Electric Affinities

Electric Affinities



About the book

  • Shortlisted for the New Brunswick Book Award for Poetry

In Electric Affinities, Michael Pacey's second collection, everyday household items become points of departure into wonder -- a handsaw becomes a “bird hooded, strung with jesses, strops with its beak.” A cup becomes “a tool for gripping liquids.” Mirrors are “windows turned inside out, always concentrating, trying to memorize each detail” and scissors are “Perpetually plural, twin sisters fastened together.” While it is Pacey’s particular magic to discover the amazing alchemical properties of everyday objects, in Electric Affinities he also illuminates the poetic “current” that connects them to larger questions of human nature, language and the environment.

About the author

Pacey, Michael

Michael Pacey was born in Fredericton. He received his BA and BEd from the University of New Brunswick, his MFA, MA and PhD from the University of British Columbia. Pacey’s first full-length collection of poetry, The First Step, was published by Signature Editions in 2011. His work has appeared in more than twenty literary magazines, including The Malahat ReviewThe New Quarterly, Exile, Prairie Fire, and Descant. He has also published a chapbook (Anonymous Mesdemoiselles, 1972), and a children’s book (The Birds of Christmas, 1987). He was editor of Prism International and has taught at UBC and Lakehead University.



   Icon of pure idea.  Screwed into a sphere of permanence
   skin-thin, fragile as eggshell, yet suffused
   with even light – a Platonic corona identical
   to the thinking mind’s delicate glow.  Say,
   above Henry’s bulbous cartoon head, his second brain,
   its single hair ablaze.
   Naked, it suggests a folksy quality,
   forever swinging its gaze
   on unexpected corners of the past – corners lit
   with the warm steady fire of your affection –
   there  was always one above your father
   as you watched him work in basement or
   garage (anywhere a bare bulb swings:
   the genius of the place) –  a galvanic presence overseeing
   these Rembrandt-amber scenes, his hands tarred
   with grease, the small tools kept separate and clean.

   At the store – selecting the shade – Arctic Pearl,
   Creamed Cumulus, Snow-Glare, inscribed
   in tiny script round their poll – the wattage, frosted or clear
   – the delicious sensation of walking out 
   as if you’d just bought bags of nothing,
   cartons of air.  Nestled inside
   those egg-safe packets you coddle home 
   the power to see your rooms with the light
   of still life.  Screw a few in just for fun,
   put the rest in a bowl: a bowl of glass pears. 
   Jars of sun.  Tiny amphitheatres filled to the brim
   with a thousand matinees. 
   Installation’s  easy – the global sign for “a dim bulb,”
   – how many to construe those exaggerated threads? 
   Inside the candy-spun shell, tungsten filaments,
   twin antennae yearn incandescent in a vacuum.
   Your idea of home’s within this soft white circuitry,
   synapsing back and forth.
   You catch its essence waking some morning
   to find a light left on – see it up all night
   worrying, keeping watch while you slept --
   a conscience, consciousness.  (You feel guilty.)


The cover of Michael Pacey’s Electric Affinities portrays two hands reaching to touch a lightbulb against the backdrop of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. “Light Bulb” examines some of the implications of this cover. The poem opens bluntly, and connects mind… >>

— Michael Greenstein The Malahat Review

A Modern Physical Poet

Electric Affinities, Michael Pacey. Signature Editions, 2015

In the course of writing these sixty-six short and 'shocking' poems Michael Pacey was clearly inhabited by the ghost of John Donne.

— Allen Bentley The Fiddlehead

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