Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier

Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier

Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier

Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier

Synopsis

Lorna Crozier's radical imagination, and the finely tuned emotional intelligence that is revealed in the clarity of her poetry, have made her one of Canada's most popular poets. This is a collection of thirty-five of her best poems, selected and introduced by Catherine Hunter, and includes an afterword by Crozier herself. Representing her work from 1985 to 2002, the collection reveals the wide range of Lorna Crozier's voice in its most lyrical, contemplative, ironic, and witty moments. Hunter's introduction discusses the poet's major themes, with particular attention to her feminist approach to biblical myth and her fascination with absence and silence as sites for imaginative revision. Crozier's afterword, "See How Many Ends This Stick Has: A Reflection on Poetry", is a lyrical meditation that provides an inspirational glimpse into the philosophy of a writer who prizes the intensity of awareness that poetry demands, and is tantalised by what predates speaking and all that cant be named. An engaging volume that will appeal to undergraduate students as well as general readers of poetry.

Excerpt

Lorna Crozier’s work enjoys a popularity among the general public that’s rare for poetry in Canada. Valued for its “clarity and accessibility” (Hillis 15), it has been praised because, as Crozier puts it, “the ordinary person can read my work and understand it” (qtd. in Carey 16). Her books are also highly respected by her fellow poets, and have won numerous honours, including the Governor General’s Award for Inventing the Hawk. Scholarly attention to her writing, especially in recent years, continues to grow. Critical approaches range from discussions of Crozier’s deep connection to the landscape and culture of the Canadian prairies (e.g., Carey, Enright, Hillis, Keahey, Weis); to politicized analyses of her poetics of resistance to social injustices such as political violence (York) and sexual abuse (Boire); to complex theoretical readings of her mythological allusions as critiques of Western patriarchy (Gingell), her love poems as protests against female repression (MacDonald), and her use of the elegy as “parodic reinscription” of literary convention (Bowen 46). Clearly, Crozier has developed a voice with broad appeal, one that popular, literary, and academic readers can all appreciate.

The title of Crozier’s “Poem about Nothing” could be read as a commentary on the aesthetic elements that have given her work such a wide and varied audience. As a meditation on the nature of zero, “Poem about Nothing” illustrates the strong elegiac impulse that runs throughout Crozier’s work. the round numeral zero, “the one we didn’t understand / at school,” is a visual metaphor for loss or omission, and it’s a fitting topic for a poet who desires to honour what is absent, whether in life or in literature. the poem exemplifies Crozier’s style, in that its light, humorous tone and its elegant simplicity of language are deceptive, for “Poem about Nothing” resists its own title to blossom into a multi-layered engagement with a variety of substantial subjects until, ultimately, the poem is “about nothing” less than the central question of our existence: what is the relationship between being and not being? Like most of Crozier’s work, “Poem about Nothing” explores profound philosophical, political, spiritual, and emotional issues, all the while appearing to be talking “about . . .

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