Songs for Relinquishing the Earth contains many poems of praise and grief for the imperilled earth drawing frequently on Jan Zwicky's experience as a musician and philosopher and on the landscapes of the prairies and rural Ontario.
Songs for Relinquishing the Earth was first published by the author in 1996 as a hand-made book, each copy individually sewn for its reader in response to a request. It appeared between plain covers on recycled stock, with a small photo (of lavender fields) pasted into each copy. The only publicity was word of mouth.
Part of Jan Zwicky's reason for having the author be the maker and distributor of the book was a desire to connect the acts of publication and publicity with the initial act of composition, to have a book whose public gestures were in keeping with the intimacy of the art. She also believed the potential audience was small enough that she could easily sew enough copies to fill requests as they came in. While succeeding in recalling poetry's public life to its roots, she was wrong about the size of that audience and her ability to keep up with demand as word spread, Hence, this facsimile edition. In publishing it, Brick Books has attempted to remain as faithful as possible to the spirit of those original gestures, while making it possible for more readers to have access to this remarkable book.
"These poems seem as simple as plainsong, but they have the effect of an axe chopping through light and breaking it into pieces."--Anne Simpson, The Antigonish Review
" ... A seamless collection ... a celebration of classical music and musicians, jazz, light, and an absence of self ... "--Kath Maclean, Prairie Fire
"I can't imagine that she can write much more piercingly about the problem of being."--Book Addiction