The Bigness of Small Poems – # 13 in a Series – The Double S in Sue Sinclair!

Canadian poet Sue Sinclair

Canadian poet Sue Sinclair. Photo: Brick Books


The floorboards creak overhead,
heavy with stars.
The sound makes you think of the dead,
as though they’re closer than you knew:
like the doubled s in essence,
an extra consonant slipped into the word
for the very truth of you.

Sue Sinclair from Heaven’s Thieves, Brick Books, 2016

It isn’t often I open a book of poetry, read, and then find myself trying not to look as astonished as I feel. The last time I felt that gob smacked was with Sarah Eliza Johnson’s book, Bone Map. Today, I felt that gob smacked again. By Canadian poet, Sue Sinclair’s latest book, Heaven’s Thieves, published this month by Brick Books. Sinclair, who was raised in Newfoundland and lived for many years in the various places in the Maritmes, is now based out of Montreal.

Sinclair’s small poem above is just a taste of this poet’s ability to word-play her poems into music and meaning. Her poem Belief works at so many levels, its lyric mysteriousness and its exquisite sounds: her rhymes and consonance; her alliterations, her susurrations! The doubled s in essence,/ an extra consonant slipped… Yes!

Her metaphor in this line, delicious: The floorboards creak overhead,/ heavy with stars. Then that move to add a layer to the creaking sound by invoking the dead. A ghost, perhaps? Then the move to sound and word play that reminds me of the American/Canadian poet Heather McHugh.

How Sinclair leaps from a sound that makes her think of the dead as though they’re closer than you knew to the double s in essence. And then to a surprising intimacy, unexpected self-reflection. On the narrators own essence: the very truth of you. Or is the very truth of something, someone, else. Does the title, Belief, point us to something supernatural? I’m not sure.

What I am sure about is how this poem strikes down deep in my emotional depths. To an essence deep inside me. To a question of who am I and why am I here? And how is it these feelings all began with a simple creak in a floorboard!? The surprise, the gift, of poetry. Sinclair’s poem will stay with me. So will her book which will live on my bedside table for days to come.

For those who aren’t familiar with Sinclair and her work (she has published four previous poetry volumes since 2001) check out this link.


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