Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time's Covenant

Time's Covenant brings together almost all of the poems from Eric Ormsby's five previously published collections, together with a healthy selection of new and previously uncollected poems. It is due back from the printer by month's end as well, our sole spring poetry title. It is, however, a major one: nearly 300 pages, by one of the best poets writing in english, anywhere. If you have not read him, you should. John Updike has said that he "is a most excellent poet, resonant and delicately exact with words and objects. Ormsby's reverent attention to things as they are lights up every page with a glow." Norman Doidge in Books in Canada has said that "Ormsby is one of the most talented poets writing in the English language at this time -- that is to say, not one of the hundreds of fine poets writing, or one of the finest Canadian poets -- but one of a handful of the best meditative poets writing in the English language."

Looking back, years from now, I expect the publication of this book to be one of Biblioasis' defining moments. It is a defining book, Faber&Faber-like, and I am immensely proud to have it.

From Time's Covenant, two new -- or at least previously unpublished -- poems:

To a Bird in Winter

Thicket-whisperer, you

Cherish austerity,

Your small claws blue

Beneath the raggedy

Habit of subzero

Song. And you will

Tutor me, flit-hero,

Accentual icicle,

Prophet-minor of cold-

Crunched twigs and nettle-

Skeletons; your bold

Coal-chip pupil settle

On me, where I follow

You, farther into hiddenness,

Aswarm in the swallow

Villas now left summerless.

Remembrance of the sun

Fleches your retices;

Icy octaves bangle your dun

Beak that curettes crevices.

Cauterized, chipper, astute,

You concentrate the frigid waste

In fierce fluff, my modest flute

That whistles to the holocaust.


Time re-invents itself. The clock re-winds.

The monuments are tricksters who quick-change.

The careful calibrations of the past

Jigsaw when we fit the pieces in,

Resist our patterns, re-array themselves.

9/11 shuffled the prism. We are lost

in reconfigured mazes that project

old assumptions on old labyrinths

blown open to the wrecker’s ball.

Rats in tunnels gutted by clinicians,

We press outmoded switches and are zapped.

In Knoxville now, these melancholy scraps

Of fresh forebodings drove me to the malls,

In hellish July, across the parking lots,

Searching for Dairy Queen among the few

Shriveled maples that gave off no shade.

For a Dr. Pepper I would give my soul

I thought, ice cream and apocalypse

Possessed me, in America,

Along the Interstate. Where were the goats

I milked in the South Carolina of my childhood?

The salamanders I kept captive in a chamber pot

At the evangelical hotel? A searing

Sameness cauterized the malls, only

The acned Jesus of the Cumberland

Was dowdy, ragtag and ridiculous,

--therefore to be believed in? Bourbon

remains, all passes, even sin. Asphalt

taste of water, gasoline bouquets

blooming out of puddles, ghosts

tadpole the upturned hubcaps scummed with rain,

biscuits and grits at sunup, flapjacks

on the griddles, the final cadenzas

of the frogs at dawn beyond the propane tank ...

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