Browse Inside: The Bird in the Stillness

I couldn’t not do it. I mean. It’s National Poetry Month. Of course I have to express my appreciation for lyricism, beauty and spellbinding language. And when those words come to mind, I think of Joe Rosenblatt.

Joe Rosenblatt is something of a Renaissance man, and he’s all the more fascinating for his unorthodox artistic route. (Unlike the countless poets who honed their art in the classroom, he dropped out of high school in favour of blue-collar work.) Though known primarily for his poetry, which has won him a Governor General’s Award, he is also a talented artist, whose paintings and drawings have been displayed in exhibitions across the country.

I am particularly enamored with this collection because it blends these two talents into a cohesive and beautiful reflection on the natural world. The poetry in The Bird in the Stillness is reverential and clearly appreciative of the sights and sounds of nature, and the vocabulary deliciously challenging and even sometimes unexpected. The poems and drawings are also to some extent experiments in dichotomy. Light and darkness, joy and fear, life and death are just a few seeming contradictions throughout the book, but what I like best is the way that these seemingly incompatible thoughts and feelings and experiences are shown to be part of a larger cycle that includes ups and downs, good and bad. Reading this book gave me quite the feeling of Zen, and made me consider the “spiritual nourishment” to be found in the natural world—and in nature poetry.

This is prime porch reading, folks. With a comfy lounge chair and your hot beverage of choice, I highly recommend you experience this Zen for yourselves. Here are a few choice poems to whet your appetite, and if you like them, be sure to buy the book (or the ebook) today!


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My Devotional

I’m drawn to a newborn in need of parental fondling.
Sprouting through decaying bark on some rotting log.
Nourished by a protective spirit caring for her child
that sapling has the appearance of a healthy toddler.
A sprig of affection comes with each budding shoot:
Particles of a mother thrive in composting vegetation.
Nearby, tribes of chanterelle meet upon a forest floor
to carry their golden light to a sombre neighbourhood.

The muse is in its stride as I craft this devotional.
You’ll find me on a page leaning against a puffball:
We’re quite the pair, yours truly, and the portly alien.
I keep tumescing while he appears lean and normal.
He teleports a thought: Our warranty is running out.
And his cogitation is followed by a derisive laughter.


What’s on Tap?

Poetry is a way of going out on a blind date to meet your soul, and you’ve promised to meet your true essence at a trendy nightclub in some dark alley of the inner city. You arrive there, sit down at an empty table, without realizing your date is sitting right next to you. It seems that you are invisible to each other. And finally this cadaverously lean waiter appears out of the shadows and says: You want to order something from the bar? Sure, you reply, what’s on tap? The waiter reads out the brand names of some local brews: We have Eternal Life, a fuzzy dark cumulous of ale. We have Deep Space, a sparkly bitter beer, somewhat heavy, like a burnt-out lodestone—an acquired taste…. Suddenly you see your waiter fading away, and then it occurs to you that your date is never going to show up, and further, that you are in the wrong bar, the wrong cul de sac and even worse, you are talking to a complete stranger, your navel. That’s poetry!


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portraitWell, I hope you enjoyed this peek inside the pages of The Bird in the Stillness. Be sure to tell us what you think in the comments section below! For a few more poems, and of course links to help you buy the book, visit the title information page here.


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.