There are parables/that shouldn’t be told/ because there is no way/to marginalize their truth
– Jan Wood*
Saskatchewan poet Jan Wood leaves me speechless. She offers me a favourite excerpt from her debut book Love is Not Anonymous (Thistledown Press, 2015) and I thirst for more. One sip from the chalice is not enough.
I could fill a whole notebook with her thought-provoking words. In one poem she pens: “On Sundays a week’s supply of holy/melts on her tongue like a snowflake”. In another, “they stab my eyes with sequins”. In her poem “Meditation”, she writes “silence/unzips/the back of truth/with the hands/of a can’t-say-no-to-lover”.
I pause to reflect.
According to a description on the back cover, Wood’s book “is a spiritual journey into the many realms of love, a meditation on finding meaning and order in relationships and faith.”
If you think you know all there is about love, think again! Her poems skip the common garden variety where roses turn red and rhyming poems prevail. Instead, her work digs deep into real women’s lives as Wood skirts along controversial fences and flirts with love’s rocky edges. Even the famous Garden of Eden is marred by “half-eaten apples” in a “compost bin”.
Her 64-page (55-poem) free verse pilgrimage exposes the grit-thorn-bruises. As the poem “Leaving Eden” states: “there is more to love than a fairy tale”. However, there is also hope and Wood’s presentation is well-balanced and divided equally into four sections: Particles that Matter, Secrets and Silences, Defying Gravity, and The Colour of Light.
Her writing style is down-to-earth, yet intellectually stimulating. It is confrontational but also peaceful.
In a Verse Afire review**, Canadian poet April Bulmer wrote: “Wood’s focus on women is fresh, though mythological and allusive: “the full moon/cradled her and rocked/the hope in her pelvic hammock/to an ancient lullaby.” And then: “I am a beautiful mansion/with many rooms for rent.””
Not everyone will recognize the biblical parables. Some may not appreciate the scientific inquiry. Yet, Wood’s strength increases in her exploration for truth. Definitely, an emerging poet to watch!
A few weeks ago, I asked Wood about her writing process. Below is her response:
Congratulations Jan on your first book Love is Not Anonymous published as part of the Thistledown Press 12th New Leaf Editions Series. How would you describe your book in a few sentences?
The poems are predominantly feminine and document a life journey. They examine the allusions and illusions while seeking proof of the existence of love and faith and ironically find a wholeness in their fracturing.
Please explain why there is a different font for some of the poems in the collection?
I refer to these poems as my god-talks. They are all in first person singular and are reference points for some of the poems that follow or precede them. They usually originate as questions that I am either afraid to ask or feel very provoked about. They often are the roots of much writing as I try to untangle the threads of my faith and female viewpoint in each issue.
How does your work differ from others in the same genre?
The collection has a spiritual nature and carries an interactive faith throughout that is genuine and searching rather than judgmental.
What inspires you? Who are your mentors?
Water always inspires me. I love it running wild and free in the lakes and rivers, in a warm bubble bath and in a tall cool glass. Its sound and energy, even in storms, is inviting and intoxicating to me.
Some of my favourite poets at the moment are: Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, Malcolm Guite, and Jan Zwicki.
Describe your writing process.
I write best in the morning and usually hand write everything in a journal for the first draft. The next step is a transferal to the computer where I edit and paste and cut and edit and edit again. I often store poems for a long time and then revisit them and edit again. I save all these draft copies and some of them become poems that speak in a different voice or take a different slant on the same theme. I find some poems fight me and I have to dissect them many times. When I am having difficulty with a poem it is invaluable to have someone in one of my poetry groups critique it or make suggestions.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a true account of my grandfather’s ice fishing camp on a Northern lake that tragically burned leaving its occupants injured. A First Nation’s dog sled and team rescued the men and transported them to an outpost hospital saving one of their lives. This has been an interesting project because I have sat with the Cree families that recall the event. Their oral stories differ with each retelling depending on audience and narrator and I am an invited participant only because this story is also about my people. There is both a beauty and a frustration in the oral method of preserving history. I initially approached it in search of facts about the heroes, seeking times and dates and names. After many gatherings I am not much wiser in this department however, I have come to a much deeper understanding of the conditions and hardships faced by my grandfather and the people in the spring of 1923 and the sacrifice of giving aide when weakening your own life saving resources.
What are your future plans?
My husband and I are in the process of building a home along the river. We have visions of creating an Inspiration Centre, a quiet space close to nature for relaxing and refueling where individuals and groups striving to keep a spiritual element in their art forms can come and exchange ideas or have time for introspection.
Before you leave, please share another favourite excerpt from your book.
By Jan Wood
somewhere inside her
what she is not
yet/or might never be
glistens under water
and does to her shoreline
what prophecy does
in jagged letters
to the anointed
Thanks Jan for the interview. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Jan Wood continues to pursue her passion for writing and words by teaching and leading workshops. Her home in the Northern Saskatchewan boreal forest provides seasonal inspirations and space to ponder the political and emotional issues that provoke her responses.
Additional information about Wood can be found on the Thistledown Press website.
To purchase a copy of Jan Wood’s Love is Not Anonymous, please send a cheque for $16.00 (includes postage and tax) to: Out of Ink, Box 298; Big River, Saskatchewan, S0J 0E0
*from the poem “Fundamental States of Matter” published in the book Love is Not Anonymous (Thistledown Press, New Leaf Series, 2015) page 37. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Jan Wood
**The full book review by April Bulmer appears in Verse Afire, A Tri-Annual Publication of The Ontario Poetry Society, Jan. to Apr. 2016 issue.
***“Prophecy” originally published in the book Love is Not Anonymous (Thistledown Press, New Leaf Series, 2015) page 23. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Jan Wood
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