Fate As In Destiny. What Is Yours? Guest Poetry Blog #22 – Introducing the Latest Contributor, Canadian Writer Yvonne Blomer- Part One of Two

Canadian writer Yvonne Blomer. Photo Credit: Nancy Yakimoski

Sonnet for a newborn now seven

Underground we were, below the citadel,
my son, newborn, asleep on my chest.
On the streets above, Italian flowed like mother’s milk
in heat. We were in a cathedral or under it. We felt
the etched walls for markings—birds or other animals.
The monks, or a priest above, began to sing. Was it Ave Maria
that fell through stone, through the ages and knowledge of stone?
Sound, thrum in the chest, entered us. Out of the corner of my eye
or my imagination, I saw a boy leaning in, he was my son, now.

His hands are small, perfect, though one pinky finger
a little crooked. Chords he plays while standing there, he
flicks his fingers, idle or bored
flicks and when he’s lost interest, he flicks again,
taps nail to nail, he picks a low baritone song, Gratia Plena.

From The Last Show on Earth, Caitlin Press, 2022


This is not my first introduction of the multi-genre writer and anthologist, Yvonne Blomer. The first time was more than eight years ago at the 3rd Cascadia Poetry Festival held in Nanaimo in May 2015. This is what I said then:

Born in Zimbabwe, educated in Canada and in the UK, Poet (3 full-length collections, two chapbooks), editor, (Poems from Planet Earth) MC and artistic director extraordinaire for the Planet Earth Poetry Reading Series in Victoria and for this wide range of poetic passions, recently appointed Victoria’s poet laureate. Yes, this is all the same person! Canadian poet Yvonne Blomer. Her poems are anchored in her celebration of this one earth, but they still know how to fly! In her latest collection As If A Raven, published last year she writes: “To live in these two worlds:/ whether held to earth and all it demands or to flight”. She does both so well! 

Well, that was then. In 2017 she released her memoir: Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur and edited the anthology: Refugium: Poems for the Pacific. In 2020 she edited Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds and in 2022 her full-length poetry collection, The Last Show on Earth was published by Caitlin Press. And this past Friday Yvonne launched the anthology, Hologram – an Homage to P.K. Page which she co-edited with DC Reed. And so appropriately she launched it  back at her old haunt where she was artistic director for six years, Planet Earth Poetry in Victoria,

Some people live two days at a time every day. Yvonne is one of those people. Someone who, as she says below, has had many “yes” moments. Saying yes in spite of life-long type one diabetes. Saying “yes” for her beloved special needs son.  Committed to living a full life and celebrating resilience as she writes in the last lines of her marvel of a poem below, Reading Rilke on my son’s fifteenth birthday:

the resilience of the boy, the boy, the boy,
and his father, and his mother, and all—

Oh, and with all of her accomplishments listed here did I forget to mention that she was Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poet-in-Residence for 2022-2023 and won the Exile Editions/Gwendolyn MacEwen Poetry Competition for 2022 with Death of Persephone, her manuscript in progress.

It’s my honour and joy to add Yvonne to the Recovering Words Guest Poetry Blog series.


I’m delighted to be writing a post for Richard’s amazing blog. I’ve just spent my morning reading through past posts and really loving the deep dive into poetry, and into humanity and what it means to contemplate living in the world through poetry. Thank you, Richard, and your many guest poets.

I came to poetry as a slow reader with a big imagination. At eight, I curled into a tight criss-cross inside my closet and wrote in a journal every day. I was not academic-minded. Most days I spent hours with the school counselor learning how to get my left-handed writing into a right-handed slant. I wonder if those hours, also spent tracing sand-papery letters, made words seem so very essential. At that time, I also wrote a novel and shared it with her. Perhaps I enjoyed the attention in her quieter space. In my regular classroom if a teacher looked at me, I turned pink from head to toe and once got detention for asking to borrow an eraser. But then, in Grade Four, I had my first poetry assignment. We had to write and illustrate a book with a sonnet, a poem about a tree, a haiku and what else I can’t now remember. What I do recall is how much I loved creating the poems at a point where I was mostly scared of school.

Canadian Writer Yvonne Blomer. Photo Credit: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

What is that sense we all have, intuition or instinct, perhaps leftover from our more animal-selves, that helps and even rules us? For me, that instinct gives my body a “yes” signal. That poetry assignment was all “yes” for my young self. Years later, I took my first writing classes at Malaspina College (Now Vancouver Island University) in Journalism, and I was scared to death, which was another kind of “yes” I managed to hear. I wrote for the college’s Navigator Newspaper and developed the photos for it; I wanted to be a travel journalist, for sure. Then I moved to Vancouver to study at SFU, but I found the city and campus depressing and a “yes” moment pulled me to UVic and the Writing department where my first teachers were Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier and marvelous Derk Wynand.

No one in my High School years particularly thought I’d go to university, I was in school for the friends, but eventually those friends accused me of thinking too much. Ah, the poet’s curse was already sitting there waiting to be given a voice.

It’s not necessarily true that schooling makes people into writers, but it does offer opportunities, unfamiliar authors, and books; it opens the mind to questions and explorations. After UVic I did a master’s at the University of East Anglia in the UK and came home pregnant.

As I write, I’m beginning to wonder where I’m going with this except to say that some part of me has always wanted to have a conversation with some other part of me, and that is where poetry hatched. The conversation was private, a contemplation of some moment or question or thinking on the page that became a poem. Ultimately, what was once private, became public and now the poems live on in the world without my guidance or control, the leash or umbilicus severed.

These days, I’m supporting my special needs son as he transitions to adulthood, into his own leash-free life. Or to be honest he’ll always need support, so let’s say loose-leashed life. The poem I’m sharing here, “Reading Rilke on my Son’s Fifteenth Birthday” is a contemplation of our lives written as I sat in the chair in my studio on his birthday, which is in April so National Poetry Month, with Rilke’s collected works on my lap. After reading Rilke’s poem, I pulled lines and wrote this poem. It came quickly, all the moments of my life, the “yes” moments, which my son is folded into, came together as I wrote.

Reading Rilke on my son’s fifteenth birthday

with lines from “The Ninth Elegy”

For my son’s sixth birthday, a friend carved
a watermelon into a cake shape.
Why, if this interval of being can be spent
remembering, am I wasting it again
wondering what bird outside is calling
and for whom? Also, the dog’s deep sighs,
their meaning.
why then/ have to be human—and, escaping from fate,
keep longing for fate?
Fate, the car swerves at the last—
or before—the last moment,
the bird sees the glass and stops
before body reaches it. Always
fate stops death or attention
does—I thought, years ago (though
truly it feels like minutes) if I paid attention
the years wouldn’t just fall away—
an image—I’m on a treadmill holding the baby
of him. But because truly being here
is so much; because everything here
apparently needs us—
that need is such a mothering thought.
Is it? To be needed is to be loved. Is it?
From birth we encourage each child to move away—
crawl or walk or run or drive. “Soon his driver’s licence,”
said the special-ed bus driver, knowing
this will not be his fate.
Fate as in destiny. What is yours?
You ask yourself again—Rilke
offering need and the rhythm of his line.
He doesn’t have an answer, but what a thinker he is.
Perhaps we are here in order to say: house
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window—
Yes, I think, and to love, which he speaks of,
that near unnameable force that is not gravity but which
hurts and holds us. Perhaps to know body,
bone and bowel. To let the pimples come and let the frown lines
deepen and the jowls of age come. To let the body rise in breath,
to suffer each bruise and cut, each terrible death.
But wait, it’s my son’s birthday, do not bring death here.
Bring longevity, bring life expectancy, bring life.
And now, I am eager to leave the poem, to find an exit—
how Rilke held himself in it, moved to the next thought
and sound—traffic’s bleary hum on Quadra Street,
the same bird’s persistent squeak, answered
from another tree. The next fleeting thought—that
inside their boundless emotion all things may shudder with joy?
Praise, he says, praise this—
the blue eyes, the dimpled smile, the crooked spine,
the swayed back, the loud laugh, the voice finding itself,
the unhappy yelp, the anxiety, its trilling body shake,
the curl of ear, the soft skin, the newborn, and the man within,
the resilience of the boy, the boy, the boy,
and his father, and his mother, and all—

Yvonne Blomer, ibid

Poetry is alchemy. Poetry is also editing and mulling and making small shifts. But it holds a kind of magic, too. I am typing on Halloween, the day where the veil between worlds is thin. I wonder if perhaps poets, when we let ourselves, live in that threshold between the modern busy world and the quiet thinking world.

My sense of who I am in the world probably began in the counselor’s room in Elementary School, Sherwood Park, Alberta. It is wed deeply to the endangered planet we humans have created and my despair at this fact, and to my son who has a rare genetic syndrome and is neurodiverse.

Just recently I read at UVic for their Five Days of Action, which aims to amplify and promote diversity. For me inclusion must always mean women, people who identify as LGBTQ, as well as varying races, cultures, and religions (and animals) as well as those who are neurodiverse. I always want to ensure that neurodiversity is included in these programs of inclusion. My poems focus on women, neurodiversity, and the creatures we share this planet with. I have long believed that art is a political act, and for me has probably become more so because of my son, the disparity in the world for women (still) and climate change.

One Comment

  1. Mary Ann Moore
    Posted November 20, 2023 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Brava Yvonne Blomer!

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