Nancy Holmes, my wonderful colleague at UBCO, has spent the last three years reading just about every poetry book written in Canada in the past hundred years looking for nature poems, then trying to track down the authors, dead and alive, for permissions. The launch of “Open Wide a Wilderness” is a true cause for celebration. Yay, Nancy! Yay, nature poetry! I am genuinely excited about this book. When my brother was in Grade Seven, his teacher published an anthology of Canadian poetry called “Mirrors” that made me fall in love with Canadian poetry. There was more than just nature poetry in it, but it was there I met Al Purdy’s Arctic Rhododendrons, Earle Birney’s Daybreak on Lake Opal, High Rockies, and AJM Smith’s The Lonely Land (“this is the beauty of strength broken by strength/and still strong”). And maybe EJ Pratt’s Erosion? Maybe that was a different anthology. But it’s etched in my memory:
It took the sea a thousand years,
a thousand years to trace
the blah blah blah blah blah blah
upon this granite face.
It took the sea an hour one night,
an hour of storms to trace,
the granite features of blah blah
upon a woman’s face.
Okay, maybe ‘etched’ is putting it strongly.
Nancy and contributors (I can’t remember who-all, except Tim Lilburn) read April 20 at the Robson Reading Series, 7pm at the UBC Library/Bookstore at Robson Square (800 Robson Street, plaza level).
From the press release:
“Open Wide a Wilderness” the first poetry anthology
to focus on the rich tradition of Canadian nature poetry in English.
Open Wide a Wilderness is a survey of Canada’s regions, poetries,
histories, and peoples as these relate to the natural world. The poetic
responses included here range from the heights of the sublime to detailed
naturalist observation, from the perspectives of pioneers and those who
work in the woods and on the sea to the dismayed witnesses of ecological
destruction, from a sense of terror in confrontation with the natural world
to expressions of amazement and delight at the beauty and strangeness of
nature, our home. Arranged chronologically, the poems include excerpts from
late-eighteenth-century colonial pioneer epics and selections from both
well-known and more obscure nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers. A
substantial section is devoted to contemporary writers who are working
within and creating a new “ecopoetic” aesthetic in the early twenty-first
Editor and poet Nancy Holmes teaches Creative Writing at the University of
British Columbia Okanagan. She lives in Kelowna, BC, where she co-edits the
journal, Lake: A Journal of Arts and Environment with Sharon Thesen. Her
poetry and fiction have been published widely.