In this, her second collection of poetry, Sheila Stewart is deeply attuned to the process of unearthing childhood memory and mapping the landscape of midlife. She meanders along High Park trails and carefully observes scenes in Toronto subways and cafés, as she wrestles with the complexity of having grown up in the United Church manse in small-town Ontario and living a writing life with a partner and teenaged children. She charts a path through a disquiet childhood, letting dreams and the unconscious shape her knowing. Her lyrical command creates a space for the reader to meditate, too, on the longing inherent in the relationships between self and other people and between self and nature. She asks, “What does it mean to take another / into you?”
Reflecting on the contours and im/possibilities of poetry, Stewart reveals the vulnerability needed to create new images and symbols. Her poetry will startle your senses and disrupt your sense of self. Stewart’s work captures “the smell of ginger root, roasting garlic, crushed cardamom, the taste of nutmeg, the trouble with memory, a writer’s unreliability, the lie of the lake.” This much-awaited collection traces the path of “one voice stretching to another. You will be charmed by The Shape of a Throat’s tenderness and power.
About the author
Sheila Stewart’s first collection of poetry, A Hat to Stop a Train, was published by Wolsak and Wynn in 2003. She also co-edited The Art of Poetic Inquiry (Backalong Books, 2012). Her work has been recognized by numerous literary awards including the GritLit Poetry Competition, Scarborough Arts Council, Pottersfield Portfolio Short Poem Competition, Dan Sullivan Memorial Prize, and the Ray Burrell Award for Poetry. She has been widely published in such journals as The Malahat Review, The Antigonish Review, Grain, Descant, and The New Quarterly.
Stewart grew up in Stratford, Waterloo, and Montreal, taught in Libya and Swaziland, and worked in community-based adult literacy in Parkdale. She lives in Toronto, where she is completing a poetic PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She lives with her partner and two daughters near High Park, where she walks her dog.
Excerpt: Shape of a Throat, The (by (author) Sheila Stewart)
In the beginning
word leapt from body and never returned. Body said, you’re mine. Word said, I’m free. Page waited patiently, knew word would want to lie down in time, would fall in love with crisp white sheets, with making a mark. Edge along the page, and lie still.
boiling water poured the bottom fell right out
I can’t be filled experience falls through me
I leave this world the bottom drops
a teacup that can’t hold tea throw it out
says a voice
fling into the garden a broken pot tipped trapped in soil’s cloying squelch shoots and roots growing through the shards
in the garden of buried teacups bones a cat’s skeleton the sharp tiny teeth of a rabbit
what is metaphor the shape of a throat
Casting, conjuration, words wanting air, mouth round. Paper fraudulent.
Late slips, bad news, bad cheque. Some nouns are kisses, wanting
all of you. What the tongue can do, lips pursed and puckered. Words
like willows. Verbs won’t make it better. All we have uttered, will utter. Announce.