Poetry Cure: I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game by Alison Dyer

In today’s Poetry Cure feature I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game (Breakwater Books), Alison Dyer poetically maps the “lumpy land, carving seas, and barrens that are anything but” of Newfoundland. We chat with her about biogeography and coming to poetry, and read “White Birch (the moon child)” from this debut collection-cum-love letter to nature.


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An Interview with Alison

All Lit Up: Tell us about your collection.Alison Dyer: Describing a collection of poetry that came into being over many years is a rather difficult task. Many of the poems explore the natural world and human interaction with it. But I’d say resilience, and often the beauty, of life at the margins, be that physical, societal or spiritual, is at the core of the collection. Within the collection is a suite entitled “Apostles of the Boreal,” and each poem is a paean to a native tree or shrub. That may have roots in my former life as a biogeographer, investigating Newfoundland’s post-glacial vegetational history and arboreal migration. Or as a permaculture newbie. Either way, I believe we have lessons to learn from plant life if we ever unlock their language.ALU: If you wrote a memoir, what would it be called?AD: “Confessions of an Opsimath.”ALU: What books are you currently reading?AD: I’m a slow reader, and I also tend to have several books on the go at once. I seem to be in a non-fiction mode at present. I’ve just finished Alexandra Fuller’s memoir of growing up in war-torn Africa, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, written in a refreshing style and with honesty, intimacy, and wit. Other books in progress are Diane Ackerman’s The Rarest of the Rare: vanishing animals, timeless worlds; Wade Davis’ The Wayfinders: why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world; Peter Wohlleben’s The Inner Life of Animals; several collections of poetry I return to again and again (at the moment that includes two recent collections by Don Domanski); and, oh yes, The Knot Tying Bible – I’ve finally got the Bowline down pat!ALU: What, outside of other books/writers, inspires your writing?AD: The physical geography of Newfoundland. I love the lumpy land, carving seas, and barrens that are anything but. Few things surpass a hike or kayak along the coast to calm the mind and open it to possibilities.

The Poem

White Birch (the moon child)
Some calendar girl you turned out to be.
A barefoot, pale-skinned hippie with the tie-dyed dress
        (call me Petula or River Song, if you like).
A real arboreal fashionista.
Not so flashy as the maple (does she or doesn’t she?),
no socialist hankerings like the spruce,
but your moon-dappled, tattooed trunk —
        oh so cool —
belies your heat, those BTUs of wild winter love.
–From I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game, Alison Dyer (Breakwater Books, 2017)
Alison Dyer’s poetry and short stories are published in The Fiddlehead, Riddle Fence, Grain, The Newfoundland Quarterly, 3 Elements Literary Review, Rhythm Poetry Magazine, Feathertale Review, Nashwaak Review, Grimm Magazine, Cuffer Anthology, WDRC’s Phoenix Anthology and the League of Canadian Poets’ Tree Anthology (forthcoming); her art/docs have been broadcast on CBC Radio. Her writings have twice won the NL Arts & Letters Awards. Dyer has an M.Sc. in physical geography, grew up in England and Quebec, and now lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.Photo Credit: Shelagh O’Leary.
During the month of April, you can buy I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game as well as any of our featured Poetry Cure books for 15% off (+ get a free notebook to jot down your moments of reflection).Keep up with us all month on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #ALUpoetrycure.