Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jan Zwicky, Forge


And so I lay, waiting: a single flame felting the darkness.
Dawn, they tell us, breaks. It breaks.

Your voice came into me, then, like music. My lips,
your brow, your temple: how you called me

to the edge of myself.
Did I choose? I chose.

Sharp flutter in the feral trees: your voice
lifting in me like the wind, your touch

breaking through me like rain,
like sunlight. And the rain

falling in the silence behind the broken wind. O river
of kisses. O dance of the heart on the skin. (“ENVOY: SEVEN VARIATIONS”)
Over nearly a dozen collections of poetry, Quadra Island, British Columbia poet, musician and philosopher Jan Zwicky has excelled at the small moments, writing meditative poems constructed around philosophy and musical composition, and her newest collection, Forge (Kentville NS: Gaspereau Press, 2011), continues her examination of slow movement. Along the lines of other writers such as Erin Mouré, Phil Hall and Anne Carson, Zwicky’s poems are best when composed as small essays on subjects so large they become philosophical, from her Governor-General’s Award-winning Songsfor Relinquishing the Earth (Brick Books, 1999) and Thirty-SevenSmall Songs and Thirteen Silences (Gaspereau Press, 2005). In Forge, she writes poems-as-variations, referencing Schubert, Hölderlin and Bach as well as variations on music, including vespers, love songs, silence and sarabande. These are poems, as the title suggests, hammered out over an extended period, or perhaps, instead, poems that require a push of the breath, foot-pedal pushing each meditative line into sequence.

It’s a blue sky today, ice
on the step. In the woods,
the beech tree is turning; two branches,
the rest still green. Its leaves
are stiff and supple, a fine
starched leather, more burnt
than tanned. What amazes most,
though, is the colour: its evenness
uncanny; shy, sinewy, a shade
our mothers might deem
serviceable in a shirt or coat, in isolation
unremarkable. Yet leaf against leaf,
branch on branch, that spare bronze
flares: voiceless
and articulate, clean
spoken through.

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