By Shelley A. Leedahl
Published by Radiant Press
$20.00 ISBN 9781989274675
How often do we find a book of poetry in which a poet generously invites us in, like a longtime friend, to sit down and catch up? Not often. But in Go, Shelley A. Leedahl’s beautifully crafted fifth collection of poetry, the decades “dissolve / as mysteriously as mist” as Leedahl describes a life spent untethered to person or place and the loneliness that accompanies it.
Friends give you all the important details, and so does Go: the messiness of lovers, the grief of losing a parent, the seemingly insignificant significance of gladiolus, salmonberries and bald eagles. Go is open and honest in a way I’ve rarely experienced in a collection of poems. And I appreciate that Leedahl doesn’t sugar-coat or romanticize loneliness: “I may forever come home / to an empty house [...] me with my pathetic need / to hold another warm hand, / to be whispered to across a pillow.” She acknowledges her desire for companionship, and I find it a refreshing confession. Keeping an “[e]ar to the pane,” Leedahl uses windows as a clever literary device with which to reflect on her past. “I stalk windows as the story develops,” she writes. Whether it’s a window above her writing desk or above a table at The Beantime, “dirty conservatory” ones or “grey Cadillac” ones, windows are like glass portals, framing memories and people, in all the places she has lived in, travelled to and written beneath throughout her lifetime.
As the book progresses from “city to village to metropolis” and from lover to lover, the poet’s melancholic tone begins to shift towards gratitude. “[T]here’s a dollop of honey in most days,” Leedahl writes, grateful for what the pandemic has allowed her to experience. She relishes in the “[s]mall bits of beauty” around her: “the joy found in valentines / masquerading as maple leaves,” “first kisses at the coulee,” “apples ripening,” and “[r]obin-song.” She even dedicates four poems to Ladysmith, B.C., her current residence. Interestingly, as the tone shifts, windows almost completely disappear from the text. Because, rather than looking outward or looking back, the poet is finally living, present and thankful.
The poet’s positive state of being reaches a crescendo in the final section, titled “Manitoulin Suite,” where we find her content and grounded: “I want to hang the hammock near the pear tree [...] let the midday sun become / what matters” until “two small chickadees / court on a cedar bough / like I’m not even there.” While it’s clear the poet has found what she longed for — a home and a partner — more importantly, she has found herself.
Go offers comfort and reassurance. Reassurance in the possibility of finding someone with whom to root ourselves in place. In the time I spent reading Leedahl’s exquisite poetry, I felt as though I was in the company of a friend, and I’m sure you, too, will find yourself a little less lonely with her words in your hands.
This book is available at your local bookstore or from www.skbooks.com