Register Thursday | February 9 | 2023

Truly Verse-atile

They're all poets, if you didn't know it

Anita Lahey, Asa Boxer, and Pierre Nepveu—contributors to the "Double Lives" issue of Maisonneuve—have not-so-secret double identities. When the journalism hats comes off, each is a poet. Below are excerpts of their recent work.


Anita Lahey— author of How To Be Friends With a Redhead— was winner of the Great Blue Heron Poetry Contest and the Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem. This Ottawa poet is the editor of Arc Poetry Magazine, and her journalistic work has appeared in numerous publications.

From “Cape Breton Relative”
Chapter XI
In Which a Teenage Boy Sings a Lament to Tourists at Louisbourg

His voice peers from behind curls, lit
before the crowd. His face white as the arch
of your foot, and as tender. The song
is popular, he says (with disappointment). He’ll
sing it the way it was made: with boiled tears, failure
of the tide receding. He shuts his eyes, you
disappear. He has not yet known
love, only these notes, the words that rest
upon them, gifts he opens in his throat. The song:
a farewell older than the boy. He summons a future
sorrow to his tongue, holds it there, breathing. It rises
over bowed heads, a dissolving caress, all the ones you have lost.

(from Out to Dry in Cape Breton, Signal Editions, Vehicule Press, 2006)

Asa Boxer is the true warrior bard. A Montreal poet and critic, and winner of a CBC Literary Award in 2005, the Good Soldier learned the meaning of sacrifice in the Israeli Defence Forces. He has published work in magazines such as enRoute, Poetry London, ARC, and Books in Canada. This piece was selected from his first book of poems, The Whim Wheel, which is forthcoming with Signal Editions.

Terror in Jerusalem

Terror lives in the cornerstones, and in the small
monuments around what seems like every bend.
Terror at the children murdered in their dawdling.

A small, cold slab of stone marks the morbid place
where young muscles squirmed a pace
like worms against the dust; and then,
like worms, fell flaccid and gave up.

A candle flickers by the stone; its heat throbs
like the heart that beat the blood to earth.
And the flame that tugs and flashes
on the wick, flashes and tugs on the collective brain.

These children are the grim cement of a nation,
the crumbling stonework, the shaky foundation.
Their bones are the hardware underlying the infrastructure;
they are the fodder, fuelling the slogans and campaigns.

The valley of Gehena is fertile;
centuries of infant sacrifices, and it burns green.
Now, the surrounding desert is thirsty.
And not an Abraham hesitates over his Isaac;

not a soul feels the angel’s restraining hand.
Instead, the radio keeps a finger on the pulse,
and we listen for its announcements and commands.

Three-time winner of the Governor General’s award, Montreal critic, essayist, poet and teacher, Pierre Nepveu, has also won the Québec-Paris Prize, the Prix Victor-Barbeau de l’Académie des letters du Québec, and the Canada-Swiss Prize. In 2005 he received the Prix Athanase-David, Quebec’s most prestigious literary award. Read his introduction to the never-before-translated diary of poet Gaston Miron here.  

Last Visit

Now I set out across a minefield,
space having taken all I owned, I’m starting over
from a point where every pebble may explode
beneath my shoe and the flowers blaze up
behind my body as I gasp for air,
although in this world I’ve never known
either flames or dragons or the fury of war
in these lands where the sky was always calm
above the farms and the old schoolhouses,
and the schoolmistress from Angels’ road
has long since packed her bags in which,
under the blouses and wrinkled slips,
slept a handful of notebooks filled with stars—
so why is there suddenly
this thrashing in the leaves,
this breath of fire along the woods
across from which an electric fence
defines the limits of the farmlands
while farther off the lost wild geese
settle softly on the empty runway?

(from Mirabel, translation by Judith Cowan, Signal Editions, Vehicule Press, 2006)