Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Torch River by Elizabeth Philips

Saskatchewan lesbian poet Elizabeth Philips writes about the landscape and people moving comfortably through wilderness and women having sex outdoors. She writes about wanting to be a boy rather than a girl, as when "Head bowed for grace, / I am the shy daughter / and the son, wind-burnt and radiant / in disguise." She writes about babies being born, new fatherhood, widows with mastectomy scars - conditions of human life (and death) within the greater wheel of life on this planet. The prairie wind is often present in this collection, as rhythmic and graceful and unavoidable as breath.

My favourite poem is "Oxbow," one long sentence that begins: "This is the river that strayed, that slipped / aside, and, becalmed in its separate bed, / stayed, / this is the river / that feeds the rushes, the slow reeds / and heron, the river that sleeps / in a circle, and clasps within it / an island of ten white spruce, a hundred / aspen, / and a meadow / the span of an embrace / that we've claimed this afternoon ..." Torch River was shortlisted for a number of poetry awards, including the Lambda, and won the Golden Crown Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry.

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