Nominated for the Butler Prize
While the tone of Patricia Young’s latest collection, Here Come the Moonbathers, is perhaps more dark, difficult and tragic than her earlier work, beautifully hedonic poems spark and sizzle throughout. The poems in this collection have wild freedom, different kinds of power, exploring the themes of love and longing and loss (especially the latter) with grace, bewilderment, playfulness, and occasionally anger. There’s a surreal edge to many of these poems, a personal, political and ecological vision, and an incantatory vernacular and rhythm that makes these poems unforgettable. This collection is perhaps the more important and immediately human of Patricia Young’s celebrated career.
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Winner of the Inaugural Metcalf-Rooke Award
Nominated for the Butler Prize
Named one of the Globe and Mail’s Best Books of the Year
Reading from Airstream at Vancouver Writer’s festival:
These fourteen stories by acclaimed poet Patricia Young explore the small victories and lurching disappointments, losses and betrayals of the everyday with a language and style that is tautly poetic and beautifully unsentimental. A woman who cannot leave her house loses almost everything, her only companion a garrulous radio talk show host; a house fire sets in motion the end of a marriage as a couple re-examine the meaning of truth and commitment; a teenage girl cannot extract herself from a doomed relationship with a heroin addict. Innocence, and the loss of it, are handled with humour and compassion, and heartbreaking honesty. Young reveals an uncanny ability to see the mysterious in the commonplace.
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Nominated for the 2000 Governor General’s Award for poetry.
Review by John Moore in the Vancouver Sun
“Patricia Young’s work has steadily gone from strength to strength since her first book, Travelling the floodwarers, in 1983. Unlike some “new and selected” editions in which a few new poems are scattered like fresh dumplings on a left over stew, Ruin and Beauty is a powerhouse sampling of six of her eight previous books, fronted by a generous collection of new poems showing why she deserves to be ranked with Crozier and Margaret Atwood as one of the country’s great poetic voices.”
Julie Reibetanz, University of Toronto Quarterly
“Young’s Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems brings together work from six previous collections along with recent work, all demonstrating the sustained singularity of Young’s vision: repeatedly one encounters intensely focused situations of personal narrative, finely etched in spare metaphors and notable for their deftly controlled line endings.”
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Patricia Young writes the geology of our relationships with a sexual partner, with children, with the shaded self. She opens us downward into the strata and the chasms and secrets and the buried terrors of love. She is a love poet of the century’s end.
— Robert Kroetsch
Winner: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (1997)
In this acclaimed collection, words cross the silence of the ages in poems that meditate on human estrangement and connection.
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Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Pat Lowther Award (1993).
In this remarkable collection, Patricia Young demonstrates the astonishing range of her poetic gift. Poems about growing up, parenthood, and love spark the reader’s emotions. Young’s use of language is natural, sensuous, and hypnotic, and her imagery vivid and powerful. More Watery Still solidifies Young’s growing reputation as one of Canada’s finest poets.
Shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award
Review: Malahat Review
Young can end a lyric with a sharp jab to the heart, or a sudden touching phrase which embraces the reader and the subject at once. . . [She] writes intelligently and beautifully about emotion. . . [Her] speaker flows toward the open sea of a free womanhood: articulate, sensuous, compassionate, buoyant.
Winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award
REVIEW: Boulevard Magazine, Spring, 1990
Patricia Young introduces her mother in the poem that inaugurates The Mad and Beautiful Mothers, recently awarded the Pat Lowther Award for the best book of poems by a Canadian woman. This mother, who already knows the hellish burden of her sex, is the disturbance in the ocean’s rhythm, a volcano smoking under the sea. “My mother holds a cigarette under the table, exhales smoke discreetly out the corner of her mouth.” Young, who read these poems at an international poetry festival in Yugoslavia this August, as the guest of the Canadian government, mentions the unmentionable.
In “As Sure As They Were Born,” Young sets the tone of the book. She is the sister who has robbed the windows of their curtains, so “anyone can see in.” Wearing the curtains as a dress, she finds that her discreet siblings are outraged that she “walks about town in all kinds of weather, our well-kept family secrets draped over my body”
These are the consequences that must be faced by a writer who obviously uses the compost of her own life – the rose petals and garden clippings, afterbirth and ashtrays – to build the texture of her work. Her imagination functions as a catalyst in presenting these fundamentally unchanged elements in a construct that will enlighten or entertain. This is a risky business, and it takes courage. She has to be an anarchist, challenging family, language, and social order in the hope that they will be improved by the process.
. . .
As we read through the book, a liturgy of domestic life, we experience the warmth of men and women and of plants and cats in the hedge, but also the autumn chill that comes through cracks in the basement, when “not even poetry can hold back the flu or a nervous breakdown.”
This discord is the leaven that makes her bread rise. There is madness in this family, and in this world. It is infectious, passing from mother to daughter with the milk. The craziness is exotic; it provides tension in the potentially banal description of a woman’s life. These poems are House and Garden growing rampant in the special chemistry of her brain.
In a poem called “National Enquirer: Baby Obsession,” we see Young standing at the edge of the sea, watching for an invasion of Russian water babies waving ten thousand rattles. This poem is funny as are others. The humour comes less from language play than from imaginative lunacy, the disturbance of reality by dreams and phobias. You laugh much the way you laugh at Woody Allen, when he is inflating a wart to a deadly tumour.
In Victoria, madness illuminates correct behaviour. It is the oppression of culture that makes the pavement cracks where wild things grow. You can see it in the eyes that dance over lace collars and dresses buttoned to the neck, and in these poems
Not an ivory-tower poet, Patricia Young sees herself as a tuning fork, picking up the family vibes and city noises and finding their essential forms, which are often beautiful in their juxtaposition of pain and joy. She is the one chasing the ephemeral bubbles as they drift from a child’s plastic hoop or soapy hair.
In the poem, “Sculpture,” written about her daughter . . . Young finds a perfect archetype in the washing of hair: “helmets and crowns whip like cream on top of their heads all over the world mothers are seeing their daughters as never before perhaps its the last time these girls will be perfect as long-stemmed lilies.” This piece pours out without punctuation and ends with a question mark, the way it should, the way it happens as real life enters and leaves the bathtub like water.
Beauty comes from the moment of innocence and from its recreation in verse. The pain is knowing the child will grow up and suffer in the process, as we all do. Already mother and daughter are experiencing the death of their father and grandfather who will be buried down the street in the cemetery near a sea full of mysterious passion. . .
There are no complex illusions to follow [in these poems] except to the dream territory where all mothers and daughters go when the world presses down on them. That world is always present, as weather or as disturbances experienced over the phone or in newspapers. revThe house and the universe are connected by biology and history. There is no avoiding it. It simply has to be celebrated by someone who is experiencing it as music: “Darling, the ceiling is low as thunder but I am listening, listening, what else can I do? Hold the savage inside me, you might hear its little heart play like a jukebox.”
Winner of the B. C. Book Prize for Poetry
Canadian Literature No. 115, Winter, 1987
Patricia Young’s Melancholy Ain’t No Baby ranges less widely. Like many other women poets, she writes about what is close up, so close to home that many men cannot even see it:
The absolute terror
of living like this. With food on the table,
wine in the fridge, a good man in my bed.
Her perspective illuminates common experience, not only from a woman’s point of view but also from a child’s. Men write of their love with a gratitude that sets it aside from the business of living.
But for Patricia Young love is something which presents its own problems — children, purpose, identity — and has to be coped with daily. Moreover it is imbricated with the one language which has
to make do for all things. Her poetry is lively, unsettling, and very attractive.
when a woman denies the existence of the rainbow yet risks her life
smuggling prisms over the border you know she’s been travelling the
floodwaters too long you know that the bows tucked in the lining of her little
black suitcase are coming undone.
September 25, 2010, The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Moss Street
Epic in scope, Patricia Young’s new collection of poems is about sex and God, gender issues and feminism, ecological issues, and the domestic sphere. Quotations from Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), an English physician who studied human sexuality, provide springboards for a variety of narrators in the first section. A quieter wistful voice asserts itself as the second section unfolds, and the voice of God closes the book.
… a dervish of a book, whose images in quantity and variety rival those adorning Indian temples that deify and celebrate physical human love.
— Michael Kenyon
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