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Origami Dove

by Susan Musgrave

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list price: $18.99
category: Poetry
published: 2011
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The first collection of new poems in more than a decade from one of Canada's most vibrant and original writers.

With her first major collection in ten years, Susan Musgrave displays a range of form and expression that may surprise even her most faithful readers. The quiet, lapidary elegies of “Obituary of Light” are set against the furious mischief of “Random Acts of Poetry,” where the lines move with the inventive energy of a natural storyteller, while “Heroines” wrests a harsh and haunting poetry from the language of the street.
Her alertness to the absurdity in even the most heartbreaking personal crises leavens the sorrow that speaks through so many of the poems. Sadness and levity interweave. The wilderness and the penitentiary reflect one another. There’s an underlying tenderness, though, whether she is writing about family, the dispossessed, her life on Haida Gwaii, or the vagaries of love. This is Susan Musgrave in full control of her powers, writing poetry that cuts right to the bone.

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Another Valentine’s Day behind bars
and I bring you light from the stars
that you might find your way back to us
out of darkness. I bring you memories
of me – naked, happy, nine months’ pregnant
tasting applesauce in the kitchen.

I bring you the wind, the way
our house creaked as you rocked
our newborn daughter who couldn’t sleep.

I bring a handful of rain
that you may remember the sound of it,
and the smell of the earth
when you turn it in your hands.
I don’t know why our life took
the turn it did, but now the smell
of earth reminds you – the magnolia
tree you planted the day
our daughter was born: did it live?

I bring you tears, the ones you wept
mixed with the milky scent of those I kept
locked up in me as we sang our daughter
to sleep those first merciful years –
if I could I would give you wings
to carry you up to the sky.
When I kiss your eyes, your sudden cry
startles the magnolia to a deeper white.

smelled of Madagascar vanilla.
After touching you for the last time
I scrubbed the scent from my skin – I would try
to remember later what the water felt like
on my hands but it was like trying to remember
thirst when you are drowning. They say love
doesn’t take much, you just have to be there
when it comes around. I’d been there
from the beginning, I’ve been here all along.

I believed in everything: the hope
in you, your brokenness, the way
you arranged cut flowers on a tray
beside my blue- and- white teacup, the cracked
cup I’d told you brought me luck, the note
you wrote, These flowers are a little ragged
– like your husband. The day you died

of an overdose in Vancouver
I found a moonshell in the forest, far
from the sea; when I picked it up
and pressed it to my ear I could hear you
taking the last breath you had the sad luck

to breathe. Our daughter cupped her hands
over her ears, as if she could stop death
from entering the life she had believed in
up until now. Childhood as she had known it
was over: the slap
of the breakers, the wind bruising the sea
tells her she is no longer safe in this world –
it’s you she needs. I see you pulling away
after shooting up in the car while we
stood crying on the road, begging
you to come home. The vast sky
does not stop wild clouds
from flying. This boundless grieving,
for whom is it carried on?

Nothing out of the ordinary, only
a doe and her fawn nudging
the hard yellow apple
you left on the grass, a fist- sized
Golden Delicious, the kind
that makes your mouth bleed
when you bite into it. The doe
raises her head when you step out
onto the deck to smoke your last
cigarette of the evening. Nothing
out of the ordinary, only the same
forgivable habit. I say, nothing
when you ask what’s the matter
later, and then I start weeping
I can’t help it I can’t

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Contributor notes

SUSAN MUSGRAVE has published fourteen previous books of poetry, as well as works of fiction, non-fiction, and writing for children. Her most recent titles include When the World Is Not Our Home: Selected Poems 1985-2000, You're in Canada Now . . . A Memoir of Sorts, and the bestselling novel Cargo of Orchids. In the spring of 1999, she and her husband, Stephen Reid, were the subject of the documentary "The Poet and The Bandit," produced for the CBC-TV program Life and Times. She teaches poetry in the University of British Columbia's Optional Residency MFA in Creative Writing Programme. She divides her time between Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands.

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Editorial Review

A Globe and Mail Best Book
“[Musgrave’s] poems flow with the almost invisible artistry of a master poet at peak power caught in the talons of something much bigger than herself able only to sing as she is transported.”
—Pacific Rim Review of Books
“Musgrave’s work draws the reader gratifyingly closer to the human essence, an exploration sometimes nightmarish, sometimes wondrous. . . . Her poems resonate within both heart and mind.”
—Edmonton Journal

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About the Author

Susan Musgrave

Susan Musgrave is a critically acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist, columnist, reviewer, editor and non-fiction writer. She has been nominated, and has received awards, for her poetry, fiction, non-fiction, personal essays and children's writing, as well as for her work as an editor.
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