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The Hidden Room: Volume 2 by P. K. Page  

The Hidden Room is filled with treasure gathered from over five decades of some of the best poetry ever written in Canada. Almost all of the poetry P. K. Page has published in volume form is here, all the way from Unit of Five (1944) to Hologram (1994), together with a good many unpublished poems and poems hitherto published only in magazines, from all stages of her career.

A section of luminous new poems completes the volume. Evening Dance of the Grey Flies and Hologram appear substantially as first published, though virtually every other section has undergone thoughtful reassessment by the author with the assistance of editor Stan Dragland. The Hidden Room is something more than simply a mechanical Collected. The inclusion of uncollected and new poems has demanded a re-choreographing, a reassortment of familiar poems into new families.

The Hidden Room is quite possibly the best collection of verse ever published in this country. This is the essential, rather than the entire P. K. Page, a lifetime of work that any poet would be proud to call their own.

Table of contents


A Dome of Tears

Little Girls 11
Young Girls 12
Sisters 13
The Bands ... 14
Blowing Boy 15
Boy with a Sea Dream 16
The Chief Mourner 18
Adolescence 19
Virgin 20
Morning, Noon and Night 21
Summer 22
As Ten, As Twenty 23
Green Little Corn 24
The Apple 25
Doll’s House -- New Model 26
Painter 28
The Flower and the Rock 29
Art Gallery 30
Piece for a Formal Garden 31
To a Portrait in a Gallery 32
The Condemned 33
Failure at Tea 35
The Figures 36
T-Bar 37
The Metal and the Flower 39
Photograph 40
Romantic 41
Find Me 42
His Dream 43
Divers 44
In a Ship Recently Raised ... 45
Contagion 46
Vegetable Island 47
The Map 49
Mineral 51
Reflections in a Train Window 52

The Hidden Components

Remembering 55
Beside You 56
Small World 57
Only Thought 57
The Gift 57
Picking Daffodils 58
Motor Trip 58
The Glass Air 59
The Puppet 61
Water and Marble 62
Eden 63
The Hidden Components 65
Shaman 67
Anachronism 69
Knitter’s Prayer 69
Dot 70
On Brushing my Hair ... 71
Tired 71
Suffering 72
Miniatures 74
Prisoners 75
Deep Sleep 76
Nursing Home 77
Rage 80
Enemy 80
Truce 81
Cross 81
Chimney Fire 82
War Lord ... 84
Portrait 86
Leather Jacket 88
Legend 90
Leviathan in a Pool 92
Address at Simon Fraser 99

After Rain

Deaf Mute in the Pear Tree 107
After Rain 109
This Frieze of Birds 111
Giovanni and the Indians 113
Cook’s Mountains 115
Bark Drawing 117
Storm in Mexico 119
On Educating the Natives 119
Brazilian House 120
Macumba: Brazil 121
Brazilian Fazenda 123
Conversation 124
Winter Morning 125
This Sky 125
Snowfall 126
Allen Dreaming ... 127
Chinook 128
George Johnston Reading 129
All These Men 130
When Bird-like, ... 131

I -- Sphinx

I -- Sphinx 135

The Whitest Feather

The World 147
Entreaty 147
A Backwards Journey 148
In Class We Create Ourselves ... 149
Concentration 150
Waiting to be dreamed 151
Before Sleep 153
Dark Kingdom 154
Lily on the Patio 155
Your Hand Once ... 156
The New Bicycle 157
Blowing 158
Neighbours 159
Kaleidoscope 160
Airport Arrival 163
Morning 163
Skyline 163
Visitants 164
They Might Have Been Zebras 165
Preparation 167
Seraphim 168
Invisible Presences Fill the Air 169
Another Space 170
The Dome of Heaven 172
Masqueraders 173
The Murder 174
To a Dead Friend 175
Intraocular Lens Model ... 176
Single Vision 177
The Arrangement 178
Black and White 180
Cry Ararat! 183


Hologram 189
The Gold Sun 191
Autumn 193
Poor Bird 195
Inebriate 197
In Memoriam 199
Presences 201
Planet Earth 203
Love’s Pavilion 205
Alone 207
A Bagatelle 209
Exile 211
The Answer 213
The End 215

Now That I Am Dead

The Castle 219
After Hearing Satyagraha ... 220
Like a Cruise Ship 223
Blue 223
Request to the Alchemist 223
Aurum 224
Big Wind 225
Marmots 226
The Trick 227
Funeral Mass 228
Complaint 229
Pain to his Helper 230
But We Rhyme in Heaven 231
A Part 232
Flight 232
This Heavy Craft 233

Index of First Lines 235

Review text

‘If not ‘‘a shilling life’’, a glance at Who’s Who in Canada will give you all the facts. Which are more than impressive. P K Page, born in 1916 and very much with us is, in brief, a phenomenon; a force majeur in Canadian literary and artistic life; a National Treasure. Her work to date, sprung from the praiseworthy ambition of the lavishly gifted, bestows upon us rich decades of protean accomplishment, of widespread honour and renown. Let us however concern ourselves here with the essential fictions -- with the beginning in delight and ending in wisdom, as Frost has it, of true poems; with this present testament of imaginative, intellectual and spiritual achievement: The Hidden Room: Collected Poems.

‘To immerse oneself in these two handsome volumes (elegantly complemented and informed throughout by the drawings and paintings of her ‘‘twin sister, / beautiful as Euclid’’, the painter P K Irwin) is to plunge into a deep-freighted, breaking wave of swirled delights and parlous undertows. It is, as with all such translucent ramparts of desire and abandon, best met head-on. This is not to say that one must read consecutively through the some four hundred and fifty pages of poetry and the one dangerous, liminal short story. The ordering of the volumes is credited to Stan Dragland, who ‘‘tackled material spanning sixty years and threaded it together in a manner uniquely his own.’’ While the overall drift is chronological, the poems have been so intelligently interwoven that each of the volumes is a realized entity, as each is a reflection of the whole.’

—Richard Outram, The Ottawa Citizen

Review text

‘P.K. Page is a visionary, a descendant of Blake and the alchemist writers. She makes this connection herself in ‘‘Request to the Alchemist’’: ‘‘I am a tin whistle/ Blow through me/ Blow through me/ And make my tin/ Gold’’. Like Blake, Page is also an accomplished visual artist and would subscribe to his conviction that ‘‘We are led to Believe a Lie/ When we see not Thro’ the Eye.’’ This is the eye that can see beyond habitual perception, the eye with the power to rend what D. H. Lawrence called the ‘‘great umbrella between mankind and Titans in the wild air.’’ That is why Page quotes Theodore Roszak: ‘‘Unless the eye catch fire/ The God will not be seen.’’

—Books in Canada

Excerpt from book

Planet Earth

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving, smoothing the holy surfaces.

    ‘In Praise of Ironing’, Pablo Neruda

It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.

The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness

and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky -- such an O! overhead -- night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.


Credit: Barbara Pedrick

P. K. Page wrote some of the best poems published in Canada over the last seven decades. In addition to winning the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1957, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999. She was the author of more than two dozen books, including ten volumes of poetry, a novel, short stories, eight books for children, and two memoirs based on her extended stays in Brazil and Mexico with her husband Arthur Irwin, who served in those countries as the Canadian Ambassador. In addition to writing, Page painted, under the name P. K. Irwin. She mounted one-woman shows in Mexico and Canada. Her work was also exhibited in various group shows, and is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Victoria Art Gallery, among others.

A two-volume edition of Page’s collected poems, The Hidden Room (Porcupine’s Quill), was published in 1997, and the full range of her richly varied work is being made available in a digital resource, The Digital Page, supplemented by a series of texts in print and e-book format published by The Porcupine’s Quill.

P. K. Page was born in England and brought up on the Canadian prairies. She died on the 14th of January, 2010.

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 / General

POETRY / Canadian

ISBN-13: 9780889841932

Publication Date: 1997-08-30

Dimensions: 8.75 in x 5.56 in

Pages: 224

Price: $18.95