Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Speaking of Power - The Poetry of Di Brandt - selected and with an introduction by Tanis MacDonald (Wilfrid Laurier University Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Speaking of Power - The Poetry of Di Brandt - selected with an introduction by Tanis MacDonald.  Wilfrid Laurier University Press.  Waterloo, ON.  2006.

"There is what Don McKay calls "poetic intention" to the beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering, of everything around you."
     Di Brandt, You pray for the rare flower to appear

Di Brandt observes, absorbs and explains our world to us in language that is both instantly recognizable and an assertion of a particular power.

missionary position (1)

let me tell you what it's like
having God for a father & Jesus
for a lover on this old mother
earth you who no longer know
the old story the part about the
Virgin being of course a myth
made up by Catholics for an easy
way out it's not that easy i can
tell you right off the old man
in his room demands bloody hard
work he with his rod & his hard
crooked staff well jesus he's
different he's a good enough lay
it's just that he prefers miracles
to fishing & sometimes i get tired
waiting all day for his bit of
magic though late at night i burn
with his fire & the old mother
shudders & quakes under us when
God's not looking.


Di Brandt's Afterword in Speaking of Power is an elegant, heartstrong and loving manifesto.  A declaration of the hows and whys of the real need to create poetry.

The Afterword alone is worth the price of admission.

Speaking of Power is from the excellent Wilfrid Laurier University Press — Laurier Poetry Series.

"The Laurier Poetry series introduces the excitement of contemporary Canadian poetry to an audience that might not otherwise have access to it. Selected and introduced by a prominent critic, each volume presents a range of poems from across the poet's career and afterword by the poet him- or herself. Economically priced, these volumes offer readers in and out of classrooms useful, provocative, and comprehensive introductions to and contexts for a poet's work." (Laurier Poetry Series Website:

Each of the Laurier Poetry Series titles is a treasure.  These volumes give the reader an educated introduction to each poet.  In Brandt's case Tanis MacDonald handles the selection and introduction with aplomb.

What is clearest in this short volume is that Brandt's clarity of vision and pure resonant voice are worth revisiting.


completely seduced
by motherhood,

this is how you got
through the day.

without sleep,
without pay,

without help,

a break,

your mind bouncing
off walls,

& the ceiling
& the floor,

eyes blurred
with exhaustion.

you weren't thinking
about that.

you weren't thinking
about your stretched


you saw yourself
in the dark pool

of your baby's eyes

a goddess, the source,
the very planet.

your breaths flowing

your breasts filled
with milk & honey.

all night, you were
the earth,


(later, you shrank
into an ordinary

middle-aged woman,
enjoying sleep.

amused by the ordinary

half mother,
half not mother.

bewildered by time
& place,

& wrinkled skin.
& missing children.)


I love an honest poem and Di Brandt is all over that.  I've admired her work for a long time.  This little volume, Speaking of Power, is a good introduction to those who haven't read Di Brandt.  For those of us who have it is a good reminder of all the things the rest of us can aspire to.

Prairie hymn

what i want is the shape of the story of the blood
jolting seasonally to & from the heart underneath
the small gestures of our hands the words spoken
& unspoken between us i want the huge narrative
of the river the curved cry of the land i want the
straight blowing birch leaves in strong wind
the whistling of prairie grass your lit face in the
distance coming to meet me your arms hot like
August prairie sky all around me


(lifted lock, stock and barrel from Wikipedia)
Di Brandt has published eight collections of poetry:
  • SHE: Poems inspired by Laozi, with ink drawings by Lin Xu (Brandon, MB: Radish Press, 2012). Chapbook.
  • The Lottery of History (Brandon, MB: Radish Press, 2009). Chapbook.
  • Walking to Mojacar, with French and Spanish translations by Charles Leblanc and Ari Belathar (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 2010),
  • Now You Care (Toronto: Coach House, 2003),
  • Jerusalem, beloved (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1995),
  • mother, not mother (Toronto: Mercury Press, 1992),
  • Agnes in the sky (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1990), and
  • questions i asked my mother (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1987).
Di Brandt's poetry has been adapted for television, radio, video, dance, sculpture and theatre. questions i asked my mother was a bestseller in Canada. Di Brandt's poetry has been the subject of numerous scholarly essays and monographs.
Di Brandt's essay collections and literary critical studies are:
  • So this is the world & here I am in it (Edmonton: NeWest Press 2007).
  • Dancing Naked: Narrative Strategies for Writing Across Centuries (Toronto: Mercury Press 1996).
  • Wild Mother Dancing: Maternal Narrative in Canadian Literature (Winnipeg, MB: University of Manitoba Press 1993).
  • Wider Boundaries of Daring: The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women's Poetry (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press 2011), ed. with Barbara Godard.
  • Re:Generations: Canadian Women Poets in Conversation (Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press 2006), ed. with Barbara Godard.
Di Brandt's collaborations include:
Di Brandt's numerous prizes and recognitions include:
Di Brandt served as Poetry Editor at Prairie Fire Magazine and Contemporary Verse 2 during the 1980s and 90s. She also served as Manitoba and Prairie Rep at the League of Canadian Poets National Council and the Writers' Union of Canada National Council for several years during these same years.


Di Brandt reads from Now You Care - video from Griffin Trust

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