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Changelings: the haunted, a dance with the sacred.

Byline: Reprint from Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: Changelings

Author: Cassy Welburn

Publisher: Frontenac House

Date of Publication: 2015

Pages: 80

“it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague.
Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.”
- from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Changelings writes into all the dark spaces of truth and Goth, brilliant haunted fairytales in New Age Renaissance poetry. This is the first book of poetry by Calgary, Alberta Poet Cassy Welburn. Her work has been published in anthologies, literary journals across Canada and the U.K. and has been featured on CBC radio.

This Poet writes original experiential poetry in the oevre of the wise child, as if through a looking glass, a certain cloud that envelopes in childhood memories, life in an Old Agricultural Community. Singular, often tragic events are written about, that disturbing bright page that stands out in a string of the ordinary, sleepy rural everydays. Psychological truisms are illustrated in dark images, a cloak of spellbinding Goth fairytales and mythos, it is a world caught inside an archaic violent rural archetype yet lives in its fresh telling with occasional glimpses of redemption, glimpses of love. This poetry is a horrific truthtelling saved through the Poet's dance with the sacred. “The more things change, the more things stay the same; The more things stay the same, the more things change.”

A Kindness of Bees

I am running in the stubble
of a grain field
towards my father’s voice,
skirt floating like a flower-bed.

I am running to the combine
stopped on the hill,
my father shouting
a jar of lemonade in my arms,
skirt flapping time.

I am running with the cold jar
of lemonade sloshing against my skin—
and step into a bees' nest, uncover
the sting of the earth, like the smack
of a belt, my skirt flying.

I feel the slam of my father's voice
against my name, the bees on my skin,
running with sweat,
I'm yelling, my knees pounding—
I am losing—
that is the swarm of me in the air,
the cold sound of my voice
sloshing against time.

The combine is parked, lemonade
is running down my legs, spilling
into the ground, the grain, as my father
comes towards me. There is nothing
in his hand. Here is another secret
I've unearthed —
the storm in his face can be traded away.
He says my name, the bees in my hair

The title reminds me of a children’s book with a similar name, The Changeling by Maurice Sendak, a real baby is replaced with a blue ice baby, a haunting. The Prologue begins with a poetic prose story of a brain damaged child/brother, Joe, who is sent away to an institution when he is a young child. One of the main themes, is the reconciliation of his loss to the Poet and to the family, how the empty space, the sorrow of missing, is filled by conjecture in mythos. Other themes include family, children, birth, the violence of accidents, farming community stories, patients in hospitals, stories of teachers, faith healers/Old Time religion, weddings, death. The poetry is vivid, paints violence, a juxtaposition of sharp images with the light, pulled into the place of the sacred, a place of mythology, by the Poet.


At the bridge
the horse balks,
ears back, eyes rolling white,
the old man slides down
from bare back
with a single rope
attached to the metal ring
in the halter
now tight across the stubborn nose.

Boots sucking mud, the man
steps onto the bridge
pulls the rope taut,
white fibre muddy
hands slip
burned raw in a moment.
Mouth wiped black,
he lashes out with all he’s got
a kick up into the chest,
useless rubber bent into toe
Christ! Then
a fist pounding that nose.

The horse rears, its
neigh a shrill whistle,
ducks lift from the river as one.
They are held there,
in the profane embrace
of spring rain.

Man and horse
mud and bridge”

As if acknowledging the violent undertoad of existence, the hidden violence that usually goes unspoken, unwritten, is put forth front and center; the modern world in memory with classical archetypes. There is a running theme, an undercurrent for peace in the post-apocalypse village, as if highlighting the darkness, naming the violence, brings hope for peace. This poetry is considered, every word carefully placed, pared in, yet not minimalist, occasionally as poetic prose. Ms. Welburn is well read quoting some of the greats, quotes and writings, including Anna Akhmatova, William Butler Yeats, Walt Whitman, David Bowie, Mary Oliver, Birago Diop, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Images are from nature and rural settings with occasional allusions to the Bible, Ancient Crete and Ancient Greek mythology. Interestingly, one of the poems, “The Twa Sisters” is based on or borrowed from a book of English ballads from the 13th century by Francis Child. A dark tome in old English during the times of the plague, the story of 2 sisters performing funeral rites for their father by spreading his ashes in his favourite place and one of the sisters meets with an accident.

A very strong first book from this Poet, I look for more poetry from Cassy Welburn. Writing into the night, into the dark . . . a brilliant dirge of the Old World Village dressed in Goth and New Age Renaissance sensibilities, a fantastical read. Changelings by Cassy Welburn.

Genre: Poetry, New Age, Women's Literature

Available @ Amazon Canada.

Available @ Amazon United States.

Available @ Amazon United Kingdom.

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