From the Publisher
Winner of the Atlantic Poetry Prize
“John Steffler is Canada’s most sensuously passionate writer. Reading him, we are put in touch with the pure erotic draw which the world exercises upon him. The acuity of his perception, and the size of his heart, make his poems an essential part of our literature.”
— Don McKay
“The range of poetic tone in this book, and the precision of its language, articulates why John Steffler is one of our most evocative poets.”
— Ross Leckie, New Brunswick Telegraph Journal
Read an Excerpt
AT THE FOOT OF A WALL
My hand moves below in the bright element, turning a page. The deck chair’s bleached
arms, my feet bare on the flagstones: all mute, opaque as at home.
Nor are the cypress, the lemon, though trimmed with bookish associations,
eager to break their poses and dance.
I thought sun and the island’s beauties would dive into my eyes, out of my mouth in poems.
Nearby, small lizards are skirting the foot of the wall: quick green marginalia,
Overhead, the Grand Prix. Burly helmeted flies come whining down the blue straightaway over the mulberry tree and smack the sun-covered house,
drop flat bullets around my feet. Tiny,
terrible headaches. Twiddling legs.
The lizards scribble, licking them up.
Green, independent flames.
A Word about the Poem by John Steffler
I wrote this poem on the island of Naxos, in Greece, where I’d gone in the hope of returning to writing after a long exhausting year of teaching. There I had the fairly familiar experience of reaching a longed for, idealized destination — expecting in this case that the beauty and history of Naxos would somehow revive my imagination and my sense of being excited by the world — only to discover a place with a surface of factual reality that was no different from home. In a sense I did find strangeness there, but not of the sort I’d anticipated — more a foreign opacity or silencing mystery than the vestigial Arcadia I’d stupidly hoped for. Partly it was as simple as discovering once again that I couldn’t escape from myself. Partly it had to do with needing to come to terms with a place as it really was, not as I’d visualized it beforehand. The disturbing energy stirred up by these collisions was in the end reviving and exciting in unforeseen ways.
I wanted the poem to convey and evoke a perplexed, estranged, almost convalescent state of mind.
From the Trade Paperback edition.