Poetry Express: Adele Graf + buckled into the sky

Written over a period of twenty years, Adele Graf’sbuckled into the sky (Guernica Editions) could not be more timely, with its focus on the essential nature of “home”—wherever that might be. In our Q&A, Adele discusses more of the central themes that tie this collection together, including our connection to the past, a doll that has served as an unlikely source of inspiration for her, and the sweet escape of a clawfoot tub. Plus, read the poem “Milla, Crete” from the collection below!


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During the month of April, you can buy any of our featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada. Just use promo code NPMexpress at checkout. Or you can find it at your local independent bookstore.All Lit Up: Can you tell us a bit about your collection and how it came to be?Adele Graf: I’ve written these poems over twenty years, and newly edited them. The book has poems about art, grief, history, family history, outport life, and human connections. But the questions they all ask are about our past and how that past flows into our own lives.As we mature, we want to understand how and where and to whom we belong. The poems in buckled into the sky centre on the idea of home. They trace the deep family links between generations, even in different countries. In fact, it’s often after travelling the world that we discover what home really is. Whether it’s our current home, our childhood home, our mind’s home or our home in the world, home is as essential to us as our bodies. Like the turtle in one of the book’s poems: “secure in the shell / joined to its spine and ribs / it’s a homebody.” 

Photo of Adele Graf (Credit: Ed Overstreet)

[Image Description: A side photo of the author cropped just below the neckline. Her head is turned towards the camera. She has ear-length curly grey-brown hair. She wears red metallic framed glasses and a red shirt. She smiles with lips parted. In the background, slightly blurred, is a bookshelf.]

 ALU: What has been your most unlikely source of writing inspiration?AG: As a child, I had a Heidi costume doll. I hadn’t thought about it for years. One day I suddenly imagined this doll from the point of view of the main character in the Heidi book. I imagined what Heidi would think if she had to live her life as this doll. The resulting poem is “Heidi costume doll talks of her sixty years as my prize in a childhood writing contest.” The poem was a lot of fun to write and is included in this book. ALU: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?AG: Definitely. Poetry’s range of possibilities has expanded and continues to expand. As a writer of poetry, I’m always trying to express more of what’s behind the words. I’m also interested in using different styles to move around and beyond the words. And I’ve learned to trust the reader more.As a reader of poetry, I’m more open to discovering what poets are trying to communicate—and how and why they’ve chosen to communicate in a particular way. ALU: What are you most in the mood to read these days? Any poets you’re especially enjoying?AG: I’m in the mood to read a wide variety of poets all at once (not something I often do). I’ll read some poems from one book, pick a contrasting book from my shelf, then read something else from a different collection. I’m especially enjoying Magnetic Equator by Kaie Kellough and Keeping Count by M. Travis Lane. ALU: Describe your ideal escape.AG: I have an old clawfoot bathtub in the quiet upstairs of my house. The tub is long enough so I can extend my legs, and deep enough so I can recline in chin-deep water. The water is hot and oiled. My muscles relax, my mind clears, I doze or muse. Sometimes new poems emerge.



A poem from buckled into the sky

Milia, Crete 
afterwards, he climbs the hill
with cameras and lenses
strapped to his back
below, she suns herself
on the verandah
of Cretan stone
gazes wide and high
at greens and golds
in rock outcrop
then listens while thrushes
trill round her head
sing to their mates
she sees him halfway up the slope
once more prone –
intent on mauves, blues
red and pink wildflowers
like confetti seeded
into bloom –
she shades her eyes
and rises as she watches
his tanned arms
across the gorge
up the steep, winding path –
far, even as the thrush flies

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Adele Graf grew up outside New York City and immigrated to Canada in 1968. She has worked as a writer and editor, and taught writing in the public and private sectors in Halifax and Ottawa. Her first book of poetry, math for couples, was published by Guernica Editions in 2017 and shortlisted for the Archibald Lampman Award. Her chapbook, Directions to Suffern NY circa 1950, won the Tree Reading Series chapbook prize and was published in 2018. Her second book of poetry, buckled into the sky, was published by Guernica Editions in 2021. She lives in Ottawa with her spouse.

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During the month of April, you can buy buckled into the sky and any one of our other featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada with promo code NPMexpress. Or find them at your local independent bookstore with our Shop Local option.Keep up with us all month on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #ALUPoetryExpress.  
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