What makes a second book different from a debut? We ask MFA alumni publishing second books to share their insights about the unique gifts of sophomore efforts. Here's Laurie D. Graham, author of Settler Education, on some of her favourites:
"Many second books have struck me: Marvin Francis’ bush camp, Jan Zwicky’s Wittgenstein Elegies, Jenna Butler’s Wells, Yasuko Thanh’s Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, Sky Dancer’s / Louise Bernice Halfe’s, Blue Marrow, Marilyn Dumont’s Green Girl Dreams Mountains, Aisha Sasha John’s Thou, Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women.
One that has been particularly significant to me is Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies, first published by Anansi in 1968. To me, this nine-part poem cycle has the heft of “Howl” or “Song of Myself.” It is treatise and rebuke, ode and lament. It’s a Toronto poem, a poem on what Canada might mean, and what it doesn’t yet mean. It’s a poem about failure. It’s a poem about what living is. It’s a city poem. It’s a society poem. It’s a poem of its time. It sits in the square in front of Toronto’s brand new city hall and it looks around and it speaks:
Often I sit in the sun and brooding over the city, always
in airborne shapes among the pollution I hear them, returning;
pouring across the square
in fetid descent, they darken the towers
and the wind-swept place of meeting and whenever
the thick air clogs my breathing it teems with their presence.
Many were born in Canada, and living unlived lives they died
of course but died truncated, stunted, never at
home in native space and not yet
citizens of a human body of kind. And it is Canada
that specialized in this deprivation.
I could hold up any number of passages for you here. Each stanza reverberates like an essay. And that the poem cares for how we live and tells the truth about our history still reads to me like a radical act."
Laurie's second collection of poetry, Settler Education, is now available from McClelland & Stewart.
Join Laurie, and fellow alumni Jake McArthur Mooney, for M&S's Toronto poetry launch on Wednesday, April 13th at IFOA, Harbourfront Centre, Lakeside Terrace (235 Queens Quay W).
Or you can catch her London, Ontario, launch at Oxford Book Shop (626 Piccadilly St.) on Saturday, May 14th at 2pm, where she will be joined by special guests Jean McKay and Tom Cull.