What is summer in Canada but a figment of our imagination. So how better to celebrate summer than to translate summer’s haze into the tangible leaves you hold in your hands right now, though poems, perhaps, are only words in passing. Poems might wander into the woods or slip down a rank alley, but we can follow them and let them hold us for a moment. You should take them to your summer haunts. Fire escape, cottage porch, side of the road, café, diner, pub, bar, flopped on a sofa with a fan playing across your body, on the beach, by the lake, on the river bank, on a park bench. See you there.
Perhaps our greatest summer pleasure is to bring new poets to your attention, some whom you will already know and others you’ve yet to hear of. You might know of Michael Prior’s work by all the awards he has been winning, and this spring saw his first book, Model Disciple, from Signal. You might have seen Stevie Howell’s acclaimed Sharps from Icehouse, Ben Ladouceur’s Otter from Coach House, named a National Post best book of 2015, or Cassidy McFadzean’s Hacker Packer from M&S, but if you haven’t, we provide you with a fine introduction to their work.
We are also bringing you poets without a book yet: Alyda Faber, whose first book, Dust or Fire, will be out this fall with Icehouse, and Joseph Kidney and Teresa Ott, whose poems are appearing in the magazines.
It is also a pleasure to offer a spread of styles. It is an exciting time to be a reader of poetry in Canada right now. The diversity in ways of thinking about poetry is immediately evident in these pages, and they are always provocative. As a poet I like the challenge posed to me: “why don’t you write the way I do?”
A big part of what we do at The Fiddlehead is to place the best of Canadian writing in the context of international work, and that is the motivation for our retrospectives with new poems. We present this year Mary Jo Salter and Les Murray. We have also included our old friend Charles Wright and the magnificent poet Thylias Moss.
I first met Mary Jo Salter in 1989 at a reading she gave in Princeton, New Jersey. I had read her first book, Henry Purcell in Japan, and had been immediately captivated by her sense of craft. The poems were clearly burnished and polished. I gave a copy of Sunday Skaters to graduate student Katie Fewster-Yan, and it became clear that we should do a retrospective. Katie and I met over a few months, reveling in Salter’s books and arguing over our favorites.
Our poetry editor Ian LeTourneau suggested a retrospective of Australian poet Les Murray. Ian and I have often shared our enjoyment of Murray’s poetry over the years. I thought, “Ian, we have an address from the last time we published him. Write him and see.” Les Murray was pleased to participate, and Ian lovingly tended the selection we present here.
Need I say more? Yes, perhaps. This is just to say how wonderful it is for me to bring these summer poetry issues together. Oh, and forgive me, the plums were delicious.