Swimming Among the Ruins

By (author): Susan Gillis

These poems imagine the reconciliation of material reality with the spirit?s longing, through travel, the physical displacement of time and space, through contemplation, and through the unsettling of language. The submerged foundations of a ruined city, place names that recall the past, ancient statuary, a drop of water echoing in an empty tomb, personal memories, heat left on a path walked by generations?these remnants of passage are examined intensely, often through a lens rippled by water or vapour, looking back toward their origins and forward into the possibilities of transformation.


Susan Gillis

Susan Gillis has lived on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada, and now lives most of the year in Montreal, where she teaches English. Her books include Volta (Signature Editions, 2002), which won the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and Swimming Among the Ruins (Signature Editions, 2000), and a chapbook, Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau Press, 2012). Whisk, with Yoko’s Dogs, is forthcoming in 2013 from Pedlar Press. The Rapids is Susan’s third collection (Brick Books, 2012).


“In her debut collection, Susan Gillis transforms the familiar themes of ?poet abroad/poet in love? into a work that is both new and remarkable. with haiku-like attention to both mood and description, Gillis takes the reader along with her as she travels through foreign landscapes of both an external and internal nature.”?Canadian Bookseller “Rapt, wholly attentive to the tang of the moment, Susan Gillis? poems take us to moods we thought familiar and reveal them as thresholds of risk and awakening: they remind us that vulnerability to lyric beauty is always the necessary danger.”?Don McKay “Susan Gillis? wonderful debut collection is a risky adventure into the always difficult poetic terrain of love of men and women, of places known and unfamiliar and, ultimately, of self. Her particular slant on the subject is the notion that “what?s hardest is not to know why / but how anything happens.” As if to nail down the “how” of it, her poems brim with sensual, exact images of the natural world, in a voice that confirms a natural ear for the music of her lines, and a mastery of craft that is a pleasure to watch at work.”?Michael Harris.


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Excerpts & Samples ×
Blackberries, Brambles Akhmatova wrote, “O look!—that fresh dark elderberry branch is like a letter from Marina…” And she was right, branches criss- cross, words sharpen. We lop them down, fit them into envelopes. But I forget: you don’t do letters: Too much tangled in thickets and desperation. Did I say envelopes? I meant elevators. See, I’ve snagged favourite sweaters in high rises, snarled hair in hedges, given up skin scrapings for blackberries, tongueburst, the sweet stain, explosion under light canine pressure. Don’t you just wish you were a dog sometimes? No panic. Romping through brambles. Even in delirium, near death, Akhmatova remembered. Her bitter friend had been dead a long time. Love. Don’t think I’m thinking about you. Anything but you. Eel The lake is still, after the flash rain. A water spider crosses from shore to dock propelled by snapping legs fine as a strand of hair. I lie on my stomach on rough cedar, watch through one of the gaps a green wedge of this strange world. The sun wraps me in a warm skin, dries the damp behind my knees and in the small of my back, brushes the hair on my neck. Heat passes through me. I am cooled in stripes by the fresh water under me. A young eel writhes into the green, spirals between minnows like a lost necklace falling through time into obscuring grass. I miss you. My fingers slip into the crack beside my eyes.

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96 Pages
9in * 6in * .3in


March 01, 2000


Signature Editions



Book Subjects:

POETRY / Canadian

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