In one breath, Lorna Crozier’s poems can elicit an unspeakable melancholy; in the next, they can have a crowd nearly falling off their seats in laughter.
Crozier sat down with Angie Abdou at the Fernie Heritage Library on Friday night to talk about her latest poetry book, What the Soul Doesn’t Want, which was recently nominated for a Governor General’s Award.
“If a Canadian poet can be a household name, Lorna Crozier sure is,” said Abdou. “She’s been so influential in the Canadian literature scene.”
Abdou remembers hearing Crozier on CBC radio when she was younger, and adoring her work.
With a number of nominations for Governor General Awards through the years, a long marriage to poet Patrick Lane, their house outside of Victoria and her academic career; Abdou started off the conversation with asking Crozier if she ever expected her life to look like this.
“I grew up in Swift Current Saskatchewan,” said Crozier, to parents who she says didn’t live an easy life, moving from small home to another, dad working a number of different jobs.
“It was not a literary family,” she said. “Heaven knows, I still don’t know why I became a poet.”
Crozier didn’t start reading books until grade one; where after discovering reading won the award for the most books read in the class.
She still has the ceramic cocker spaniel that was the prize.
Poetry came after.
In grade seven Crozier wrote her first poem about the family dog, Tiny, a pure-bred Pomeranian.
She wrote about the fear and misery she would face every Monday when Tiny would get sick, after eating chicken bones from Sunday night dinner.
“And we shall meet in heaven, by and by,” said Crozier, reciting the line that sticks out in her memory.
She wrote in the poem that her dog died, even though she hadn’t.
“You write about the things you care deepest about,” said Crozier, remembering the lessons her early poetry taught her. “The second is that you lie if you have to.”
She says poetry does something no other genre can.
“I see the world in imagery,” said Crozier. “I don’t see it in the way of non fiction with a long narrative arc.”
She says that sort of thing terrifies her. She read one of her husband’s poems, as he was ill and could not attend.
“He’s almost 80 now,” she said, picking up his latest poetry collection, called Washita. “I think this is his best book of poetry in all those years.”
She joked about aging, about how she and her husband have devised a method of not forgetting about running hoses and cooking things on the stove.
They wear a timer around their neck, she laughs.
Abdou asked her about her and Lane’s gardening, and the connection to poetry.
“They’re both primal,” she said, noting that perhaps her love of weeding is reflective of editing, quoting Mark Twain, “when you see an adjective, kill it.”
Adjectives and weeds—perhaps are not all that different.
She spoke about her latest book, and read poems from it.
“I think I use soul as a metaphor,” she said, explaining that it’s that ‘unspeakable thing,’ that longing to connect with something larger than our own existence.
“I keep writing towards it,” she said.