Jan Zwicky has published eight collections of poetry including Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1999, Robinson’s Crossing, which won the Dorothy Livesay Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2004, and Thirty-Seven Small Songs and Thirteen Silences. Her books of philosophy include Wisdom & Metaphor, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2004, and Plato as Artist, a non-specialist celebration of Plato’s writerly talents. Zwicky has published widely as an essayist on issues in music, poetry, philosophy and the environment. A native of Alberta, she now lives on Quadra Island, off the coast of British Columbia.
Forge has also been shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award.
In Forge, Jan Zwicky performs a balancing act of great poise and beauty.
In Forge, Jan Zwicky performs a balancing act of great poise and beauty. An extended set of variations on the theme of listening, the collection pays repeated attention to music – and through it, to the natural world and human relationships. Love and death are topics almost too risky to address directly, especially with this kind of breathless, caught-up writing: the stakes could not be higher. Zwicky addresses them fearlessly, making them meaningful and felt, and borrowing the languages of mystery, even religion, to do so. The payoff is real and extraordinary. Gracefully sustained, her unashamedly lyric verse always feels earned by, and earthed in, lived experience: whether of grief or companionship, those great conditions, or, repeatedly, of a watery world. This is a book gauzy with images of condensation, meltwater, flood and mist. It also manages the rare trick of taking on music’s abstract forms. For all her precision, this poet brings us close to the music of abstraction that lies near the heart of true verse.
by Jan Zwicky
There is a sound
that is a whole of many parts,
a sorrowless transparency, like luck,
that opens in the centre of a thing.
An eye, a river, fishheads, death,
gold in your pocket, and a half-wit
son: the substance of the world
is light and blindness and the measure
of our wisdom is our love.
Our diligence: ten fingers and
a healthy set of lungs. Practise
ceaselessly: there is
one art: wind
in the open spaces
with us, saying
Copyright © Jan Zwicky, 2011
When you look up, or out,
or in, your seeing is
a substance: stuff: a density
of some kind, like a pitch
that’s just outside the range
of hearing: numb
nudge of the real.
I saw air
once, in its nothingness
so clear it was a voice
almost, a kind of joy. I thought
of water – breath as drinking –
and the way it shows us
light. Or maybe it was light
I thought of – as though
water were the solid form
of wind, and air
a language with a single word
transparent to the world.
Your glance is this,
meltwater, mountain light.
The plunge and thunder of the pool.
The ripple at its farthest edge.
Copyright © Jan Zwicky, 2011