Saturday, March 2, 2013

Omens in the Year of the Ox

poems by Steven Price

The Ox is my Chinese horoscope and the most recent Year of the Ox (in 2011) was also one of my most favourable. I love the cover design by Michel Vrana, documenting phases of the moon.

Poems about Arbutus and landscapes filled with gulls, saltwater and middens bring me back to West Coast horizons, so it was fitting to read on the back cover that Price teaches writing at the University of Victoria.

There are also scenes from vast caverns in Baffin Island:  "... windcarved mineral spires, twisted like shriveled oaks. When they shone their lights on the walls, the slick burned luminous and blue. Great silver cathedrals of limestone arched far into the depths..."  (The Inferno)

The streets of Barcelona make an appearance, and so does Florence.

Transcribing a few lines to savour later, before returning the book  to the library.

Here is one of my favourite passages:
Mediterranean Light

Then we stepped down out of the paintings and into our lives. It was already night on the terrace. The light from some stars is so old, our guide said, it set out before the human race had language. I was leaning over the stone balustrade and did not look up. In the paintings of Tintoretto there is a light that folds down into the shades of fabric and a light that shines forth from it. That light, too, is much older than it appears. And somewhere it is still moving, you murmured. I was standing so close I could feel the heat coming off your skin. That was the heat of an afternoon sunlight now passed. Our guide looked at me and said: If the perspective is not right, you must change where you are standing. I watched you reach down and adjust the soft ankle strap of your heel and I could not think of where that elsewhere might be.


The author photo was taken by Esi Edugyan, author of Half Blood Blues. A bit of googling confirmed the two are married.   When I read Half Blood Blues I was struck by her themes of light and darkness. Is this something the two consciously share in the rendering of their art?


There are a series of curses appearing through the book,  I'm recording some of the worst (or best?)... perhaps for future use...


Curses of the Blind
May all the ills you wished on others
come to pass.

Gardener's Curses
May you sleep long and late;
may you wake with fingers
smooth as cream.
And may a white sun burn burn burn
in an ever cloudless sky. 


Midwife's Curses
May your sons devour their daughters,
your daughters dash your sons to the floor;
may each foetus feed in you like cancer.
May your prayers be answered

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