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Island Poetry: Anne Compton

Curated by Judy Gaudet

What day brings forth, 1 January

I’m here for the morning’s pale, pale sky;
for clouds scudding a ceiling of no colour.
Pond ice, fancy as scrimshaw –
a feather-work finery over hard ground.

No snow. It’s all lines in the new world,
a ligature of bare branches and blocky
hedges: Conté, charcoal and ink’s wanted.
Some green, yes, in the evergreens,

and gamboge, the grass – filed down, folded.
Impermanent as distemper, this beginning.
Rain’s withdrawn southward, leaving
its thinnest vapour over all. Slaty grey.

Steel-metaled in spite of softness, air
tongues ground: Iron sharpening iron.
But nothing’s absconded. Exempla gratia
of grace scattered everywhere.

The year’s foyer – year of the ample name.

—Anne Compton, from asking questions indoors and out. Anne Compton is a two-time winner of the Atlantic Poetry Prize and a winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

Island Poetry: Beth Janzen

Curated by Judy Gaudet

And the Stars

I walked tonight and saw how still the stars were
and the air, so crisp and clear
The air cut my throat like glass and I was happy

The air cut my throat and I was happy

Looking up, I saw the distances, same as always
I wished for a falling star to wish on

None fell

The stars stayed in the sky
and would not come down

The houses were quiet, silent as feet under a
The houses were silent as
The houses were silent

There was only the sound of my boots on snow

Deep inside, I felt the hard gemlike flame
blazing without fuel, burning my chest
doing me damage

It failed to keep me warm
It was the wool scarf, the white hat made by my mother
which kept me warm

And the stars stayed in their places –
they burned cold
and refused to come down

—Beth Janzen from The Enchanted House, Acorn, 2006.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month. Judy’s new book, Conversation with Crows (Oberon) was launched in November.

Island poetry: JJ Steinfeld

Curated by Judy Gaudet

Disappointments and Imperfections

You never quite get it right
you know, those elusive
and difficult and cunning tasks:
like getting a handle on immortality
and putting it into a back pocket
for an unruly rainy day;
or love at second or third sight
with a distant figure
so ethereal and unspecific
as to steal both breath
and good sense;
or quiet amidst the cacophony
of lies and broken hearts
and the soundless betrayals;
or the misdeeds and missteps
and misplaced silences
that make sleep difficult
but waking more than necessary …

You might as well stop your recitation
of disappointments and imperfections
or else you’ll not have enough time
to dwell in the realm of innocence
and commotion and astonishment.

—JJ Steinfeld from An Affection for Precipices, Serengeti Press, 2006. Another collection is Misshapenness.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

Island poetry: Pam Martin

Curated by Judy Gaudet

Autumn Apples

greengoldscarlet gems
hanging from
snarled branches,
windfalls nestled
in overgrown hay

in abandoned orchards
of crumbled houses
watch us stretch
and bend
filling old potato sacks
with apple treasure

of drunken wasps
the Indian summer day

later we feed
on the scent
of sauce – cinnamon, nutmeg,
ladled into jars
to please our hungry
winter eyes and palates

—Pam Martin, from Variations on Blue, Acorn, 2013

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

Island Poetry: Richard Lemm

curated by Judy Gaudet

The Purring You Hear


Around her gaze, the moon
is a field of white chrysanthemums.
The breeze plucks and sends them drifting
in the dark blue air to you. Breathing,
asleep, you dream petals glowing
phosphorescent. Your own sheen
and scent waking every pollen-seeker
for a thousand miles. A voice, wild,
dispassionate as the sea
nearby, says, Dreams are the day’s
jetsam, moonlight sinks into the shore’s
black rock and sucks the tide the way
the blood will rush to your head
if you think the clouds
are anything other than vapour.
The moon, amused, disagreeing, seeps
her tongue deep inside you, laps
the cream from the bowl of your heart.
What if the purring you hear
is love, its claws,
for now, furled?

—Richard Lemm, from Burning House, Wolsak and Wynne, 2010 Another collection is Four Ways of Dealing With Bullies.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

Island Poetry: Brent MacLaine

curated by Judy Gaudet

What I Grieve Most

Ambling by the August flower beds,
    I pause – your grace is what I miss the most –
your deft fingering of that flower’s stem,
    whether fern, or rose, or chrysanthemum;

your leaning as you lay them on the paper
    by the pantry sink, yellow dahlias
with shocking reds and cornflower blues,
    spread all over irrelevant news;

your trimming them towards perfection,
    their best positioning one by one,
the coiling of the ribbon, its glossy flair
    encircling their display – a giving everywhere;

your knowing placement of the porcelain vase
    upon a littered kitchen shelf,
and then your deep in-breathing of the scent,
    your own home grown kind of sacrament.

—Brent MacLaine from Shades of Green, Acorn Press, 2008 (Atlantic poetry prize winner for 2008).

Among his other books read Wind and Root.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

Island Poetry: John Smith

curated by Judy Gaudet

From a Hollow Stem

Neverwill stands in the garden in the rain.  Everstill
sits in the blind at the watering hole.  Merely to be
thus in the world equals whatever could be imagined.
Tigers and gazelles dip their heads.  In the distance

unseen, a flute is being played, an old flute, a rough
chop from a hollow stem. Or perhaps only a microbreeze
breathes among dozing lilies, or a brooch drops unnoted
on a flagstone path to attend the random fumblings of time.

Listening, a deep aquifer extends without horizon.
Mind also, unbounded by thought and fixated
on its own groundstate, barely riffles routine

fluctuation of the vacuum. Yet out of such minute
irregularities, occasionally a tragic, a redemptive,
or an unadornedly sequential universe is born.

—John Smith, from Fireflies in the Magnolia Grove, Acorn, 2004.

Other books include Strands the Length of the Wind.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

Island Poetry: Dianne Hicks Morrow

curated by Judy Gaudet

Seed Planting

Funny what makes me cry:
leftover Vesey’s Seeds
your farmer’s fingers will never sow,
the guestbook from The Roost
with your misspelled notations on weather,
tides, and deaths in the back.
Your La-Z-Boy, upholstery darkened
by the warmth of your legs,
sits in the cold basement of my mother-in-law’s
waiting for your grandson to make a home for it.

My house is bursting with your past.
Lamps you made from the black cherry your father bought
for gunstocks his one trip to the States.
His oak dresser and washstand glow in my guest room.
The mahogany china cabinet you made for your bride
stands in my hall now, filled with fifty-four years of marriage.
You made these coasters with spruce slices from my husband’s woodlot.

You taught me that material things don’t matter,
but if your hands made it I can’t let it go.

These seeds, I now remember,
my husband bought to plant your last garden for you.
On a day pass from the hospital you hobbled
into that garden to pull weeds we missed.
We laughed then, but you were gone before the harvest.

—Dianne Hicks Morrow, from What Really Happened is This, Acorn 2011.

An earlier collection is Long Reach Home.

Island poet and avid poetry reader Judy Gaudet selects a poem by a PEI poet each month.

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