Folding the Wilderness Within
by Joan Shillington
Folding the Wilderness Within by Joan Shillington is a collection of poems of intimacy, both gentle and brutal, that celebrate the essential force of family. From a child’s hand holding cards “as if they were webbed” to Machu Picchu where stones “fit so tight not even a hair can pass,” the author weaves reality and imagination, language and form together to create a poetic story.
|Dimensions||9 × 6 × .25 in|
A Calgary poet, Joan’s poems have been published in Grain Magazine, The Fiddlehead, FreeFall, Room, CV2, The Antigonish Review and numerous anthologies. Her first collection of poetry, Revolutions, (Leaf Press 2008) is about Tsar Nicholas II, his family and their demise. Folding the Wilderness Within (Frontenac House 2014) ‘mines the threshold of ordinary to show the gleaming moments in all our small lives’ and was short-listed for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Prize, 2015.
Joan has worked as Poetry Editor, written reviews and conducted interviews with FreeFall. She has been a guest poet at the Calgary Public Library Grand Opening and Canada Day celebration. There is a loft, desk and rocking chair overlooking the Rocky Mountains where her husband, children, grandchildren and friends come to sip tea and visit.
Joan Shillington’s new collection mines “this threshold of ordinary” to show the gleaming moments in all our small lives. Anchored in the detritus of daily routine, Joan knows “each word and their order”, revealing memories as archetypal as a hand of cards. Her adolescent narrator is unforgettable, “flamed one hundred and fifty proof in metal spoons, / sliced elk membrane from out-of-season carcasses, / fur falling wild …” For Shillington, the dead “are just people who / are very quiet.” But Shillington gives the quiet ones space to roar. Her poems spill over with the full throttle details of lives thoroughly lived. This book illuminates, offering us moments of grace in our flawed world.
Welcome. You’re in for a treat, a second book from a poet fully committed to the art. I’d say a perfect second book because I can hear, in the Tsar-like footsteps of the poet’s father in all his daring, bare face turned to the wind, the echoes of history’s grasp on Joan’s first poems. And then hear the change in the insights that arise from a story but flash free of it to stand outside of any particular narrative in order to fit with many. Consider, “I dozed beside sleep,” or, of a butterfly on her arm, “Now this little epistle pleats its bright wings slowly,” or, of anywhere: “Here, we are all strangers, separated by death pains and dusty roads, quiet about the wrongs in our lives.” These are poems filled with the double-pleasure of poetic truth: the secrets are disclosed, but the mystery remains.