Skip to main content

Featured Poet: Anna Swanson



Where did the British summer go?  Eyewear is looking out on another rather dull London day.  Still, there is some good news - we have a great Friday feature.  Anna Swanson (pictured) is a poet and children’s librarian living in Vancouver, Canada. Her debut book of poetry, The Nights Also, from Tightrope Books, asks how identity is formed and challenged in relation to chronic illness, sexuality and solitude. It won a Lambda Literary Award and the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in 2011, which is the most significant Canadian debut collection prize (similar to the Yale or Forward in prestige).  As I was chair of the judging panel this year for the Lampert (given out by the League of Canadian Poets), it is especially heartening for me to be able to showcase this brilliant younger poet on my British blog this morning.  Her book was very lyrical, very moving, and very witty - and cohered as a whole in a satisfying way.  Also, its exploration of sexuality was refreshing, especially from a British perspective, where far too few lesbian, gay and bisexual poets write candidly of their experiences, notwithstanding the fact we have a gay Poet Laureate.  If there's one Canadian poetry book you read this year, why not start with Swanson's?  The poem below is from that collection.

The patron saint of bagpipes

The patron saint of bagpipes and the patron saint
of concerned parents are having at it
at last. Gathered around, cussing and cheering,
are the patron saints of adult acne, late periods,
of slot machines, locking the keys in the car, of calling
out the wrong name in bed. And, of course,
the patron saint of trying to fall asleep
when you’re lonely. These are the lesser saints
in their lesser heaven, blessed only with the power
to hold back your hair while you puke
in your private stall. They gather round,
waiting, as Our Lady of the PTA
threatens to get all fisticuffs with Bagpipes.
Bystanders become a crowd, and the crowd
starts to circle. Perhaps, I tell myself, perhaps

this is why they can’t hear me. Tonight, when I’ve called
everyone in my book, when I’ve asked that thin thread of faith
to show itself like fishing line against the dark lake.
No matter what small thing I ask for—waiting poised
to close myself over any flash or morsel—no one answers.
So, as I drift into that place that isn’t sleep,
I lay my money down and buy Pipes another pint,
sidle up behind PTA and whisper loudly—
Thinks he can intimidate her. I know, and especially
after how he’s been eyeing her daughter.
Then I join the crowd.


poem by Anna Swanson; reprinted with permission of the author and publisher; from The Nights Also, Tightrope Books. Photo credit: Vivienne McMaster.

Comments

Christian Ward said…
I enjoyed reading this, Todd. The warmth and humour of Anna's poem shines through. It's also refreshingly honest and makes me want to dip into her collection.

Popular posts from this blog

Michael Horovitz Has Died

Michael Horovitz  was a wonderful, funny, entertaining, intelligent, generous and visionary poet and a significant part of the British poetry scene post-war. His death is sad and a true loss, but his spirit and many projects and poems will live on. 

poem about Apple Picking

  ABOUT APPLE PICKING   one is never wrong. The orchard itself is the correct answer to any question. Climbing is a problem, but gravity solves even that for some. The round truth of an apple is sufficient; being lost here is to be found; it is the end of the quest, best friend to cheese; and can become cider soon enough. The fall to the very ground if it happened, was near this row or that of reaching, autumn themes, the cooling air, a sense of collecting the divine in a modest wicker basket. Science is what finds the good among the bad, the worms, centring on the crisp core's seeds, the ample harvest before the frost, that sweet-bitter-tanging bite, flight into so many delicious names.   October 19, 2021

WHO CARES WHO THE NEXT JAMES BOND WILL BE WHEN WE HAVE CRAIG TODAY?

WHO CARES WHO THE NEXT JAMES BOND WILL BE WHEN WE HAVE CRAIG TODAY? i.m. Douglas Barbour who died yesterday. Been a while since I thought a poem was a pop song Instead of a Walter ppk to the heart of the superstructure, Interrogating the very concept of linguistic designer thoughts; A poet never changes their spots, just their t-shirts, the ideas At the core of a human are not easily ironed out with ironic References to transhumanism, or Mao; no, we can smell fear Of losing the bank vault to the Beagle Boys, we know when Herr Nobel really likes the boy with the bowl cut, or the red lingerie. It’s a deontological low point when Django Unchained may be A cogent argument against slavery, and history isn’t; but That’s a filmic nostalgic revenge fantasy; we have to save A planet from ourselves with only The Poetics, and conflictual Arguably biological imperatives driving cleavage between The nation-states and free-floating transnationals in the way; We know more words than we can fathom wa