About the Author

Jane Munro

Jane Munro's sixth poetry collection Blue Sonoma (Brick Books) won the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. A member of the collaborative poetry group Yoko's Dogs, she has been a professor of Creative Writing at several universities in BC, taught many informal writing workshops, and read her poetry to audiences across Canada. For more than twenty years, she has studied (in Canada and in India) and practiced Iyengar Yoga. In 2012, she moved back to Vancouver--where she grew up and raised her children--after spending twenty years living rurally on the coast of Vancouver Island.

Books by this Author
Active Pass

Active Pass

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Blue Sonoma

Blue Sonoma

edition:eBook
tagged : canadian
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Glass Float

Glass Float

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Point No Point

Point No Point

Poems
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Excerpt

HALF A CONTINENT AWAY
a scratching
outside his window
toenails on a wooden beam —

the little raccoon
who climbs like a squirrel
drops onto the tray of seed
and starts to eat,
messy as the jays who toss
showers of millet, pick out
black sunflower seeds —

their oiled hulls
upturned boats
on an ochre beach

A Word About the Poem by Jane Munro
I think of “Half a Continent Away” as a little love poem–though you might not read it as a love poem at first. From our bed, we look out a row of casement windows into trees. No curtains necessary. One of our pleasures is quietly watching birds, who seem not to notice us if we keep still, as they feed from a tray attached to the window sill. The summer I wrote this poem, a young raccoon had discovered the feeder. He was quite an amazing gymnast with a bright face and curious gaze, but still adolescent and a bit reckless. We’d hold hands under the covers and try not to laugh aloud while he rummaged about in the seed.

How the Poem Works by Lorna Crozier

“Half a Continent Away” is a companion poem to “Listen with the Ear of the Heart.” In the latter, the reader is immediately informed that the speaker, who is far from home, is thinking of her husband. She claims in the first stanza that she hears him as he turns over in sleep. In “Half a Continent Away,” as the title lets us know, she is still far from home. This time it isn’t the lover she is attuned to but what is going on outside his window. In the first stanza she draws our attention to “a scratching” that she identifies as “toenails on a wooden beam.” Like the one who lies in bed, listening, trying to figure out the source of the sound, the poet makes us wait for the length of a stanza break before we learn what bird or animal is responsible for this wake-up call. The empty space in the poem creates a moment of suspense, the reader mimicking the husband, asking “What is it?”

Stanza two begins with a three-word line: “the little raccoon.” The next six lines go on to describe his messy feeding habits in the tray of seeds meant for birds. So far the speaker has stayed out of the picture, but you know from her exact description that she is recalling what she herself has heard and seen outside their window. Missing her husband, she recreates his presence not through describing him or her feelings about him, but through imagery from the natural world. In fact, with admirable discretion, she refers to him only once: “a scratching/outside his window.” There’s a cleanness to this approach, a delicacy of touch, and a pleasing simplicity that is difficult to achieve.

The only metaphor in the poem appears in the final short stanza, where the speaker compares the oiled hulls of sunflower seeds to “upturned boats/ on an ochre beach.” Thus the poem begins and ends with something small and unassuming. The final image, however, invites us to go one step further in our reading of the poem. It reminds the reader once again that the poem revolves around a journey. It is the seeds that attract the raccoon who makes the sound the speaker imagines her husband hearing. Little upturned boats, they are what transports her from half a continent away to where her husband lies. They carry her back home.

Lorna Crozier’s latest book is Whetstone.

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