30 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Jan Zwicky is a musician, philosopher and award-winning poet. In 1999, she won the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry for Songs for Relinquishing the Earth. Her most recent collection of poetry, Thirty-seven Small Songs & Thirteen Silences (GP, 2005), was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award and the Dorothy Livesay Prize. In May 2008, we published a hardcover new-edition of Zwicky's GG-nominated book of philosophy, Wisdom & Metaphor. Zwicky currently teaches philosophy at the University of Victoria.

Today's poem, 'Small Song in Praise of Ears' appears in Thirty-seven Small Songs & Thirteen Silences and Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1 (GP, 2007).

from Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1
Jan Zwicky

Small Song in Praise of Ears

Ah, my mushrooms,
my little fishes!
They laugh
when I tell them
you are beautiful.
Ah, my pink mice,
my infant trolls!

But who among them
has drunk dawn with its
thrush-scented air?
Who but you
has fingered silence,
that dark jewel
burning at night’s throat.

Copyright © Jan Zwicky, 2005

29 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Harry Thurston was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and has lived most of his life in his native province. For the last 25 years he has travelled widely as a full-time freelance writer for many of North America's leading magazines, including Audubon, Canadian Geographic, Harrowsmith, and National Geographic. He has served as a contributing editor of Equinox since its inception in 1981. His work has garnered several national journalism awards. Thurston currently lives in Tidnish Bridge, Nova Scotia, with his wife and daughter. Among his most recent publications are Broken Vessel: Thirty-five Days in the Desert (GP, 2007), A Ship Portrait (GP, 2005) and If Men Lived On Earth (GP, 2000).

Today's poem, 'Chimney Swifts' appeared in Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1 (GP, 2007) an anthology celebrating the first ten years of Gaspereau Press poetry.

from Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1
Harry Thurston

Chimney Swifts

     for Catherine

Fly ash, swifts swirl counter-
clockwise around the chimney

like smoke returning
to the fire. Time’s arrow

is reversed. As we watch their flight
spiral into darkness,

we are growing younger,
back toward our births,

borne to our mother’s womb
on charcoal wings.

First one bravely dips
into the inky stack,

then the others
obediently funnel down

to the mystery of our origins.
A place still, dark, expectant.

Dusk, the show is over,
we file obediently toward our appointment

with sleep, resume our steady movement
no longer suspended by waking wonder.

In the morning, the flock
unwinds like clock springs,

flies up as if the night foreman
had returned, kindled old fires.

The swifts, winged carbon, spiral up,
clockwise at the dawn light,

setting the day in motion,
unfurling the future.

Copyright © Harry Thurston, 2007

28 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Last spring, we published Late Nights With WIld Cowboys, a collection of poetry by Johanna Skibsrud. Johanna's poetry has appeared in various journals, including The Antigonish Review, Prism International, Lichen and Exile. Originally from Meadowville, Nova Scotia, she currently lives in Montreal. Earlier this month, Late Nights With Wild Cowboys was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.

from Late Nights With Wild Cowboys
Johanna Skibsrud

I'd be a Hopper Painting

It’s just this: that I’d like things not to end.
That I’d never get past morning if I could.

I’d be a Hopper painting. Freight Cars, Gloucester, 1928.

Or, if I had to be a Summer Evening, in 1947,
I wouldn’t be the girl. I’d be the
step by the rail of the porch; I wouldn’t
listen to the man.

Or wonder if the girl will turn; forgive him, and take him in.

Cape Cod Morning, 1950, for example: I wouldn’t be the woman
leaning from the well-lit room. Instead, I’d be the pane of glass
and look (but not like her, out to the yard and waiting—
for what, for whom),

inside and out at once, without desire.

I wouldn’t even be a shadow if it touches her. I wouldn’t risk it.
I would stay away from women.

I’d be the lamp on the bridge of the Manhattan Loop,
in 1928. The point where the sand meets the grass at the
Wellfleet shore. The red wheel that sits out back
of the Panet River place. The square of light on the wall.
The unseen bow of the yawl that is hidden by a
sudden swell, in 1935. I’d be the diagonal thrust of the
Shoshone cliffs, I’d be the bright rock face that’s set in
stark relief by a black shadow cast in 1941.

If, let’s say, on a summer’s evening a girl forgives a man,
might not she, in waking, find herself inside
another—a Cape Cod—morning,
three years gone, and set to staring there?

I’d be a Hopper painting if I could.
Even his women he paints solid.
But I wouldn’t be a woman.
I’d be Freight Cars, Gloucester, 1928.
I’d be the light on the slanted grass.

Copyright © Johanna Skibsrud, 2008

27 April 2009

Anne Simpson in Burlington

Anne Simpson was in Burlington earlier this month for A Different Drummer's Inaugural Spring Poetry Brunch at the Burlington Golf & Country Club. Anne read her new collection of essays, The Marram Grass: Poetry & Otherness.

23 April 2009

National Poetry Month

In 2006, we published Aiken Drum, a collection of poetry by Peter Sanger, editor of The Antigonish Review. Sanger has published seven collections of poetry, including Earth Moth (1991) and Arborealis (2005), a collaborative project with photographer Thaddeus Holownia. His recent prose work includes The Stone Canoe (GP, 2007), White Salt Mountain: Words in Time (GP, 2005) and Spar: Words in Place (GP, 2002). He lives in South Maitland, Nova Scotia.

“Fossil Fern” is from Aiken Drum and is reprinted in the Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1.

from Aiken Drum
Peter Sanger

Fossil Fern

This is the gift of a laminar stain,
an etching of carbon whose
black turns back into green

if you taste it, pinnae
uncoiling, pinnules unfurling
as if they might fly

and flight were one frond away
from this throatful of fern
still growing. A slate of grey

clay is its ground, an earth
you can hold for colour,
shape, speech, all life

in your hands, where spores once
appeared to manipulate silence.

Copyright © Peter Sanger, 2006.

Tonja and the Lean-To Launch

Last night, Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen launched her new collection, Lean-To, at Local Jo Cafe & Market in Halifax.

Tonja currently lives in Halifax but she was born in Saskatoon and spent her childhood first in Calgary, and later on a farm in Saskatchewan. Her first collection, Clay Birds, won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry in 1996. Her second collection Or was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award in 2004. Lean-To is Tonja's second collection with Gaspereau Press. In 2005, we published her chapbook, August, a suite of fourteen poems.

21 April 2009

National Poetry Month

from Spine
K.I. Press


They looked like little pizzas
keeping warm inside
their cardboard boxes. But those were books
in the oven. Books in the pantry
too, pickled and canned, and cold,
frothy ones in the fridge. Books three deep
in the shelves, of course. Books before
and after dinner—aperitifs and sweets—
and books a bit drunk on the way out the door.
Emergency books in the trunk of the car.
Dirty ones lying on the backseat floor.

It was hard not to join them.
Tom Jones chased me ’round the dining room table
while Pamela locked herself in the china cabinet.
Sense and Sensibility raised an eyebrow. I had to pee
and there was Moby-Dick in the sink, pursuing the soap.
A drunken anthology of modernists
was smoking in the living room.
Heart of Darkness crouched behind the bookends, waiting.

The Chaucer stayed in its shelf
and laughed and whispered
under its breath. The world, it said.
Sign here.

Copyright © K.I. Press, 2004

20 April 2009

Gaspereau Press Spring Poetry Tra-la

National Poetry Month is in full swing and last week, Carmine Starnino, Anne Simpson and Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen brought a little taste of Gaspereau Press to Toronto. All three were on hand to read from their new collections at Ben McNally Books.

16 April 2009

Don McKay and The Muskwa Assemblage

Don McKay is one of Canada’s most celebrated poets. Last year, Gaspereau Press released a short book of his poetry called The Muskwa Assemblage, a reflection on a visit he made to the Muskwa-Kechika wilderness of northern British Columbia.

Making the book was an adventure as well, as it was the first time that we have produced a trade publication that was printed letterpress, inside and out. Gary also produced a handmade paper for the book jacket here as the press – also a first. I had a good chuckle last fall when I had to explain to the patient but perplexed editor from The Walrus that, no, we couldn’t provide him with a ‘cover image’ to run with their review of the book because we hadn’t made the paper yet and didn’t quite know what the jackets would look like. In fact, I said, we still had to build some of the papermaking equipment. It seems that’s not an excuse they hear every day.

Finally finished, the book won an Alcuin award for book design last week. Tra-la!

from The Muskwa Assemblage
Don McKay

Cladonia borealis: aka
Red pyxie-cup lichen, aka little stoplights
clustered on a stump. Pause here,
hiker. Consider such symbioses
as these creatures so ingeniously
accomplish in their fungal-algal
love-and-death affair.
     And spare another moment
for the first frail
single-celled companionships
cultured in earth’s ancient amniotic
oceans. Think
of the mother of the
mother of the mother-to-the-nth
of thought.

Copyright © Don McKay, 2008

15 April 2009

Emily D & Douglas L

Douglas Lochhead was the Founding Librarian and a Senior Fellow at Massey College in Toronto, but like Charles G.D. Roberts and John Thompson he is often associated with the Tantramar marshlands near Sackville, New Brunswick. In 2003, Gaspereau Press published a suite of Lochhead’s poems about this landscape entitled Midgic. Today’s poem is a fragment from that collection.

from Midgic
Douglas Lochhead


Emily, Miss D, where art thou
looking into your day,
into the wide view
of your poems, your soul?

the arresting love thoughts
which target my day
the ever-present signals
which speak when I pray

Copyright © Douglas Lochhead, 2003

14 April 2009

Poetic & Typographic Form

This is the opening poem from Ross Leckie’s collection Gravity’s Plumb Line. One of the things I like about Leckie’s work is the way in which it often employs and yet flexes the boundaries of formalism, and this was something I tried to embody in the book’s design. I set the book using a type based on the neoclassical letterforms of John Baskerville (1706–75), types whose structure and tradition were in sympathy with the poetic structures and traditions present in Leckie’s own poems. At the same time, I subverted Baskervillian formalism on the jacket, cover and title page, employing a playfulness lifted directly from Leckie. This particular poem is from a suite about New Brunswick’s Saint John River, which descends from Little St. John Lake to the Atlantic poem by poem. It is reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur, Volume 1.

Little St. John Lake
Ross Leckie

The frowzy lake covered with weed
is merely a little spilled water,
afterthought to an afternoon’s rain.

It is a cloudy day, the clouds touched
just once lightly in purple ink.
The mosquitoes will be out later.

French and English spill over this
splash of greeny brown and murky
green. Or they would if anyone

were here—they do back in St. Aurelie
where the leak of water trickling north
briefly marks a border between

Québec and Maine. But this is the
place where it all begins, the lake
a crystal pitcher tipping its liquid

into a trick of evening light.
Brackish, shallow, a seep through
the furze and spindly spruce, it moves

as if it has all the time in the world—
and it does; a foot sinks in the soft mud,
icy water slips over the lip of your boot.

Copyright © Ross Leckie, 2005

13 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Before we did Sean Johnston’s stunning debut novel All This Town Remembers in 2006, Gaspereau Press published a little chapbook of his poems called Bull Island as a number in our Devil’s Whim Occasional Chapbook series. This poem is from that chapbook. It is also reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1. — AS

Sean Johnston

Obviously, the moon and its shadows,
the moon and what it did, the moon
and its movement with water —

I said it to her, fresh as we were,
I said it to her because the night
had already happened, and the dark,

and we’d missed it and then the moon
with its sudden appearance made sudden
by our muscled ignorance, our concern

with other concerns — the sex, for instance;
the noise of it and would it be wrapped
up properly or would a baby wake up

and announce itself, our baby just next
door, in such a room — and it didn’t and so
suddenly, the moon, and I said it to her

and of course, she said to me, of course.

Copyright © Sean Johnston, 2004

09 April 2009

Gaspereau Press Wins Six Alcuin Design Awards

Six books designed by Gaspereau Press co-owner Andrew Steeves have been recognized in the Alcuin Society’s 27th annual juried book-design competition.

Four of the six winning titles are trade books which were published by Gaspereau Press in 2008. The remaining two books were designed for Anchorage Press, a private press operated by photographer Thaddeus Holownia in Jolicure, New Brunswick.

The Alcuin Society was founded in 1965 and promotes the appreciation of fine book design in Canada. This year’s judges – Alan Stein, Frank Newfeld and E.A. Hobart (Zab) – examined 233 books published in Canada in 2008. A total of 32 awards were granted in eight categories: Children’s, Limited editions, Pictorial, Poetry, Prose fiction, Prose non-fiction, Prose non-fiction illustrated and Reference. The winning books will be exhibited internationally at the Frankfurt, Leipzig and Tokyo book fairs, and at locations across Canada.

Wisdom & Metaphor by Jan Zwicky

This is a redesigned hardcover edition of Zwicky’s award-winning book of philosophy. The original version also won an Alcuin award for design in 2003. Designed by Andrew Steeves and printed and bound at Gaspereau Press.

The Muskwa Assemblage by Don McKay

This letterpress-printed poetry book is the first book which employs a jacket paper handmade by Gary Dunfield at Gaspereau Press. Designed and handprinted by Andrew Steeves at Gaspereau Press.

That Tune Clutches My Heart by Paul Headrick

Set in the 1940s, this short novel follows one girl’s high school experience as recorded in the pages of her personal journal. The jacket features an original illustration by Wesley Bates. Designed by Andrew Steeves and printed and bound at Gaspereau Press.

In Black & White by Wesley Bates

This is a luxuriously illustrated memoir by one of North America’s foremost wood engravers. Designed by Andrew Steeves and printed and bound at Gaspereau Press.

National Poetry Month

This poem is from Karen Houle’s book During, which was published by Gaspereau Press last spring. Karen discussed the process of writing this book in an earlier blog, posted on February 6, 2009.

Because We Were Prepared
to Make Use of Each Other
Karen Houle

Two by two in a harness of blended capability—
our handmade house with its hundred movable parts:

Parts to organize the light for sleeping,
parts for being all alone and
parts for being alone with you.

Your voice soon bent to fit my keyhole
was the opening in you to the outside world.

One thing safe inside another,
the high talk began

brutalizing one’s mouth by the questions coming out of it.

Feet melt on rungs of deadly daylight.
Skin bangs on its hinges all night.

My breasts still warm dead doves—
picture window, mistaken for open sky.

Copyright © Karen Houle, 2008

08 April 2009

National Poetry Month

While Harold Horwood (1923–2006) was best known as a novelist and journalist, he was also a labour organizer, literary editor, political columnist, and spent a term sitting as a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly under Joey Smallwood’s Liberal government from 1949–51.

Horwood brought his small book of Labrador poems, Cycle of the Sun, to Gaspereau Press on the recommendation of our mutual friend Harry Thurston. Horwood’s visit was one of the most awkward introductions I’ve ever had to an author. Horwood spent the majority of the meeting with his back to me, seemingly indifferent, examining the contents of my bookshelf. After listening to me trying to carry the conversation for a while, he muttered something like Well, okay, let's do it and left. From there on in, we worked by correspondence, which was equally cryptic. I have to admit I rather enjoyed our too brief association.

The text of Cycle of the Sun was composed in Garamond using a Ludlow hot metal caster and handprinted in a limited edition. The books were handbound by then Gaspereau editorial assistant Christine McNair, who went on to study book arts in England and is now a book conservator and poet in Ottawa. This poem is also reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1. — AS

Caribou Hunt
Harold Horwood

Over the Kiglapaites the white gyrfalcon
divides the heavens like a falling star
or tilting over the cliffs of Saglec Bay
cleaving the vault of air
above a country where the rioting
of races far to the south like summer thunder
is heard but faintly. No one has ventured here
excepting those who travelled out of the North,
the people of the walrus and the bear.
Far south, within the shelter of the treeline
the Innu read the oracles of bones
seeking for spirit guidance, how to confront
steel birds that thunder over the spruces
scattering death. They chant of Jacopish
in the sky and Atik-wennabeo in the forest.
I wish them well, although I truly fear
that the game lords will withhold their favours
while the land lies cursed under the white shadow.
All this is not for me, an Inuk wandering
far north of Goose Bay, northward from Nitassinan
here where the steel birds in an elder time
burst through my father’s dreaming,
and left their bones on the cliffs.

My homeland is the barren ground—I travel here,
watching the waving fields of cotton grass
in copper-coloured revelry,
rock, peat bog, caribou moss,
stone-studded lakes where the osprey hovers
between cloud and cloud-shadow, all of it empty
of humankind. But the grey wolf lives here
in the month of the hunter, following the deer,
moving ghost-like along the edges of green dawns—
grey forms, their ankles clicking like clocks on the grey stone
as day breaks diamonded cobwebs on a frozen marsh.

So I sit here brewing tea at the door of the tent,
and sing you this song, Old Man of the Caribou,
that your heart may be glad,
and my belly may be full.

Copyright © Harold Horwood, 2005.

07 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Today’s poem is from our newly released book, Lean-to, by Halifax poem Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen. “Tin” is from a longer suite of poems called “August after August” which won the the CBC Literary Award for poetry in 2005. — AS

Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen

Expecting tin can lanterns, a party:
cold trout on blue willow, spark of the river’s tinsel.

The aluminum canoe, a tinderbox we slide ourselves into
tipsy on the river’s sulk.

An anniversary gift, better than confections
or silks. Scissors won’t open it. A secret

the clouds conjugate north of the weir.
Tenir. To hold. Tongues of silt.

August: the aspens open their tissues, temptations.
The river, a rival

current. On the surface: flotsam, a million proofs.
Clutching the paddle, shove out the thoughts that nudge—

Copyright © Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen, 2009.

06 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Today’s poem is by Michael deBeyer. These days, Michael lives in Fredericton, NB, but he recently completed a two-year stint working at the Gaspereau Press as a press operator. (If you’re reading this, Michael, remember the mantra: If you’ve problems with the ink, check the water ...). Michael is one of the only writers to appear in both the Shift & Switch and The New Canon poetry anthologies published a few years ago, demonstrating the extent to which his writing supersedes easy reduction to membership in any one aesthetic camp. Gaspereau Press has published two books by Michael, Rural Night Catalogue (2002) and Change in a Razor-backed Season (2005), from which this poem is taken. It is also reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1. — AS

Imagining the Black Bear into the Parking Lot
Michael deBeyer

I don’t know that it would be fair to think of it,
to pool the black bear this way, to pull it out,
the way it may have circled, steam culled from the body
into the morning air, its gentlest behaviour.
Matted hair above the ruff, a reddish winter coat
going to seed; hair cut against the forest’s
bluntest tools; tooth in nail, berry-seeded jelly.
Each limb needle-pointed with dew, bearing inspection.
Belly up for the sun to filter out the night damp.
Stomach taut. The embedded, richly earthy musk.
That it left last autumn’s colour with a temporary
impression: a paw print deep enough to put a fist in.

Copyright © Michael deBeyer, 2005.

05 April 2009

National Poetry Month

From time to time, amid the pastrami-stained taxi chits and crinkled-up theatre programmes presented by our renowned book traveller Randolph St Cubbins, on which are scribbled what he submits to be his ‘record of expenses’, we occasionally find a stanza or two, noted down no doubt in idle moments between sales appointments. Is it really any surprise that a man as dedicated to literature as our man St Cubbins would not occasionally compose a word or two of poetry? Randolph was well known as a wit and versifier in his uni days, even editing the student literary journal at Kings College, The Offense of Poesie. What follows is a sonnet transcribed from a recent St Cubbins missive. I must submit that his spidery handwriting and the fax machine’s poor transmission might have obscured his true purpose in a line or two. We did our best. — AS

Sonnet on Wall Street
Randolph St Cubbins

Unthrifty Wall Street, why ever did you spend
Upon yourself our entire legacy?
The White House gives you nothing, but does lend,
And being fools their bailout leaves you free:
Oh, investment bankers, why do you abuse
The bounteous billions given you to give?
Profitless usurers, why do you lose
So great a sum of sums, yet bonus executives?
For having traffic with yourself alone,
You of yourself your sweet self does deceive:
Then how when Congress calls you to atone,
What acceptable audit can you leave?
Thy squandered profits must be tombed with thee,
Which, used, lives th’ executor to be.

04 April 2009

National Poetry Month

The poem we’ve picked for today is from Singing the Flowers Open, our first book with the New Brunswick poet Allan Cooper. It is also reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1.
— AS

The Worker Bee
Allan Cooper

 My mother hands me the still form of a worker bee. It is
strangely silent in my palm, curled in on itself, as if asleep.
I’m careful with it at first, for I remember the sudden heat
of the stinger. But this yellow and black bee, striped near
the rump, once as feared as a lion, won’t sting again. I feel a
sadness holding it, for it is like anything that has lived and
died—what you miss most is the motion, the supple flow
of moving form. I look at the face: it is shaped a bit like a
sheep’s, coal black, only shinier, reflective as polished stone.
And the wings are stained glass in a monk’s room, or a map
on the wall, sketching the steep paths of the air.
 I pick her up by one wing and shake her. She rattles like
ripe seeds inside a pod. The whir of wings is reduced to this
single sort of sound, abrupt and sharp, like castanets shaken
by someone mourning a death. Perhaps this is the sound of
the honey stomach, now dry like all the other organs, but
still holding a sweetness that never got back to the hive.
And maybe inside there is amber, and if I opened her now
the scent of honey would rise from the body casket, and
the many eyes on the face would remember flowers, bright
spring flowers, clover and dandelion, their colours in June—
and other colours known only to the bee, ultraviolet, yellow
and blue.

Copyright © Allan Cooper, 2001.

03 April 2009

National Poetry Month

Few writers deliver as electrifying a live performance as George Elliott Clarke. We’ve published a number of books by George, from his stark, award-winning Execution Poems, to his lush poetic verse plays Trudeau and Québécité. The poem we’ve picked for poetry month is from his chapbook Africadian History. It is also reprinted in the poetry anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1.
— AS

Sermon on J.W. Doull’s Used Books Store
George Elliott Clarke

Poetry is a useful art.
— Trudeau

Shakespeare and Milton brush against
Demi-mondaines like Longfellow,
Or faint luminaries like Rod McKuen,
Or those anonymous, dead stars—
Discards, pitilessly tumbled in bins,
Ignorant that professors praised
Their lines to judgmental undergrads,
Who would not forsake embraces
And dark beer to warm a poet’s words
In their skulls or bedside shelves.

Discounted, musty, some who anguish
Over lines will languish in mildew
Graves until some light-summoning poet
Plucks them from dank obscurity.

Copyright © George Elliott Clarke, 2001.

02 April 2009

National Poetry Month

The second poem in our National Poetry Month series is from a new Selected Poems by the British Columbia writer Robert Bringhurst. The first sheets of this book have just made it onto the printing press, so it will be a couple of weeks yet before it’s in circulation. We have, however, just released a new edition reprint of his polyphonic masque Ursa Major.
— AS

Robert Bringhurst

I keep a crooked wooden bowl
half full of birdseed in the garden,
where the siskins and the finches,
crossbills, cowbirds, chickadees
and red-winged blackbirds meet.

Each day among the finches
there is one – a female house finch,
Carpodacus mexicanus, I believe –
who must have tangled with a predator,
or maybe with a truck.

Not one among the others acts
concerned. No one seems, in fact,
to notice the black cavity that once
was her right eye, the shattered
stump that used to be her upper beak.

And no one gawks or whispers
at the awkward sidewise motion
that enables her to eat. And no one
mocks, crunching a sunflower seed,
her preference for millet.

Where ostracism, charity or pity
might have been, there is reality
instead. I mean that their superlative
indifference is a kind of moral
beauty, as perfect as the day.

If the red-tailed hawk comes by,
or the neighbor’s cat, they mention
that to one another and are gone.
They also say hello; they say I am;
they say We are; they say Let’s finch

and make more finches. But I never
hear them talk of one another.
They speak of what they are, not who
they do or do not wish to be.
That is a form of moral beauty

too, as perfect as the day. Which is
to say they sing. By nothing
more than being there and being
what they are, they sing.
They sing. And that is that.

Copyright © Robert Bringhurst, 2009.

Robert Bringhurst with typographer Glenn Goluska

01 April 2009

National Poetry Month

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.
– T.S. Eliot

Well, Tom, say what you wish about April, but here at Gaspereau Press it’s a month that gets us all shook up. Not only is there water running in the brooks and birds singing in the trees, warm sun coaxing grass to green and trees to blossom – there are also the spring poetry books, the fruits of our winter’s labours, ready for readers.

Poetry? I hear you saying. But don’t go making the mistake of thinking that poetry is all delicate frou-frou about lovers, obscure flowers and Greek goddesses. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some of my best friends are Greek goddesses.) Poetry is tough stuff. Made right, poetry is the very sinew which holds language together, making communication and understanding possible. It allows us to temporarily hold impossibilities in place and examine them, to consider one thing through the lens of another, as Shakespeare does with his beloved and a red rose. Simply put, the limber, metaphorical language of poetry makes it possible to express things about our experience in this world which might otherwise lie beyond expression. Where there is meaning, there is likely some form of poetry giving it voice; where there is poetry, meaning is possible.

King Oedipus, frustrated by his inability to procure an executive summary of an oracle from the prophet Teiresias, grumbles How needlessly your riddles darken everything. Sophocles has his wry prophet respond that in riddle answering you are strongest. Is it any surprise that a writer faced with the complex tensions and contradictions present in a figure like Oedipus – a figure at once guiltless in his ignorance of his crime and guilty of a great offence against order – would advocate for a limber, metaphoric language strong enough to convey difficult, dangerous truths? And how could a language that wily, that full of tensile strength, do anything other than get you excited about April? … Tom?

In Canada, April is National Poetry Month, and we’ve decided to celebrate by reaching into our poetry backlist and posting a poem on our blog every day for the rest of the month. Most of the poems we will feature are from books published by Gaspereau Press, but we’re also planning a few surprises.

We'll kick things off with a poem by the west coast poet Tim Bowling, who is presently living in Edmonton. The poem appeared in Fathom, which was published by Gaspereau Press in 2006 and won the 2007 Alberta Book Award for poetry. It also appears in the 10th anniversary anthology Gaspereau Gloriatur: Volume 1. – AS

Sixteen Wild Cherry Trees
Tim Bowling

In a pair of cut-off jeans and nothing else
I go back to raid them.

They’re gone. If I want to stain myself
I’ll have to cut and bleed.

Eight samurai
thick thighs planted
girded our town.

When they cried
I walked in their tears.

After battle
I was a crow
at their guts.

Sixteen lookouts—

now who watches
the high mountain passes
for the man who must raid
what he loves
to survive?

Copyright © Tim Bowling, 2006