We exist at the pleasure of our great familiars, chief among them, water. Water is: Source. Sustainer. Old faithful. Or so we thought, generation unto generation. Into our complacency comes present danger to the planet: alarming announcements of drought, famine, thirst and flood.
Against the growing apocalyptic clamour, Watermarks raises an anthem to water's many guises. The work tours through water's family album. Page’s poems make their way upstream, follow icebergs across Davis Strait, picnic on the shores of Lake Huron. One suffers through a miserable winter political campaign and arrives at a famous funeral. In travelling the world or staying home, the poet pursues the tender work of picking up old stories to see what might lie hidden. The designation "By a Lady," assigned to 19th century women’s paintings, created one such obliteration.
Oceans answer to their own call. Springs rise unbidden from earth’s inner store. Ice scrapes away granite. Snow covers vast territories. Water marks all it touches. It hides, it cleanses. Page's new poems are tales about the human life force sandbagged against the deluge. To enter the poems is to enlist a wider field of vision, and to play.
Joanne Page is the author of two previous books of poetry: Persuasion for a Mathematician (Pedlar Press, 2003), and The River & The Lake (Quarry Press, 1993). She lives in Kingston, Ontario. Of this recent work, she writes: "Eight years ago I sailed up the west coast of Greenland, into Disco Bay. There the icebergs calve off the massive Greenland icefield. I could not have imagined such an astonishing sight. Size, shapes, colours – the words I wrote in my notebook were more than inadequate. Shopworn, hollow, scrawny, flaccid. It was as though I were in a place for which I had no language. At the time, I turned to paint. I could not capture the bergs and the sea with the vocabulary I had at hand. Watercolour and brush – my hand and eye – allowed me at least to converse with them. We sailed on to the Canadian high Arctic, changing route several times because of dangerous sea ice. "Five years later I returned. There were two alarming changes: more bergs in Disco Bay; the sea ice in Lancaster Sound was gone. After this trip I made a series of paintings of the spring melt in Kingston. As the paintings progressed I superimposed text. I imagined that the words had been frozen into the ice. As the ice melted, the words for this book appeared.
"Water is everywhere, a reality hard to miss, here in Kingston, where Lake Ontario narrows to the St. Lawrence River. Water defines the city and the whole region. We travel beside our lake and across our rivers. We live across the causeway or near the wetlands. Some of us occupy nearby islands. The rough backcountry to the north is a marvel of lakes and rivers. While we register seasonal changes and are struck by the harvest moon appearing to rise right out of the depths of the Bateau Channel, it’s fair to say that most of us take our waterscape for granted. However, as global forces seek to designate water a commodity, we are beginning to sense the peril. We begin to come to our senses. We need to hurry. Our country is teeming with water, snow and ice. Will it always be?"
Erin Mouré is an award-winning poet (Governor General?s, QSPELL) with ten published collections to her credit. Her work has appeared in every major Canadian literary journal as well as several American publications.
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