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  • Whetstone
  • Written by Lorna Crozier
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  • Written by Lorna Crozier
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Written by Lorna CrozierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lorna Crozier


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: April 01, 2014
Pages: 88 | ISBN: 978-1-55199-655-4
Published by : McClelland & Stewart McClelland & Stewart
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National-award-winning poet Lorna Crozier’s new collection of poems are peopled by the seasons and their elements, her beloved prairies, sorrow, joy, and the dead. Central to their themes are revisitations of family and marriage, and the land-death that is drought. Universal, deeply moving, crowded with breathtaking imagery, these are darkly resonant poems of middle age: alert to the beauty in loss, cherishing the humanity that is whetted on that stone. This is Lorna Crozier, one of Canada’s most highly celebrated poets, at the top of her form.



Walking into wind, I lean into my mother's muskrat coat;
around the cuffs her wristbones have worn away the fur.

If we stood still we'd disappear. There's no up or down,
no houses with their windows lit. The only noise is wind

and what's inside us. When we get home my father
will be there or not. No one ever looks for us.

I could lie down and stay right here where snow is all
that happens, and silence isn't loneliness just cold

not talking. My mother tugs at me and won't let go.
Then stops to find her bearings. In our hoods of stars

we don't know if anyone will understand
the tongue we speak, so far we are from home.

A Word About the Poem By Lorna Crozier
Blizzards, at least the kind we have on the prairies, can be terrifying events, especially if you are caught in one on the highway, but I love walking in them. Everything else gets shut out. You can see almost nothing in front of you or on either side, just a shifting white that falls and falls until the hood of your jacket, your shoulders, even your eyebrows and lashes are feathered with snow. There is no more enclosed, magical space than what a blizzard can take you into.

I was thinking about my mother, and how our relationships with our mothers are the most primal relationships we have. We started out alone with our mothers, in the womb, and we got to know them inside them, internally. We grew our bones and our hearts inside our mothers. I was thinking of how that kind of intense closeness keeps going through your life, and I thought of the metaphoric surround of a blizzard.

When my mother and I walked home in a blizzard when I was a child, we were the only two people in the whole world. It was as if we had fallen into one of those glass snow globes, and all we had was each other, the snow, time collapsing on itself, and the private silent language of mother and child making their way back home.

 How the Poem Works By Jan Zwicky
Things to notice about the poem:

1. The first line, the first three words: the rhythm is trochaic: Walking into wind. The emphasis, combined with the alliteration on the smooth consonant “w,” enacts the steady effortful push of trying to make headway. (The rest of the lines are predominantly iambic.)

2. The stanza break after the fourth line: the grammar gives the line great internal unity - we could put a full stop after "wind" and the sentence would make sense. So, when instead of a full stop we get the lift into emptiness of an unpunctuated stanza break, the effect is of momentary vertigo - which is then articulated in the opening words of the third stanza: there are only two sources of noise in this universe, the exterior wind and the interior clamour. Clamour about what? - And the moment we ask this question, the father appears. In the sixth line, immediately following, the phrase "will be there or not" is one of the least heavily accented in the poem, the closest to prose we get. Here is the hard truth, spoken as plainly as possible: the father is unpredictable, and he doesn't care. "No one ever looks for us."

3. Notice that the speaker never says she's in pain. She simply sets the observation of the interior clamour, of the fact that no one ever looks for her or her mother, beside the seduction of giving up, of lying down in the snow and silence and going no further. But the mother won't let her. And in accepting that gesture, the speaker acknowledges an alliance - that in the pain and confusion, the white-out of their domestic life, the mother and child are known to one another. They don't speak, they just keep going - and this one gesture, of keeping going, is tantamount to a world of communication, the only thing that can be said.
Lorna Crozier|Author Q&A|Author Desktop

About Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier - Whetstone

Photo © Don Hall

LORNA CROZIER is the award-winning author of fifteen previous books of poetry, most recently Small Mechanics, The Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems, and Whetstone. She is also the author of The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things and the memoir Small Beneath the Sky. She is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria and an Officer of the Order of Canada, and she has received three honorary doctorates for her contributions to Canadian Literature. Born in Swift Current, she now lives in British Columbia.

Author Q&A

More about Whetstone
When we’re younger, we tend to separate the shadow from the light, as if we can draw a line and keep them apart. I used to think I could separate sorrow and grief and mourning and longing, and wrap it up and tuck it away. Now I know those things are with me always and they cast some shade on who I am and what I think I’ll be doing, on how I love and how I write. I have a long past now, and so I think the source for a lot of my creative work is dipping back into a longer darkness, and hopefully a richer one than what was there before.

When I look at my youth, and even at my early poetry, it’s more infused with the colour yellow –there’s a kind of brightness about it. I think and hope that’s still there, but I think the yellow has become more umber, more like an amber that’s been turned into a jewel, with dark flecks in it that are part of its beauty. Its marred now perhaps, and a little worn, but I think worn things can sometimes be more beautiful than new bright things.

When you’re younger, you think you’re going to find the answer to things. What I think I’m doing now – and what I think good poetry has always done – is attempting to pose the questions, and hopefully in a new and fresh way. Maybe the answers are even embedded in the well-asked question, the question that depends on imagery, anecdote, character, family memory, landscape, but it’s our task to keep those questions in the air.

On “Anonymity”
The poem was inspired by Carol Shields’s death. I was at a writers’ retreat when she died, and one of the monks came to the breakfast table and told the small group of writers who were there that he had heard on the radio that Carol had passed away. I got up from the table and went for a walk, and the first thought that came to me was, “Oh, now Carol will meet my dad.” Then I thought, what would that meeting be like? My dad was not a great conversationalist, and of course Carol was; you could not help but have a lively conversation with her. I started to imagine the two of them together in that place some people call Heaven, and I thought about Carol meeting my dad. And I wondered if he would introduce himself. Then I wondered if he was lost in Heaven, if he was as unknown in Heaven as he was when he was on earth. Thinking about him and Carol was what prompted this poem.

People have often asked what do you remember about someone who has been dead for fifteen years now. I remember the colour of my father’s eyes. I remember the beauty of his working man’s hands, the big knuckles and the long, elegant fingers, even though they were hands used to repair machines and not to play the piano. I remember the colour of his hair. I think I can almost get close to the smell of him. But I’ve lost his voice, that’s one of the things that has gone. I see him growing more shadowy around the edges, and maybe that’s why it’s so important to try to hang on to him in poems.

Author Q&A

What Whetstone tries to capture are those luminous moments that we sense on the edge of our days, those moments when we become fully attentive and engaged with the world: the snow, the grass called little quaking, a sudden gesture from a father, long dead. I’m looking at my life now through the lens of middle age, a time when everything seems to have an autumn glow about it, light low to the ground, all things passing. The inspiration for the poems is simply my coaxing out of silence what Gerard Manley Hopkins called “inscapes,” moments of intense seeing, hearing, touching, when the things around me hold me, too, in their eyes, when I see myself before my birth, the Lord of Light striding across the prairie sky, the dead gathering under bridges, about to cross to the other side.
–Lorna Crozier



“Breathtakingly down-to-earth and reassuringly lyrical, new poems by Lorna Crozier are always a reason for rejoicing.”
Globe and Mail

“[She has the] ability to create poems in which almost impossibly delicate, sharply focused imagery evokes emotional vastness.”
Vancouver Sun

“Crozier’s fans have come to expect graceful clarity, sly humour, a strong affinity for the animal world and a subversive feminist tilt to the mirror she holds up to human affairs. She continues to provide these things.…”
Books in Canada
Lorna Crozier

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Lorna Crozier - Whetstone

Photo © Don Hall

5/12/2015 Book launch, Munro's Books, 1108 Government St.
Victoria, BC
7:30 pm
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  • Whetstone by Lorna Crozier
  • March 15, 2005
  • Poetry
  • McClelland & Stewart
  • $12.95
  • 9780771024672

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