In 1964, the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation sponsored a competition for writers under
30, and Carol Shields, then 29 years old and a mother
of four young children, submitted a set of poems.
She won the competition and heard her poems read on
the air. Over the next 5 years she continued to write
poetry and many of her poems were published in magazines
and journals. Others, a collection of 51 poems,
was her first volume of poems published.
Selections from Others are
also included in Coming
Carol Shields rarely raises her voice and only seldom
questions - there are only two question marks in the
whole volume [Others]. Instead she observes carefully,
assembles a series of details, as in 'A Friend of Ours
Who Knits' - 'her husband's career is secured/ in cablestitch,
and her children, double-ribbed, are/ safe from disease'
- then lets the readers draw their own conclusions.
For the most part our responses are prompted less by
affirmations than by the overtones of the images, by
line breaks or cadence."
Levenson, June 1995, Introduction to Coming to Canada,
FERRYMAN AT PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY
Busy with his ropes and gears,
tides and currents,
he didn't know and never
will how he came to appear
scowling in our
We brought him home
on a film showing
part of a holiday,
children in jerseys on the dock,
grinning, puddled in sun,
and at the edge,
the ferryman's dark image.
Well, that's one way
to be captured alive
by someone, caught
by a click and locked
in a box held by an unknown
hand at an unknown hour.
Later to rise from
a chemical bath imprinted on
a glossy three-by-five
walls loosen, it's already dark,
dinner trays rattle by,
nurses slack off, catch
a smoke, let go.
Roses bloom in every room.
the egg-bald babies lie, stretching
pink like rows of knitting,
insects in cases, and cry
tiny metal tunes,
The mothers gather
together in clutches
of happy nylon,
brushing and brushing their hair.
They bunch at the frosted windows
in quilted trios
watching the parking lot where
pair after pair
the yellow headlights arc
through blowing snow --