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Poetry Canadian

watching for life

by (author) David Zieroth

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2022
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2022
    List Price

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we climb down the manhole / where history waits, and we can read / its layers or at least imagine them

From a balcony overlooking an urban back lane, a poet watches those walking below – their identities unknown and yet grasped through real and imagined evidence of foibles and personal inclinations, details of habit that reflect the strangers’ inner selves, humanity in all its weaknesses, illnesses, and propensities.

In watching for life David Zieroth ponders questions about how to live and how to continue. The poems reach out in imagining the lives of others, and the poet himself is watched in turn. Zieroth conjures the history of his environment and the people who pass through it, reminding us of “the place we occupy / unfinished within ourselves” and our hunger to locate ourselves in the strangers we encounter.

Intimate and observant, watching for life features poetic reflections on men, women, children, crows and gulls, pigeons, rain and snow, patched pavement, delivery trucks, night, and time.

About the author

David Zieroth’s The Fly in Autumn (Harbour, 2009) won the Governor General’s Literary Award and was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry in 2010. Zieroth also won The Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award for How I Joined Humanity at Last (Harbour, 1998). Other publications include the trick of staying and leaving (Harbour, 2023), watching for life (McGill-Queen’s, 2022), the bridge from day to night (Harbour, 2018), Zoo and Crowbar (Guernica Editions, 2015), Albrecht Dürer and me (Harbour, 2014), The November Optimist (Gaspereau, 2013), The Village of Sliding Time (Harbour, 2006), The Education of Mr. Whippoorwill: A Country Boyhood (Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 2002) and Crows Do Not Have Retirement (Harbour, 2001). His poems have been included in the Best Canadian Poetry series, shortlisted for National Magazine and Relit Awards and featured on Vancouver buses three times as part of Poetry in Transit. He watches urban life from his third-floor balcony in North Vancouver, BC, where he runs The Alfred Gustav Press and produces handmade poetry chapbooks twice per year.

David Zieroth's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“This book is an unassuming masterpiece. Unassuming in that its speaker is a solitary apartment dweller who spends his time looking entirely away from himself into his back lane surroundings. A masterpiece in that its speaker reveals how he is nothing except what he sees outside himself in human, creaturely, and even mineral disguise. And yet this is not what he is; he is the watcher looking through him, haunting him, sending out his gaze within which is boundless, selfless awareness ‘watching for life.’” Russell Thornton, author of Answer to Blue

“David Zieroth pries open the deepest philosophical and psychological workings of humanity in the most ordinary moments. At turns humorous, thoughtful, and surreal, Zieroth’s poems are wise and full of sharp observations, sussing out profound meaning in someone’s gait as they walk the lane below or in the way a gull floats with ‘his immaculate white, airy curves.’ You'll be quick to agree with Zieroth when he writes: ‘all I can say / it’s better to take notice.’” Al Rempel, author of Undiscovered Country

“This stunning collection, the work of a poet at the height of his maturity, creates a paradigm for the human condition with its inherent loneliness. Here the speaker ‘watches for life’ from an urban balcony and evokes the characters and moods of those who pass below, capturing something of their souls and reflecting his essential empathy for fellow humans. Aware of a godlike visual advantage in his ‘eyrie’ or ‘control room,’ and at one point invoking ‘a clown in his mad pulpit,’ David Zieroth delights us with playful humour and refreshing self-irony, all the while realizing a vision of life full of bird imagery in which ordinary crows sometimes shine in sunlight.” Gillian Harding-Russell, author of Uninterrupted and In Another Air

Other titles by David Zieroth