Mobility of Light
The Poetry of Nicole Brossard
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$18.95 Paper, 144 pp.
“On strands of light I am hanging poetry like garlands.”
These first words of poetry from Nicole Brossard anticipate the vast body of work she has published in the last four decades. The poems in Mobility of Light were chosen by Louise H. Forsyth to elicit a sense of these whirling garlands and convey the intense energy—physical, creative, spiritual, erotic, imaginative, playful, ethical, and political—that has carried Brossard to a uniquely significant vision of the human spirit.
Poems are presented in French and English on facing pages, underscoring the density of meaning in each word and line and highlighting the unusual rhythms in Brossard’s originals and the extraordinary sonorities with which they beat. Some of the translations in this volume have been previously published, while others are new. In her afterword, Brossard talks about travelling back in time to discover how our most vivid sensations, emotions, and thoughts are nourished and transformed by our enigmatic relation to language.
About Louise H. Forsyth, and Nicole Brossard
Louise H. Forsyth was the chair of the French department at the University of Western Ontario, dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Saskatchewan, and president of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Her academic specializations are contemporary Quebec women poets and playwrights, and she has recently edited Nicole Brossard: Essays on Her Works and Anthology of Québec Women’s Plays in English Translation, Vol. I (1966—1986) and Vol. II (1987—2003).
Nicole Brossard published her first collection of poetry in 1965. The national and international influence of her thirty collections of poetry, ten novels, four book-length essays, and numerous theoretical articles has been enormous. Her latest work in translation, Notebook of Roses and Civilization, was shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize.
“As American poet Anne Waldman usefully asks, ‘And what to make of [poetry]? “Do” with it? “Do” anything? Is it part of the poet’s vow to perpetually catch, distill, refine, re-imagine where one walks, what one notices?’ I can’t answer for all poets here. As a teacher, however, I can say that yes, it is our vow as instructors to show students how poetry perpetually catches, distills, refines, and re-imagines our selves and our worlds. I agree with Neil Besner, general editor of Wilfrid Laurier Press, that what we ‘do’ with poetry starts with our students. We need to attend more carefully to what poetry we teach as well as how we teach it. I thus applaud the efforts of the Laurier Poetry Series, which, with the hopes of creating and sustaining ‘the larger readership that contemporary Canadian poetry so richly deserves,’ has been publishing ‘useful, engaging, and comprehensive introductions’ to the life’s work of major Canadian poets. Each of these volumes includes 35 poems selected and introduced by a critic, followed by an afterword by the poet. The volumes are intended, Besner argues, to make the connections between the life and the work more accessible to a ‘general’ reader (‘Foreword’).
“Besner’s eloquent, timely, and practical arguments remind me of Lyn Hejinian’s belief that our poetic revolutions will always be ‘local, particular, and temporary,’ but are nonetheless undiminished. Let us consider what poetry is doing in the world. Let us consider how Laurier’s texts differ, as Besner argues in their intent, from the conventional anthology and whether they in fact demonstrate the relevance of poetry to a life. Let us consider, for example, how in the Laurier Poetry Series’ most recent collections, Mobility of Light: The Poetry of Nicole Brossard and Fierce Departures: The Poetry of Dionne Brand, we might understand what it means to live. Let us think about how, through poetry, we can re-imagine who we are as well as the world we walk through.”
— Emily Carr, ARC Poetry Magazine
“Wilfrid Laurier University Press continues its stellar Laurier Poetry Series with this much anticipated volume. They could not have picked a better person than Louise H. Forsyth as its author, Forsyth having edited the definitive work on Brossard, Essays on her Work (Guernica Editions, 2005).... Forsyth has done an amazing job. One of the pleasures of this collection is to see the original French alongside the English translation.... Forsyth has been extremely judicious in her selection of poems in Mobility of Light. They capture all the characteristics for which Brossard has become known. This is an excellent representative sample of fifty years of Brossarda daunting task rendered exquisitely.”
— John Herbert Cunningham, Prairie Fire
“The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming.”
— Paul Milton, Canadian Literature