The Rose in Winter by Tanya Kern — review by Mark McCawley

The Rose in Winter

by Tanya Kern


review by Mark McCawley

The Rose In Winter Tanya KernThe Rose in Winter
by Tanya Kern
Ekstasis Editions (June 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 189743071X
ISBN-13: 978-1897430712
$21.95 US pbk | $21.95 CDN pbk | £29.83 UK pbk
62 pages, 6″ x 9″, Poetry

“First feelings. Here, on the page, I sing
not knowing if my heart is weeping.”

~Tanya Kern, “Cat Companion”, p.19
It is a difficult thing to review a posthumous book by a poet who has taken her own life. In the short term, the very act of suicide seems to obliterate the poems themselves by the poet’s act of self-annihilation. The harsh statistic is that writers and poets are twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population. When my late friend, a micro-press colleague, writer and poet Daniel Jones committed suicide on February 13, 1994, at the age of 33, it was cruelly, cynically, and callously insinuated that his suicide was nothing more than a literary career move. Or, in the case of Tanya Kern, what little literary focus there had been following the release of her posthumous third book from Richard Olafson’s Ekstasis Editions has been marred by her suicide, or unfortunately ignored outright. This is a terrible thing since so much poetry published in Canada is barely critiqued. Indeed, the honest truth is that all poetry eventually becomes posthumous poetry, regardless of the individual fate of the poet, and deserves an open, honest appraisal.
A narrative, lyric poet, Tanya Kern’s poems play with breath and line length, her “long lines that never seem to end” as publisher Richard Olafson points out in the book’s preface, “Introduction: How Our Breath Gets Into Everything”. Kern’s poetic music imbued with an authentic, well-practiced lyricism. This is a poet who knows the subtle nuances our her heart, trusting instinctively those “First feelings. Here, on the page, I sing / not knowing if my heart is weeping.” (The Rose in Winter, p.19)
Rejecting the easy narrative line, Kern seeks out the deeper mysteries of existence among the mundane elements of daily life. The joy and pain of raising children, lovers distant and near, neighbors and friends. Those simple things that make life worthwhile. So joyful. And so painfully true:
“loving to listen to my children in their child hood games. The hours and
hours they played and sang. Loving to name for them what I also love.
Plant. rock. Animal. Utensil. Tool. Instrument. Machine. The years I
never cried, loving their faces when I picked them up from band
practice to see, then hear, them smile to me. To know what I was dying
for. And living.”

~Tanya Kern, “A Poem for the Son of the Son of the Presbyterian”, p.16
To paraphrase a title taken from another British Columbia poet who also passed through life too quickly and perished much too young, leaving Canada’s literary culture deprived of their unfulfilled promise — Tanya Kern’s A Rose in Winter is a “difficult flowering” resonating with life’s ecstatic joys and intense pains long after her poems are read.UG

Author photo Copyright © Carol Ann Sokoloff

Author photo Copyright © Carol Ann Sokoloff

Tanya Kern grew up in a hard rock town in northern Ontario and lived for many years in BC with her two daughters. During her lifetime she published a chapbook, Glory Days, with Reference West, and two previous books, The Erotics of Memory and Ave. She died in 2010 shortly after completing The Rose in Winter.

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