A Globe and Mail 100 Best Book
Finalist, Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
Finalist, City of Victoria Butler Book Prize
A deeply affecting portrait of a long partnership and a clear-eyed account of the impact of a serious illness, writing as consolation, and the enduring significance of poetry from one of Canada's most celebrated voices.
When we ran off together in 1978, abandoning our marriages and leaving wreckage in our wake, I was a "promising writer," Patrick had just won the Governor General's Award. I was so happy for him, and I've continued to be every time an honour comes his way, but I knew if I didn't grow, if I remained merely someone who showed potential, we wouldn't last. I swore I wouldn't play the dutiful wife, cheerleader, and muse of the great male writer, and he didn't envision a partner like that. We aspired to flourish together and thrive in words and books and gardens.
When Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane met at a poetry workshop in 1976, they had no idea that they would go on to write more than forty books between them, balancing their careers with their devotion to each other, and to their beloved cats, for decades. Then, in January 2017, their life together changed unexpectedly when Patrick became seriously ill. Despite tests and the opinions of many specialists, doctors remained baffled. There was no diagnosis and no effective treatment plan. The illness devastated them both.
During this time, Lorna turned to her writing as a way of making sense of her grief and for consolation. She revisited her poems, tracing her own path as a poet along with the evolution of her relationship with Patrick. The result is an intimate and intensely moving memoir about the difficulties and joys of creating a life with someone and the risks and immense rewards of partnership. At once a spirited account of the past and a poignant reckoning with the present, it is, above all, an extraordinary and unforgettable love story.
Told with unflinching honesty and fierce tenderness, Through the Garden is a candid, clear-eyed portrait of a long partnership and an acknowledgement, a tribute, and a gift.
About the author
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.
Excerpt: Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats) (by (author) Lorna Crozier)
Patrick’s home from the hospital after a two-week stay that felt like a year—so much has shifted. They let him go not because he’s well but because they don’t know what else to do. He says he’s just waiting for the next catastrophe. Pneumonia still whispering in his lungs, his blood counts low, he moves around the house only with the help of a walker that we borrowed from the place that makes those things available, who knew? It rattles and clanks as he pushes it and his weariness down the hall from room to room, a ghost, a ghost in chains.
He has the legs of a ten-year old boy, his arms are smaller than mine. I once wrote a poem about the way he walked—“Even the dead reach for you / as you walk, so beautiful across the earth.” It was a sexy, blue-jeaned, slim-hipped swagger, the assured gait of a man at home in his body and the world. Now it’s a clank, slide, clank, slide, his legs capable of an uneasy balance, not power or confidence. The walker sits by our bed at night so he can make it the short distance from our bed to the bathroom. He uses it to navigate the paths of the garden, and often I see him motionless behind it as if it’s a stubborn aluminum gate he can’t figure out how to push through. I remind myself he’ll get to the other side of it, but it will take time, it will take time. I ache for him.
Praise for Through the Garden and Lorna Crozier
“Lorna Crozier’s Through the Garden draws us into a rich and intimate portrait of the tender, turbulent lives of two writers who shared a love affair with words, cats, the world, and each other for some 40 years. As Crozier’s husband, writer Patrick Lane, is overtaken by illness and she by grief, this book reminds us that memory, like history, makes us who we are and outruns death. Elegantly written and searingly frank, Through the Garden drills deep into the personal while ranging outward to confront the storms and mysteries of life.” —2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction jury (Helen Knott, Sandra Martin, and Ronald Wright)
“Emotionally brave and profoundly tender, this book will introduce you to beautifully wrought gardens of poetry, and to two deeply creative individuals who, side by side, flourished in those gardens. A moving and life-affirming reading experience.” —Jane Urquhart, author of The Stone Carvers
“This book is a glimpse into forty years of intimacy—what it means to adore, endure, defy, devote, grieve. It is a witnessing of final days—ardent with longing, aching candour, and a powerful tenderness.” —Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces
“With feet bare and a heart full of love and longing, Lorna Crozier walks us back to the beginnings of our own fragile bones and back to the place where roots hold us until we become them, until we are the love we planted.” —Gregory Scofield, author of Witness, I am
“To read Lorna Crozier’s memoir is to follow two legends of Canadian letters down an enchanted garden path, through the early days of their boozy, Carver-esque romance to the final destination of an endless, timeless love. Overflowing with poetry, wisdom, and cats, this book demands re-reading, for your heart may struggle to hold it all.” —Marjorie Celona, author of How a Woman Becomes a Lake
“In Through the Garden, Lorna Crozier lays a path between life’s two great mysteries—love and death. Her gaze is honest and steady, never faltering, whether examining her own heart or looking into the eyes of her dying partner. Out of such bold courage comes a book that is like love—agonizing and joyful, replete with poetry and story, a wellspring of wisdom and truth.” —Merilyn Simonds, author of Refuge
“Lorna Crozier gives us the flesh-and-blood thrill of becoming a poet, and then the high romance of finding and losing the poet she loves. Her passionate memoir is unabashed and never less than fascinating.” —Elizabeth Hay, author of All Things Consoled
“A work of searing intensity, Through the Garden stands as a testament to poetry, love, and longing. Chronicling her fiery romance with her husband, the poet Patrick Lane, and his subsequent descent into a mysterious illness, Lorna Crozier reminds us that remembering lies at the heart of who we are. This is one of the great love stories of our time.” —Steven Price, author of Lampedusa