Poetry in Motion: Who We Thought We Were As We Fell

Michael Lithgow’s second collection of poetry Who We Thought We Were As We Fell (Cormorant Books) drifts in the tension between a pleasing suburban life simply lived and unsettling moments that pull against it, intrusions of the surreal. Read on for more about the book and hear Michael read a poem from his new collection. 


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This second poetry collection by Michael Lithgow reflects an uncertainty about what lurks at the edges of things—the poet’s sensing of something numinous amid the material demands of the everyday. The poems drift in the tension between a life simply lived and unsettling moments that pull against it: “… Pencils are like lions / sometimes. A mortgage. A lawn. A roof. Don’t even ask about things / falling in my refrigerator. I’m holding a lion of things that feels / like falling down a hole slow enough to touch it all …” Uneasy with a suburban backdrop, the poet nevertheless finds within it surprising moments of beauty, but any pretense of comfort soon gives way to uneasiness as he discovers, in both an imagined and actual back-to-the-land life history, contradictions that emerge from a sense of being caught in overwhelming systems, both human-made and in the natural world. “Sitting on the porch of an old farmhouse watching / lightning bugs scatter flashes at dusk like an untidy / rhyme, I thought about the place of this old homestead / in its agitation against the tyranny of forest succession. / It made me think of resistance as a ritual…”Civic uncertainty in the wilderness gives way to a more intimate kind of circumspection as the poet works through different kinds of grieving—for a parent dying from cancer, for family members murdered in war, for the platforms of death on which common conveniences like grocery stores depend. Weighing harsh realities against promises of life and renewal, Lithgow’s poems are the struggle to put into words something that would rather not be named—a thought-provoking meditation on being haunted by darker and more beautiful shadows than are immediately apparent in the world around.

Michael Lithgow reads two poems — “Artist Statement for Found Sounds at the Lake” and “A Falling of Things” — from Who We Thought We Were As We Fell 

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Michael Lithgow’s first collection of poetry, Waking in the Tree House, was shortlisted for the Quebec Writers Federation First Book Award. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous literary and academic journals and in Best Canadian Poetry (2012). Born in Ottawa, he changed cities frequently in his early years and moved to Vancouver in the mid-1980s, working as an activist journalist in community-based media and as a paralegal, before attending graduate school in Montreal and Ottawa to complete a PhD in Communication Studies. He currently lives in Edmonton with his wife and daughter, and teaches at Athabasca University

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Thanks to Cormorant Books and Michael Lithgow for sharing this collection with us. Who We Thought We Were As We Fell is available
here on All Lit Up. For more Poetry in Motion, click here