"Poetry is the shape and shade and size of words as they hum, strum, jig, and gallop along."

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“Poetry is the shape and shade and size of words

as they hum, strum, jig, and gallop along.”

–Dylan Thomas

“Poetry is a very concentrated form, and

therefore the explosiveness of each word

becomes much greater.”

–Margaret Atwood

When poets craft their work, they choose words carefully. To appreciate poems, you need to read them slowly, paying attention to the way the poet appeals to your imagination through your senses. Like painters, poets create images, but with words. Some images are formed when the poet describes an object. Others are created through figurative language. That’s when a concrete image is used to symbolize an abstract concept, such as love or loyalty. Poetry is often meant to be read aloud, and so poets carefully listen to the sound of each line. They use auditory devices, such as rhythm and rhyme, to appeal to your sense of hearing. Poets also care about the way a poem looks on the page. Some poems have stanzas of equal length. Others vary the shapes and length of

lines. In concrete and shape poems, poets invent layouts that reflect their themes.

Read poems. Listen to poems. Imagine them into being.
image: a vivid or graphic description of something created by the poet
figurative language: the way in which poets link one thing to another through such devices as similes, metaphors, and personification
auditory devices: devices, including alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia, which

enhance meaning when the poem is read aloud

rhythm: the flow and beat of the words and lines of a poem, created by the pattern

of stressed and unstressed syllables

rhyme: the repetition of similar sounds at the ends of words
206 Narrative

Chance Encounter

Alden Nowlan

There is something odd in the road ahead.

Aman in a black coat walking a dog,

a tall man in a long black coat walking a big red dog,

or is it a black mare with a red colt.


don’t let me hit them.

I don’t like

to be splashed by death.

The car stops in time

and I roll down the window.

There is a cow moose

standing not ten feet away

and her calf a little farther off,

neither of them knowing what to make of the headlights,

bright as lightning, solid as the light

of a full moon on a cloudless night.

Then the cow crosses over, very slowly,

not looking back

until she reaches

the edge of the woods

on the other side

and finds the calf has not followed her,

but gone back

and they look at one another

across the light that separates them

and perhaps she makes little coaxing sounds I can’t hear,

while I will him

not to run away where they might never find each other

but to be brave enough

to walk into the light

I don’t dare turn off

for fear of humans like myself

—and at last he begins to walk

toward the road

and after a moment’s pause

enters the light

and crosses it

in about thirty seconds,

a long time

when you’re holding your breath,

and the instant

he’s safely over, she runs and he

runs behind her,

and I drive on,

happy about it all,

bursting to tell someone about the great sight I’ve seen,

yet not even sure why it should seem so important.

Alden Nowlan (Born 1933, Windsor, Nova Scotia; died 1983), poet, short-story writer,

novelist, and playwright, moved to New Brunswick at 18, where he worked as a

newspaper editor. He began publishing poetry in the 1950s, and then began writing in

other genres. His poems chiefly describe life in small-town New Brunswick.

Selection Activities, p. 222 Chance Encounter 207
208 Narrative Selection Activities, p. 222

Sarajevo Bear

Walter Pavlich

The last animal

in the Sarajevo Zoo

a bear

died of starvation

because the leaves

had fallen

from the trees


the air was

getting colder

so the snipers

could more easily see

the few remaining people

who were trying to

feed it.
Walter Pavlich (Born 1955, U.S.A.) has published a number of poetry collections, and

many of his poems have appeared in American magazines and literary journals.

He has won several awards for his poetry. Pavlich has taught in various settings,

including universities and state prisons, and has also worked as a firefighter.

La Belle Dame sans Merci

John Keats
“O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge is withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.

“O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

So haggard and so woe-begone?

The squirrel’s granary is full,

And the harvest’s done.

“I see a lily on thy brow

With anguish moist and fever dew;

And on thy cheek a fading rose

Fast withereth too.”

“I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

“I made a garland for her head,

And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;

She looked at me as she did love,

And made sweet moan.

“I set her on my pacing steed

And nothing else saw all day long.

For sideways would she lean, and sing

A faery’s song.

“She found me roots of relish sweet,

And honey wild and manna dew,

And sure in language strange she said,

‘I love thee true!’

“She took me to her elfin grot,

And there she wept and sighed full sore;

And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.

“And there she lullèd me asleep,

And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dreamed

On the cold hill side.

“I saw pale kings and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

Who cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci

Hath thee in thrall!’

“I saw their starved lips in the gloom

With horrid warning gapèd wide,

And I awoke and found me here

On the cold hill side.

“And this is why I sojourn here

Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.”

John Keats (Born 1795, England; died 1821) was the son of a livery stable manager.

He studied medicine, but chose to support himself as a writer, publishing his first

volume of poems in 1817. He is considered one of the principal Romantic poets. His

best-known works include “Ode to a Nightingale” and “La Belle Dame sans Merci.”

Selection Activities, p. 222 La Belle Dame sans Merci 211



Fifty Below

Richard Van Camp

I remember one time in Fort Rae

I was walking with my cousins,

four girls, who were walking with me

they were laughing at me those girls

and I was wearing my father’s boots

two sizes too big for me

and these four girls

these four cousins

they laughed at me as I dragged my boots

“You girls,” I said, “what’s so funny?”

One girl

one cousin

stopped me and pointed to my feet

“Auntie told us, if you’re going to marry a man,

listen to his feet when you walk with him

if he drags his feet when he walks

you must not marry him;

he is lazy

no good

he won’t be a good father

he won’t be a good husband.”

And those four girls

those four cousins

they ran far ahead of me laughing

and this time

when I ran after them

I lifted my feet as high as I could.
Richard Van Camp (Born 1971, Northwest Territories), poet, novelist, short-story writer,

and radio dramatist, is a member of the Dogrib nation. His poems and short stories

appear in many anthologies. His first novel, The Lesser Blessed, was published in 1996.

To My Son

Helen Fogwill Porter
When you were small

you used to climb

in our bed

when lightning ripped the sky.

We’d hold you tight

between us

while your father said:

“That storm is miles away”

a second before the room

was lit

with fearsome light.

Now when lightning strikes

you stay in your own

narrow bed

trying to think of other

safer things

and we in our wide bed

sigh separate sighs

because we no longer know how

to comfort you.

Helen Fogwill Porter (Born 1930, St. John’s, Newfoundland), writer of short stories, novels, plays, poetry and nonfiction, has had works appear in many Canadian publications. Her 1991 novel A Long and Lonely Ride is set in her birthplace. Several of her plays have been produced on stage and for CBC radio.

Selection Activities, p. 223 To My Son 213


Maxine Tynes

We are Africville

we are the dispossessed Black of the land

creeping with shadows

with life

with pride

with memories

into the place made for us

creeping with pain away from our home

carrying, always carrying

Africville on our backs

in our hearts

in the face of our child and our anger.

I am Africville

says a woman, child, man at the homestead site.

This park is green; but

Black, so Black with community.

I talk Africville

to you

and to you

until it is both you and me

till it stands and lives again

till you face and see and stand

on its life and its forever

Black past.

No house is Africville.

No road, no tree, no well.

Africville is man/woman/child

in the street and heart Black Halifax,

the Prestons, Toronto.

Wherever we are, Africville,

you and we are that Blackpast homeground.

We mourn for the burial of our houses, our church, our roads;

but we wear Our Africville face and skin and heart.

For all the world.

For Africville.
Maxine Tynes (Born 1949, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia), poet and playwright, is a descendant of Black Loyalists who settled in Nova Scotia. Her poems have been published in numerous literary anthologies and in collections of her own work. She has co-written and performed in a CBC radio docudrama, and is known for her lively poetry readings.


Fear hung over me.

I dared not try

to hold out in my hut.
Hungry and chilled,

I stumbled inland,

tripping, falling constantly.
At Little Musk Ox Lake

the trout made fun of me;

they wouldn’t bite.
On I crawled,

and reached the Young Man’s River

where I caught salmon once.
I prayed

for fish or reindeer

swimming in the lake.
My thought

reeled into nothingness,

like run-out fish-line.
Would I ever find firm ground?

I staggered on,

muttering spells as I went.
Kingmerut was a member of the Copper nation from Ellis River, Queen Maud’s Sea,

in the Eastern Arctic. His poems were recorded by Knud Rasmussen, who collected

oral poetry in Canada and Greenland during the first decades of the 1900s.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!

Charge for the guns!” he said.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”

Was there a man dismayed?

Not tho’ the soldier knew

Someone had blundered.

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volleyed and thundered;

Stormed at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of Hell

Rode the six hundred.
Flashed all their sabres bare,

Flashed as they turned in air

Sabring the gunners there,

Charging an army, while

All the world wondered.

Plunged in the battery-smoke

Right thro’ the line they broke;

Cossack and Russian

Reeled from the sabre-stroke

Shattered and sundered.

Then they rode back, but not,

Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon behind them

Volleyed and thundered;

Stormed at with shot and shell,

While horse and hero fell,

They that had fought so well

Came thro’ the jaws of Death

Back from the mouth of Hell,

All that was left of them,

Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wondered.

Honour the charge they made!

Honour the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Born 1809, Somersby, England; died 1892) remains one of the

most popular Victorian poets. His most ambitious work was Idylls of the King, a series

of twelve narrative poems telling the legends of King Arthur and his knights.

Tennyson succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850.

Selection Activities, p. 225 The Charge of the Light Brigade 219

220 Narrative

Without Hands

Lorna Crozier

In memory of Victor Jara, the Chilean musician whose hands were smashed by the military to stop him from playing his guitar and singing for his fellow prisoners in the Santiago stadium. Along with thousands of others, he was tortured and finally killed there in September 1973.
All the machines in the world

stop. The textile machines, the paper machines,

the machines in the mines turning stones to fire.

Without hands to touch them, spoons, forks and knives

forget their names and uses, the baby is not bathed,

bread rises on the stove, overflows the bowl.

Without hands, the looms

stop, the music stops.

The plums turn sweet and sticky and gather flies.

Without hands

without those beautiful conjunctions

those translators of skin, bone, hair

two eyes go blind

two pale hounds sniffing ahead and doubling back

to tell us

of hot and cold or the silk of roses after rain

are lost

two terns feeling the air in every feather

are shot down.

Without hands my father doesn’t plant potatoes

row on row, build a house for wrens,

or carry me

from the car to bed

when I pretend I’m sleeping.

On wash-days my mother doesn’t hang clothes

on the line, she doesn’t turn the pages of a book

and read out loud,

or teach me how to lace my shoes.

Without hands my small grandmother

doesn’t pluck the chicken for our Sunday meal

or every evening, before she goes to sleep,

brush and brush her long white hair.

Lorna Crozier (Born 1948, Swift Current, Saskatchewan) attended the University of

Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta. Many of her poems are filled with images

of the prairie landscape. Her work includes ten collections of poetry, and in 1992 she

won the Governor General’s Award for Inventing the Hawk.

226 Lyric

First Ice

Andrei Voznesensky
Agirl freezes in a telephone booth.

In her draughty overcoat she hides

A face all smeared

In tears and lipstick.

She breathes on her thin palms.

Her fingers are icy. She wears earrings.

She’ll have to go home alone, alone,

Along the icy street.

First ice. It is the first time.

The first ice of telephone phrases.

Frozen tears glitter on her cheeks—

The first ice of human hurt.

Andrei Voznesensky (Born 1933, Moscow, U.S.S.R., now Russia) is a poet who rose to

international prominence in the 1960s, while under constant pressure from Soviet officials. Voznesensky is a member of International PEN and has served as the vice-president of the Russian branch.



Anne Sexton
A thousand doors ago

when I was a lonely kid

in a big house with four

garages and it was summer

as long as I could remember,

I lay on the lawn at night

clover wrinkling under me,

my mother’s window a funnel

of yellow heat running out,

my father’s window, half shut,

an eye where sleepers pass,

and the boards of the house

were smooth and white as wax

and probably a million leaves

sailed on their strange stalks

as the crickets ticked together,

and I, in my brand new body,

which was not a woman’s yet,

told the stars my questions

and thought God could really see

the heat and the painted light,

elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight.

Anne Sexton (Born 1928, Newton, Massachusetts; died 1974) focused much of her poetry on her personal experience with depression. Between 1960 and 1974, she published eight volumes of poems, winning many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for Live or Die. Several more collections of her work were published after her death.


Sonnet XXIX: When in disgrace …

William Shakespeare

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,

Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate,

For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings,

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

William Shakespeare (Born 1564, Stratford-upon-Avon, England; died 1616), poet and

playwright, is universally recognized as one of the greatest writers in the English language. He wrote most of his best-known plays during the 1590s and early 1600s, and

published his sequence of 154 sonnets in 1609. Today his works are performed and

studied all over the world


In the Almost Evening

Joy Kogawa
In the almost evening loneliest time of day

I looked out the window and could see sky

and I said “Sky, what can you give me?”

and sky said, “I can give you sunset.” So I

looked at sunset with moon and star

and said “Sunset, what can you give me?”

and sunset said, “We can give you skyline.”

And I looked at skyline with bright lights

and I said “What can you give me” and

skyline said “We’ll give you people” and

I said to people, “People, give me love.”

And people said, “Too busy.”

So in the almost evening loneliest time of day

I took to listening feverishly.

Joy Kogawa (Born 1935, Vancouver, British Columbia), poet and novelist, is best known

for her 1981 novel Obasan about a Japanese-Canadian girl's experience of being sent to

an internment camp during World War II. Kogawa published her first poetry collection, The Splintered Moon, in 1967.


Rita Joe
Justice seems to have many faces

It does not want to play if my skin is not the right hue,

Or correct the wrong we long for,

Action hanging off-balance

Justice is like an open field

We observe, but are afraid to approach.

We have been burned before

Hence the broken stride

And the lingering doubt

We often hide

Justice may want to play

If we have an open smile

And offer the hand of communication

To make it worthwhile

Justice has to make me see

Hear, feel.

Then I will know the truth is like a toy

To be enjoyed or broken

Rita Joe (Born 1932, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia), Mi'kmaq nation poet and author, spent

her early life in foster homes and residential schools, an experience she explores in her

work. In 1990 she received the Order of Canada, and in 1997 the National Aboriginal

Achievement Award.


Three Strangest Words

Wislawa Szymborska
As I speak the word Future,

the first syllable is already entering the past.

As I speak the word Silence,

I destroy it.

As I speak the word Nothing,

I create something not contained in any nothingness.

Wislawa Szymborska (Born 1923, Prowent-Bnin, Poland) gained international attention

in 1996 after receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her first volume of poetry, Dlatego

Zyjemy (That’s Why We Are Alive), appeared in 1952, and she has published more than

a dozen collections since. Her work has been translated into many languages.


Younger Sister, Going Swimming

Margaret Atwood
Beside this lake

where there are no other people

my sister in bathing suit continues

her short desolate

parade to the end of the dock:
against the boards

her feet make sad statements

she thinks no one can hear;
(I sit in a deckchair

not counting, invisible:

the sun wavers on

this page as on a pool.)

She moves the raft out

past the sandy point:

no one comes by in a motorboat.
She would like to fill the lake

with other swimmers, with answers.

She calls her name. The sun encloses

rocks, trees, her feet in the water, the circling

bays and hills as before.
She poises, raises her arms

as though signalling, then disappears.

The lake heals itself quietly

of the wound left by the diver.

The air quakes and is still.
(Under my hand the paper

closes over these

marks I am making on it.
The words ripple, subside,

move outwards toward the shore.)


Margaret Atwood (Born 1939, Ottawa, Ontario), poet, novelist, and critic, studied at the

University of Toronto, Radcliffe College, and Harvard University. She has published

many poetry collections, novels, plays, and works of nonfiction, and has received

numerous awards, including the 1996 Giller Prize for her novel Alias Grace.

Kidnap Poem

Nikki Giovanni
ever been kidnapped

by a poet

if i were a poet

i’d kidnap you

put you in my phrases

and meter you to jones beach

or maybe coney island

or maybe just to my house

lyric you in lilacs

dash you in the rain

alliterate the beach

to complement my sea

play the lyre for you

ode you with my love song

anything to win you

wrap you in the red Black green

show you off to mama
yeah if i were

a poet i’d kid

nap you
Nikki Giovanni (Born 1943, Knoxville, Tennessee), poet, writer, lecturer, and educator, is one of the most prominent poets to emerge from the Black literary movement of the

1960s. Giovanni is known for her strongly voiced poems that explore the struggles of

Black women in America. She received the Langston Hughes Award in 1996.


Warrior Woman

Maria Jastrzebska

Lying propped up

on a large cushion

in my woolly pink

dressing gown

is probably not

how you imagined her.

To be honest

I didn’t either.

I rather fancied myself

dancing over hilltops

swirling swords in the air

all yells and flying kicks

or even leading

a mass protest rally

at least strutting my stuff

in trendy denim or leather

anything but like this.

here I am

a warrior woman

in my pink dressing gown


or staring into space

watching the trees

through my window.


at first

ever so slowly

I am fighting back.

With every act of kindness

towards myself

every refusal

to blame

or despise myself

I strike back

against the men

in grey suits

who don’t think

I’m cost effective

the ones in white coats

who don’t even believe

I exist

all those too busy

or in too much of a hurry

to notice who I am.

From behind

my drooping eyelids

I am watching

with the stillness

of a lizard or snake.
I have learnt

the languor

and stealth

of a tiger

lying in wait

ready to pounce.

So next time

you come across

a woman like me

tired looking

in a pink dressing gown

just because

I’m lying low

don’t imagine

I take anything

lying down.

Watch out

I have never been

as slow

or as deadly before.

Maria Jastrzebska (Born 1953, Warsaw, Poland), poet, author, and editor, is best known

to English-speaking readers as the author of Postcards from Poland. She is also the

co-editor of a Polish women’s anthology.

238 Lyric


Mary Blalock

From Adam’s rib

it’s prophesied

I came,

but that’s his story

I’m walking on my own

down these streets

with a stop sign on every corner,

takin’ my time.

I’ve got no place to go ‘cept forward.

Down these highways without a

road map,

down these sidewalks,

where the cracks want to

break my mother’s back,

where the city is crowded.

I’m walking on my own.

I’m not on a Stairmaster,

and I won’t wait for an elevator.

I’m taking the fire escape

to the top floor.

If I want to,

I’ll walk all around the world,

taking the long way

or the shortcuts,

‘cross countries and through


I won’t be swimming.

I’ll walk

on my own.

Mary Blalock was a high school student in Portland, Oregon, when she wrote this


240 Lyric

And I Remember

Afua Cooper

And I remember


in the churchyard on Wesleyan hill

standing and looking down on the plains

that stretched before me

like a wide green carpet

the plains full with sugar cane and rice

the plains that lead to the sea

And I remember


as a little girl to school

on the savannas of Westmoreland

walking from our hillbound village

along steep hillsides

walking carefully so as not to trip and plunge

walking into the valley

And I remember


to school on the road that cuts into the green carpet

running past laughing waters

running past miles of sugar cane and paddies of rice

running to school that rose like a concrete castle

running with a golden Westmoreland breeze
And I remember


the smell of the earth plowed by rain and tractors

breathing the scent of freshly cut cane

breathing the scent of rice plants as they send

their roots into the soft mud

and I remember


this is mine this is mine

this sweetness of mountains



and plains

is mine



Afua Cooper (Born 1958, Jamaica), now living in Toronto, Ontario, has published three

collections of poetry. She has also recorded poems on the album Womantalk, and on

several independent cassette releases. Co-author of Essays in African-Canadian Women's

History, Cooper is pursuing a doctorate in history.


My Father

Russell Wallace
On the land where he was born

my father built his house.

Beside the roads he travelled

and under the mountains he climbed

the house stands singing

where dragonflies dwell

and bears eat crab apples.
My father always at table’s head

beside windows watching

the sun and clouds

through green fields rush by.

All the sky long

among eagles and owls

and coyote’s dreams borne on the dust

my father walks heaven’s trail on snowshoes

made by his hands.
On the land where he was born

now cut by poles, roads and rail

the crab apples still grow sweet.
Russell Wallace, decended from the Lil’Wat Nation of British Columbia, has been

active in Aboriginal media, including theatre and film, in the Vancouver area since

1982. He has composed and produced music and sound for Hands of History for the

National Film Board.

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