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parsed(2024-04-02) - pubdate: 04/24
pub date: 1712034000
today: 1716354000, pubdate > today = false

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The Principle of Rapid Peering

April 2, 2024 | Trade paperback
ISBN: 9780811237642
Reader Reward Price: $23.36 info
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Self-seeding wind

is a wind of ever-replenishing breath.

        --from "The Walk, or The Principle of Rapid Peering" 

The title of Sylvia Legris' melopoeic collection The Principle of Rapid Peering comes from a phrase the nineteenth-century ornithologist and field biologist Joseph Grinnell used to describe the feeding behavior of certain birds. Rather than waiting passively for food to approach them, these birds live in a continuous mode of "rapid peering." Legris explores this rich theme of active observation through a spray of poems that together form a kind of almanac or naturalist's notebook in verse. Here is "where nature converges with words," as the poet walks through prairie habitats near her home in Saskatchewan, through lawless chronologies and mellifluous strophes of strobili and solstice. Moths appear frequently, as do birds and plants and larvae, all meticulously observed and documented with an oblique sense of the pandemic marking the seasons. Elements of weather, ornithology, entomology, and anatomy feed her condensed, inflective lines, making the heart bloom and the intellect dance.

About this Author

Sylvia Legris was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her collection Garden Physic was chosen as one of the Best Poetry Books of the Year by The (London) Times and CBC/Radio-Canada. Her other poetry collections include The Hideous Hidden, Pneumatic Antiphonal, and Nerve Squall, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Pat Lowther Award. She lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

ISBN: 9780811237642
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 85
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Published: 2024-04-02


For Legris, nature is the all-inclusive subject, its circumference encompassing the flawed temporalities and fabricated vision of consciousness itself. The precision is clotted, scientific, Latinate, lovely... Best when compressed and apparently impersonal, Legris seeks not the detailing of her own particulars--no exigent family members, bad sex, or failed love here--but a comprehensive understanding of how the world assembles itself through the evolved perspectives of biological entities, like the bird who remains planted in place, allowing prey to come to it, or the creature of the title, who peers rapidly on the wing.

This latest collection from the Saskatoon poet Sylvia Legris meets a prairie almanac with the sonic intensity--and density--of Hopkins or Plath. The texture is thick, and the method is botany... The book is a walk through spring grasses, but it's also getting down on your hands and knees to put your nose in it. 

Her musical lines, varied as birdsong, don't shy away from alliterations that stick to the roof of the mouth... Beyond the spell-like quality of their sound, they act as standard-bearers for the power of naming.

There are few poets working this kind of tone and scale, writing a particular intimate depth across both the expanse and distance... Legris' poems offer precisions, although less of the carved diamond than a lyric of fleshy richness and layers, composing a cosmology of ground effect; these are hard-working hands rich with soil.

As a poet, Legris is a master of the curving tangent, working her way around a central theme while simply inclining, dropping clippings, allowing the reader to follow, suspended, her careful meanderings, often grounded by a hard-working title or subtle allusion. 

For Legris, the sum of life is not necessarily sense, story, or quanta but is also a strange summation of unknowing.

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