That Singing You Hear at the Edges

That Singing You Hear at the Edges

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About the book

This is a collection in which the unexpected is commonplace: "the" and "an" attend a 12-step group for co-dependents; the human tongue is exposed as "old amphibian"; and The Angel of You Made this Mess, Lie Down rises from tangled bedsheets. MacLeod works intimately, intricately, with the power of nuance, of detail. The dividing walls of time and place remain intact but approach transparency because of what turns visible — and audible — when we become still enough to hear the singing at the edges.

Rooted in a particular life but looking outward, these poems express a full range of emotion. In the linked section, the gathering up of each wave before its breaking, a mother, a daughter and a Cape Breton village form a story that is both personal and archetypal: a blueprint for growing up — for "learning long/ division" in a vast and changing world.

Two of the poems in this book have won national prizes: Arc's Poem of the Year award, and Second Prize in the LCP's National Poetry Contest. When the final poem, "Especially for a woman, reading," was broadcast, listeners responded from across the country, asking: where can I get a copy? This book is the reply.

About the author

MacLeod, Sue Sue MacLeod has lived in Halifax, where she was the city's inaugural poet laureate, in Toronto, and now in Montreal, but her roots are firmly in Cape Breton. Sue's poems have appeared in many journals, including The Malahat Review, Grain, Event and Room of One's Own, and anthologies including Coastlines: The Poetry of Atlantic Canada, The Art of Poetic Inquiry and Desperately Seeking Susans. Her work has won honours including Arc's Poem of the Year Award; she has been invited to read in nine provinces, and has taught poetry at Dalhousie University and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Sue is also a fiction writer whose first YA novel, Namesake, appeared in 2013 to critical acclaim. In 2015, she was shortlisted for a national award for her work as a freelance editor. Mood Swing, with Pear is her third book of poems.

Excerpt

The God of Pockets

The God of Pockets smiles on children.
On their thumb-polished chestnuts. And what She,
in her benevolence, sees as their innocent
lint. She sees the lucky penny
drop, knows the hunger
of keys. Knows what the landlord has tallied
on his calculator. Knows the man who sleeps
outside the library. In particular, the flattened
pack of smokes
against his chest. She's held
the knife that carved
the crooked
heart into the tree trunk. The referee's whistle.
The mickey of gin. The wallet, and the picture
in the wallet, and the smile
in the picture. The finally
unbearable weight of a gun
in its holster. Weight of a secret, held in.
She's the god of tide pools. Of harmonicas.
Marsupials. A mother
bounding forty miles an hour
through the flatlands, joey
leaning out over the edge. She knows the way
to a ten-dollar bill
tucked in last winter's coat
on a flat-broke day in spring—like one more
thing that time's
forgotten. And on bright days
when the swing sets and the iron rails
of the monkey bars throw shadows, tall as
office towers spreading to the outback,
the God of Pockets speaks
to children. Run, She says. Take
what you can.

 

To a friend with her daughter, washing dishes

We speak of old age, and put it away
again: thought on a string.
I sip your good, strong coffee
while we joke about our forties
as a dress rehearsal.
Curtain time ahead! We scare ourselves like kids
at movies. How we do
exaggerate, the way
I do now, convinced
that Lynne’s movements are smoother,
more supple than yours
as you work together at the kitchen sink.
And when did her hair become thicker?
more auburn? I watch
her shoulder blades—a pair of wings
could sprout there. And she’s the one
best able now to reach
the highest shelf.
There’s a shift
taking place, this is just the beginning,
as if something’s draining out of us
and into them. Remember how big
we were once? We were
giants of women.
With young daughters riding the curves
of our hips, we’d glide through our rooms
collecting Mommy’s keys, and Mommy’s wallet.
We were Olive Oyl.
We were Popeye, too.

*

A shaft of light
is falling through your window now
and spreads to every surface.
There are no clear
dilineations, not
like in the swimming lessons
when the girls were small. The comfort
of badges, of lanes.
And no bigger miracles, maybe, than this:
that we’re talking in the kitchen, still, and our girls
nearly grown. And there’ll be no
well-marked corridor to old
from not old yet—only
gradations of light, of heat
touching and leaving
the skin.
But what do I know?
sitting here with my coffee
where I can still play
with an image like this one:
that we’re all enrolled in the same
dusty classroom, an old-fashioned classroom,
early afternoon, lingering odor
of paperbag lunches
from home, and they’re writing on the blackboard
with their backs to us, our large and shining
children, and the chalk they’re using
used to be our bones.

Reviews

That Singing You Hear at the Edges is the section collection from Halifax's first and current poet laureate, Sue MacLeod. Her first, The Language of Rain, established MacLeod... >>

— Robert Moore Winnipeg Free Press

Sue MacLeod's second book of poems begins with The God of Pockets, the poem that won first prize in Arc's 2000 Poem of the Year Contest. It's wonderful way to introduce the... >>

— Mary Ann Moore Independently Reviewed


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