brave
Sea Captain’s pipe smoke into the wide-
open page where who
from “Running Away”
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
from “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm”
Thanks to Susan Olding for the suggestion.
No grief this fall until
I open your book
of suitcase poems–
they haul out everything
I thought I’d packed away
like my aunt,
jailed and beaten,
who fled across a border
leaving everything precious
Memory is empty
as her duffel bag
which hangs itself
from the cellar hook–
you remind me: slit the vinyl,
find the smuggled jewels.
“For shannon bramer”
Question and Answer
The force of her own gift alone drove her to it…
who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s
heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?
—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
My brother was a talented man. 38 plays, 154 sonnets,
4 long narrative poems and a threnody on the death of
chaste lovers, all with a little Latin and less Greek—well.
A genius in his own time, surely.
But his appetite burned a hole in our family’s pockets, he
wouldn’t sew gloves, wouldn’t apprentice to the new
bailiff, just scribbled, then was gone to London. We
weren’t foolish—there was nowhere else for him, and
nothing for it but to follow.
Will made enough in London to carouse, but sent no
coin home. Our father snored beneath the alehouse
table, too drunk to oppose what Ann and I concocted by
the fire one cold night, the children hungry in their
beds. I, being more than common tall, attired myself on
all points as a man and set out. I crossed Clopton Bridge
on a cold St. George’s Day, my brother’s 25th feast-day. I
found him face down, feasting on a puddle of his own
spew, nothing new in that.
No longer a woman, I didn’t clean and coddle him, but
booted his backside like the dog he was and swore on
his children’s eyes that he’d send money home if I had to
sell his body as a rent boy. I locked him in his shabby
rooms, kept the key in my fist, and he wrote three plays
a year. Some were good. People started to notice. An Earl
commissioned some sonnets, offered gold for my dark
hair sketched into my brother’s verse. Money was
money. My namesake niece in Stratford grew tall enough
to preen and call herself Judith.
My brother was a talented man. But for me, who never
again wore a dress, who played manager for twenty
years, his greatest feat lay in how he turned our family
fortunes, our green and yellow melancholy, into the
great Globe itself. A person, to write, needs a room of
one’s own. A door that locks. Someone to hold the key.
from Holding Ground
by Tanis MacDonald
I have to apologise for the formatting of the poems about books and reading that I am posting. I cannot for the life of me get the returns for the separation of stanzas to stick. If anyone has encountered this problem and knows how to solve it, please let me know.
Here, among these fierce and sentimental students,
I stand on the edge of a world not my own,
snatching small goods from the large irrelevance
of what we do, making the old sorrows known
to children bearing their first calamities,
teaching solitudes to the newly alone,
explaining writers’ exile to refugees
and notions of intrinsic worth to half-fledged
bankers, already driving smart Mercedes.
Yet they live by their hope, curiously pledged
to some afterness that will reward and bless
them for gifts that nature leaves unacknowledged
or earnest labours I grade at B or less;
they know some need of love that poets speak to,
and few can absent their hearts from every class,
however many droning they may sleep through;
they will mark a perfect image or a phrase
and hear it years from now, wilder then and new.
from “At the College”
Boxing the Compass
Who reads her while she reads? Her eyes slide
under the paper, into another world
while all we hear of it
or see is the slow surf of turning pages.
Her mother might not recognize her,
soaked to the skin as she is in her own shadow.
How could you then? You with your watch and your tongue
still running, tell me: how much does she lose
when she looks up? When she lifts
the ladles of her eyes, how much
flows back into the book, and how much
spills down the walls of the overflowing world?
Children, playing alone, will sometimes
come back suddenly, seeing what it is
to be here, and their eyes are altered. Hers too. Words
she’s never said reshape her lips forever.
A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English
Ed. Donna Bennett and Russell Brown