Author Tags: Poetry

E.D. Blodgett has published numerous books of poetry as well as diverse criticism and literary translations. He is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta. In 1996 he won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Apostrophes: Woman at a Piano. From 2007–2009 he was Edmonton's Poet Laureate. Blodgett lives in Surrey, British Columbia.


E.D. Blodgett, F.R.S.C. and Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, taught at the University of Alberta for 34 years. Having contributed to a number of journals both here and abroad, he has also written and edited a number of books on aspects of the Canadian Literatures. He has published more than 22 books of poetry. Apostrophes: Woman at a Piano (Ottawa: BuschekBooks, 1996) was given the Governor General’s Award and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry. Two collections were awarded the Stephan G. Stephansson Poetry Award by the Writers Guild of Alberta. The University of Alberta Press has published six of his books of poetry: Apostrophes II: through you I, Apostrophes IV: speaking you is holiness, Apostrophes VI: open the grass, An Ark of Koans, Elegy, and Apostrophes VII: Sleep, You, a Tree. He has also published a renga with Jacques Brault, entitled Transfiguration (BuschekBooks and Editions de Noroît, 1998), which was given the Governor General’s Award for Translation. From 2007-2009 he was Edmonton's Poet Laureate.

Part of a series, the poems in Apostrophes VII (University of Alberta, 2011) are described as 'lyrical'.


Apostrophes VII: Sleep, You, A Tree (University of Alberta, 2011) 978-0-88864-554-8 $19.95

As If (University of Alberta Press, 2014) $19.95 978-0-88864-727-6

[BCBW 2014]

Sleep, You, A Tree (University of Alberta Press $19.95)

from Hannah Main–van der Kamp

Sea gazing is much like gazing at lilacs, the moon, and apple trees in blossom or a familiar field in snow. It’s always the same and always different.

This same is not “same old same old;” that would be boring. This gazing is a new “same old” and that induces trance states. E.D. Blodgett would understand.

His new collection of unrhymed sonnets, Sleep, You, A Tree, is a long contemplation in seventy-eight parts—with repeated motifs that include infinity, eternity, silence, unsayability, darkness, whiteness, childhood, paradise, God, moon and stars—in which almost every poem includes a tree.

Blodgett’s weaving of form and content is rare in contemplative poetics. “And so the colour of the air is the colour of the sea when it in absolute transparency wells up before our eyes, the clouds the only waves, and all that comes in sight is what eternity holds up, the sound of it inaudible and lapping at our skin.”

Blodgett’s rhythms, both formal as in traditional sonnets but also relaxed in their line ends and break-up of rhythm, are delicious to the ear. Such poetry is made to be read aloud. When read silently off the page, these pieces have a tendency to blur. They are so alike in their soft-edged, gentle ruminations that a reader could be excused for asking if she has not already read this one.

It seems as if Blodgett has used the same hundred words for every poem. He held the words in his hand, scattered them and then made a new poem out of their different arrangements. It’s a legitimate way of poem making … if the poet has no intent for linear sense.

“If God / is everywhere, then he is here in this passage where you have stopped / but it is God that is the simplest tree that bears the air alone / above itself, and all that moves within its compass stands within the large divinity of all that passes.”
What do such passages mean? They are not rational nor are they childlike pre-rational. It is a different mind that can receive this kind of writing, a transrational mind. They are like kirtan chanting in Sanskrit of the sacred names.

Mystical poetry is an elusive door. The content in Sleep, You, A Tree is not the point; rather it’s the effect that chanting produces. You either really get it or you don’t. The knowing is not-knowing, the unknowability of divine things. When inner receptiveness is present, the “transported” state can be elicited in a moment by a phrase.

Of course, there is the irony of a poet saying skillfully how unsayable are these things: infinity, paradise, death and the tears of God. A reader who is looking for specificity, the name of the bird, or the star, will be frustrated. There isn’t a single hard edge in this collection.

For some readers the repeated petals falling or wind over snow will seem too bland, but mystics, contemplatives and dreamers will find this lack of substance appealing.

In Drifting, a poem ostensibly about lilacs, Blodgett allows their scent to drift him into memory: “How can we breathe without the breath of childhood, the cries / that rush among the leaves, their taking of the world, the stars that fill / their eyes, the innocence that sheathes their bodies, childhood that is / its own eternity where nothing enters but itself.”

Blodgett, who won a Governor General’s award some years ago, has recently moved to the West Coast. Especially skilled at evoking childhood, he is a welcome addition to the B.C. poetry scene.
978–0-88864 554 8

[BCBW 2011]