My introduction to Gillian Sze’s work feels analogous to winning the state lottery— at a bookshelf, I plucked a book at random and found that I could not stop reading until the very end. While that moment was one of happy accidents, Sze’s poetry is certainly not. She create images which reach beyond themselves, finding new ways to surprise and delight as they unravel. They pull the reader into a world, a story, a body, a voice, a persona, a mask— and they keep you there long after you have put them down. I read her poems out loud and wonder— where is this tiny world going? What will I lose in getting there?
Sound No 2
Cinema could be as intelligent and could transport as much message and image and idea as it can with sound.
— Werner Schroeter
There are things I want to show you, like the empty pause that encircles desire. Or how Klimt knew that a woman bends her neck that far for a kiss only if she really wants it. I want to show you how quiet it gets when you’re in the company of someone who no longer loves you. I want to remind you of that unseasonable memory when I bloomed the reddest flowers. Who knew an instant could be so endless and vacant. I want to point out the stony space that the dead take up, that an epitaph is always too short, and that death’s impetuous timing is measured by all the books that will never be read. But more than anything, I want to show you something smaller: how the smell of winter at night has the same crisp scent as the sound of the word biscuit, the touch of velum in your mouth.
The good colours of autumn
startle and glister.
A buzzing warmth.
The best colours are scant in the late month,
lasting one brief hour
and then are dulled by two’s shadow.
There is obedience for shadows:
where cars are no longer parked
leaves line the space. A curb fringed by phantoms.
A jogger in a matching jumpsuit
holds a bouquet of flowers
and runs between lanes,
while a trail of leaves weaved by his feet
scatter and die, scatter and die,
eventually sticking to the pavement.
You weigh nothing,
appearing in the morning
like leaves fallen on the trunk of a car;
you weigh nothing
and yet I have to sweep you,
my unfailing morning valet.
Sometimes one needs to step
onto a stranger’s lawn
to see the best angles of the 4:25 sun.
You seize me mid-air (or maybe I have let you in)
like a leaf whipped into a dusty bag.
Such chance. Such accuracy of wind.
Contact Sheet for L’Apres-Midi, 1977
after Ian Wallace
They say that when you are having trouble falling asleep,
you are actually awake in somebody else’s dream.
I know it is you who put the rain in your reverie,
to lure me into this drizzle
where I clean off the stale evergreens,
drop frost from my eyes down
to where your strand of pebbles
spell out summer,
GILLIAN SZE is the author of five poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014) and Redrafting Winter (BuschekBooks, 2015), both of which were finalists for the QWF A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Her work has received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 3Macs carte blanche Prize. She studied creative writing and English literature and has a Ph.D. in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal.