BOOKS IN PRINT

A Day's Grace by Robyn Sarah  

Eric Ormsby wrote that ‘So assured and musical is the hand that shaped them that these poems tend to memorize themselves, as though they had always formed part of our experience.’ This is Sarah’s sixth full-length collection, marked by its humility, joy and philosophical elegance.

To be given a day’s grace is to be granted an extension, a brief stay of a deadline -- one last chance to make good what has been left unfinished. But a day’s grace is also the grace that any day brings -- its ordinary gifts that are so easily missed in the crush of a day’s business. These are poems that quietly catch us by the sleeve and point us towards those gifts, saying: Look! Look now, before it gets dark.

Poems from A Day’s Grace have appeared in numerous publications on both sides of the 49th parallel, including Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Threepenny Review, The North American Review, The Malahat Review, Books in Canada, and The New Quarterly.

prize

2004—A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry,
Shortlisted

Review quote

‘Two threads form the warp and woof of this luminous collection: a mother’s estrangement from a daughter in her twenties and the darkening of our days as glimpsed each night on the evening news ... ‘‘death has begun to tug at our clothes / like a child demanding to be noticed’’. In the midst of personal and public wars, these poems glisten and glimmer like small lamps, like isolated stars: ‘‘little glints of hope that keep us going’’.’

—North American Review

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‘Remarkably, Sarah’s calm and deliberate diction manages to avoid the assured, all-knowing tone that the lyric voice often risks as it describes. Persuasiveness here comes from a steady gaze, not an authoritative stance. If anything, Sarah likes to move into places of unknowing, preferring to dwell in pockets of conundrum until they feel safe. Sarah goes to her desk to ask some difficult questions, such as whether writing poetry is in fact ‘‘acceptable’’ work in God’s eyes. Her uncertainty is a refreshing change from the often-insisted obviousness of poetry’s worth, which Sarah advocates simultaneously by the sheer volume of her work. In fact, Sarah’s arguments are the more compelling for her inclusion of self-doubt and shortcomings -- note the support that resides in her admission to her daughter, ‘‘These are your woods. They are not mine at all.’’ ’

—Sonnet L’Abbe, Globe & Mail

Review quote

A Day’s Grace is an apt title for this new collection by Canadian-American poet Robyn Sarah, who writes in ‘‘Bounty,’’ ‘‘Make much of something small.’’ Her exquisite poems are worth making much about for their lyrical precision, indeed their wisdom. Sarah can write well in any form, including prose and free verse, but her most appealing poems are those in which quiet wordplay flirts with formal rigor? [Her poems] give me that much-sought-after feeling that I’m in the hands of a real poet rather than one of the slap-dash whiners who make most of the noise these days. My pleasure grows as I turn the pages of this collection, finding various kinds of grace in nearly every poem. She offers domestic moments reminiscent of Rachel Hadas and Emily Grosholz, but also, like them, a larger intellectual vision. Plenty of poets have written about history, faith, and family life, but few contemporaries have done it with such grace.’

—David Mason, The Hudson Review

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‘Reading A Day’s Grace, it is easy to understand why Sarah has not been widely embraced as one of Canada’s pre-eminent poets. Her work is quiet and thoughtful, and readers must possess the patience to unwrap and examine her ‘‘spots of time’’ slowly. Those readers who do so will be rewarded.’

—Harold Heft, Gazette

Review quote

‘The book’s title is taken from ‘‘A Solstice Rose,’’ in which the narrator buys a day’s grace for a wilting rose, by propping it up so it will last a bit longer. These poems have been sifted through the conscience of a poet familiar with tradition and craft, rhyme and metre. Although Sarah does not always use these in an obvious manner, they are evident. In a recent interview on the web site poetics.ca, Sarah says she doesn’t see herself as a ‘‘formalist,’’ but she has nonetheless studied to make each poem have ‘‘a pattern or a perceptible relation of its parts to one another.’’ Her music background lends itself well to poetry that uses repetition, metre and various kinds of rhyme. In the same interview, Sarah says, ‘‘To me, a poetic form is a word dance. A prescribed set of formal moves, involving sound and/or sense. It is graceful play with language, a graceful invention to be passed from hand to hand.’’ ’

—Jennifer Boire, Prairie Fire

Unpublished endorsement

‘This is a voice that will not be distracted from its grave reading of the world’s news. What, no cool poses, antic sidesteps, adorable whimsies? Never mind, lots of those elsewhere. Instead, a poem dated November 11 which begins ‘‘War has a long wake’’; a poem for the forgotten in their high hospital rooms (‘‘I think of you up there,/ remote behind your allocated pane ...’’); and poems which will outlast most others that might come your way because of an elegant simile (‘‘The birds twist up again/ like a scarf of black chiffon’’) or a genius of a verb (‘‘the bell of a French horn...gleams a reply.’’) ‘‘Levels’’ ends like this: ‘‘Sunset. It is the hour when hospital windows / beam gold into the eyes / of runners on the upper avenues.’’ Mythic, I think.’

—Don Coles

Unpublished endorsement

‘So assured and musical is the hand that shaped them that these poems tend to memorize themselves, as though they had always formed part of our experience.’

—Eric Ormsby


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Robyn Sarah was born in New York City to Canadian parents, and has lived for most of her life in Montréal. A graduate of McGill University (where she majored in philosophy and English) and of Québec’s Conservatoire de Musique et d’Art Dramatique, she is the author of seven poetry collections and one previous collection of short stories, A Nice Gazebo, published by Véhicule in 1992. The same year, Anansi published The Touchstone: Poems New and Selected, a collection of her poetry spanning twenty years. Robyn Sarah has also recently published a collection of her essays on poetry, entitled Little Eurekas.

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.

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POETRY / Canadian

POETRY / General

ISBN-13: 9780889842335

Publication Date: 2003-10-30

Dimensions: 8.81 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 80

Price: $12.95