Once Houses Could Fly

By (author): Rosemary Clewes

In Once Houses Could Fly, ten kayakers snail along the rugged fjords of Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic.

Here under the roofless world, the ancient killing fields of the Thule people become campsites for tents, pitched among the bleached bones of sea mammals and the rough docks of shore-ice.

These poems speak of the bite and beauty of weather and the limits it sets on us. Be it “Jeremiah on a rampage” or the “which-way of ice,” the polar desert has a habit of dismantling expectations. There is nowhere to hide, no turning back. Beginner’s prowess ends in taking inventory of thumbs and “aging’s howl,” yet the light’s redemptive peace settles all distress, and what lasts is the quiet gratitude that overtakes the narrator, as the journey sets the pace for the soul to catch up with the body.

The book recalls this journey as a summoning to oneself: a humility, which does not anticipate competence, which opens its arms to the unfolding world.


Rosemary Clewes

Rosemary Clewes was born in Toronto and enjoyed several careers, as a script assistant for CBC television, a social worker, then printmaker and now writer/poet. Over the last decade, her poems have been published in many literary journals. She was nominated by The Malahat Review for The National Magazine Awards in 2005, and a year later was a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards. Her first book of prose and poetry, Thule Explorer: Kayaking North of 77 Degrees (Hidden Brook Press) was published in 2008 and remains a fine primer for Arctic adventurers. Clewes has travelled many times to the Arctic by kayak, raft and icebreaker.


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Excerpts & Samples ×
First questions were born How big is the world? That’s what I want to know what I came for — to travel where the world meets itself beyond fiction where what is said to be so is so. The truth of bleached bones wind-seared skeletons — I came for rock that dependable middleman between sky and ocean binding worlds. Each world holding to its own place. I go here because the land so sparsely peopled is hard to plunder. ************************************************************************* And me not noticing how rain can loosen a floater’s grip on rock ’til twenty feet from my bow shore ice plummets The ocean gulps a season reminding me what brute force is in it and I feel winter’s revenge on summer in the waves’ attack Back up, orders Scott don’t want that ice coming up under us ************************************************************************* We’ve returned to a different camp on Skraeling islanded until wind dictates the which-way of ice. About a mile — or maybe ten — light letters the lustrous pearls of the multi-year white menace strung across the mouth of the fjord. If I was a bird reconnoitering I’d see how tide, spurring swell, could set sea-ice packed with wind at its back: trap us in mid-channel — our paddles, pitiful staves against the sea-gang’s swarm. ************************************************************************** Meals under tarp, rain pissing on-off. I’m ornery, mean-minded. Yet — there’s power in the glare light in just sitting waiting it out when you can’t run turn it off or on nothing to do alone together — better than kicking ass.

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112 Pages
9in * 6in * .27in


April 16, 2012


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Book Subjects:

POETRY / Canadian

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