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Poetry Canadian

Heart's Hydrography

by (author) Sally Ito

Turnstone Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2022
Canadian, Spirituality, Women Authors
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

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In her fourth book of poetry, Sally Ito traverses the complex channels and tributaries of a heart mapped by the ineffable pull of family and faith. In Ito's careful hands, this same heart becomes ocean and cathedral, a hallowed space in which poetic organ-song crystalizes into poems resonant with hope, love, doubt, and longing. Heart's Hydrography charts the vital ebb and flow between the personal and the divine.

About the author

Sally Ito was born in Taber, Alberta and grew up in Edmonton and the Northwest Territories. She studied at the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta, and travelled on scholarship to Japan, where she translated Japanese poetry. Her first book of poems, Frogs in the Rain Barrel (Nightwood, 1995) was runner-up for the Milton Acorn People's Poetry Award. Her second book, Floating Shore (Mercury Press), won the Writers Guild of Alberta Book Award for short fiction, and was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Prize and the City of Edmonton Book Prize. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals such as Grain, Matrix and the Capilano Review and in the anthologies Breathing Fire: Canada's New Poets and Poets 88. Ito lives in Edmonton with her husband and son.

Sally Ito's profile page

Excerpt: Heart's Hydrography (by (author) Sally Ito)

Heart's Hydrography


Those meanderings of the soul, how they

spout or sputter, bubble and froth.

There is deluge and flood, and then the Sea

that undulating womb of water

in which infant me is wafting. The poet CRVG*

channels, restrains, controls the flow of

churlish waters winding its way through

the heart's time-terrain to saturate devotion's soil

with prayer-present wave-after-wave of words.


The river in me is dried up. No longer capable of melt or sorrow.

What happened to Gethsemane's tears 'Äì its salt water turned to blood?

Why are they not in me? To bring me back to that Sea

which we in spiritus sanctus once were and still wish to be?



*CRVG are the initials of seventeenth century devotional poet Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg.




Holy Saturday


The sky is uncertain, clouding over one minute,

letting the sun shine the next. It's inability to choose

is a metaphor for my own lax state of belief.

Indifference is what crucified Him,

I tell my only son, while paring an apple.

What? He says. What's indifference?

Never mind, I reply. The light through the window

has an unsettled look, and the wind is picking up,

shaking the branches of the elm. The dog raises

its head, and hears something only it can hear.

I slice the apple into quarters and give a piece to my son.

In the kitchen, a lump of dough rises

in the bread pan.





For when the hour was baroque and there was

a fearful studied symmetry in all mystical things,

and words in their place might move a heart

as players on a stage might recite their part.


Through this eye of the needle, slip your thread

of bare conviction, wettening it, not once, but twice

to pierce that hole, for stitching together the whole of you

depends on it, on this sewing of a line in time.


At unease in the world, you assemble the random array

Stones in a circle on a plain, or pitch the voice

Into tones of praise, wonder, and then dismay

At its falling apart, at its glorious unbecoming


No answers but for the questions, ants on a stick

Marching to the precipice, your longing are seeds

In search of light, that luminous centre in which

The self will die, and oblivion and bliss at last unite.



Only Connect


This morning on the windowsill

a spider has spun a silver thread

from the leaf tip of the paper white

all the way to the ceiling.


This morning my cousin had a baby girl whom she named Momo.


This morning the sermon was on the marvels of the natural world

and how we could not help but respond with awe,

with belief that behind all that design

was an intelligence, divine and sentient.


By supper time, the silvery thread from plant to ceiling has disappeared.

At the table, I hold the newborn Momo

while recounting the sermon to her father.


When I put my own daughter to bed that night, I notice an old notebook

sticking out from under her toy box. In it, she has written:


Memory is when you just found out something and you store it in your brain.

Other titles by


Selected Sonnets of Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg

original author Catharina Regina Greiffenberg
translated by Joanne Epp, Sarah Klassen & Sally Ito

Emperor's Orphans, The

by (author) Sally Ito

The Emperor’s Orphans

by (author) Sally Ito

Alert to Glory

by (author) Sally Ito

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets

contributions by Ian Adam, Robert Stamp, Tammy Armstrong, Margaret Avison, Douglas Barbour, John O. Barton, Doug Beardsley, Bonnie Bishop, E.D. Blodgett, Robert Boates, George Bowering, Tim Bowling, Jan Boydol, Gordon Burles, Murdoch Burnett, Anne Campbell, Weyman Chan, Leonard Cohen, Dennis Cooley, Joan Crate, Michael Cullen, Cyril Dabydeen, Lorne Daniel, Alexa DeWiel, Jason Dewinetz, ryan fitzpatrick, Cecelia Frey, Gary Geddes, Gail Ghai, Deborah Godin, Jim Green, Leslie Greentree, Vivian Hansen, Tom Henihan, Michael Henry, Walter Hildebrandt, Gerald Hill, Robert Hilles, Nancy Holmes, Richard Hornsey, Tom Howe, Aislinn Hunter, Bruce Hunter, Laurence Hutchman, Sally Ito, Pauline Johnson, Aleksei Kazuk, Robert Kroetsch, Fiona Lam, William Latta, Tim Lilburn, Alice Major, Kim Maltman, Miriam Mandel, Sid Marty, David McFadden, Barry McKinnon, Erin Michie, Deborah Miller, Anna Mioduchowska, James M. Moir, Colin Morton, Erin Moure, Charles Noble, P.K. Page, Rajinderpal Pal, Ruth Roach Pierson, Joseph Pivato, Roberta Rees, D.C. Reid, Monty Reid, R. rickey, Ken Rivard, Stephen Scobie, Allan Serafino, Joan Shillington, Greg Simison, Carol Ann Sokoloff, Karen Solie, Stephan Stephansson, Peter Stevens, Ivan Sundal, Anne Swannell, Vanna Tessier, Colleen Thibadeau, John O. Thompson, James M. Thurgood, Eva Tihanyi, Yvonne Trainer, Aritha van Herk, Rosalee van Stelten, Miriam Waddington, James Wreford Watson, Wilfred Watson, Tom Wayman, Phyllis Webb, Jon Whyte, Christine Wiesenthal, Sheri-D Wilson, Christopher Wiseman, Stacie Wolfer, Rita Wong, Richard Woollatt & Jan Zwicky

Season of Mercy

by (author) Sally Ito

Floating Shore

by (author) Sally Ito

Frogs in the Rain Barrel

by (author) Sally Ito