When asked whether one of his books had been written to make a statement or to have a certain theme, Al Purdy replied, “You just write poems and collect them.”1 I suspect that is the way many poetry books originate. The poems’ sequence and their grouping into sections are worked out only after the fact, based on any affinities a closer look can discover in retrospect.
Especially for Canadian poets, the seasons can lend themselves as a natural substructure, as in K.V. Skene’s 2023 release, the Don Gutteridge Poetry Award Winner Seasonal Adjustments2. In this moving and beautifully orchestrated collection, the temporal metaphor frames both the literal and emotional breakup of a marriage.
However, Skene goes a step further, using what might be called “image spokes” (as in a bicycle wheel), multiple variations on a single, central comparison. Throughout the book, the inconstant moon dominates Skene’s psychic skyscape, each spoke nuancing yet another shift in the marital breakdown. In spring, “the hiss of a marriage / deflating” begins under a “fish moon”. Summer’s attempts at reconciliation are differentiated by a “strawberry moon”, then a “hot moon”, a “buck moon”, a “sturgeon moon”, a “full moon”. October brings the dismay of a “bloody moon”, the “hunter’s moon”, “frost moon”, and “beaver moon”. Winter’s resigned acceptance shivers beneath a “cold moon” that makes no difference to the “wolf moon” or February’s “hunger moon”.
These added strands of suggestion not only advance the theme but enrich the overall sensuous texture of the collection. Reading the book feels imaginatively more complex, deeper, and satisfying.
1.“Al Purdy: A Canadian Unique-ty”, WQ Interview by Robert Sward, Cross-Canada Writers’ Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1985.
2. K.V. Skene, Seasonal Adjustments, Wet Ink Books, 2023.