John Steffler Poetry Reading
Join us for a poetry break – courtesy of a reading by John Steffler, from his 2019 book Forty-One Pages: On Poetry, Language, and Wilderness.
I have brought my tray of tea to the screenhouse—
damp June morning almost too dark to read.
Down the small slope there’s the garden’s unfinished
cedar fence I was working on yesterday. Gateway
posts at odd heights. The dampness darkens another
degree down, then down again, air blurred with wet
wood settling its weight, slackening like a slowly
opening palm showing a small pearl, a faint ping
like a fallen tree seed on the tin roof, a stretching
silence and another soft ping the same here-not-here
fulcrummed presence as the black and yellow
garter snake I found resting on the handsaw’s flat blade
last evening when I was gathering the tools. Maybe
enjoying the sun-heated metal. Its straight-mouthed
utterly unfake face. White plated lips and obsidian
bead eyes. So real it could not be distinguished
from under the snake, leaving it taut and curled
on the straw bale. Cold living flame. It only
looked at me, flickering its tongue. I too was invisible.
In this series of elegant and wide-ranging meditations on language, wilderness, poetry, and technocracy, Forty-One Pages takes us on a guided tour of one poet’s mental workshop. His focus is vividly personal, shaped by his interests and experience, and at the same time universal. What is it to be human? John Steffler is not afraid to be provocative, but he is also compassionately alert to moral, political, and cultural complexity. This is a book that will convince you that poetry can indeed make a great deal happen.
John Steffler is the author of six books of poetry, including Lookout, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. His novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright won the Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. From 2006 to 2008 he was Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada. John lives in Maberly, Ontario.