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Poetry Anthologies (multiple Authors)

Breathing Fire

Canada's New Poets

edited by Patrick Lane & Lorna Crozier

foreword by Al Purdy

Publisher
Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Jan 1995
Category
Anthologies (multiple authors), Canadian, General
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781550171259
    Publish Date
    Jan 1995
    List Price
    $21.95

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Out of print

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Description

A new generation of Canadian poets has come of age!

In this volume, award-winning poets Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane present the work of 31 of the country's best young poets, including Michael Redhill, Karen Solie, Karen Connelly, Gregory Scofield, and Stephanie Bolster. "These are the writers who were born in the mid-1960s to 1970s," Crozier writes. "They are a large, precocious, ardent group of skilled and passionate writers, and they have a faith in the power of poetry to rekindle, redeem and renew. Without a doubt their poems are breathing fire."

Born in the sixties and seventies, these poets are the best of the new and the best of the young. They are the voices of the nineties, a decade that will bridge the millennium. Not since the early seventies when Al Purdy put together his Storm Warning anthologies has there been as audacious and provocative a collection of new poetry. The poets here are in your face and in your heart, celebrating poetry in all its exhilirating variations. What is remarkable are not only the new contexts and new stories, but how respectfully and joyfully the new writers have returned to the poets who wrote before them.

We have been waiting for this new generation. Their eloquent poetry speaks to our times, to who we have been and who we are about to be.

About the authors

Patrick Lane, considered by most writers and critics to be one of Canada's finest poets, was born in 1939 in Nelson, BC. He grew up in the Kootenay and Okanagan regions of the BC Interior, primarily in Vernon. He came to Vancouver and co-founded a small press, Very Stone House, with bill bissett and Seymour Mayne. He then drifted extensively throughout North and South America. He worked at a variety of jobs, from labourer to industrial accountant, but much of his life was spent as a poet. He was also the father of five children and grandfather of nine. He won nearly every literary prize in Canada, from the Governor General's Literary Award to the Canadian Authors Association Award to the Dorothy Livesay Prize. In 2014, he became an Officer of the Order of Canada, an honour that recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree. His poetry and fiction have been widely anthologized and translated into many languages. His more recent books include Witness: Selected Poems 1962-2010 (Harbour Publishing, 2010), The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane (Harbour Publishing, 2011), Washita (Harbour Publishing, 2014; shortlisted for the 2015 Governor General's Literary Award), Deep River Night (McClelland & Stewart, 2018) and a posthumous collection, The Quiet in Me (Harbour Publishing, 2022). Lane spent the later part of his life in Victoria, BC, with his wife, the poet Lorna Crozier. He died in 2019.

Patrick Lane's profile page

 

Al Purdy’s down-to-earth voice populates thirty-three books, including The Cariboo Horses (1965), North of Summer (1967), Sex & Death (1973), and Piling Blood (1984). The two major collections of his work are The Collected Poems of Al Purdy (1986) and Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy (2000). Purdy died in Sidney, BC, on April 21, 2000.

Robert Budde teaches creative writing and critical theory at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. He has published four books (two poetry—Catch as Catch and traffick, and two novels—Misshapen and, most recently, The Dying Poem). He maintains two online literary journals at and .

Russell Morton Brown is a professor in the department of English at the University of Toronto. An editor for the University of Toronto Quarterly, the editor of The Collected Poems of Al Purdy, and co-editor with Donna Bennett of the New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English, he was also Editorial Director of Poetry at McClelland and Stewart for five years.

 

Al Purdy's profile page

Lorna Crozier, one of Canada's most celebrated poets, has read from her work on every continent. She has received numerous awards, including the Governor General's Award, for her fifteen books of poetry, which include The Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems; Whetstone; Apocrypha of Light; What the Living Won't Let Go; A Saving Grace; Everything Arrives at the Light; Inventing the Hawk; Angels of Flesh, Angels of Silence; and The Garden Going On Without Us. She has also edited several anthologies, among them Desire in Seven Voices and, with Patrick Lane, Addicted: Notes from the Belly of the Beast. She lives in Saanich, BC.

Lorna Crozier's profile page

Excerpt: Breathing Fire: Canada's New Poets (edited by Patrick Lane & Lorna Crozier; foreword by Al Purdy)

CIGARETTES (I)
by Michael Crummey

The day my grandfather died he ate
a meal of salt beef and cabbage in his
sick bed, his appetite returning for
the first time in weeks, the skin
hanging from the bones of his face like an oversized suit.

My father had gone in to see him
earlier that morning, fifteen years old then
and thinking the old man was recovering;
they spoke for a few minutes about the cold
and about going out in the spring,
and then my grandfather asked his son for a cigarette.

Summers, after the caplin had rolled,
the cod moved into water too deep for traps
and the two of them would spend the days jigging,
standing at the gunnel with a line down
two fathoms, repeating the rhythmic full-arm jig
as if they were unsuccessfully trying to
start an engine;

mid-afternoon they'd stop to eat,
stoking the galley's firebox to stew cod's heads
and boil tea, then my grandfather would sit aft
with a pipe, pulling his yellow oilskin jacket
over his head until he was finished.
He'd known for years that my father was smoking
on the sly though he'd never acknowledged it,
hid beneath a coat to give his son
a chance to sneak a cigarette
before they got back to work.

The air in the sick room was so cold
their breath hung in clouds between them.
My grandfather was about to die of cancer or TB
and his son sat beside the bed,
his pockets for once empty of Bugle or Target tobacco,
telling his father he had no cigarette to give him
which happened to be the truth, and felt like
a lie to them both.

THE LAST SOCKEYE
by Tim Bowling

Always I think of the last sockeye,
the one in late October; blind,
blood-red, half-rotted, so far from the creeks of spawning,
it just lay beside our net
in the silt-grey water -- confused
or resting, we couldn't say --
then with one weak push
gilled itself
so we had to roll it in.

The last of its kind for the season;
most had died, or spawned and died,
at least a month before;
I could not gaff it.
We stood in the chill north wind, bemused,
as though we'd been given an early Christmas gift,
red-wrapped and taken
from below the mountains' undecorated evergreens;
we stared at the rotted eyes
and scales like bloodied coin,
a glove of chain-mail
after a Crusades slaughter
the living hand still inside.

Three separate instincts
and a whole long winter to forget
your drinking and failed marriage
my loneliness and too often
days of great despair
over things I cannot change

and always the gap between us
as wide as the gap
between the sockeye and its goal;
three separate instincts
with nothing to win
three separate species:
I don't remember what we said
or even if we spoke at all
but the salmon, at least,
knew what it wanted,
so I gave it back to the river,
blind, rotted, and doomed,
I gave it back

while we stood in the stern like the last men
and watched the bloody hand of the year wave goodbye

HALF-LIGHT
by Suzanne Buffam

In the green half-light of three a.m.
my brother wakes me, pulls my slumbering body
into the yard to see the rabbits being born.

They emerge all wet and pink as finger
tips nestled into sawdust beneath
their mother -- one, two, then three

naked bodies in the sudden beam
of my brother's flashlight. We hold
our breath as her small eyes take us

in, red in the light, full of fire,
and there is a moment, heavy as
the moon, when we know it is too late

to retreat, unsee, resume our innocent
beds. The mother's eyes angry
as she hunches up and turns away,

leaves us watching, the wind
cold through our nightclothes, as she swallows
up her children -- one, two, then three

wriggling bodies disappear into her tiny
sharp-toothed mouth, the flashlight
dropping to the grass at our feet.

Other titles by Patrick Lane

Other titles by Lorna Crozier

Other titles by Al Purdy