Dorothy Livesay: The Self-Completing Tree

October 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

The Self-Completing Tree, a collection of poems by Dorothy Livesay caught my eye this morning. Its green and white spine seemed brighter than normal today, and the book was calling to be pulled from the shelf.

The Self-Completing Tree is an old friend, discovered years ago in a Canadian literature class in university. I loved it then, as I do today. Livesay’s poems have passion and spark – politics and feminism, life and death and love are her frequent subjects. Her work is nuanced, but also easy to read: Livesay wrote poems for real people, not just other poets and academics, and she lived a fascinating life well worth knowing: student, social worker, mother, grandmother, poet, seer of tumultuous times, lover of men, women, children, music, art, pear trees, geraniums. She died in Victoria, BC in 1996.

Livesay has a way of making stillness seem whole and full of being. Plants leaning on windowsills looking for the light can be found in the quiet corners of this book. Poems like this are the ones I appreciated most when I stepped back into Livesay’s words today:

Bartok and the Geranium

She lifts her green umbrellas
Toward the pane
Seeking her fill of sunlight
Or of rain;
Whatever falls
She has no commentary
Accepts, extends,
Blows out her fubelows,
Her bustling boughs;

And all the while he whirls
Explodes in space,
Never content with this small room:
Not even can he be
Confined to the sky
But must speed high and higher still
From galaxy to galaxy,
Wrench from the stars their momentary notes
Steal music from the moon.

She’s daylight
He is dark
She’s heaven-held breath
He storms and cackles
Spits with hell’s own spark.

Yet in this room, this moment now
These together breathe and be:
She, the essence of serenity,
He in a mad intensity
Soars beyond sight
Then hurls, lost Lucifer
From heaven’s height.

And when he’s done, he’s out:
She leans a lip against the glass
And preens herself in light.


Entry filed under: Art, Reading, Writing. Tags: , , , .

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