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Richard Oelze: "Die Erwartung" (1935/36)
Richard Oelze: “Die Erwartung” (1935/36)

 

My first and only poetry collection, Lobotomy Magnificat, was published by Oberon and was short-listed for the Governor General’s Award in 1998.

(I lost, but then, so did Michael Ondaatje that year…)

I’ve written very little poetry since.

What I have produced is collected at this site.

Whenever I tell people they’ve got to read Kathy Shaidle’s 1998 poetry collection, Lobotomy Magnificat, the ones who recognize the name say, “I didn’t know she wrote poetry.” Shaidle is better known as a vitriolic right-wing Canadian blogger (I haven’t been able to read her site for a while; life’s too short) whose blog title, Five Feet of Fury, is truth in advertising.

So her younger self’s poems will come as a surprise: splintery, compassionate, and imagistic snapshots of celebrities, criminals, or artsy Catholic heroes like Flannery O’Connor. Here’s how Shaidle describes a rainstorm: “Skin’s prayed wet rosaries all day”—and you can see and feel them, the bead-sized dappling drops. Her work is allusive, rhythmic, and rich in spiritual insight. (Her compressed phrase, “those God-tossed well-coins/you call saints,” says more about abandonment to divine providence than a year of homilies.) It’s attuned to the spiritual lives of humiliated people, especially humiliated women: institutionalized, incarcerated, guilty, or shamed.

I admit I have a self-aggrandizing fantasy that my periodic reminders of the greatness of Shaidle’s poetry might somehow herd her back to her gentler muse. But she’s also the best contemporary poet I’ve read, and she deserves to be known for what she does best.

— Eve Tushnet, American Conservative, December 2014