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Save Your Life Poems
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Save Your Life Poems

By 49thShelf
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Poems about the hard things, grief and loss, about survival, and about the light that gets in. Offering readers a scaffold for their experiences, and assurances that no one is really alone.


tagged : canadian

A heart-rending poetic commentary on the pain, anxiety and dissatisfaction that go hand-in-hand with mental illness, and on the complex and emotional interplay between doctor, patient and outsider.

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Dysphoria 1.

Emotion distilled into ampoules, the inoculate
roaring at the head of the needle-who needs

depot when the body's flooded with feeble?
Perhaps the lobotomy was the right thing to do,

back when you said you understood me and, ha,
no-I understood you. In the car park, at Big Park,

Little Park, in grocery aisles, in community rinks;
past security checkpoints and through turnstiles,

it was all darkness. To the coasts, I roar:
When a man loves a woman, he can't keep his mind.

Oh needle of lonesome, here's my ass one more time.
Last night, you asked 'How does it feel?'

Percy? Sing for us? She can bring him such misery
if she plays him for a fool. This anthem serves the lost

in lieu of help; that's how it feels, old and good
bodies. Raise your right index finger and say

goodbye to the fool that points between your
eyes. The sensor never lies. It identifies.

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

The cry of pain is life -Bichat

Feel your cells.
They dwell in the drama you set,
that spell of forget and remember.
Cells are demented elephants,
atolls that move in storms.
Heaven or hell is the Brownian motion.
From the sky: portents and weather, the impetus.
In Hooke's eye, pain is an organelle.
Cells die together, as do we.
En masse, the telos is alone,


for me, that's never true.
I will die thinking of you. I will die thinking.
Of you, the pain says nothing. You are.
What I say, and sing, for I am in pain,
and have always been: I am alive.
Pain is not the cry.
The cry is that I think of you,
I think of life.

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Wind Leaves Absence

Wind Leaves Absence

tagged : canadian

These poems are steeped in loss and lament as they concern the death of the poet’s family members, particularly her father and the premature death of two brothers two years apart. The collection’s tone is often elegiac, but rarely maudlin, and the clipped narrative is frequently imbued with lyrical strains. There is an abundance of quotes and hat-tip allusions that act as sign posts along the grieving journey.


Maxwell’s poems are emotional counterpoints to life’s implacable realities. Si …

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You had a horse, didn’t you Dad?
Yes, Sandy. He saved my life.


I hand him a pencil, a piece of paper.
He holds it in his left hand
as if it’s another finger
as if it’s always been there
holds it with such intention and purpose--
pulls the lead in one diagonal line.


From all the times he’s drawn this line
I know it’s Sandy’s neck.


He puts the pencil down, looks at me,
doesn’t know what
the next line should be.

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Tell Them It Was Mozart

Tell Them It Was Mozart

also available: eBook

Linked poems that uncover the ache and whimsy of raising children on the autism spectrum.


Through public judgments, detouring dreams and unspoken prayers, Tell Them It Was Mozart, Angeline Schellenberg's debut collection, traces both a slow bonding and the emergence of a defiant humour. This is a book that keens and cherishes, a work full of the earthiness and transcendence of mother-love. One of the pleasures of this collection is its playful range of forms: there are erasure poems, prose poe …

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Helpless Angels

Helpless Angels

a book of music
tagged : canadian

Helpless Angels weaves several themes together: music’s impact on a life, expressed through memory; poems that are like songs; music found in or described through nature; poems that directly consider music’s power; and, as a counterpoint to how music carries us through life, how art — and each of us — deals with significant loss: the death of a loved one. Helpless Angels looks at a long-term development — the ubiquitousness of widespread personal access to music performed by others tha …

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I power a device on
A thin mist streams out
and expands, densifying as it infuses
my kitchen or vehicle cabin


Such music can resemble
a sweet odor that generates in me a yearning
for fulfillment, the way a blue delphinium or gladiolus
intrigues a bee


Or I experience the thickened presence as
the pulse and throb of a force field
curing weariness, dismissing
doubt: a propulsive urge


How confidently this leavening agent
deploys its energy
in every manifestation
—the diminished chords


which evoke an era
when only in the chamber or hall
with the players themselves
could such tunes be heard


—or voices and rhythms
transistors conveyed to me: melodies
whose lyrics have proven for decades
companions, goads, consolers


—or the rousing secular hymns
whose righteous insistence accelerates me
ever-nearer those lucid dreams
of justice, freedom, social harmony


still elusive as the sorcery
by which these tones in any guise, and effected
by any implement, quickens
the haunted world

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The Fabric of Day

The Fabric of Day

New and Selected Poems
tagged : canadian

Throughout the years, Anne Campbell’s work has remained consistently engaging, her tone steady and trustworthy and her control of imagery precise. There are subtle changes in her presentation of the natural world and slight shifts in the metaphysical approach to space, time, and possibility. But in this retrospective there is no doubt that her strength lies in her ability to capture the transcendence that occurs when nature informs the mind and the commonplace rises to philosophical insight. T …

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How I Almost Married Leonard Cohen  


 “You almost married Leonard Cohen,” they said, 
long after the 70s when their dad and I had separated; 


    They’d remembered Leonard, always in the house,  
      seeing  me   alive in his songs, thought  
     we’d make a good pair,   so one night
                 they gathered 
                          to write the letter: 


“She loves your music,” they said, “and we think 
    with your songs, and the way she thinks 
           you’d be a good match.”    
 I asked how it was I didn’t know this:
They said they couldn’t remember why they hadn’t sent the letter;
They’d all liked the idea, but the thought,  the thought,  had simply faded. 


Time Away, after Jacqueline




Time away, she said, I need time away


from the ordinary; she  hopes to meet


the girl she once  was,  the woman she was to become




So she walks the tall grass,


at night  listens to her music;  thinks


if she keeps her focus,   silent  like a cat


that girl   might be sighted.

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also available: eBook

A long poem that limns the incremental mourning of living with a person who has frontotemporal dementia.


Selah, from Psalms and Habakkuk -- to praise, to lift up, to weigh in the balances, to pause, or a purely musical notation. Biblical scholars debate the exact meaning. Selah, Nora Gould's second poetry collection, is a sequence of fragments written in dialogue with all of these meanings. Stitched together, these fragments form a poem that runs from the ranch land of Alberta into the heart …

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The Corpses of the Future

The Corpses of the Future

also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

The Corpses of the Future is a sustained, confessional new collection of poems by Lynn Crosbie. It tells the story of her father’s battle with frontotemporal dementia and blindness, following a stroke. The poems chronologically recount the poet’s conversations and time with her father, and capture his still-astonishing means of communicating. The book’s title is his sardonic remark. Crosbie considers dementia to be a symbolic language and as such, similar to poetry. The author’s attempts …

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Burning in this Midnight Dream

Burning in this Midnight Dream

also available: eBook
tagged : canadian

Burning in the Midnight Dream is the latest collection of poems by Louise Bernice Halfe. Many were written in response to the grim tide of emotions, memories, dreams and nightmares that arose in her as the Truth and Reconciliation process unfolded.

In heart-wrenching detail, Halfe recalls the damage done to her parents, her family, herself. With fearlessly wrought verse, Halfe describes how the experience of the residential schools continues to haunt those who survive, and how the effects pass li …

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