Time Capsule


255 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-896095-25-9
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the trade, scholarly, and reference editor of the
Canadian Book Review Annual.


At the time of her murder in September 1975, Pat Lowther was a widely
anthologized poet with three published collections to her name (two
posthumous volumes would follow). In 1977, Roy Lowther was sentenced to
life imprisonment for killing his wife. As Hilda Thomas wrote in The
Dictionary of Canadian Biographies, Pat Lowther’s death “robbed
Canadian poetry of one of its most vital and visionary poets.”

The poems in Time Capsule were selected from Lowther’s published
collections (This Difficult Flowring, 1968; The Age of the Bird, 1972;
Milk Stone, 1974; A Stone Diary, 1977; and Final Instructions, 1980) and
from a manuscript she was working on at the time of her death. The book
was compiled by the poet’s four children. Two of them, Beth and
Christine Lowther, contribute moving introductions, and there is an
afterword by Lorraine Vernon, who served as a consultant for the book.

Although it is tempting to see poems like “Kitchen Murder” and
“To a woman who died

of 34 stab wounds” as the products of a chilling prescience, Lowther
is preoccupied with far more than violence. As noted in the preface, her
abiding concerns are “love and the physical body, children and
motherhood, nature and human nature, [and] an intense political

Her socialist politics find their most explicit expression in
“Chacabuco, The Pit” (“Some one decides / who shall be starved /
who shall be fed / enough to sustain / another day’s torture”) and
in a series of poems addressed to Pablo Neruda. Though unflinching in
its litany of human atrocities, “Chacabuco” holds forth the
possibility of change and renewal: “the horrors of the mind / are the
horrors of / what we allow to be done / and the grace of the soul / is
what we determine shall be / made truly among us.”

In this collection, we see a tremendously gifted poet working toward a
poetic vision that integrated seemingly irreconcilable
strands—personal and political, psychological and historical,
biological and metaphysical. That she was so brutally interrupted in
this task was, as Dorothy Livesay put it, “a body blow to the cause of


Lowther, Pat., “Time Capsule,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/4147.