Saturday, February 6, 2016

Paper Wings - Rosemary Clewes (Guernica Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Paper Wings.  Rosemary Clewes.  Guernica Editions.  Essential Poets Series 215.  Toronto - Buffalo - Lancaster (UK).  2014.

Rosemary Clewes got my full attention when she Tom Thompsoned into poetry her kayaking experience in Georgian Bay.  Then she turned all eloquent Billy Bishipish and flew me into World World I with her father.  These were both excellent maneuvers.

Clewes writes with a thorough clarity that has you instantly involved and invested in her narrative.   These narratives travel, visit the arctic, fall in love, age graceful and curious.


When the cloudless sky has both eyes open
and you're wandering
in the dim keep of the old growth forest,
you might notice the absence of twitter.
The till's tinny ring after lunch
that sense and nonsense traded between the tiny tables
made you hungry for earth smell,
sun's hesitation amongst the ferns.
This is August after all.

You leave the protection of Sitka spruce and pine
for the sea, the eleven mile beach of light & light.
Sun, looking for a shadow,
falls headlong over you,
puddles a Quasimodo at your feet.

You take a photograph of this to remind you
the geometry of light is incalculable.

* * *

There's an epicene beauty peculiar to shadows.
You suspected you were lost to your real shape and name --
yet the sun's blind flourish rights itself,
assures you, you are a woman:
shade's voluptuary, flaring hips over sand.

* * *

Sundown's elongations are dying to go home.
Sit. Wait now for the faint music of your shadow's
your shadow's shadow filling up with moon.
This is no trick.
                        Don't leave the desert beach
until you see
                        how ocean's ebb leaves ripple-repeat in sand,
the same signature over and over,
like stories you tell about yourself.
You have told so many, you think you know who you are.


Clewes tells us "the geometry of light is incalculable" but that doesn't stop her from showering her considerable light in calculated measures sure as a metronome.  Today's book of poetry was touched to my fragile heart by how Rosemary Clewes understood water from a kayak's point of view. Kayaking is a relatively new experience for me but Clewes gives words to the most eloquent of my own imaginings in such a way that I am both jealous and grateful.

Milo read the flying poems this morning and imagined himself all Snoopy and Red Baron, he imagined himself airborne. Kathryn read the kayaking poems and is now doing a google-search for everything else Rosemary Clewes.  After this morning's read Kathryn quickly nixed Milo's flying lesson plans and told him that they were going on a kayaking trip this summer.  Neither of them asked me about holidays.  Milo has never been away from electricity but he has also yet to say no to Kathryn.  

I read the other poems and it was my pleasure.  Paper Wings is from Guernica Editions "Essential Poets" series and Today's book of poetry couldn't agree more, every poetry collection should have some Clewes in in.

Dawn Paddle on Lake Huron

Before the wind so much as shivers the bay
I'm out in my quick yellow kayak
cutting trails through the reflected sky
                                        bent on everything;
silence, light and big water,
                 the seeable clearness of under,
                         the slip-shod tongues of rubbled stone,
the green reach into shadowed boulders.

Some undercurrent of the lake's body always alive
quivers on the crooked field of stones beneath my bow.

                                               I drift, seabird idle,
summoned beyond myself, restless for the never end,
the spine and flex in the mind,
                                                 the inside-out of water,
the sedges, the silt and swimming things.
                                                         Put me inside that too.
The gills, the cyclopic eye and the still mouth.


Today's book of poetry is now a Rosemary Clewes admirer.  We're pretty sure that anyone else who picks up a copy of Paper Wings is going to be an admirer as well.  This is smart poetry by a witty and wise woman who sees the universe with optimism.  There's no sentimentalism in the Clewes canon but there sure is a lot of grace.


You died, and then I dreamed we were young again.
You fed me sweet cake, spreading it over my lips
so I could taste it. I wake to the scent of gardenia,
creamy petals, deckled brown
crushing against your blue serge suit.
I'll See You In My Dreams, always the final cut
the disc jockey played to wind up another holiday ball.

When I learned you were sick I wrote, reminded you
of the 'snowball dance' we won at Judy Blackey's party;
how you doubled me back over your arm, kissed me
under the mistletoe.
I wore pale yellow net, boned bodice with a frill
to hide my budless chest, and after supper
you 'dosey-doed' my strapless dress from front to rear
and when I thought you weren't looking
I swung it back.

Earlier still, your sweet trebles at our piano --
my brother, you,
rehearsing Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado:
the light rain of your voice falling fifty years
like a continuing sentence.
How you noted my name.


Today's book of poetry was thrilled to be introduced to Rosemary Clewes and Paper Wings.  Clewes struck me as someone I've been reading my entire life, or should have been, that's how natural her voice feels.  TBOP felt like Clewes had been giving the low-down all along.  

We're sure glad she's come along.  This sort of charm and experience doesn't come along nearly often enough.

Rosemary Clewes
Rosemary Clewes

Toronto poet Rosemary Clewes is the author of two books: Thule Explorer: Kayaking North of 77 Degrees(2008) and Once Houses Could Fly: Kayaking North of 79 Degrees (2012). In 2005, she was nominated by The Malahat Review for The National Magazine Awards and, in 2006, a finalist in the CBC Literary Awards. She has made seven trips to the Arctic, travelling by kayak, raft and icebreaker.

Paper Wings is born in the ground of the Bruce Peninsula and then hovers above its landscape like a hawk, surveying rock/shore/tree magic, moving into the imagination, the spirit, other landscapes, all the way to the Yukon and the High Arctic … Using her intense language and the white page in original patterns, Rosemary Clewes goes beyond what is real or what isn’t into the poetry of the spirit, the great journey. It’s a book of power and energy and image and rhythm and prayer – and marks her immediately as a poet to watch.
     - Brian Brett

Here is a poet utterly taken by the universe, by the created world, natural and human, in all its glory and with all its artifacts, its deep and delicate mysteries. Her lines cut a clean kayak-path through the waves and currents of experience. Her words, with disarming ease and grace, pilot through the skies of the Great War with a father long dead, and perform surprise tangos on the gravel bar of a northern river. These poems are talismans for keeping the ordinary, extraordinary.
    - John Terpstra 



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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