Fifty is the book Ken Norris began writing when he was 47 and stopped writing on the day he turned 50. It is both a counting and an accounting. He writes of love found and love lost, of children growing and parents dying, of political injustice, of the slow crawl through a Northern winter, of being in the genuine middle of life. Among its widely diverse poetic forms, the book constructs odes, elegies, sonnets and long poem sequences, following Norris’s footsteps as he travels from Maine to Santo Domingo, from Phnom Penh to Montreal, from the shorelines of the Caribbean Sea to the banks of the Mekong River.
In its seeming offhandedness, Fifty discloses an elegant gesture. All the complexities of human life are laid bare here, with candour, dexterity, wit and intelligence. These are poetic meditations on what’s been left behind, what one wishes could be done over, and they take a measure of the worth of what’s left to do as a participant in the perilous world of the twenty-first century. They intimate a future more dangerously elemental, a world both more sure of itself and less predictable, less tolerant of those who hesitate and more demanding of those on the move.
Ken Norris, originally from New York City, moved to Montreal and was a member of the Vehicule Poets group. He has had more than 20 books of poetry published and has edited and translated a number of others. He now lives down the road from Stephen King in Bangkok, Maine, and teaches Canadian Literature at the University of Maine.