How the Light is Spent is a book of poems by Gail Sidonie Sobat, the
stories of a world traveler, a Canadian, the stories of home, not home. She is
the daughter of a first generation Ukrainian mother and Serbian father, born in
Calgary, Alberta. She is an award winning author, mostly for children’s fiction
and this is her second book of poetry.
The book is divided into 3 sections, Badlands, Sailing to Byzantium and How the Light is Spent. The first part, Badlands centers on the experiences of a bride in W.W. II, as if inspired by the memories of her mother. The second part, Sailing to Byzantium is inspired by life in a foreign country, perhaps Istanbul. The third part, How the Light is Spent is about time, ruminations on the passage of time. The first book is set in the Depression years and the time of W.W. II, the beginning in the voice of a young adult girl, through the stories of an older woman, perhaps her mother. It is a fascinating telling of rural life, poverty and survival, a young girl, her mother dies, her father remarries a woman with 5 children, he kicks her out at 15 years old, she finds a job in a dress shop. She marries her lover, the war is in the background, the husband dies in the war, the girl as old woman as time passes. The poem “red sweater” is riveting, the war widow goes to the Army and Navy to purchase a toaster and “then I spy it/red delicious candy apple/my favourite colour” instead she purchases the red sweater “who needs toast/when you’ve got a bright red sweater.” Another theme in the background is the coal mines and the coal miner, “coal is a thick vein through this valley” “you can smell the coal dust” and “you wash your father’s back/careful to avoid the mole/that disgusts you”, the reality of life in a small town centered in the mining industry. The style is simple and direct as if mouthing themes too old for a young girl’s heart. A book of poetry rooted in rural Canada, the profound shines in the truth telling of the everyday. The entire work has barely any capitalization and absolutely no punctuation as if in protest at the injustices of a broken world. Also, there is an activist bent to the work,”black as the owner’s hearts/the same who send men for pennies/down into ill-lit tombs” about the mine owners and writing about losses “ . . . what will I put in place of my heart/cut out by your albatross beak”; notes of protest “one click of key in lock/admits me to the stale air/of missing” and “I’m still here and still raging/know more than I did yesterday”, the poetry is the dance.
The second book Sailing to Byzantium is set in a foreign place, perhaps Istanbul, it is the colour and dance of life in distant places. “skinny street cats/tortoise, black, calico/thread between our legs”. And the quiet in “that life is precious and rich/as the dark thick coffee/in the demitasse.”
The third book, How the Light is Spent is a story about the passage of time. “the sky still is streaked with blue hope/though the wind raises a cruel hand to the cheek/a heart tosses in the tempest like the spruce limbs/desire flutters to the ground with the other dead leaves.” A quiet rendition of life, “birdfeeder needs filling/walks shoveling/doorsteps sweeping/throughout a colourless month/signifying death” somewhat repetitive almost pendantic as if weaving the day out of nothing. There are daily urban/rural images of the modern world “morning will break/like the yellow yolk of a soft boiled egg”. The bones of truthtelling, the Poet as outlander, inside; a deep anger with a subtle humour, a celebration of dance and survival. Upon the occasion of stories in poetry, a beautiful read on a Summer afternoon.
Available @ Amazon Canada. www.amazon.ca.
Available @ Amazon United States. www.amazon.com.
Available @ Amazon United Kingdom. www.amazon.co.uk.
and Wintergreen Studios Press. www.wintergreenstudios.com.
Genre: Poetry, Women's Literature