… today: a gem . The past few days I have been loitering, deep in thought about a poem that moves through 5 different phases, each structurally different from the rest, and I had the desire to read more essays on poetry, about poetry, about who makes poetry (either that or I was getting bored with my own inadequate thoughts). I looked through my shelves of papers and found a few dusty essays magazines and was going to brush them off and give them a read, when luckily in the mail my copy of ARC Magazine’s latest issue, Canada’s Forgotten and Neglected Issue was awaiting my perusal. I’ve been reading almost non-stop since. I’m surprised and delighted with the essays and the poetry. I’m of the same mind as Aislinn Hunter when she asks why we can’t have a Canadian poetry archive that is easily accessible countrywide. I agree that there are many poets that get left out from the “popular” canons, and that accessibility would be key factor in re-accessing our poetry heritage.

That said, I was reminded today of the book I’d purchased at a used bookstore in Saskatoon a few years ago by a woman I wasn’t familiar with, Martha Ostenso. She was born in Norway and eventually settled with her family in Manitoba. The book I have is A Far Land published in 1924 by Thomas Seltzer, NY. It’s seen a bit of wear (the binding is pretty much shot, and many of the pages are written on in ink). I find it an interesting book, and a small snapshot of Canadian poetic history, although she moved back to the US shortly after the publication of this book.

I’ll share the title poem and one other (because they’re short and I’m too lazy to type lots tonight), both from the above mentioned book (I don’t know if this is legal or not, but I’m doing it anyway). I find it interesting how she utilizes repetition (in many of her other poems as well) dramatically, and thus she enhances the sound of the poem.

The Far Land

Dark cannot blot the dark
In the place I know,
Rain cannot drown the rain,
Wind cannot blow
The wind of that stormed land,
Where stillness falls
On sudden wings, like a band
Of quiet birds on ruined walls.

Rain from My Window

Rain is sweeping my front garden. Walk,
Wall, and gate, new grass and tulip bed
Ripple and gleam as the silver broom
Brushes them in swinging, gusty curves.
The gate-posts are vanishing ghosts that loom
High into the lost air. Bees have fled
And grasshoppers, quick-voiced, no longer talk
Within the shallow green of smooth-clipped grass
That leans away to let the sweeper pass.
Satin-collared tulips, fearing stain,
Lay their vesture broad upon the rain
And stiffen like jade wax their frail stems.
The pane is fretted so with running gems
That I can no longer watch this blurred
Silver world the silver rain has stirred.

6 thoughts on “IN THE MAIL

  1. Nice B! Workville sounds like fun too, although in my case I’m procrastinating on a sonnet. Need I say more?

  2. Sonnets seem to be all the rage right now. Must be that Mick Burrs influence…

    Anyway, Ostenso also wrote fiction. A copy of Wild Geese would be on my fiction shelf had I not loaned it out. It’s a good read, a good bit of early prairie realism.

  3. Hey Berlynn! I should track one done. I’ve noticed where her fiction was quite well received.

    Yes, sonnets do seem to be the thing to write, although I don’t think I’m writing one by choice, but by circumstance, if that makes any sense.

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