Poetry dust up.

a poet adored by her protege obiturist

At what age did I abandon poetry? I know why but not sure when. Why was to earn a living and that meant giving up the treasured moments I once enjoyed while inside verse, either my own little words or those of another poet.

Sometimes, thank God, I was allowed to slide back inside poetry and that was always because an obituary subject with whom I was absorbed was a celebrated poet. The publisher would courier me slim volumes of this person’s oeuvre and I would sink deep into these waters. Hours would pass.

In 2007, I wrote Margaret Avison’s obituary, for instance. She won the Governor General’s Award for Concrete and Wild Carrot. She also won the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize. Here’s a taste of Ms. Avison.

Rising Dust

The physiologist says I am well over
half water.
I feel, look, solid; am
though leaky firm.
Yet I am composed
largely of water.
How the composer turned us out
this way, even the learned few do not
explain. That’s life.

And we’re in need of
more water, over and over, repeatedly
thirsty, and unclean.

The body of this earth
has water under it and
over, from
where the long winds sough
tirelessly over water, or shriek around
curved distances of ice.

Sky and earth invisibly
breathe skyfuls of
water, visible when it
finds its own level.

Even in me?
Kin to waterfalls
and glacial lakes and sloughs
and all that flows and surges,
yet I go steadily,
or without distillation climb at will
(until a dissolution
nobody anticipates).

I’m something else besides.
The biochemist does not
concern himself with this.
It too seems substance,
A vital bond threaded on an
as-if loom out there.
The strand within
thrums and shudders and twists.
It cleaves to this
colour or texture and
singles out to a rhythm
almost its own, again,
anticipating design.

But never any of us
physiologist or fisherman
or I
quite makes sense of it. We
find our own level

as prairie, auburn or
snow-streaming, sounds forever
the almost limitless.

From Concrete and Wild Carrot, by Margaret Avison
Copyright © Margaret Avison, 2002

And then, my obituary complete, I placed the books on the shelf and turned away from poetry until the next poet’s death. But yesterday–yesterday I was permitted to return to the study and practice of poetry! This time the quest was anchored not in death but very much in life.

The Ontario Arts Council awarded me with a $12,000 grant to return to my own poems. They bought me time to pour my love into my manuscript. You Catch My Breath is the working title I gave this crush of poems several years back, before I surrendered it in my necessary struggle to earn that curious thing “a living” in other ways.

But not no more. For a while, not no more.

I’m giving my breath to poetry now.


About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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One Response to Poetry dust up.

  1. Pingback: A « Being Invisible

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