Winner of the 27th Annual Hamilton Literary Awards for Poetry
Marilyn Gear Pilling has written, “For me, to pay close attention to life, both my own and the lives of those around me – to witness and document it, find the larger meaning in it, communicate it to others – is to honour it, to make the most of this little blink of time in which we are here. ” In her sixth poetry collection, The gods of East Wawanosh, Pilling continues this work of loving witness. The long title sequence documents scenes in the life of a Huron County family still in thrall to the ancestral farm -- a father and brother who worked in the city but gave a lifetime of weekends to upkeep the land that “tugged at an unseen part of them.”. Pilling memorializes a way of life that was on its way out: the end-of-summer community picnic, pies baked at six in the morning in wood ovens, mothers and daughters walking in “warm golden water” on the hard-packed river bottom, men and boys arriving after a hot day’s threshing; the continuity of generations, family hopes, conflicts and tragedies lived out in a setting that “both shattered and held together” their world. In the book’s second half, Pilling assumes the role of observer and listener, recording voices of others whose paths have crossed hers – neighbours, new immigrants, people encountered while travelling – as they relate stories of danger and escape, of extremity, of personal circumstance and cultural obligation. Clear-eyed, curious, compassionate, she meditates on our mortality and the light in which it casts both our longing for the ideal and our embrace of the real.
"This book welcomes me as reader onto its back porch, and I know I will re-enter it many times."