Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Poetry Canadian

A Peeled Wand

by (author) Anne Szumigalski

Signature Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2010
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2010
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


A Peeled Wand: Selected Poems of Anne Szumigalski,/I> offers a succinct, authoritative overview of the work of one of Canada's most remarkable and original poets., bringing some of her finest poems back into print.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Anne Szumigalski (1922-1999) was born in London, England and immigrated to Saskatchewan in 1951. She was the author of sixteen books including Woman Reading in Bath (1974), Doctrine of Signatures (1983), Voice (1995), and On Glassy Wings (1997). She also collaborated with Terrence Heath, Elyse St. George and many other writers and artists. Her work appeared in countless journals, both in Canada and abroad, and many anthologies. Over the years, Anne won numerous prizes including a Governor-General's Award, two Writers' Choice Awards and two National Magazine Awards. A founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and a founding editor of Grain, she received a lifetime award for excellence from the Saskatchewan Arts Board as well as life memberships in ACTRA and the League of Canadian Poets.

Excerpt: A Peeled Wand (by (author) Anne Szumigalski)


When I am old I will totter along broken pavements the strings of my boots undone smelling a bit strong like any fat old woman who has forgotten which day is Tuesday (my bath night if you like)

stiff my clothes from old dirt not sweat at my age mumbling the cracked enamel mug

eleven cats playing in my weedy yard drinking my little ration of milk with me and withy withy the cats circle around my house at night singly filing in and sleeping on the saggy stained bed and the chair and the crumby tabletop

One day they will find me dead O dead dead A stinking old bundle of dead

and in my hand a peeled wand and in my ear a cricket sitting telling me stories and predictions

and the time of night




a word meaning Holy Children

has been lost between the pages of a book

one early dusk you lean over my shoulder the better to see what I am reading you riffle through the pages with your thumbs and that forgotten sound escapes into the world through the fan of leaves

at once we begin trying to pronounce it the long and difficult vowels rest on our lips like stinging insects we dare not brush away

then the computer gets hold of it flaps the syllables about cards follow cards sliding out and piling up

and on the cards the punched names of daughters and of sons their many variations from century to century from language to language


the Madonna whose smile is as sweet as plaster turns out to be made of painted wood her stiff crinoline is carved as well as painted perhaps to hide the hinges that pin her skirts together

a bent sexton with floppy hair fits in the tiny key so delicately made a brass scroll

the saints, children of Mary, live beneath her skirts there they stand in stiff rows palms raised together in a prayer one row for martyrs one for prelates another for pinched abbesses who have given it all up

at the very centre where Mary’s legs (if she had any) would spring from her body winged innocents play among vines and ears of carved wheat

the true heart of the Madonna remarks the sexton with sacred joy


one Sunday in May our children who have hardly noticed us till now decide on a Feast of Recognition

the youngest brings chains of withering marigolds twines them over the backs of our chairs the two eldest, with napkins over their arms, bring in the dinner course by course the food, thank goodness, is invisible we gesture over huge empty plates our daughter, not spilling a drop, pours red ink into the glasses for wine

the last course is a much more solemn affair we are told to rise and all together sing

the muddled singing gives a mewling sound

then a dish of flames is set down before me its cinders glowing like cherries you are luckier get a basket of petals into which you dip your face making munching noises

you come up smiling crushed petals cling to your hair

who is to blame for my lips’ blisters?

afterwards your cool mouth tastes of almonds

Editorial Reviews

“ In the decade since the Saskatoon-based poet Anne Szumigalski died, all but one of her 16 collections have gone out of print. So it is a great and good thing that A Peeled Wand: Selected Poems of Anne Szumigalski (96 pages, $15) has been published by Winnipeg's Signature Editions. For all that Szumigalski was a pioneer as a Prairie poet and beloved in her adopted Saskatchewan and beyond, this book never feels like a dusty tribute. The poems yowl and laugh and grieve and feel as fresh today as when Szumigalski first started publishing them in 1974, as is evidenced by this snippet from In Praise of My Own Breasts: "A lover told me one breast is a giant puffball the other a coconut. One is full of sweet milk the other of ripe spores. He didn't say which he admired the most." ”

—Winnipeg Free Press

Other titles by Anne Szumigalski