Wednesday, March 7, 2012

intricate weavings

There's nothing nicer than reading a book written by a friend you deeply admire, and then sharing this book with everyone who will listen.  I've read and re-read Lorri Neilsen Glenn's Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry, finding something new in each reading, something more to love. (Her poetry also, I emphatically recommend).  The book has been beautifully reviewed by Mary Jo Anderson in The Chronicle Herald.  And as you know, I'm not a reviewer, but more of an admirer of books, so I urge you to read the Anderson piece.

One of the essays that keeps drawing me back is titled, "Resonant Light."  It begins:

"The story goes that John Cage left the gallery where he had been looking at Mark Tobey's painting, Threading Light, and as he stood on Madison Avenue staring at the pavement, he realized the beauty of the sidewalk - its nuances, its detail - was every bit as intriguing as Tobey's painting. Tobey, who was considered a mystical artist, inspired a generation of painters, including Emily Carr and Jackson Pollock, and believed that the search, not the outcome, was the only valid expression of the spirit. His most well-known painting was an expression of light as a unifying idea, a gesture towards a larger relativity; lines, intricate weavings, were interconnected, moving symbols of spiritual awareness."

Anyone writing poetry in Canada, or interested in the poetry scene, in the conversations and communities built through poetry, should read Lorri's essay, "The Rhapsode's Needle: The Way and Weft of Community."

She says,

"To write poetry, I have learned, is to enter a long never-ending conversation."


"We reach out to community, across centuries and cultures, face-to-face, online, and in the pages of a book.  As we travel down new or difficult roads, we find each other to be at once commonly and radically  different souls."

"Our breath is a delicate thread, and it contains multitudes. I hear an echo, yes. The practice of poetry - my own spiritual and philosophical practice, my own sackcloth and candle - has allowed me a glimpse not only into the lives of others, sentient or not, here, afar, or long dead, but it has deepened and broadened my capacity for breath."

At the centre of this essay, is maybe the conversation Lorri has about women's poetry in Canada. She talks about first encountering the poetry of Bronwen Wallace and how Wallace's work reminded her "how little we celebrate our foremothers."   She also talks about how "Women's writing can often receive disproportionately harsher treatment in public, leading us to wonder whether the long story of gender and community will ever be rewritten."  These are similar to conversations that Canadian women poets have over email, over coffee or wine, and in small groups.  Away from the often inflammatory comments sections of blogs. And it feels to me like a more productive approach to the subject.

There are many reasons to read Threading Light, but not least of these, is for the clarity of the voice.  There is a thoughtfulness and wisdom to these essays that resounds.  Perhaps, like me, it's the book you were waiting for, a conversation you want to join.

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