About the Author

Lorna Crozier

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.

Books by this Author
Addicted

Addicted

Notes from the Belly of the Beast
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Before the First Word

Before the First Word

The Poetry of Lorna Crozier
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tagged : canadian, literary
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Excerpt

What the Snake Brings to the World by Lorna Crozier

Without the snake

there'd be no letter S

No forked tongue and toil,

no pain and no sin. No wonder

the snake's without shoulders.

What could bear such a weight!

The snake's responsible for everything

that slides and hisses, that moves

without feet or legs. The wind for example.

The sea in its long sweeps to shore and out again.

The snake has done some good, then.

Even sin to the ordinary man

brings its pleasures. And without

the letter S traced belly-wise

outside the gates of Eden

we'd have to live

with the singular of everything:

sparrow, ear, heartbeat,

mercy, truth.

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Bones in Their Wings

Bones in Their Wings

A Series of Ghazals
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tagged : canadian
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Desire in Seven Voices

Desire in Seven Voices

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tagged : essays, canadian
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Lorna Crozier

Language of Angels
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Lots of Kisses

Lots of Kisses

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tagged : body, new baby
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Small Beneath the Sky

Small Beneath the Sky

A Prairie Memoir
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Small Mechanics
Excerpt

LAST BREATH
Not a living soul about,
except for me and the magpie. I know
if I don’t keep moving, he’ll pluck
the breath from my body, taste it
on his tongue before it slides
down his throat, giving him new prophecies
to speak. He’s the bird Noah didn’t send out,
afraid he’d carry the ark’s complaints to heaven.
Tonight he scallops from the copse of willows
to the power pole, stares down at me. I match him
cry for cry, not knowing what I mean but feeling
good about it, the bird part of my brain lit up.
Coyotes, too, start their music as if the magpie’s
flown in to be the guest conductor
for the length of time it takes the sun to sink.
He flips his tail, bringing up the oboes
then the high notes of the flutes. Other souls,
those I sense but cannot see,
wait among the stones along the riverbank
until they’re sure the magpie is distracted,
then scentless and inedible to anyone but him,
they make their wingless foray
across the ice and running water,
mouthfuls of silence that, if not for coyotes,
the magpie would hear.
 

DON’T SAY IT
You admire the wild grasses
for their reticence.
When you cut across the dusk for home,
the meadow is more beautiful
for all it keeps inside.
Syllables of seeds catch in your socks
but they don’t need to say,
Thank you, friend,
even if you’ve carried them
for miles.
 

THE FIRST DAY OF THE YEAR
The new writer sucks her fingers
in her crib. There is nothing
to distinguish her – like the extra toe
on Hemingway’s
literary cats – from all the other
babies down the block.
She is dreaming ink
though she hasn’t seen it
in this world yet
and no one knows,
least of all her parents,
she loves nothing
better than the blank
flat whiteness
of the bottom sheet
when she’s laid damp
from her morning bath
upon it.

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So Many Babies

So Many Babies

by Lorna Crozier
illustrated by Laura Watson
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The Blue Hour of the Day
Excerpt

ONIONS
The onion loves the onion.
It hugs its many layers,
saying O, O, O,
each vowel smaller
than the last.

Some say it has no heart.
It doesn’t need one.
It surrounds itself,
feels whole. Primordial.
First among vegetables.

If Eve had bitten it
instead of the apple,
how different
Paradise.

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The Book of Marvels

The Book of Marvels

A Compendium of Everyday Things
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tagged : essays, canadian
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The Wild in You

The Wild in You

Voices from the Forest and the Sea
by Lorna Crozier
photographs by Ian McAllister
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also available: Hardcover
tagged : nature, regional
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Whetstone
Excerpt

BLIZZARD

Walking into wind, I lean into my mother's muskrat coat;
around the cuffs her wristbones have worn away the fur.

If we stood still we'd disappear. There's no up or down,
no houses with their windows lit. The only noise is wind

and what's inside us. When we get home my father
will be there or not. No one ever looks for us.

I could lie down and stay right here where snow is all
that happens, and silence isn't loneliness just cold

not talking. My mother tugs at me and won't let go.
Then stops to find her bearings. In our hoods of stars

we don't know if anyone will understand
the tongue we speak, so far we are from home.

A Word About the Poem By Lorna Crozier
Blizzards, at least the kind we have on the prairies, can be terrifying events, especially if you are caught in one on the highway, but I love walking in them. Everything else gets shut out. You can see almost nothing in front of you or on either side, just a shifting white that falls and falls until the hood of your jacket, your shoulders, even your eyebrows and lashes are feathered with snow. There is no more enclosed, magical space than what a blizzard can take you into.

I was thinking about my mother, and how our relationships with our mothers are the most primal relationships we have. We started out alone with our mothers, in the womb, and we got to know them inside them, internally. We grew our bones and our hearts inside our mothers. I was thinking of how that kind of intense closeness keeps going through your life, and I thought of the metaphoric surround of a blizzard.

When my mother and I walked home in a blizzard when I was a child, we were the only two people in the whole world. It was as if we had fallen into one of those glass snow globes, and all we had was each other, the snow, time collapsing on itself, and the private silent language of mother and child making their way back home.

 How the Poem Works By Jan Zwicky
Things to notice about the poem:

1. The first line, the first three words: the rhythm is trochaic: Walking into wind. The emphasis, combined with the alliteration on the smooth consonant “w,” enacts the steady effortful push of trying to make headway. (The rest of the lines are predominantly iambic.)

2. The stanza break after the fourth line: the grammar gives the line great internal unity - we could put a full stop after "wind" and the sentence would make sense. So, when instead of a full stop we get the lift into emptiness of an unpunctuated stanza break, the effect is of momentary vertigo - which is then articulated in the opening words of the third stanza: there are only two sources of noise in this universe, the exterior wind and the interior clamour. Clamour about what? - And the moment we ask this question, the father appears. In the sixth line, immediately following, the phrase "will be there or not" is one of the least heavily accented in the poem, the closest to prose we get. Here is the hard truth, spoken as plainly as possible: the father is unpredictable, and he doesn't care. "No one ever looks for us."

3. Notice that the speaker never says she's in pain. She simply sets the observation of the interior clamour, of the fact that no one ever looks for her or her mother, beside the seduction of giving up, of lying down in the snow and silence and going no further. But the mother won't let her. And in accepting that gesture, the speaker acknowledges an alliance - that in the pain and confusion, the white-out of their domestic life, the mother and child are known to one another. They don't speak, they just keep going - and this one gesture, of keeping going, is tantamount to a world of communication, the only thing that can be said.

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Breathing Fire

Breathing Fire

Canada's New Poets
edited by Patrick Lane & Lorna Crozier
foreword by Al Purdy
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

CIGARETTES (I)
by Michael Crummey

The day my grandfather died he ate
a meal of salt beef and cabbage in his
sick bed, his appetite returning for
the first time in weeks, the skin
hanging from the bones of his face like an oversized suit.

My father had gone in to see him
earlier that morning, fifteen years old then
and thinking the old man was recovering;
they spoke for a few minutes about the cold
and about going out in the spring,
and then my grandfather asked his son for a cigarette.

Summers, after the caplin had rolled,
the cod moved into water too deep for traps
and the two of them would spend the days jigging,
standing at the gunnel with a line down
two fathoms, repeating the rhythmic full-arm jig
as if they were unsuccessfully trying to
start an engine;

mid-afternoon they'd stop to eat,
stoking the galley's firebox to stew cod's heads
and boil tea, then my grandfather would sit aft
with a pipe, pulling his yellow oilskin jacket
over his head until he was finished.
He'd known for years that my father was smoking
on the sly though he'd never acknowledged it,
hid beneath a coat to give his son
a chance to sneak a cigarette
before they got back to work.

The air in the sick room was so cold
their breath hung in clouds between them.
My grandfather was about to die of cancer or TB
and his son sat beside the bed,
his pockets for once empty of Bugle or Target tobacco,
telling his father he had no cigarette to give him
which happened to be the truth, and felt like
a lie to them both.

THE LAST SOCKEYE
by Tim Bowling

Always I think of the last sockeye,
the one in late October; blind,
blood-red, half-rotted, so far from the creeks of spawning,
it just lay beside our net
in the silt-grey water -- confused
or resting, we couldn't say --
then with one weak push
gilled itself
so we had to roll it in.

The last of its kind for the season;
most had died, or spawned and died,
at least a month before;
I could not gaff it.
We stood in the chill north wind, bemused,
as though we'd been given an early Christmas gift,
red-wrapped and taken
from below the mountains' undecorated evergreens;
we stared at the rotted eyes
and scales like bloodied coin,
a glove of chain-mail
after a Crusades slaughter
the living hand still inside.

Three separate instincts
and a whole long winter to forget
your drinking and failed marriage
my loneliness and too often
days of great despair
over things I cannot change

and always the gap between us
as wide as the gap
between the sockeye and its goal;
three separate instincts
with nothing to win
three separate species:
I don't remember what we said
or even if we spoke at all
but the salmon, at least,
knew what it wanted,
so I gave it back to the river,
blind, rotted, and doomed,
I gave it back

while we stood in the stern like the last men
and watched the bloody hand of the year wave goodbye

HALF-LIGHT
by Suzanne Buffam

In the green half-light of three a.m.
my brother wakes me, pulls my slumbering body
into the yard to see the rabbits being born.

They emerge all wet and pink as finger
tips nestled into sawdust beneath
their mother -- one, two, then three

naked bodies in the sudden beam
of my brother's flashlight. We hold
our breath as her small eyes take us

in, red in the light, full of fire,
and there is a moment, heavy as
the moon, when we know it is too late

to retreat, unsee, resume our innocent
beds. The mother's eyes angry
as she hunches up and turns away,

leaves us watching, the wind
cold through our nightclothes, as she swallows
up her children -- one, two, then three

wriggling bodies disappear into her tiny
sharp-toothed mouth, the flashlight
dropping to the grass at our feet.

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Breathing Fire 2

Breathing Fire 2

Canada's New Poets
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Excerpt

Quidi Vidi (Alison Pick)

Walk as far as you can,
then farther, past
the chain-link barring the road,
tire tracks deep as the rut of your mind,
the place you always get stuck.
Wanting more, or wanting
less, to be rid of the word
called wanting. Boulders,
tall grass, shrubs you can't name,
birds you can't name,
the ocean. Being a stranger sneaks you through
the latch of language - briefly. Bottles, you know.
Condoms, you know. And the weight
of being human where other humans have been.
Back of the sea like one line of thought,
slight variation of foam at the shore
where artifice gives itself up. Farther out,
a ledge in the rock
as though attention might help. Turning
for home, hands in your pockets, night mists in
like animal breath, the black-brown shapes
of gathering mammals
bending to drink at the silent pool
of mind submerged in the mind.
If a gap in awareness exists, it's there
you might have slipped through.

Falling (Matt Rader)

Clipped my skull on the lip of the bridge
as I plunged feet-first into the anxious river.
My teeth jawed together, all castanet
or clam-shell, crunched my tongue to pulp.
I couldn't talk, or scream, or lift a finger.
Couldn't remember why I was there or where
amongst all the falling my body had gone.
Rivulets of red ribboned my head like an insect-
painter's quick study of the wingless human--
The Faller--a gesture-drawing in blood and air.
Here's how I picture it: limbs all stutter and wheel
in the rioting wind, all seizure of sign-language
and panic-dance, eyes scrolled back, calculating
velocity by distance, the time left to swallow
or spit before impact. Never mind the fear
or embarrassment, I pissed my pants just for
the warmth in my crotch, that one last sloppy kiss.
Falling and falling is lonely business.

Plate No. 9 (Nathalie Stephens)

Together perhaps they are together in and out of the image one stopping at a distance from the other which would account for the absence of one the one woman who appeared later in the image before the artist who might not have noticed her presence but they both the women the two women both women are present from the beginning inside and outside of the frame the one that marks lines around the image the one this image in which two women standing and leaning one woman present the other not until later until the artist shuddered and the shudder marked by the fissured city imprinted on the image indicates the presence of two women together one woman and then another she the woman they the two women leaning and standing within reach of the artist and the need to readjust the line of vision the one that draws one woman to the other she both they the two women perhaps drawn one to the other and maybe outside of the frame they are lovers,

from Haynes Town Store (Shane Rhodes)

my grandmother said

--he comes from the south east coast of china as a boy
(or a man or as far as I can figure out
wing wong was a hundred all his life)
and after two months on ship or so it is said
in vancouver he buys a pound of chocolate
and after two months of rice and salt water
it tasted of tears wing speaks no english yet
he has selling in his blood like the last dime in his pocket
he buys more chocolate and breaks it to ten pieces
and sells each piece to the immigrants off the boats
for 5� each to people like wing or you or me hungry for land
or anything that looked like dirt and tasted like the dust storm
wing bought his store with
and a bag full of nickels--

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