The poet, Stephanie McKenzie, spent a few years lecturing at WIT and brought a much needed chill of Canadian freshness to Waterford literary endeavours. She co-edited, with John Ennis, three major anthologies of Newfoundland, Ireland and Canadian poetry. She rattled a few pots and pans when the dish ran off with the spoon. Her creative and restless spirit left its mark and in 2006, the Irish publishers, Salmon Poetry, brought out her first poetry collection – Cutting My Mother’s Hair. This year she has added to her reputation with another Salmon collection, Grace Must Wander.
This is a restless collection, with a snow and winter aura, where depression, death and suicide have an uneasy fascination, whether it is musing of the actions of Van Gogh or Sylvia Plath, whether it is driving north to Belfast through Inniskeen or coping with numbing snow-filled days in Canada.
The words Lost, Death, Broken Dreams, Bruised, Sob, Scared crop up like bitter cold chills in poems.
But in a section, Suite For Winter, there is a sequence of eleven that impress with a clarity, a cold clarity of vision and inspiration – the distance between places becomes me.
This suite is a love song that admits lies and denial. Kisses are polished and ritual and winter altars are washed away. There is a restless renewal and wet kisses would keep winter away.
You can feel the cut of memory in lines like
Holds the prayers
Of disillusioned college kids
Who buckled under
Gods and worthless grades,
Could not take more midnights
In the poem The Disciples Of Inter, there is the chilling where Grace must wander… in the land of blow away the dead make a wish we give to children.