The blooming of Rachel
October 14th, 2015
Rachel Rose was appointed Poet Laureate of Vancouver for 2014-2017 on the strength of her relatively small but distinguished output that has been accorded numerous awards and critical acclaim.
Now she has received her second Pushcart Prize for a poem in her fourth collection, Marry & Burn (2015). The winning poem ‘White Lilies’ appears in a re-titled version with Marry & Burn as ‘Living on Islands I’. [See below]
Awarded since 1976 from the U.S., a Pushcart Prize honours the best “poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot” published by small presses over a preceding year.
Described as “a searing collection of poems on the subjects of love, loss and addiction,” Marry & Burn goes beyond intimate struggles to subjects that include the unexpected heartache of losing an entire hive to the global bee epidemic and the reconciliation process to heal the wounds of racism for Canada’s First Nations constituencies.
Easily one of the most important poets to emerge in B.C. in the early 21st century, Rachel Rose has also won the Pat Lowther Award and the Audre Lorde Award for her third collection, Song & Spectacle (2012). Rose was also the librettist for an opera about forbidden love and fundamentalism, When the Sun Comes Out. It premiered in Vancouver in 2013 and was remounted in Toronto in 2014. A dual Canadian/American citizen, Rachel Rose was born in Vancouver in 1970. She has returned to Vancouver with her family after many years in Seattle, Montreal, and Japan.
Living on Islands I (formerly titled “White Lilies”)
It is hard for the dying to leave us.
We make it hard for them. So they wait
for us to step outside before they cut
the cord. So the baby
in the cabin, lungs full of staph
who had been fighting the infection
for long nights and days
waited until his mother went out
to chop firewood before he sighed
and stilled. How can I forget her
running across the wet pasture
with his body in her arms
as though my mother were a witch
who could bring back the dead?
I picked the thick white lilies from our garden
for his grave but was not permitted to the place
where the mourners gathered. Instead I waited
in the silent house, unfolded
the image of his mother
with her hair wild as the wind
and the weight of him in her arms
a stone, a feather, a sunflower
as my mother rose to meet her
or what I have imagined, the map of memory
creased and softened
like a star repeating its trajectory into the sea
the girl who could never forget
and the father who did not yet know
coming up the gravel driveway
with a shovel over his shoulder
whistling, kicking the mud off his boots
before he opened the door.
OTHER AWARDS: Best American Poetry 2001, A.M. Klein 2000 Award for Poetry, Finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award and the Grand Prix du Livre de Montreal. Winner of the 1997 Bronwen Wallace Award for Fiction and the 1993 Peterson Memorial Prize for Poetry.
Giving My Body to Science (McGill/Queen’s University Press, 1999)
Notes on Arrival and Departure (McClelland & Stewart, 2005)
Song and Spectacle (Harbour, 2012) $18.95 978-1-55017-585-1
Marry & Burn (Harbour 2015) $18.95 978-1-55017-718-3