When Earth Leaps Up


86 pages
ISBN 1-894078-52-7
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Beryl Baigent

Beryl Baigent is a poet; her published collections include Absorbing the
Dark, Hiraeth: In Search of Celtic Origins, Triptych: Virgins, Victims,
Votives, and Mystic Animals.


This text was published posthumously with a preface by Hilary Clark and
edited with an afterword by Mark Abley. In three of the four sections,
the poet concludes with a “Statement.” The first, “Statement for a
Matter of Spirit,” defines to some extent “the oneness the
separateness” inherent in the first section in which Szumigalski
reminisces and simultaneously projects into the future with
eschatological poems that suggest her interest in last things. “She
Steps Out / into the garden of the world” seeing the beauty and the
horror and the way they complement each other. Yet, like Hildegard von
Bingen the poet “gives thanks” for everything, and lets her praise
“rise to the heavens.”

“Statement: Reinventing Memory” concludes “Light from Light,”
advising the reader that “memory may be, the only proof of linear
time.” The poet both praises and derides the “old scholar” who is
“like a dried fruit rattling / away hoping the whole thing will split
open / and one seed at least will fall into a moisty mind.” This
section thrives on the poet’s delicious sense of humour as her images
become surreal and futuristic: prayers are like pancakes, the cowman is
afraid of the evil child, and light is found inside the skull.

“Day of Wings” culminates with “Statement on Peace.” In this
section, Szumigalski demonstrates the uncertainty of life. A feather
might be from a dove wing, or may be a lily leaf, a dagger, or merely
melt “into the idea of itself.” “When earth leaps up / and heaven
descends / and the two meet like lovers,” the inevitability of
disintegration and decay stare one in the face.

The final section, “The Great Crocodile,” addresses “the
condition of our existence.” “A Green Hill” focuses on the
resurrection aspect of this concept as one follows rebirth from
“horseshoe” and “crow,” to “edict” and “king’s title,”
with connotations of Christ on Calvary.

It was a great loss to the writing communities of Canada when Anne
Szumigalski died in 1999. Although it is not her own, the book’s
arrangement presents a life study that she would likely have



Szumigalski, Anne., “When Earth Leaps Up,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15969.