Where The God Waits To Eat Us – Patrick Lane’s New Poetry Collection, Washita

Patrick Lane Reading From His Latest Book - Washita

Patrick Lane Reading From His Latest Book – Washita



Strange how beautiful when we are diaphanous,
a bit of ripped muslin set against the sun, the wind
soft as a child’s skin. Tragedy does that to us
and we are made the greater for our smallness.
A bright pebble among the discarded shells.
There are times I am a questing mole, fierce
in my love, lost as anything alive.

Patrick Lane from Washita, Harbour Publishing, 2014 (With Permission)

Tonight, in Victoria, Patrick Lane launched, Washita, his twenty seventh book of poetry, three years after the publication of his Collected Poems and fifty four years after he began writing poetry in 1960. In his afterward to his Collected Poems Lane says: The poem asked of me that a life’s work be done, that the presence of one stone or one leaf could be paradise and that the making of a poem, the making of a beautiful thing could defeat time……The poem is, I believe, an emblem of my desire to salvage some beauty from a fallen world.

The great American poet Jack Gilbert says sing going down and Lane echoes this in the line from his poem The Beauty: And still we sing. At age seventy five, Lane is still singing. Singing for the  beauty of a fallen world. And if the making of a beautiful thing can defeat time then Washita beats it hands down as shown by the “small” large poem that acts as the epigraph for this blog post.

In this epigraph poem Lane turns the tragedy, the death of a son, into a fierce beauty as he describes the grief dance of a mother. He transforms it into something diaphanous. a bit of ripped muslin set against the sun. That mother will remain in the beauty of her raw dance long after both her and her son have been forgotten. In this way this poem becomes a poem for all mothers through time who have lost a son. And also a poem for all of us who face tragedy and in that moment are made the greater for our smallness. Greater for how we survive it. The  fierce beauty of that.

Book Launch Poster for Patrick Lane's Book Washita

Book Launch Poster for Patrick Lane’s Book Washita

The title of this blog post comes from a poem in Washita,  titled Hard-Rock. A poem about his father. It ends this way: I lie beside the spider, wrists crossed, my many eyes closed./ A cellist told me once such presence is where the god waits to eat us. This is the presence inside great poems. It is the presence inside this book. And if we dare we can enter this presence and find ourselves transformed in the place where the god waits to eat us. 

There is a slowness in the poems in this book. Both literal and figurative. Lane began this collection when he could only type with one finger on his left hand.  This process created a poetry that stands apart from Lane’s previous work. In a strange irony the injury that forced him to write with one hand created its own striking beauty As he says: my imagination became an eddy in a meadow creek, a thin trout in turning water. Each letter was a dry needle circling above slow brown fins.

Here is a poem, all in end-stopped lines, that so clearly embodies this process:



Typing with my left forefinger today. The poem is immensely slow,
one letter, one word, one line at a time. This and then this and…
amazing how the images slow to an intimate crawl,
each word is a salamander peering from beneath a stone.
The fish this winter are wraiths, the pond’s perfect thoughts..
I have tried to love this quiet as the hours pass through me.
It is rare to feel anything deeply, My life is a feast if I allow it to be.
The slow rain falls without cease. It eats the ice, one drop at a time.
These days my body breaks down and I cannot lift my right arm.
My poems now are thin as I was when I lived in the mountains.
I tried to believe the lake when I came down from the high snows.
I watched the water for a long time from the safety of the trees.
It was a trout rising made me see what a day is, a ripple only.

Patrick Lane, ibid (With Permission)

It was trout rising made me see what a day is, a ripple only. This line has rippled inside my consciousness ever since I heard it at a reading a few years ago. Our lives are only a ripple. Lane’s poems are only a ripple. But for a moment Lane freezes time with his poems and we can touch them and read them without their diminishment.





  1. Liz McNally
    Posted November 2, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful tribute to Patrick and to this extraordinary book of poems.
    Just this morning I quoted those last 4 lines from Hard Rock to him, they move me so.
    We are all blessed by him.

  2. Richard
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Synchronicity. Love those lines from Hard Rock! We have been so lucky to be mentored by Patrick.

  3. Heidi Garnett
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Wish I could have been there. When Patrick read in Kelowna he received a standing ovation, something I’d never seen before or since.

  4. Richard
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Dear HeidI I look forward to the day when your new book receives a standing ovation in a packed room.

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