The Long Walk

Is it a universal truth that not all poetry means all things to all people at the same time? I think so.

I like to think it’s a little blip in the universe, a little sliver of unexplainable magic, when you read a poem, or even a line in a poem and you go. Ah. Of course. That makes sense. That’s how I feel, or, I’ve felt that. Perhaps because, realistically, it’s so rare. Poetry isn’t always accessible. Some of it is rarefied on purpose.

Jan Zwicky’s collection The Long Walk isn’t without its perfect moments. Moments of clarity and understanding I can recognize. Like:

“And have you ever really wanted anything
except that disappearing act,
the open ocean, all horizon,
just the other side of the bridge?

Or how she ponders what we value in ‘Securing the House,’ a little tongue in cheek poking fun at how we live and what we do in the face of our own, ongoing demise.

“What is it we are trying
to achieve? That we will learn
before we die to make
our leaving orderly? Imagine”

In the novel Go, Went, Gone, main character Richard wonders what the point is in learning to cut onions perfectly, as he has. What is the point? He has spent is life learning this thing, learning many nearly unimportant things, in preparation for death. So why does it matter? (Yes! Seeing patterns in the entirety of the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival. I’m so impressed with myself right now).

She writes about a hike she takes, when every moment aligns and perfect, heart leaping beauty is revealed.

“We decided: if the weather held,
we’d leave at 6:00 and try to make
the top. It did; and as we climbed,
our luck held, too; the woods completely clear
to start, and higher up, linked meadows
open to the sun.”

Sometimes it’s just luck—the perfect day, the perfect hike. And sometimes it’s just luck that a poet captures it for all of us.

Jan Zwicky was at Events 83 (The Poetry Bash) and 90 (Dennis Lee and House of Anansi: A Celebration) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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