Veronica Eley never intended to publish any of the over 600 poems she wrote in diaries, notebooks, and on loose-leaf slips of paper. The beautiful and courageous poems she created in her forties were her way of charting – with searing honesty – her journey of healing from childhood trauma to a place of well-being.
“My understanding of myself has been deepened through the transformative role poetry has played in my healing,” Eley wrote in the author’s note for her first collection of poetry, The Blue Dragonfly: Healing Through Poetry. (Hidden Book Press). “I became for the first time in my life a fully integrated person.”
What began as a therapeutic diary to address overwhelming pain, trauma, and a 30-year span of untreated mental disorders – bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic disorder – has gradually transformed into a three-part collection of 120 poems that express his intimate experiences with mental illness, trauma, intervention, and ultimately forgiveness and healing. His poem entitled “Love” is part of the last section of the book and appears under the subtitle “Home”.
a circle, no beginning, no end
the treasure chest of life is piling up
the button box saved from my childhood home
Christine’s Burberry green button
the purple button of my mother’s coat
each button had its own story and memory
yet they all got along well in the tin
nature informs the city
the city lights up
etched in my mind
Eley, who now lives in Dartmouth, didn’t start writing until he was in his forties. The Blue Dragonfly was released when she was 71 years old. While completing her Masters in Education in Toronto in the early 2000s, she was inspired to keep a journal after being introduced to the concept of “inside out, inside out”.
She describes it as a tool for deciphering oneself in relation to the outside world.
“There is a FLOW from within to the outer world which counterbalances an outer flow from the objective world to the personal self, constituting a fluid process – for example, a moon, a star, a lightning strike registers in a soul felt at through the tactile expression of writing a poem,” she wrote in an email after declining a more formal interview.
“Once this habit and process was established, I produced far too many poems. I did it entirely for myself and slowly it relieved me of my confusing identity issues.
While she was writing, she was under the care of a Freudian psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto who took an interest in her poetry.
“Through the journaling process, the poems blossomed. I would share these poems with my psychiatrist. That would be our conversation. He never asked any questions, let me explain instead. It was an encouraging, safe and positive place. He often said that poetry was beautiful. I felt like a cat with a saucer of milk,” Eley wrote in an email.
Eventually she selected and organized her poems and agreed to have them published, with the help and encouragement of her husband, Roger Langen. He is the publisher of the book.
“The poems were first written for the poet alone,” writes Langen in the book’s foreword. “As published here, they are, secondarily, a message to his mother and father (since deceased) and a testament to his children: a daughter lost early and two sons who themselves undertook difficult journeys. It is hoped that this same message will also be useful to foreigners.
Through her poetry, Eley allows readers to journey with her through her personal trauma and mental illness to a place of self-healing. She often uses beautiful and evocative imagery to evoke the pain and confusion of memories and mental turmoil. In the middle of her poem “Loss of memory”, she writes:
like the crust
of the earth
Eley continues to write poetry from her home in Dartmouth.
A taste of nature
Formac Publishing has released a new edition of the classic cookbook, A Taste of the Wild: Recipes for 40 common foraged plants from across Canada – drinks, desserts, entrees and more. Written by Blanche Pownall Garrett, the cookbook was first published in 1975. The new edition includes over 160 updated recipes that use 40 common, wild, and edible plants, such as blackberries and raspberries. Organized by season, each section of the book provides information on where to find the plant as well as color photos to help identify them.
Laurie Dalton, Director and Curator of the Acadia University Art Gallery, has published Painted worlds: The Art of Maud Lewis, A Critical Perspective (Nimbus Publishing).
“Another Maud Lewis book? Is there more to say, or is it yet another voice reclaiming its history and legacy? Dalton writes in the foreword to the book.
Dalton has more to say. She offers a critical art history of the works of Nova Scotia’s iconic artist and invites readers to deepen their understanding of her as an artist and not see her as an untrained, untrained artist. skilled and working in total isolation.
“Really examining the paintings of Maud Lewis takes time; to see one is not to have seen them all. This book argues that paintings should be viewed within the cultural context of the 20th century: from the advertising culture that would find its way into his work, to the creation of myths surrounding the artist driven by popular institutions and media, to the language of visual culture. and art history. What this book invites the reader to do is rethink and re-examine the paintings of Maud Lewis,” writes Dalton.
Alexander MacLeod will launch his short story collection, Animal Person (McClelland & Stewart) on April 6 at 7 p.m. at the Halifax Central Library. MacLeod will read excerpts from his stories and discuss his writings with Francesca Ekwuyasi, author of Butter Honey Pig Bread.
“The eight Animal Person stories shed light on what it means to exist in the perilous space between desire and action, and to have faith in what you hold to be true buckle up and give in,” according to Penguin Random House Canada.