Monday, November 23, 2020

Sarah Klassen*

Sarah Klassen is a major Canadian poet whose poems rise reflectively and naturally from her life and fascinations. Her eighth poetry collection The Tree of Life (2020, Turnstone) continues the trajectory of her excellent 2012 collection Monstrance. Carla Funk has said, “Tuned to time―ancient, apocalyptic, and current, these poems sing of pilgrimage…”

Here you’ll find several poems that find Sarah Klassen in her native habitat ― the banks of the Red River in Winnipeg. “Once you’ve lived beside a river,” she says, “you’ll always want to rest your burning eyes / on water.” And so, we’re invited to do so with her as her experiences regularly resurface.
----------“Before sundown on a spring evening,
----------I leaned over the balcony railing. Below me
----------The river slithered north, a grey-green, turgid serpent.”
She’s on the lookout for, “six half-grown foxes…yelping, chasing, / wrestling on the grass like children unrestrained…” (“In Passing”).

Similarly, in “Ritual” she begins, “Holy week and three buffleheads on the cold river / practice the right of baptism.” A few days ago, she mentioned to me by e-mail, “These past few days I've been entertained by a family of playful otters on the river,” so I’m hopeful that they too will make it into a poem sometime soon.

Often, too, the stories and language of scripture appear ― Elijah, Hagar, Esther, Mary, and seven poems for the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Two sections of her reflection on the church in Ephesus, appears at Poems For Ephesians.


What song do we sing when the journey ends
and we find ourselves in another country
with our exhausted children, our pitiful possessions,
a wardrobe all wrong for the climate,
a language no one understands? Our names
are known to no one, our gestures inappropriate

in this culture. We are naked. Nervous.
The overwhelming welcome breaks our hearts.
Each smile a shocking surprise.
A minivan opens its obedient doors and we ride
like royalty to light-filled rooms, furnished for us.
We are told: This is your home.

If we knew the language
and had breath to speak it,
we would ask: Where is that river
at whose banks we may fall to our knees
and weep?

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Sarah Klassen: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.