Thursday, 26 June 2014

Poem of the Week: "The Day He Died" by Ted Hughes

The Day He Died

Was the silkiest day of the young year,
The first reconnaissance of the real spring,
The first confidence of the sun.

That was yesterday. Last night, frost.
And as hard as any of all winter.
Mars and Saturn and the Moon 
Dangling in a bunch
On the hard, littered sky.
Today is Valentine’s day.

Earth toast-crisp. The snowdrops battered.
Thrushes spluttering. Pigeons gingerly
Rubbing their voices together, in stinging cold.
Crows creaking, and clumsily
Cracking loose.

The bright fields look dazed.
Their expression is changed.
They have been somewhere awful
And come back without him.

The trustful cattle, with frost on their backs,
Waiting for hay, waiting for warmth,
Stand in a new emptiness.

From now on the land
Will have to manage without him.
But it hesitates, in this slow realization of light,
Childlike, too naked, in a frail sun,
With roots cut
And a great blank in its memory.

©1989 Ted Hughes
From “Moortown Diary” published by Faber and Faber

Thursday, 12 June 2014

new chapbook release!

My new chapbook, All Here Sail in a River of Light, is a collaboration with Eramosa Valley poet Katherine L. Gordon. We each wrote eight new poems this past April 2014 during National Poetry Month and it's a book of transition from a harsh, cruel Winter to the early serenity of Spring. 

This chapbook can be ordered through Harmonia Press:

Here are a pair of sample poems from All Here Sail in a River of Light:

The Season Arrived in Birdsong

The season arrived in birdsong,
in snowbanks receding like glaciers,
their slow and dripping melt
under a radiant sage of sun
eager to redeem itself
for its many days of absence,
its inability to warm us when we needed it most
and winter’s cruel colding
instilling an innate experience
of Pleistocene hunters and mammoths,
of being bound inside our caves,
of venturing into the ice and wind
while we dreamt of distant greening.

©2014  Andreas Gripp

Absent Spring

We grow cautious
in this thin warmth,
unsure of seasons,
doubting calendars,
carrying coats against sudden chill,
ancient genes rise up in warning
of an earth grown hostile to itinerants
searching icy floods for food and water.
Our customary April is an Innocent Lost,
few birds have braved migration, droop at feeders,
sky not yet glad.
Another page of transformation is written,
sharing and kindness new virtues
but the virtuous not yet appeared.

©2014 Katherine L. Gordon

Friday, 6 June 2014

“The Fleece Era” separates sheep from goats

Joanna Lilley
The Fleece Era
Brick Books, 2014
100 pp. ISBN 978-1-926829-89-0

If there’s a special afterlife for poets, both good and bad, Joanna Lilley should find herself in the most pleasant of post-bodily states. Seldom does a writer manage to weave such an assortment of different tales into a unified whole, and though these poems are not directly connected by sequence or linear storyline, they manage to convey what it means to be human and interacting with others of varying degree of dysfunction and with an increasingly bipolar natural environment.  

Lilley’s lines are consistently well-crafted yet remain unpredictable. Her language is the perfect medium between the sparse and the ornate, and The Fleece Era would easily fit on shelves containing both academic narratives and volumes of people's poetry.

The broad appeal of this, Joanna Lilley’s first collection of poetry, lies not only in its accessible diction but in its easy-to-relate-to subject matter – most of us at one time or another finding ourselves in similar situations as described in these various vignettes.

There are so many poems in The Fleece Era that could count toward my list of favourites that the challenge to relay them all in a single review would be overly daunting and not really feasible so I’ll convey a few of the highlights that left me both envious of Lilley’s talent as a poet and lamenting that I’m presently (and will be in the future) unable to duplicate the level of artistry present in her metaphors and the images that are well-timed, pertinent to each piece, but never overblown or scribed to wow adjudicators of CanLit awards.

In terms of sheer personal and emotive quality, “If I Had Children” was one of this volume’s most moving episodes:

If I Had Children

If I had children
I would have to stop
reading the book I’m reading
and stop writing the book
I’m writing and stop worrying
about how much sleep
I don’t get and I, who cannot listen
to the weather forecast all the way through,
would have to pay attention
for the rest of my life to the rest of theirs.
Every night, I would lay them
under a ceiling and have to remember
to keep them warmer
in winter than in the summer.
Every day, I would have to feed them
food that isn’t food
that’s killing me. Every night,
I would lay my hand on
their hearts to feel the beat
I take too long to find behind
my own fleshy breast, my wadded ribs.
And eventually I would have to explain
why grown-ups can’t sit at the table
politely like children can, why
adults argue, tell each other lies.
Eventually, I would admit
that people firing guns and dropping
bombs do have a choice.
As I was dying, all I would have
to bequeath would be a million pounds
of greenhouse gas emissions.
As I was dying, I’d forget
I’d promised myself never to confess
I nearly didn’t have them
because the human race was almost over
and it was clear who was going to win.

© 2014 Joanna Lilley

An “environmental poem” has never resonated so personally and become so human, eschewing the pitfalls of blatant didacticism that entrap many well-meaning poets attempting to write of our species’ incessant harm to our planet.

Familial relations and a pervading theme of loss resonate in a number of these poems, a notable example that can be found in “Aunt”:


I stand in late light
at my nephew’s attic window
as he sleeps. Below,
his mother weeps.
I leak the powerlessness of aunts.
I can’t fling words far enough
for a sister to catch.
Even easy ones:
he’s not coming back.
I’m going to chuck what I have left
out the window, go home
and start a college fund.
Abstract nouns tap like rain.
Proper nouns thwack like hail.
Verbs – wet snow – won’t settle.
No more words. No weather.
Only the moon, which
will stay a comma
this entire night.

© 2014 Joanna Lilley

Lilley takes note of her surroundings and the individuals inhabiting them with a precision and detail that the rest of us, unless mindfully attuned, tend to ignore and as a result fail to discover insights into everyday events and people that the author opens to us with the adeptness of a veteran practitioner of Zen.

Notes At A Concert

I hear notes before the bow
touches strings, notes in the air
around the violinist’s wrists,
in the space inside his shirt
as a shoulder lifts.
He’s tapered, flared and frantic,
the oddest looking, yet the only
one with ironed creases in his trousers.
The guitarist’s mouth is easy-smile.
His stomach swells below his black roll-neck:
good wine, seafood, the occasional
game of squash. He’s San Francisco.
His slapping hands
look as soft as a solicitor’s
but there must be calluses.
The double bass player’s fingers are thick sticks,
his forehead broad. His lips curl
towards his nostrils; he’s Rossetti’s Beatrice –
he has the hair.
The lights go up.
I was in good company:
the woman who didn’t give me a job,
next to the trainer who thinks my dog has depression.
The man who wants the government
to stop killing wolves sits behind the painter
who pulls her feet to the seat like a child.
She’s here each time I come,
trying, like me, to pay attention to genius.

© 2014 Joanna Lilley

English by birth and having spent the first 39 of her 47 years in the U.K., Joanna Lilley is a fine adopted member of a new Canadian poetry (having lived here since 2006, presently residing in the Yukon). It will be exciting to see what observations she presents to us the next time around, and how her first decade in Canada has affected her exceptional poetics and storytelling.

– Andreas Gripp

Thursday, 5 June 2014

London book launch for "The Better Kiss" June 10th

Here is the info and participants for an upcoming arts event at The Root Cellar Organic Cafe and Bakery, 623 Dundas Street just east of Adelaide, on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014, that includes the launch of my 18th full-length poetry collection, The Better Kiss:

Sketches & Lines showcases a small selection of pieces by London hobby artist, Teresa Daniele. Inspired primarily by the work of Canadian icons Tom Thomson and the group of seven, also drawing upon influences from the impressionist movement and post-impressionist styles most widely associated with the work of Vincent van Gogh, this exhibit traces the artist's evolution in painting, from modest beginnings to a recent progression that embraces bolder colours, freer strokes, and larger canvases. Most pieces will be available for sale by the artist.

A poetry reading by Andreas Gripp, the author of 18 books of poetry including his latest being launched at the Root Cellar called The Better Kiss. Firmly based in the People’s Poetry tradition, he believes that poems can be accessible to all without sacrificing artistic merit. His newest collection of verses tells a story of a complicated love within an urban setting and is interspersed with parallel thoughts on nature and spirituality. In addition to The Better Kiss, other recent books including Andreas Gripp’s Selected Poems will be available for sale at a nominal price.

Charles Innis is an accomplished London musician who is versatile in jazz, world, and other musical expressions. An exceptionally skilled clarinetist, he has accompanied a number of other artists in local bands including The Big Picture. He is also a leading community activist and has played a key role in several organizations, particularly in the northeast end of the city including the Carling-Thames Family Centre and North East London Community Engagement.

Sunday, 1 June 2014