April 30, 2020

ANNICK MACASKILL'S BANFF

Annick MacAskill writes: “Banff” is a poem from my latest collection, Murumurations, which just came out with Gaspereau Press. The book is a collection of queer love poetry that also explores the limits and intersections of sound, language, meaning, communication, noise, and song.

I’ve long been fascinated with love poetry. As I wrote this book, I was conscious of how I did (and did not) fit in with many of the (male, straight) models that have defined this tradition. I’m grateful for writers like Carol Ann Duffy, Audre Lorde, Anne Carson, Arleen Paré, and others who have given us their own takes on the established mode of the love lyric.

I had planned to launch Murmurations in Halifax on Thursday, May 14, at Café Lara. I had asked fellow Halifax poets Jaime Forsythe, Nanci Lee, and Sam Sternberg to read with me. I hope to re-schedule this event at some point in the future.

Annick MacAskill
BANFF

Clouds trip over mountains, lend
shadows to our hands, ungloved—
four small blessings for November,
yours larger than mine, though
not greater, you say, skirting
the path, pointing the way back
to the gallery. I say brother
but that’s not what I mean. I say
friend—though more than oil painting
or sculpture, I’d like to know
the weight of you, hold it
between my teeth or under
my tongue, a secret
like the white ermine in the snow.


Annick MacAskill’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada and abroad. Her debut collection, No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018), was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J.M. Abraham Award. Her second full-length collection, Murmurations, was published by Gaspereau this spring. Originally from Southwestern Ontario, she now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. Visit her website at annickmacaskill.com. Murmurations can be ordered on the author’s website, from independent bookstores, and directly from Gaspereau Press.

April 29, 2020

REVISIONS MASTERCLASS: SARAH VENART, EPIPHANY


This is the fourth and last in a Poetry Month feature series with Sarah Venart, who walks us through the revisions history of some of the poems from her forthcoming book, I Am the Big Heart (Brick 2020). Comments and questions are welcome. What do you see changing as the poem develops?

Sarah Venart
EPIPHANY

Here I am, with one hour to find it.
Here I am in this tenth month, the peeler of pears, 
the slicer of hotdogs, cutting them into strips 
smaller than a child’s windpipe. 
Here’s my apologetic smile, accepted by the daycare 
in return for my children. So what is there to find 
in one hour on my desk’s shallow surface? 
I’ve mislaid all of it somewhere among 
my mind’s tiny grey flags, in the millions of scraps 
piling up. I left it behind in the dark bleeding gums 
of the dog that I loved, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide. That was twelve years ago. 
What was she looking for? 
What if she’d stopped looking?
Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. 
And I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When my black dog was being put down, in her last 
second I whispered, Squirrel. 


REVISION HISTORY


Creation: Winter 2014
The Tenth Month an unlikely location (Later became EPIPHANY)

for epiphany, or in the morning, 
or in the afternoon.  The mind full of 
tiny grey flags, millions quietly pile 
up.  Or the black bleeding gums of the dog 
again retrieving her dark rocks from the 
tides. What if I stopped looking up? Meta-

phor not only the sky, but migrating 
everywhere. And everyone is arrow, 
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons.  And 

I was the big heart, wasn’t I? When the 
dog was being put down. In her last 
second, I whispered, Squirrel. 


Revision for submission, Spring 2018

Epiphany

The tenth month an unlikely location
for it, or this morning or this afternoon when
you are a mother who used to be a poet.
You sit at the desk and have one hour to find it.
It’s here somewhere in the mind’s tiny grey flags
in the millions of scraps piling up.
Or maybe you left it in the dark bleeding gums
of the dog you love, watching her clench another
rock from the tide twelve years ago. What was she
looking for? What if she stopped looking?
Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And
I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When the black dog is being put down, in her last
second I whisper, Squirrel. 


Revision May 2019
Epiphany

You have one hour to find it.
You’ve peeled and cut the pears, the leash already clipped on and trailing 
behind the dog as she turns to thump down at your feet to wait.
You’ve even prepared the apologetic smile the daycare accepts 
when you stand in their doorway.
You sit at the desk and have an hour to find it,
one hour in this tenth month, an unlikely location,
when you are a mother who used to be a poet.
It’s here somewhere in the mind’s assortment 
of grey flags, in the millions of scraps piling up. Or maybe you left it 
in the dark bleeding gums of the dog you love, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide twelve years ago. What was she
looking for? What if she stopped looking?
Metaphors were easier then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And
I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When the black dog is being put down, in her last
second you whisper, Squirrel. 


Revision June 2019
Epiphany

You have one hour to find it.
You’ve peeled and cut the pears, the leash already clipped on and trailing 
behind the dog as she turns to thump down at your feet to wait.
You’ve even prepared the apologetic smile the daycare accepts 
when you stand in their doorway.
You sit at the desk and have an hour to find it,
one hour in this tenth month, an unlikely location,
when you are a mother who used to be a poet.
It’s here somewhere in the mind’s assortment 
of grey flags, in the millions of scraps piling up. Or maybe you left it 
in the dark bleeding gums of the dog you love, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide twelve years ago. What was she
looking for? What if she stopped looking?
Metaphors were easier then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And
I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When the black dog is being put down, in her last
second you whisper, Squirrel. 


Revision July 2019 
Epiphany

Here I am, with one hour to find it.
Here I am in this tenth month, the peeler of pears, 
the slicer of hotdogs, cutting them into strips 
smaller than a child’s windpipe. 
Here’s my apologetic smile the daycare accepts 
in return for my children. So what is there to find 
in one hour on my desk’s shallow surface? 
I’ve mislaid all of it
somewhere in my mind’s tiny grey flags, 
in the millions of scraps piling up. 
I left it behind in the dark bleeding gums 
of the dog that I loved, watching her clench yet another rock 
from the tide. That was twelve years ago. 
What was she looking for? 
What if she’d stopped looking?
Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,
but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. 
And I am the big heart, aren’t I?
When my black dog was being put down, in her last 
second I whispered, Squirrel. 

FRAGMENTS FROM A POETRY RECIPEBOOK: MIRIAM CLAVIR

In this Poetry Month guest post, museum conservator and mystery novelist Miriam Clavir reflects on the time-honoured practice of collecting poem fragments and recipes.



What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet. 
          (Gerald Manley Hopkins, "Inversnaid")

When I became fortunate enough to spend half of each year in the country - cottage, woods, lake - I wrote out my recipes to use in my new place, and copied out a poem for each facing page. 


Naught moves but clouds, and in the glassy lake
Their doubles and the shadow of my boat.
The boat itself stirs only when I break
This drowse of heat and solitude afloat 
          (Edward Thomas)

I’m not a poet, and I don't participate much in the poetry world; my work life has been in museums and now in writing fiction. 


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows 
          (W.H. Davies) 

The poems, I realize now, are over a hundred years old  - my interest in preserving cultural belongings showing through  - but what they say is, I think, always current.


As is this more contemporary passage - 

Why should I let the toad “work
Squat on my life? 
          (Philip Larkin)  

and this -

Let me disobey
my own best interests
And do what I want to do, whatever
            that may be,
without regretting it, or thinking I might. 
          (Hugo Williams, “Prayer”)

- both of which inspire making time from busy daily life “to stand and stare.”


Miriam Clavir writes from her home in Vancouver where she waits out the pandemic. All images are by the author.

April 28, 2020

EAVAN BOLAND: WHAT LANGUAGE DID


Eavan Boland
WHAT LANGUAGE DID


The evening was the same as any other.
I came out and stood on the step.
The suburb was closed in the weather

of an early spring and the shallow tips
and washed-out yellows of narcissi
resisted dusk. And crocuses and snowdrops.

I stood there and felt melancholy
of growing older in such a season,
when all I could be certain of was simply

in this time of fragrance and refrain,
whatever else might flower before the fruit,
and be renewed, I would not. Not again.

A car splashed by in the twilight.
Peat smoke stayed in the windless
air overhead and I might have missed it:

a presence. Suddenly. In the very place
where I would stand in other dusks, and look
to pick out my child from the distance,

was a shepherdess, her smile cracked,
her arm injured from the mantelpieces
and pastorals where she posed with her crook.

Then I turned and saw in the spaces
of the night sky constellations appear,
one by one, over roof-tops and houses,

and Cassiopeia trapped: stabbed where
her thigh met her groin and her hand
her glittering wrist, with the pin-point of a star.

And by the road where rain made standing
pools of water beneath cherry trees,
and blossoms swam on their images,

was a mermaid with invented tresses,
her breasts printed with the salt of it and all
the desolation of the North Sea in her face.

I went nearer. They were disappearing.
Dusk had turned to night but in the air--
did I imagine it?--a voice was saying:

This is what language did to us. Here
is the wound, the silence, the wretchedness
of tides and hillsides and stars where

we languish in a grammar of sighs,
in the high-minded search for euphony,
in the midnight rhetoric of poesie.

We cannot sweat here. Our skin is icy.
We cannot breed here. Our wombs are empty.
Help us to escape youth and beauty.

Write us out of the poem. Make us human
in cadences of change and mortal pain
and words we can grow old and die in.

(from In a Time of Violence)

Posted in memory of Eavan Boland, 1944-2020

Image, The Independent