GOLD IN THE SHADOW: Twenty-Two Ghazals and a Cento for Phyllis Webb

A LETTER FROM CATHY FORD, poet and fiction writer, publisher, editor, and teacher — on GOLD IN THE SHADOW
[photo of Cathy by Dwain Ruckle]

Without going too far into the places where many – myself, certainly – have honed our ideas about poetics, and books of poetry, and the various véhicules of the poetic voice, may I say this is the most beautiful book I have yet held in my hands. You may know, since we have shared a marvellous publisher, and much west coast sensibility through the years, that I have certainly seen and read some truly glorious books already. Including those so special due to their sheer simplicity in serving the poems, their margins, type, illustrations, their endsheets, their care and contribution to poetry, all attentiveness, especially poetry by Canadian women. So, by this I mean, your new book so perfectly – and honourably – suits what it is, what is contains, what it’s “about”, and how all of those things are valued, even unto the intent of the project itself. The cover, the lay of the tamarind flyleaves against the black, the extraordinary information and ideas black pages facing the individual poems, all startle and delight the eye, heart. Having worked on many publishing projects, as a poet, editor, designer, and even publisher, I cannot say enough about how stunningly clear as a fully realized artwork this book is.

The cadence or dance of the voice in these poems is sure, and with phosphorescent clarity, yes, rather like a tango, or old-fashioned waltz – respectful, mature, perfectly choreographically stylized, but made new with each line, each choice of vocabulary.

This I love, having tired so long ago, it seems, of the imitative, the technical without heart, the fashionably deconstructed, the repetition of the tired, the accessible that actually smacks of deadly elitist constructs, the intellectual false equivalencies that forget music and form, as if none of all these things matter, if put forth singularly, any one without any other.

I am so grateful to have, in one book, your multiple gifts, your particularizing each image and thought, but togethering, your positive, transliterative approach through an empathically gazelle kind of vision, in ghazals, no less.

I say too much, perhaps, about my highly evolved taste, and sorrowfully critical eye. This book has freshened my point of view already, and doubtless will improve it more as I return to these works of true art. Here I mean true in the worthy, navigational sense, as well as the honesty, integrity, humility of the voice.

How fine this book is, and how it will stand, for me, and none of what I mean to say is about my personal sense of envisioning, or “real” work, is this. This book resonates for me, now, right now, as much as Phyllis Webb’s “Naked Poems”, as much as that very connection hits like thunder and lightning in the wild winds we have had the last few days, the gusts
of sea air that blow against the windows, into the house, over the desk, at the mind. I feel rather like a celebrant who has arrived just in time to the ceremony, to see and hear a bedazzled, luminous, fully blossomed collected work of poetry, which provokes thought, sings music, sends history a message. The witnessing daybook method you have written and spoken about explains the immediacy of the experience, its power, and its ability to transform. The gaze of the poet, artist, writer, photographer – all conjoining, and if straying from the formalities, integrates and celebrates everything known so far, about the work of two women artists, the meditative weaving together of works and lives and impassioned lifework
here, yes, “Gold In The Shadow”, and humbling, challenging, reflective, reflective.

Thank you for imagining this amazing book and pursuing every avenue necessary to bring it through the dark, and the light.
I am all gratefulness.

Respectfully, Cathy Ford

It all begins with the colour red…


Diana in Toronto, 1977

Written as a mini-autobiography for Susan Musgrave’s “Imaginary Gardens” writing workshop, Nanoose Bay, August 17-20 2017 

A sky I had never seen, a version of red in fact that does not fit into the spectrum of colour visible to the human eye. Far from cinnabar’s vermilion that appears on a clear evening at sunset on the western shore of a nameless beach, so very bright but soothing as a shawl worn by the woman with no worries or regrets, after a long meandering summer day. Continue reading “It all begins with the colour red…”



My Allium photographs, titled “Family Constellations”, are intended as a linked set and counterpoint to prairie realism. The ornamental Allium appeared in our garden this spring and became a representation for my family tree; photographed at varied stages of bloom and decline, in alternating light and shadow, sometimes mingling with stars and blue skies, shape shifting as my great-grandfather drifted in and out of my research and dreams.




“The music of steel came with ease and regularity in the life of the railways. You could hear it from miles away. You could see the puffs of smoke that accompanied the music. It happened at every crossing, at every bend in the road, at the approach of every town and hamlet along the way… Trains talk. The sweet music of the train whistle was surely a sign of the deep bond that existed between farm folk and train crews all over the west,” wrote my father, in his book about life on the Canadian Prairies, ‘Where Did You Come From?’ The railway was what linked families and farms and provided employment for many pioneers. It was an integral part of growing up in isolated prairie communities.


The Fulni-O Indians of the Pernambuco

The Fulni-O Indians of the Pernambuco, Northeastern Brazil

The Fulni-O Indians are only modestly known within and outside of Brazil. Prior to the European invasion, they were numbered in the hundreds of thousands and lived in the lush coastal lands near Recife. Those that survived fled several hundred miles to a semi-arid, drought-prone land. They now number about 6,000 and have lived on their current “reserve” of land for more than 500 years. Their name, Fulni-O means “people of the river and stones”.

Continue reading “The Fulni-O Indians of the Pernambuco”


THE BARDO OF DHARMATA, Five Days Following the Vernal Equinox, 2011


The Bardo of Dharmata is a storybook image, something that might fall out of a book years after the shutter was released. It was my wish to capture the timelessness and serendipity of love which took place just past the Equinox in 2011.  The formations in nature and rock speak of a wisdom that we all possess but frequently forget.  The print mirrors yin and yang, earth and water, masculine and feminine, light and shadow, flowing inward and outward, taking a path beyond the physical.

Continue reading “THE BARDO OF DHARMATA”