The Guest Poetry Blog Series #4 – Introducing the Fourth Contributor, Canadian Poet and Teacher, Juleta Severon-Baker – Part One of Two

Canadian Poet and Teacher Juleta Severson-Baker

My Wild Body

happiness of the world
came to me again.
My body effervesces,
I think with my body which effervesces.

-Anna Swir, trans. Czeslaw Milosz &  Leonard Nathan

At 15, all the happiness of the world
was a horse and my best jeans, halter in hand
and boots with a one inch heel, every morning
a July morning in the foothills; the sun unfurled nothing
but promise over each day. Girl heart, horse heart
who could say whose was more huge?

Woman heart, man’s, your hand on my back
reveals old pain where the old camp horse bucked
me off, vertebrae smashed. Evenings now we sit around
and age and call it love while our bodies remember risk
and ache a little. But I am the same girl at heart and wildness
comes to me

again. I think and I am. Riding at dawn
hard down a cutline, alone
but for time-lapse grass growing
a never-newer sun, rushes slowly offering
seeds to the breeze. I am finite. Nevertheless,
my body effervesces.

I was meant for horses,
the scent of them, hay sweet and yeses.
Lub-dub is hoof beat and horizon,
heartbeats connected. Time is a trick of lonely so
I think with my body which effervesces.

Juleta Severson-Baker, 2022, from her upcoming  book ‘Antecedent’, Frontenac House Press, fall 2023)

Hello, Recovering Words readers! I’m so happy to have been invited by Richard to write for his richness of a blog. This week I’ll introduce myself and in my next blog post I’ll introduce another poet – Tenille K. Campbell.

So…who am I, where am I, what has created and shaped my poet self?

I situate myself in the milieu of art-makers who turn to their very bodies and the personal histories lived therein for whispers of muse. Coupling introspection (which I experience best as a physical process, as body-spection, if you will) with a close listening to the friendly voices of birds, the secret language of wind, the abiding mysteries of rock and the wriggly chatter of little creatures in the soil and you have some idea of from whence words come to me.

I grew up as a city girl in the suburbs of Calgary, Alberta in the 1970s. Descended from Norwegian farmers and English labourers – chauffeurs and mechanics – who worked for the landed gentry, I heard stories of my Dad’s childhood on a Saskatchewan farm, and my maternal Grandfather’s days hunting rabbits around his English village in the years between the world wars and romanticized their connection with the natural world. Truly, I longed for a life in the country. I ran and danced around a soccer field near my house at dusk imagining I was Laura Ingalls Wilder playing on a midwestern prairie with no neighbours in sight. As soon as I could, I cajoled my parents into paying for horseback riding lessons. While on horseback I felt ecstatically at home in my wild body.

When I was 12 or so, my parents found me a Speech Arts and Drama teacher. Weekly, they would drive me to Marguerite Humphreys’ home studio where she would introduce me to a great canon of English poetry and drama and I would mouth delicious sounds into emotion-rich beauty in the air. TS Eliot, Shakespeare, Ted Hughes, Hopkins, and once in a while a female writer; Christina Rosetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning; I memorized the words of these poets and performed them on various stages around Calgary. This is how poetry became a physical love for me. Powerful words became something to practice, to be spoken on ever-lengthening arcs of breath, to be shared.

My first book of poetry; Incarnate (Frontenac House Press, 2013) was a sensual collection of pieces that showcased over ten years of birthing longing and lust, love and wonder onto the page. They are poems of what it means to be a woman in her thirties in a body. A body that enjoyed sex, that gave birth, that loved running on trails between trees, and also longed for the touch of her dead mother’s hand. A body that felt at home on the hot, dry, rattlesnake-hoodoos of the Alberta “badlands” but also a body that seems to contain memories of being a humpback whale and even a longing to dissipate into wind.

My next collection, Antecedent, will come out ten years after my first. It also contains poems of the body but moves from my own body, my own wild body, to a broader exploration of origins, ancestors and even everywoman figures. Some of my newer poems ask what it means to live in a body at this time when human-created climate change threatens the lives of so many; both human and other – all our own beloved children of this earth.

my daughter tells me her generation is buckling under anxiety about climate change while we drive our car down a highway

I have a list of what memories
I’ll take into our collective shame
salmon-emptied oceans lapping at our toes

the time we summited a mountain in July
reverent and silent in the face of geologic time
no selfies, no whoo-hoos, just a sense of erosion
the granite edge time, and our own blindness
all of it blasted by carbonated air and a cold
that only hints at winter’s cold

small as hummingbirds
as ants, engineering the end of the end
we are as dangerous and dark
as the movies we make

the time we burned jet fuel
then rented an SUV
roared west to the rim where salt waves
lick and kiss a rainforest
only it hadn’t rained for too long
and the mightiest cedar was so thirsty
at its core, it finally snapped

we can’t fix it
my daughter knows it

she plugs her phone
into my car stereo
sings along

the beauty
makes no sense at all

Juleta Severson-Baker from her upcoming book ‘Antecedent’, Frontenac House Press, fall 2023


  1. Bob Stallworthy
    Posted November 5, 2022 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Very nicely done, Juleta. Richard has made a good choice. Congratulations.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted November 17, 2022 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Bob: Thank you for your supportive comments. On behalf of Juleta and me! All best.

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