SubUrban Legendsby Joan Crate, Alison Pick (Editor)
Joan Crate’s much-anticipated third book of poetry is equal parts revision and reverie, offering a mid-life view of childhood influences and expectations that is stirring, startling, and wise. Deliciously invoking the iconic figure of Snow White, subUrban Legends considers what lies beyond youth and the trite promise of “happily ever/em>
Joan Crate’s much-anticipated third book of poetry is equal parts revision and reverie, offering a mid-life view of childhood influences and expectations that is stirring, startling, and wise. Deliciously invoking the iconic figure of Snow White, subUrban Legends considers what lies beyond youth and the trite promise of “happily ever after,” transporting readers to a land of complexity and nuance from which few cultural officiados report.
“Joan Crate is the poet of our suburban dreams and our suburban nightmares. She turns daily experience into the stuff of shocking fairy tales and renewed legends. Line by eloquent line, her poems give voice to our stifling silences.” Robert Kroetsch
“With easy wit and bitten lower lip, Joan Crate wakens us with empowering stories from her childhood, influenced by Métis wisdom and charms. subUrban Legends balances delinquent toughness with tough love, and doomed fantasies with the quiet determination “to create somethinganythingfrom scraps.” But more than that, her down-home fix on these once-upon-a-characters draws us towards a sense of renewal called forth by an older collectivethe incantatory voice of story itself. With each successive poem, she allows us sensuous and wise passage to and from both worlds.” Weyman Chan
- Freehand Books
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- 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)
Read an Excerpt
When our baby was just a few days old,
earth-grounded, screaming, his cranberry legs pitching,
stomach an oven of fire and stone we took him for a drive. Wheels unwound the knot of his new flesh. I stroked a feathery cheek and watched as his fists loosened the world of sleep.
We parked at the bird sanctuary, eased him into a stroller and walked under moonlight and branches,
stars like cooled tears. Then an owl ripped out of midnight, swooped down
I grabbed my baby, clutched him to me.
You just laughed, said a bird couldn’t snatch a human child, talked of proportionate weights and wingspan,
your hand hooking my shoulder.
So I didn’t tell you that owls are spirits of the unhappy dead.
Thirsty for rivers of life, another shot of mortality,
desperate refugees they strike, reaching for that invisible cord that connects the great blue egg of the universe to him, to you to me
How the snow fell that winter we turned twelve, pressing us in a glittering cage wrapped in hush now,
cold as our pretty little permafrost hearts.
How numb we were.
Feathers etched in the window fell over our shoulders.
I still have the scars, small white X’s and the neat O
of your mouth when I wiped the sad away.
We shared every secret.
Spring break-up came out of the blue and washed us from forecasts of lemon-pie suns.
The men loaded your things in a truck and hand in hand we watched,
nothing but touch to say.
Everything melting, you had to leave fast before the road turned to muck and held you.
Already the run-off was washing us from the dreams we once had of our selves,
the MacKenzie choked and slobbering down our cheeks.
Once-upon-a-time cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die best friend, have you kept your good strong teeth,
shoplifted lipsticks, and used coupon for one happily ever after with its best before date?
Over thirty years gone, little dreamer,
and I still miss you.
I need us back, pencil-thin and brimming.
Nowadays I reach out and hold onto anything warm.
(Sometimes when I close my eyes, it’s beautiful.)
We can’t sleep.
Another female fantasy has moved in and taken our place.
At the checkout
Snow White and I read the headlines:
Wicked Witch Curses Princess with Century of Sleep.
Another Prince Found Dead at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
We are outraged.
Not because this upstart gets all the charming young men and media attention, but because she’s squeezed us out of the world of dreams.
Eyes wide open, blind, Snow White and I are left nothing of nether land. All night long we pace, unable to recover the little men with their Freudian hats,
their picks and jewels, allegory and archetype.
Our Theta waves crumple,
our psyches scream their names,
and I’m coming down with a migraine.
Snow White flips through the phone book trying to find a listing for her wicked stepmother,
and I plead on my cell: Doc, don’t cut me off.
Just a few more magical words on that notepad,
your illegible signature.
Meet the Author
Joan Crate is the author of Pale as Real Ladies: Poems for Pauline Johnston, Foreign Homes, shortlisted for the 2002 Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and Breathing Water, shortlisted for both the Commonwealth Book Award (Canada) and the Books in Canada First Novel Award.
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