Today's book of poetry: Between Dusk and Night. Emily McGiffin. Brick Books. London, Ontario. 2012.
In 2008 Emily McGiffin won the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers from the Writers' Trust of Canada.
Bronwen Wallace was a very fine poet who died young but not before producing several excellent books of poetry and prose. My favourite Bronwen Wallace book of poetry is The Stubborn Particulars of Grace.
With Between Dusk and Night, McGiffin can confidently enter the same pantheon of excellence.
Here are two examples of why:
Note on Astronomy
Under a salted black sky
you peer into the throng of stars - Orion!
It's what we've hoped for:
a means of converting the deep cold dark
to a friendly giant. Orion to bring home
a fattened fall bear so that we can sit together
all winter on a black rug, chewing jerky in the smoky tallow light
Caught out in bleak November, we've been looking
for bona fide companions. Or a mathematical
equation. For irrefutable signposts on a well-marked path
to trot down blithely, knowing at last how to proceed.
how to slip beyond the confines of our scanty minds
into the real meaning of things.
The fog rolls in off the lake. And I cannot but hope
that a plant deprived of sun will grow on anyway, blindly, bent
on a half-remembered promise. That in this same gesture
of pure desire, dandelions burst through pavement, lichen
devours a skyscraper, saxifrage -- minutely, mutely --
in silence dismantles a wall.
After a Journey
There is a language roots write through the soil;
you've begun to learn it, pressing your ear
night after night to the earth
until their words are almost of your body
after so much conspiring with your sleeping bones.
Now you are thinking of your footfalls in a forest
becoming sure as your heartbeat, as rain--
you grow so still a thrush
lights on your wrist, forgetting
to be afraid. And near you a beetle
emerges from under a leaf;
it has found the sun and remembers
its own limbs, its stiff grace.
What it must do.
In McGiffin's world it seems the space between nature and human emotion has been breached. McGiffin gives the earth language, yet we understand and appreciate the conversation.
These aren't necessarily easy poems, but the best poetry never is.