Essays

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Essays
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Artful Flight

Artful Flight

Essays and Reviews 1985-2019
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From the Introduction

In June of 2017, I began putting together a selection of my essays and reviews. Because I had blithely binned some of these pieces just three years prior-when I gave my musician son my office to turn into his music studio and moved myself into a smaller space, recycling 25 bags of paper in the process-I spent that summer sleuthing out lost work on the internet and at the library, retyping some essays and photocopying others. Eventually I had over 500 pages of prose, including teaching notes, online interviews, and letters written in answer to high school and university students' questions about my books.

Even I was surprised to discover how much fugitive prose I had written since the early 1980s, when I finished a doctorate on Shakespeare's dramaturgy and started teaching at the University of Toronto. I'd never published anything on my thesis topic, having recognized belatedly-when my first book of poetry came out in 1983 and the English Department insisted that 'it didn't count as a publication'-that I would have to establish expertise in a different area to find a job that rewarded creative work. So instead of seeking further employment as a Renaissance scholar I got a post-doctoral fellowship, which became The Picturesque and the Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape (1998). During those years of study, I read and wrote about as much Canadian poetry as I could. Many of the critical pieces included here were written then.

After I dropped out of academia for a few years to have children, those doors swung shut behind me and I never got my 'career' back. But I had already got in the habit of writing essays and kept on doing so through six more volumes of poetry, four novels, and three children's books. Sometimes people invited me to write stuff; other times I needed to figure something out for myself by working it through on paper. The word 'essay', as first used by Michel de Montaigne, means 'an attempt', and that's what these are.

...

I am writing this introduction in July 2020, the summer of Covid-19. The only such summer, I hope, but we never know what the future holds. In the midst of a pandemic, this gathering of belle-lettres seems superfluous, but I keep reminding myself that the plague was raging in Paris in 1580, the year Montaigne's Essays were first published, and that Shakespeare just kept on writing whenever rampant infection closed the theatres in London, confident that they would eventually reopen. The example of these masters persuades me that there will again be a time when writing about poetry will not seem frivolous to everyone except poets.

Or maybe that time is actually now, when we are in suspended animation and the future and past swirl around us in a quantum rather than linear moment. An eerie quiet has fallen over my normally bustling neighbourhood. The weather is beautiful because the dwindling of the city's traffic has left the air fresh and the sky blue, day after day. Although essential workers never left their jobs, many other people have become unemployed or are struggling to work remotely. Children who lost their last three months of school are enduring a summer of limited activity, unable to play with each other. My life, however, is unchanged. Since I left the university in 1996, I have not had an office to go to; I have worked contract to contract, teaching creative writing, editing books, and taking art classes. What I once saw as insecurity I now recognize as freedom.

A contranym, perhaps? Read 'Let' and you will see what I mean.

[Continued in Artful Flight...]

-Susan Glickman, Toronto, July 2020

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The Only Way Is the Steady Way

The Only Way Is the Steady Way

Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game
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Vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with the same family we always take these kinds of trips with, because the children line up in age and we get along. The daughter-in-my-age-slot and me play mini-golf, feet away from our family suites. My turn to putt again. I decide to wind up like a pro and really whack the ball. It flies over or through a row of hedges into what we know on the other side is The Main Drag. No big thing. We have retrieved balls, kicked balls, racked balls, caught balls, dodged balls, served balls, teed up balls, inflated balls our whole life. We are old enough to do this.

We cross to the other side of the hedge and I spot the one that got away. (I believe I look both ways.) I start out across the multilane blacktop but don’t get far. Something flashes out of the corner of left eye. Body puts hands up just in time for the loudest sound I’ve ever felt. I’m fly—ing through the air, suddenly silent and magical. Now I’m skid-d-d-ing, exposed flesh kissing and rubbing asphalt as sound returns. People I don’t know gather above me. I’m-a-nurse takes off her shirt to reveal a sports bra. Don’t move an inch…hit by a van. Someone is screaming. It’s just my friend, she’s fine, always trying to make it about her. The sun is beating down on the scene. Cold sweat mixing with my blood, now peppered with little street rocks. I can feel when Mom is notified. I can hear her fear-footsteps landing one after the other, getting closer to what her new reality could be. When the paramedics arrive, I accept this fate. I am put on a stiff board with a neck brace and I am taken to a hospital in my bathing suit.

Mom and I take a cab back from the hospital to the hotel. I get out sore, shoeless, and road-rashed, but really actually fine, physically. People on a balcony somewhere are applauding the miracle. I know that if people are applauding me, Dad will be calling. I don’t feel like explaining. I want to disappear into something larger than anything having to do with me. I will never hear the end of this. They’ll all say I got hit chasing a ball like a dog. Your story in the wrong hands can be such a cruel poker.

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