Talking Down the Northern Lights


78 pages
ISBN 1-894345-22-3
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.


Leedahl’s second book of poetry is divided into four sections. In Part
1, the poet returns to her childhood: to camp fires with marshmallows
melting on your tongue, to her early forays into sexuality, to racism in
small-town Saskatchewan. In these poems, we find language like “Just
as you pull the nightgown / over your head, a hummingbird / lights on
your breast.”

Part 2, “The Impossible Mother,” moves us into darker territory. In
one poem, a mother recalls “Those early years as you waiting / in the
nursery, me weeping in bed with Sore breasts, [and] filthy diapers.”
The theme of personal anguish extends to Part 3, which includes poems on
marital separation (“When to drop the bomb,” “A Canadian
Sunday,” and “Two winter bodies balancing snow”), sexual betrayal,
and suicide.

The final section, “How Long It Has Taken To Come To This,” has a
more lyrical feel that the previous three, as well as a humorous
inclination. Ten years ago, the speaker tells us, “I didn’t believe
/ in happy poems or endings.” So, has Leedahl found happiness as a
poet, wife, and mother? Is she content with domesticity, her two
Adirondack chairs, and the fact that she has reached her 50th wedding
anniversary? Not exactly: she’s dreaming of Italy, of living alone in
a seaside village; she takes off for a mini-retreat at her parents’
home; and she runs like hell every morning. As they say, uncertainty is
the spice of life.


Leedahl, Shelley A., “Talking Down the Northern Lights,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,