Obituary of Light: the Sangan River Meditations
Susan Musgrave has always trusted A.E. Housman's definition of poetry: words that affect us physically, that find their way to something deep inside that is obscure and latent, something older than the present organization of ourselves. She believes, too, that the best poetry can communicate before it is literally understood.
This new book of poems is a sequence of reflections, of mindful blessings, on the everyday goings-on around her home on the Sangan River, ten miles outside Masset on the Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii. They were written the year her friend, a local beachcomber, Paul Bower, whose logs were used to build her seven-sided house, died of lung cancer.
Things That Keep and Do Not Change
Things that Keep and Do Not Change is award-winning poet Susan Musgrave's first collection of poetry since her acclaimed Forcing the Narcissus (1994). In it, Musgrave dances the threshold of ecstasy, madness, rage and desolation, and goes further, to life beyond the moment of extremity. Yet even as we are caught in the undertow of betrayal and loss, we are buoyed up by a terrible sanity that reveals humour and beauty in the shoals of loneliness and pain. By turns dark, playful and edgy, these poems are informed by a mature intelligence. This is vintage Musgrave, and her most accomplished book of poetry to date.
Forcing the Narcissus
This is brave, unsparing poetry that cuts away at the surface of our emotions and experience: loss of innocence, remembrance, rage, loneliness, survival, and desire.
"Almost everything we call art is/the spiritualization of cruelty," Musgrave writes, a reflection central to the poems in Forcing the Narcissus . Suffused at times with imagery of brutality and pain, the poems transform emotional trauma into the realm of the spiritual where it can be examined: "How pure can the memory of violence be/how unbreakable the habit of breaking"; questions: "What makes human beings forgive one another?"; exorcised: "Sorrow is a nourishment forever"; and finally even laughed about: "Let's pretend we're in love with one another./ You go first."
This is Musgrave's first new collection since Cocktails at the Mausoleum was published in 1985. Her new poetry, still bent on the sadness of beauty, reflects ten years of change, and there's a deeper acknowledgement now of a world where anything is possible, even love.
What the Small Day Cannot Hold
Finally a collected Musgrave for those old enough to have been there in the 1970s and those young enough to want to reexperience the generation's wry optimism and ironic fervour. This seven-title canon reissues Musgrave's early must-have literary opus and includes: Songs of the Sea-Witch, Entrance of the Celebrant, Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries, the Impstone, Beck Swan's Book, A Man to Marry, a Man to Bury and Cocktails at the Mausoleum . Originally published by Sono Nis, Macmillan McClelland & Stewart and Porcupine's Quill, the poems in What the Small Day Cannot Hold reconstitute the lost canon of one of the country's most vibrant and original national voices. Called the "foremost poet of her generation", Musgrave epitomizes the people's poet, bringing to audiences starved for a new language a wide breadth of material startling in its intensity and originality, legendary in its myth-making and monumental in its primal power. From witchcraft to wilderness, from First Nations to the urban nation, from the erotic to the exotic, these poems explode typical expectations and haunt the reader with unprecedented dramatic appeal.
Cocktails at the Mausoleum
Susan Musgrave's Cocktails at the Mausoleum is a major poetic achievement by any measure. It is her first book of new poetry since A Man to Marry A Man to Bury (1979), and follows her selected poems Tarts and Muggers (1982). Demonstrating her extraordinary perceptual powers, these new poems are in turn haunting, erotic, tender, and ironic. In addition, the book appends a poetic journal in the form of Musgrave's own notes to the poems, which gives the book the intimate feeling of a live poetry reading, and offers new insights into her writing and the poetic process.
Tarts and Muggers
Moving constantly between dreams and reality - between mystery and the simple clarity of the day-to-day - Musgrave's poetry deals with possibilities inherent in human relationships, and with the shadowy forces that can so easily destroy them. The world she creates is imbued with the primitive and the violent - but it is also a world shaped by a precise and valid mystery of poetic technique.
A Man to Marry A Man to Bury
One of Canada's most publicized, most popular literary figures, Susan Musgrave is the foremost poet of her generation. In A Man to Marry A Man to Bury she uses multiple voices and visions, bringing to each the emotional power for which her poetry is famous. Her subjects range from witchcraft, death, and the dark forces operating in sexual relationships, to friendship, humour, and the elements of human worth and dignity. Her writing is, as ever, startling, original, and utterly compelling.
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Selected Strawberries and Other Poems
Selected Strawberries and Other Poems consists of revised versions of all the poems in Entrance of the Celebrant and Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries that Susan Musgrave wishes to retain in her canon, together with a Preface in which she discusses the making of the poems and sheds much light upon her creative process.
Achieving a poetry of mystery, dark import, and primitive power, The Impstone is Susan Musgrave's best and most haunting collection to date. Through themes drawn from witchcraft and Celtic and North American Indian mythology, she has fashioned her own myths, creating them with ineffably subtle artistry and glazing them with piercingly accurate insights into human relationships. She brings to these poems an intensity of emotion, a commanding mastery of technique, and remarkably mature poetic voice - all the elements of an impressive volume of verse.
Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries
Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries is a new collection of unprecedented vitality and versatility by Susan Musgrave, whose earlier books, Songs of the Sea-Witch , and Entrance of the Celebrant established her reputation as one of the most exciting of the young Canadian poets.
The book is in three sections. The first, "Grave-Dirt", will seem the most familiar to readers of earlier books. Dark, brooding, gnomic, and highly dramatic, the poems have a "symbolic resonance that eventually draws the reader into their strange world."
The second section, "Kiskatinaw Songs", contains poems based on the legends and songs of the West Coast Indians. Characterized by compelling rhymes and sounds, these works give a thrilling personal evocation of primitive life.
"Selected Strawberries" is as unlike the rest of the book as it can be imagined. This is a hilariously refreshing series of poems and pastiches which assume the strawberry to be the navel of the world.
Entrance of the Celebrant
This is Susan Musgrave's first book to appear outside Canada, where she lives, and her second volume of verse. Her poetic talent and the tone and structure of her verse show a force, an awareness and an insight that are both magical and realistic, aware of the immediate world and the underlying tensions of the subconscious and the human core.
Songs of the Sea-Witch
Songs of the Sea-Witch takes its title from the poem sequence which forms the book's centre. Explicably connected with long beach, Vancouver Island, these six poems culminate Susan Musgraves's initial search for identity and mythology. What emerges, without the slightest hint of stock culture borrowings, is a synthesis of contemporary and aboriginal sensibilities which Canadian poetry has awaited for years. The landscapes of these poems, the rocks, mate - often disturbingly or terrifyingly so - yet one is always aware of the personal voice, for the landscape is an interior one or too with a vivid moral and intellectual geography. To be at once particular and mythic is Miss Musgrave's rare achievement.
The concluding sections of the book relate more overtly to the contemporary, urban world and are characterized by a wry repugnance that is sometimes outraged, often witty. For, ultimately, Susan Musgrave is a poet with a fidelity to words for their own magical sake - to name something is to create it.
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