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A gift of Island poetry: Lobie Daughton

Curated by Deirdre Kessler

AVIAN TAO

Slowly I move my gaze
to see the hummingbird.
Glimpse just the flash
of my impatience.
Emerald-streaked thin air.
A nodding blossom
emptied of its nectar.

—Lobie Daughton. Country Matters. Saturday Morning Chapbooks, Fourth Series, No. 3, 2014.

Prince Edward Island poet laureate Deirdre Kessler selects a poem a month by an Island poet for readers of The Buzz.

A gift of Island poetry: John MacKenzie

Curated by Deirdre Kessler

Fragments from between Thought and Word 5

We still sit in stillness;
In those moments when
The crickets stopped

And there was only the soft,
Hesitant sound of the tide
Against the river.

—John MacKenzie. Shaken by Physics. Polestar, 2002.

PEI poet laureate Deirdre Kessler selects a poem a month by an Island poet for readers of The Buzz.

A gift of Island poetry: Yvette Doucette

Curated by Deirdre Kessler

Tulips (a week after)

She had put tulips on the table
serrated edges, lacy cups
a shade of red toward vermillion.

I step closer, peek into the silky petals,
the stamens inky powder smudged
mascara-after-tears into each centre.

Underneath this black dress my skin prickles
as though I might suddenly see her standing near.
How curious not one bright petal has fallen.

The window is open. A week has passed.
The green stalks weave eccentric, snakelike
as each tulip still lifts toward the missing sky.

—Yvette Doucette. In a Burst of Yellow Blossoms. Saturday Morning Chapbooks, 2014.

PEI poet laureate Deirdre Kessler selects a poem a month by an Island poet for readers of The Buzz.

A gift of Island poetry: David Helwig

Curated by Deirdre Kessler

Epilogue

You wonder sometimes what it ever was
that caught your eye, some grace of attitude,
smile or intensity of gaze. The buzz
travels the nerves, quick, tender. Platitude
grows exact and sweet. Of course this prompts our lust
the will to conquer, nakedness and bed;
what’s true as well, the comely engenders trust,
an open heart, the common day remade.

The slap of presence: summer evening, deer
among the pasture grasses, watchful, still,
a chickadee in snow, black-eyed and brave.
Always our breathing a mong what’s now, what’s here;
thus the impossible that might be, will.

Sudden and absolute stranger, this is love.

 

—David Helwig. Sudden and Absolute Stranger. Oberon Press.

This hot-off-the press volume of Helwig’s collected poems will be launched on May 2 at 7 pm at The Queue (next door to the Pilot House on Grafton Street in Charlottetown).

PEI poet laureate Deirdre Kessler selects a poem a month by an Island poet for readers of The Buzz. 

A gift of Island poetry: John Smith

Curated by Deirdre Kessler

Your name

is a fingered opal dropped in darkness

into a silent pool.  Hearing only

the one tone of its lavish syllable

prank the drum of waiting water, I feel

its slow fall revolving in that plumbless dark,

its little roundness all that matters of

this universe of distances and stars.

 

—John Smith. Winter in Paradise. Charlottetown: Square Deal Publications, 1972.

PEI poet laureate Deirdre Kessler selects a poem a month by an Island poet for readers of The Buzz.

A gift of Island poetry: Jane Ledwell

Curated by Deirdre Kessler 

The birch

The world is the world, or what we know of it.

We are in it, with split paper skins, slow sap,

and leaves we will abandon with the season.

Twinned, we are, for our own company.

We multiply; we do not divide.

We lean awkward over the rise towards the spring.

We tunnel beneath the earth towards the same.

We are sanctuary to our self.

—Jane Ledwell from Bird Calls, Island Studies Press, 2016.

PEI poet laureate Deirdre Kessler follows in Judy Gaudet’s three-year tradition of selecting a poem a month by an Island poet for readers of The Buzz.

A gift of Island poetry: Judy Gaudet

Curated by Deirdre Kessler

Conversation with Crows

On a dead tree
three crows
call out their warning:
“Human passing,
wheels, helmet,”
then raucously fly up
to an evergreen,
and in its greenness
caw still,
excited talk.

“But wait!
Isn’t she the one 
we had the message for,
something important
we had to tell?”

Their calls fill
the air behind me
where I don’t stop,
and am not saying,
“I am. Tell me.
I’ve been waiting to hear.”

Three crows caw.
I pedal by.

Judy Gaudet from Conversation with Crows, Oberon Press, 2014.

Prince Edward Island Poet Laureate Deirdre Kessler has been handed the poetry baton by Judy Gaudet, who brought a poem a month to The Buzz readers for three years. Deirdre will continue to select a poem by an Island poet for each month for A Gift of Island Poetry.

The Guest Book: Deirdre Kessler

Eavesdropping

I have now lived most of my life on the Island, but when I first arrived here I observed certain distinctive aspects of the culture, such as Islanders’ curiosity about one’s ancestry, their genuine sense of connectedness, and their friendliness—qualities I cherish and emulate. I also observed a few oddities and anachronisms, including a crank telephone attached to a wall of the farmhouse I rented on the Loyalist Road. I liked the novelty of having to turn a crank to call an operator for outgoing calls. Soon I learned the sound of someone on the party line quietly picking up a receiver to listen in on my conversations. How quaint, I thought at first. Once, when I was visiting my mother in the U.S., I called home to the Island, telling the U.S. operator I wanted to call Canada: area code 902, Hunter River 21 ring 24. She laughed. “We heard about this in training,” she said, “but I’ve never done it!”

Several years later, when I bought an old farmhouse east of Charlottetown closer to my teaching job at Vernon River, the dial telephone looked like those I’d known all my life, but it, too, was a party line, one I shared with half a dozen others on the 48 Road. I grew to dislike intensely the invasion of my privacy of that party line and said mean things about eavesdroppers when I heard someone listening in.

In my new home there was a Kemac stove, which burned oil or wood or a combination of both. One winter evening there was a loud whoosh followed by a roar in the stovepipe. Adrenaline flooded my body. The pipe turned red-hot, the heat so great that paint on the wainscoting behind the stove smoked and caught fire. Outside, flames were leaping from the chimney and sparks were dropping on the roof. I was terrified.

I threw baking soda into the fire chamber, flung wet towels at the smouldering wainscoting, then ran to the telephone to call the fire department. Someone was on the line.

“Flames are coming out of the chimney!” I shouted. “I need the phone!”

In moments, a pickup truck came roaring up the lane and two men jumped out. One wrangled a ladder against the verandah and went up on the roof; the other came inside with a fire extinguisher. Instantaneously, it seemed, more vehicles arrived in the yard. Someone went up the back stairs, to the little room above the kitchen where the chimney went through, to check there was no fire in the floor or ceiling. When the fire was out and all was well, someone gave me the two-sentence lesson about creosote build-up and the necessity of cleaning the flue and stovepipes regularly. The yard emptied of pickups and cars.

And I never again complained about the party line.

—Deirdre’s memoir, Mother Country, was published recently by Oberon Press. She teaches courses on children’s literature, creative writing, and L.M. Montgomery with UPEI’s English Department.

The Guest Book is a new monthly Buzz feature whereby we invite a guest writer to contribute an essay on whatever is on their mind. 

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