Sunday, May 6, 2018

Wherever We Mean To Be / Selected Poems 1975 - 2015 - Robyn Sarah (Biblioasis

Today's book of poetry:
Wherever We Mean To Be / Selected Poems 1975 - 2015.  Robyn Sarah.  Biblioasis.  Windsor, Ontario.  2017.

Shadowplay  -  1978  -  (Fiddlehead Books)
The Space Between Sleep and Waking  -  1981  -  (Villenuve)
Anyone Skating On That Middle Ground  -  1984  (Vehicule Press)
Becoming Light  - 1987  -  (Cormorant Books)
The Touchstone: Poems New and Selected  -  1992  -  (House of Anansi)
Questions About The Stars  -  1998  (Brick Books)
A Day's Grace  -  2003  (Porcupine's Quill)
Pause For Breath  -  2009  -  (Biblioasis)
Digressions: Prose Poems, Collage Poems, and Sketches  -  2012  (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
My Shoes Are Killing Me  -  2015  (Biblioasis)

Two things. 

First thing:
Any poet in Canada would kill to have Robyn Sarah's list of publishers behind their names.  Okay, I wouldn't kill, but I might maim.  

Second thing:
The K seal of approval will start this production.  As I sometimes do, I read some poems to K last night after we'd retired to our reading stations in bed.  I read K Robyn Sarah poems.  The first clue was that K didn't say stop.  K loves poetry, but she doesn't love it all.  Robyn Sarah passed the very difficult K standard with flying colours. 

It shouldn't come as a surprise, Robyn Sarah has been writing about those moments that make up a life, a relationship, a childhood, with candor and a firm tenderness since she first crossed Today's book of poetry radar back in the late seventies.  

There are no strange animals in Sarah's poetry forest, but you'll recognize the beasts and the fauna.  

Broom at Twilight

Some climbs end nowhere.  Like the unplanned climb
I took this evening.
                               I'd gone down the beach
some little way, and though the sun was low,
I thought that it would see me round those rocks
to the next cove, with time enough to watch
the tide come in (and maybe make it back
without getting my feet wet.)
                                              No such luck —
beyond that stretch, the tide was in already,
and there was nothing to do but climb the cliffs
up to the road, and walk back home that way.

Dark doesn't wait, this time of year.  I climbed,
and the sun went down as I went up.  Went right on
falling beyond the unseen edge faster
than I could find my holds.  (Footholds in clay,
handholds on anchored roots.  And all the while
the sky fast darkening out from above.)

                                                               Near water,
the grey hour's luminous.  And by the beach
I should have had no trouble finding my way.
Where I came up, though—something blocked the light.
It was the sameness that surprised me.

a forest of it.  Higher than my head.
And not in clumps, the way it seems to grow
by day—but in a sold wall.  An army
bristling with strange intent.  The broom I knew
grew in tall waving tufts like uncut hay
to wade through at high noon.  This broom stood up
like earth's raised hackles in the failing light —
a massing of ominous spikes against the sky

and stems that wouldn't give way.  I couldn't find
the mouse-paths children make to get to the sea—
but had to plunge (broom closing over me)
into a tangible edgeless element,
banking on where I thought the road must be.


Today's book of poetry thinks that "Broom at Twilight" would safely pass as the life story of most of us.  The best laid plans leading to an ominous turn of events, none the less we plunge ahead with hope.  

In Robyn Sarah's Wherever We Mean To Be /  Selected Poems 1975 - 2015, Sarah understands that the dramas in our small lives are our operas, our movies, the real played out screenplays of our lives.  The choices we make depending upon where our hearts and our heart's commitments reside.  In her poem "Riveted," Sarah makes her mission statement clear:

                                             "—riveted, as it were;
      spellbound by our own imperfect lives
      because they are lives,
      and because they are ours."

Today's book of poetry is a little muddle today for a variety of reasons.  Almost all of them good ones.  Our hero/mentor/buddy Stuart Ross has taken up residence in the Today's book of poetry guest room.  It should have his name on it.  Yesterday Today's book of poetry got a package in the mail from our St. Louis correspondent David Clewell.  Campbell McGrath and David Hilton arrived in such bounty that we are blushing.  

Today's book of poetry is also rushing a little.  K and I are heading to Peterborough in a few minutes to see some family and look after some business, maybe have a northern route road trip on the way back tomorrow.  It is always good to see family and we will both see our sisters and that's just about the best trip you can take.

Looking forward to seeing family and thinking about my friendships with Stuart Ross and David Clewell make me all poetry sentimental and now I want to throwout my Robyn Sarah notes and tell you that Today's book of poetry was compelled to write about Wherever We Mean To Be.  


A few days have passed.  We looked after our Peterborough business and made it back to Ottawa.  Stuart Ross has left but we are expecting a visit from Larry Cowan today.  Today's book of poetry and Mr. Cowan have never met in person so we are excited about that.  Mr. Cowan's Monk Press is going to do a chapbook for us in the not too distant future.

Sarah's poems have been swirling around in my head for the last week.  Usually Today's book of poetry is on to the next thing, the next poet, the next blog.  Robyn Sarah has lingered like a much welcomed house guest.

Once Desire

Once, desire was a soft roaring
between us, like white water,
and we adjusted our voices
to be heard above it
till it seemed to us
that we whispered: as any sound,
heard long enough, becomes silence.

I would like to go back to that time,
when the power was still outside of us
and we were as if asleep, cocooned
in the white rush of it.  Unharmed
and unarmed.  When we were a
dream of wings.  Before this
perilous flying.


Our morning read was orchestrated by our new intern, Maggie, and she did a splendid job.  Maggie could have been a conductor for music or for a train, she's a talented young woman.  Maggie assigned each of us particular poems, using Maggie logic, and it seemed to work out just fine.

Robyn Sarah had a great deal to do with that.  Sarah, much to my great delight, doesn't build any walls around her poems, they are all the same, they all pull you into her narrative as though you'd been there all along.  Robyn Sarah writes solid poems that you can depend on.


     "You're rich, and you want to be loved like a poor man."
                    —Les enfants du paradis

The way a woman loves a man
without money: for the holes
in his socks, for the tilt
of his eyebrows, for his voice
singing a song or murmuring
behind a door, for the fragrant
smoke of his pipe bluing the air
in the small old cozy cluttered room,
for his patched elbows, his
tweedy jackets from the Nearly New,
for the blind intelligence
of his body in love, for his hands,
quiet on the table, their dance
in the air when he speaks,
for the mole
on the back of his neck, for a few
old jokes that he likes to tell,
for his laugh,
for the way his hair sticks up
in the morning, for the cleft
in his chin, for a dimple
(seldom seen) in his left cheek,
for his dreams, and the light
that they put in his eyes
evenings of dreamy talk—

For the blue of his eyes
that she calls
his baby eyes
that grow stormblue
in anger at being loved
for the foolish things
she loves him for,
because they are all he has
to give her,
because he knows
that she knows
he will never
have more.


Today's book of poetry has been reading Dame Robyn Sarah since the late 70s and almost always with a hint of jealousy.   It takes a lot of polished brass to hit the mark and keep on hitting it.  Sarah has been consistent all these years.  Wherever We Mean To Be is a beautiful comfort and Robyn Sarah remains a clear investment.

Spending time with Robyn Sarah's Wherever We Mean To Be will be poetry time well spent.

Image result for robyn sarah photos

Robyn Sarah

Robyn Sarah is the author of eight poetry collections, two collections of short stories, and a book of essays on poetry. Her most recent poetry collection is Pause for Breath (Biblioasis, 2009). Le tamis des jours, selected poems in French translation with parallel English text, was published in 2007, as was Little Eurekas: A Decade’s Thoughts on Poetry. Her writing has appeared widely in Canada and the United States, and her poems have been anthologized in Fifteen Canadian Poets x 2 and x 3, The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Norton Anthology of Poetry and in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times. She lives in Montr√©al.

“A poem by Sarah could fit into the palm of your hand … Wherever We Mean To Be showcases [her] gifts: her visual clarity, no-nonsense voice, compressed language, rhythmic prowess, and metaphoric agility. These qualities speak from a long-cultivated focus and bespeak a writer who pays fierce attention to the basic fact of being in the world.” —Anita Lahey, The Walrus

“This city, read by a kind of hidden code, seems lost in time; lives lived in its outmoded rooms have a timeless quality…the voice remains utterly its own, in pursuit of what Sarah calls “the lost soundtrack of daily life.” —Canadian Jewish News

Robyn Sarah reads from Questions About The Stars (Brick Books)
Video:  Brick Books



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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