volume two, chapter two
The long days of summer have arrived. And with it the sweet pleasure of turning the pages of a book, your fingers staining the thin paper with just-eaten fish and chips, the sun high and tide low and lazy.
Afternoons stretch out in front of you like a picnic and the words that have waited all year to find you do — lying on a sea-soaked towel or swaying gently in a hammock, you surrender to idleness, in your own world where you are finally alone with your summer read.
Below, you will find five writers from the UBC Creative Writing program who take us back to a summer in their past and the book that made an impression on them. Read and listen as they take you back in time and don’t miss their recommendations for what should be on your summer reading list this year.
by Amber Dawn
Hologram, by P.K. Page
The first poetry collection I purchased was P.K. Page’s Hologram: A Book of Glosas (Brick Books, 1994). I was in my early twenties and had already written a couple of dog-eared notebooks worth of poetry and had even discovered a few open mics around East Vancouver to read my newly penned poems to audiences, but it never occurred to me that I could walk into a bookstore and buy a published book of poetry.
That July, Kate Braid — who was the summer term poetry mentor at UBC’s Creative Writing Program — was nurturing a group of students, like myself, to grow from budding poets to possessing deeper understandings of the craft. Braid told us that if we wanted to truly know poetry we must read a book cover-to-cover, hopefully many books. This is what poets do, they read (in addition to lazing on Wreck Beach with a notebook, like I did back then). So I set off to the People's Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive in my quest to truly know poetry.
It could have been the pleasing kaleidoscope image on the cover that drew me to Hologram. Or perhaps I was simply curious to find out if P.K. was a woman or a man. What I do remember is reading the forward, in which Page likens her process of writing the glosa form to birds that learn to sing by blending the notes and cadences of other birds into their own call. We have a song — of a kind. But it’s not until we have heard many other songs that we are able to put together our own specific song.
First used in 13th century Spain, the glosa typically opens with a quatrain from an existing poem by another writer, followed by four stanzas of ten lines each, the last line of each stanza is taken sequentially from the opening quatrain, and lines six and nine rhyme with the borrowed tenth. Page’s enactment of this form is gobsmackingly fine as she works quatrains by canonical poets like Rainer Maria Rilke, Sappho, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, and Pablo Neruda. It’s no wonder that Hologram has seen its seventh printing.
Like a song, the glosa can also be treated as a call and response. The glosateer hears the call of poets they most admire, poets they wish to honour by appreciably echoing their style and sensibility. Today, as a writing mentor myself, I now build on Kate Braid’s wise advice: if you want to truly know poetry, have a go at the glosa. Read a poetry collection cover-tocover — like a bird listens — to discover the intricate voice of another poet, and reply with a blend of both of your voices combined.
I’ve re-read P.K. Pages glosas so many times that the poems have become even more immersive than song. I’ll call the feeling I get when reading Hologram consanguineous: connected by blood. Hologram allows me to feel the very pulse of Rilke’s concentrated incantations or Sappho’s longing vestigial verse. Page has offered us a lineage, a bloodline of language and lyric and understanding.
Listen to Amber reading from Hologram
Recommended Summer Reads
I’ll call the feeling I get when reading Hologram consanguineous: connected by blood.
Thank you to our co-creators who generously took time away from their teaching and writing to contribute to this story: Alison Acheson, Amber Dawn, Kevin Chong, Susan Musgrave and Timothy Taylor.
A distinct and special thank you to Annabel Lyon who helped make this story possible and Steven Galloway for letting us film in his office and turn off his fish tank for short periods of time while doing so.
More information on the UBC Creative Writing department and its programs.
Story team: UBC Communications and Marketing — Margaret Doyle, Digital Storyteller; Michael Kam, Web Developer/Coordinator; Lina Kang, Web Coordinator; Justin Lee, Video Production Assistant; Adrian Liem, Senior Web Coordinator; Jamil Rhajiak, Communications Coordinator, Digital Information Channels; Aida Viziru, Web Interaction Designer.
Published: July 2015