In 12 long poems, spanning January through December, David Helwig combines the gradually changing seasons with daily goings-on and memories. The Year One charts 12 months populated with birds, Shakespeare, kitchen utensils, foliage, slugs, dead poets, neighbours, weather and friends. He incorporates snatches of song, plays, dialogue and onomatopoeia to create distinct place and mood.
Helwig has arrived at an unusual form that fuses the detail and scope of fiction with the musicality of lyric verse, showing a gift for characterizing time and place, fitting old memories into the present tense with ease. Demonstrating a distinctly Canadian fascination with weather, he expresses awe at the changing seasons, recalling winter storms in the height of summer, deliberating over times past whilst headily engaged in present surroundings.
Throughout The Year One, Helwig suspends immediate and remote, present and past, individual and collective on the page together. Certain verses are as much about the process and mentality of describing as they are about the descriptions themselves. This creates a potency and level of comprehension for the reader that is at once tenuous and thoroughly engaging.
Layered thick upon one another, these verses are both personal and universal. The collective effect of the whole is something like perusing a desk drawer in which grocery lists curl up next to dramatic monologues and old letters rest between the pages of this year’s almanac. With this book, Helwig opens the drawer and invites us to join him as he sorts.
This 5. 75 by 8. 25 inch book is a Smyth-sewn paperback with cover flaps. The cover is printed on Graphica! Celadon Vellum paper, with bio wraps printed on Rolland Zephyr Laid paper. The text was typeset in Rod McDonald’s Cartier Book by Andrew Steeves and is printed on Zephyr.
Winner of the 2005 Atlantic Poetry Prize.
David Helwig (1938-2018) grew up in Ontario and lived in Belfast, Prince Edward Island. He founded the Best Canadian Stories series, and he was the author of sixteen books of fiction and numerous works of non-fiction, including poetry, memoir, documentary and translation. His most recent work of fiction was Close to the Fire (Goose Lane, 1999), a novella, and the novel, The Time of Her Life (Goose Lane, 2000). "Missing Notes" appeared in ArtsAtlantic (61) and was selected for 98: Best Canadian Stories.
“The Year One fluently and evocatively lights the way to live more keenly in the moment. ” Michael Thorpe, The New Brunswick Reader
“This book is significant, magnificent, and beneficent?in its heart-etched reflections on life, faith, history, and nature?only the grand, classical themes?all expressed by a man at peace with himself, his relationships, and his mortality. ” George Elliott Clarke, Halifax Chronicle Herald