The Burden of Snow


101 pages
ISBN 0-88801-295-0
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.


The Burden of Snow is a volume of exotic poetry that relies on the
Arctic climate for many of its images. Although “the interior of
British Columbia [where the poet currently lives] is on the tip / of her
tongue,” she is intent on exploring the many other cultures that
create the framework of her ethnicity. Her great-grandmother arrived
from Russia by boat, bringing with her “only her mother-tongue” like
an artifact, smuggled into Canada “hidden in a pouch.” There are
also Cree, Irish, Norse, Danish, and Scottish “living in [her],” but
MacLeod seems content to be described as “a member of the Metis Nation
Northwest Territories” on her book jacket.

Like her Scottish “grandpa MacLeod,” who saw all waters as “the
same ocean he’d known all his life,” the poet wants to see the
facets of her life as connected. However, she also finds herself
sleeping “in the pocket of [her Cree] grandpa’s body,” and her
“first breath “ is inhaled “in the dust pit of the prairies.”

By “The Laws of Inheritance,” she is also a “chain link fence of
chromosomes trailing / behind until there is nothing that you can say is
your own.” Additionally, she is the sum of “myriads of pieces, /
like a puzzle … Pieced together.” Love, both sexual and spiritual,
cements the connections for MacLeod. She wants kissing to be “a
national Canadian / pastime right along with hockey.”

In this wonderful book, full of energy and excitement, MacLeod has
found her own words, “the push of consonant / and vowel” through her
own “molars and incisors,” the words that she loves (like
“Appaloosa” and “plenty”) and hates (like “Permanent”) to
express her unique personal history. With her mystical connections,
innovative metaphors, and love of language, Heather Simeney MacLeod is
the 21st-century incarnation of Gwendolyn McEwen. Don’t rush through
this book; there is much to savour and much to learn.



MacLeod, Heather Simeney., “The Burden of Snow,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,