COME COLD RIVER
Poetry for me has always been political--even at its most lyrical. Poetry, for me, is direct action. It is also the heart song, the most essential and vivid way of expressing truths that are often elusive or pagefully complex in other genres. This is a secret book for me, one which I didn't try to publicize much. It's had a very quiet life because that is what I wanted for it (and in fact, what its subject matter decreed--this was not an easy book to find a publisher for). It's only now, December 6th, 2016, which in Canada is the Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, that I add the book's cover image to the list of books I've written. The photograph of the child under water is me. (The reworking of the photo beneath that tumult of water, with one shot of colour, is by the photographer Anne Bayin.)
These poems are full of violence--often violence directed at vulnerable women and children. I have been that woman and that child, at odds with forces against me, beyond me, and of me. My life has been shaped and defined by brave, extraordinary women, including my mother and my sisters and my niece, who is really another sister to me. But these are also poems for men and the violence they know, for men who damage, and take care, who work, and fight, and come back, miraculously, to life. This is a book of forgiveness. This is a collection of love poems.
In Karen Connelly’s first collection of poetry since The Border Surrounds Us, the poet offers up a searing, complex portrayal of her troubled family. Refracted, augmented, drawn through various cities, streets and fields, over mountain ranges and foreign landscapes, this portrayal grows into an authentic homage to people who are often invisibilized or silenced. Simultaneously, it becomes an indictment of her own country, Canada, its long history of racism and unconscionable violence against women, children, addicts, and poor people. Never didactic, insistently real, these poems make us wonder “how to enter again/that unlikely tenderness/the cracked ribcage of the world/ as if it were the last shelter.”