I was thinking of wintry poems for this holiday post, and hit upon Robyn Sarah’s “Solstice.” So I emailed her to ask if I could post her poem, and she wrote back saying yes, and that one of her poems is in this week’s Times Literary Supplement (14 December, page 25): “Please Have a Seat.” Oh, yes, on the same page there’s also a review of a book by Sylvie Simmons about some Cohen guy. First the poem, then what you need to know about Robyn Sarah, who has not lived abroad.
A sly gift it is, that on the year’s
shortest day, the sun
stays longest in this house —
extends the wand of its slow
slant and distant squint
farthest into the long depths
of our wintry rooms — to touch with
tremulous light, interior places
it has not lit before.
“Solstice” was published in Questions About The Stars (1998; second printing May 2012), it has also been translated into French by Marie Frankland, in Sarah’s Le Tamis des Jours (Éditions du Noroît). Robyn Sarah was born in New York City to Canadian parents, and grew up in Montréal. A graduate of the Conservatoire de musique du Québec (clarinet) and of McGill University (Philosophy and English), she began publishing poems in Canadian periodicals in the early 1970s while pursuing graduate studies at McGill. In 1976, with her then husband Fred Louder, she co-founded a small press, Villeneuve Publications, and co-edited its poetry chapbook series, which included first titles by August Kleinzahler, A.F. Moritz, and others. The press folded in 1987. For twenty years she taught English at Champlain Regional College (St. Lambert, Quebec) while raising a son and a daughter. She lives in Montreal’s Mile End with her second husband, Boston-born photographer D. R. Cowles, with whom she has travelled to Israel and Morocco.
Robyn Sarah is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Digressions: Prose Poems, Collage Poems, and Sketches (2009), as well as two collections of short stories, A Nice Gazebo and Promise of Shelter, and a book of essays on poetry, Little Eurekas. Her work has been anthologized in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Since 2007 she has edited The Essential George Johnston, The Essential Don Coles, and The Essential Margaret Avison for The Porcupine’s Quill’s “Essential Poets” series. In 2010 she became poetry editor for Cormorant Books.
Finally, here is my Christmas gift to CWA’s readers and contributors, another poem by Robyn Sarah. “Before Snow” is in her collection The Touchstone: Poems New & Selected (Anansi).
What a light you take
from my sky — you clouds,
closing in, breathing a
cold down — though the
sun still flames a little
at your edges —turning to
silver now, and now
a pewter sheen. You came
as winter comes, expected
but unspecific, always a
small surprise, to know it’s
here now, this is it:
this is the long shadow, falling fast,
that love must rise to meet, if love’s to last.
Robyn Sarah’s works copyright © to the author.
- More poems by Robyn Sarah (University of Toronto Canadian poetry online)
- A three question interview (lemonhound.com)
- Robyn Sarah on poetry (bestcanadianpoetry.com)
- Poésies des deux mondes : un dialogue franco-américain à travers les revues 1850-2004 (poezibao.typepad.com)
- Robyn Sarah’s poem “Bounty,” Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac (writersalmanac.publicradio.org)