Saturday, April 06, 2013



            Nancy Holmes
Let it first be said that I love flickers. The splash of red beside the beak. The spotted shirt with the bowtie of black feathers under the throat. The dusty butterscotch around the eye that looks as if the bird might have flown into a pine pollen storm and blinked. For years flickers have used a hole in the ancient apple tree in our yard to raise a family. Once, I got to see one of the young ones take its first flight. You know the bird I mean?

Here, I’ll show you. There’s an amazing photograph of one on the cover of Okanagan poet NancyHolmes’ new collection of poetry from Ronsdale Press.

How could I not pick up a book with a cover like that? Besides, I have one of her previous books (The Adultery Poems, 2002, also Ronsdale) and I quite like her work.

On our way home from Kelowna yesterday we noted the mountainside near the Paulson Bridge (the link takes you to a great shot of the bridge. I don't know who took it so don't want to reproduce it here, but go have a quick took). The pine beetle has paid a visit and so many of the trees are grey ghosts of their former selves. I said to my husband, “I guess we can expect a fire through here, sooner or later.” And I nod as I read Holmes’ poems and find that she says, in circle five of the poem, Braiding:

            It is the woeful world, the burnt forests
            on the hills with branches sizzled off,
            their pointed trunks like ugly black hairs
            you should pluck.

The poems in The Flicker Tree are so, so smart. They are concerned with the land, and how we, the so-called keepers of the land, are doing it so much disservice. In Toads Are Us, my favourite poem in the book, she says:

               But toad,
            I watch you cling to the lip
            of my flowerpot
            and I feel a little worried.

We would all do well to feel a little worried about this planet and what we’re doing to it.

The Flicker Tree is a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award for poetry this year. 
One of 'my' flickers

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