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

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