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Poetry Australian & Oceanian

What the Small Day Cannot Hold

Collected Poems 1970-1985

by (author) Susan Musgrave

Publisher
Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2000
Category
Australian & Oceanian, General, Poetry
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780888784063
    Publish Date
    Apr 2000
    List Price
    $18.95

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Description

Finally a collected Musgrave for those old enough to have been there in the 1970s and those young enough to want to reexperience the generation’s wry optimism and ironic fervour. This seven-title canon reissues Musgrave’s early must-have literary opus and includes: Songs of the Sea-Witch, Entrance of the Celebrant, Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries, The Impstone, Becky Swan’s Book, A Man to Marry, a Man to Bury, and Cocktails at the Mausoleum. Originally published by Sono Nis, Macmillan, McClelland & Stewart and Porcupine’s Quill, the poems in What the Small Day Cannot Hold reconstitute the lost canon of one of the country’s most vibrant and orgiinal national voices. Called the "foremost poet of her generation", Musgrave epitomizes the people’s poet, bringing to audiences starved for a new language of wide breadth of material startling in its intensity and originality, legendary in its myth-making and monumental in its primal power. From witchcraft to wilderness, from First Nations to the urban nation, from the erotic to the exotic, these poems explode typical expectations and haunt the reader with unprecedented dramatic appeal.

About the author

Susan Musgrave has been labelled everything from eco-feminist to anti-feminist, from stand-up comedian to poet of doom and gloom, from social and political commentator to wild sea-witch of Canada's northwest coast. Her career as a social misfit began when she was kicked out of kindergarten class for laughing, and sent to the library to contemplate her heinous crime while seated on the “Thinking Chair”. She understood, then, that books and thinking must be considered dangerous, and they became her favourite forms of escape. Not long afterwards she dropped out of kindergarten for good. In Grade 8 she won her first poetry competition, with a poem about Jackie Kennedy visiting her husband's grave by moonlight in rhyming couplets. Her prize was a copy of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. At 14, Susan Musgrave dropped out of high school and ran away from home to gain life experience. She got as far as the railway tracks in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, where she wrote poetry about cigarettes drowning in cold cups of coffee, and on the eternal shortness of existence. Next we have the missing years (months, actually). Committed to the local psychiatric ward, assigned to Room 0, she met most of the University of Victoria's English Department. While she was plotting her eventual escape from the mental hospital, the poet Robin Skelton came to visit her. “You're not mad,” he said, after reading her poetry, “you're a poet.” She and an older professor escaped together, and spent the next years living in Berkeley, California. Her first book of poetry was published when she was 19. Of Songs of the Sea Witch, her grandfather said, “Even Shakespeare had to write a lot of rubbish to begin with.” In 1969 she received a short term Canada Council Grant of $1500 and spent the next two years living on the remote west coast of Ireland. In 1972 she returned to Canada, to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and in 1975 married a criminal lawyer, Jeffrey Green, at St. Albans Cathedral in England. The marriage lasted four years. During the trial of five Americans and 23 Colombians accused of attempting to smuggle 30 tonnes of marijuana into Canada (her husband was one of five defence lawyers) she fell in love (from across the courtroom) with one of the accused smugglers, Paul Oscar Nelson. When he was acquitted she left with him for Mexico. They lived for two years in Colombia and Panama, until the birth of their daughter, Charlotte, in 1982. While Susan was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Waterloo, 1983-85, Paul Nelson was sentenced to four years in prison in California on a previous smuggling charge. While in prison he gave his life to the Lord, and Susan and Paul were divorced shortly afterwards. Around the same time, 1983, Susan received a manuscript from a convicted bank-robber, Stephen Reid, serving a twenty-year sentence at Millhaven Penitentiary, in Ontario. She read the manuscript, fell in love with the protagonist, and married the author on October 12, 1986, while he was still in prison. His novel, Jackrabbit Parole was released the same year. On June 1, 1987, Stephen Reid was granted full parole, and the couple moved into a seaside cottage on Vancouver Island, with a 190 foot Douglas fir tree growing through the middle of it. In 1989 their daughter Sophie was born; in 1997 Stephen burned his warrant and Susan burned her mortgage papers in a party attended by a diverse group of family, friends and writers including a Supreme Court judge and two paroled members of the Squamish Five. During their thirteen year marriage Stephen battled heroin and cocaine addiction. In 1997, the couple began building a house on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and their lives were the subject of a CBC Life and Times documentary, The Poet and the Bandit, which aired in January 1999. On June 9, 1999, after a two year clean-and-dry period that had ended roughly around the time the documentary aired, Stephen was arrested for bank robbery in Victoria, following a shootout and car chase through Beacon Hill Park. He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison on December 22, 1999. Musgrave has published over 21 fiction, poetry, children's, and non-fiction books.

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