book cover for Godwit

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Godwit: Poems of Canada

Published by FootHills Publishing, 2007

Butedale Rite

 When the ice thaws & the first floes
leave for their long passage down channel
all the ghost salmon return in a spring

ritual to the site where white water
falls into the cove & shadow of commerce
in the red flesh of their brethren falls

on their ghostly silver bodies, on all
the hollow memories of their lost species.
It is a celebration of demise—

not theirs—but that of the hungriest ones,
those alien creatures with machinery,
tin cans, solder, steam, a greedy streak,

a killing instinct, shamelessness.
The ghost salmon return to the shambles
& the silence, to the clean scents

of rotting wood & rusting steel,
the long, slow fade of human sanctimony.
The ghost salmon return & return & return

until a new tide turns, bringing
again their living kind from the sea
to this native place, their place on earth.


“Proud to be a South Canadian” is how poet Karla Linn Merrifield of Kent, NY, succinctly conveys her passion for the country she’s adopted as the muse for her new book, Godwit: Poems of Canada.

Merrifield, who has journeyed the entire length of Transcanada 1, from St John’s, Newfoundland, to Tofino on the west coast of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, confesses, “I am traitorously in love with Canada.”

That spirit imbues the book, as in “Witnessing the Canadian Shield,” where she honors the geology of the country: “I think it perhaps wise to travel/ lightly in this weighted country,/  if only in homage to its granite.”

Readers familiar with her 2006 anthology THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America (FootHills), will recognize Merrifield’s naturalist’s grasp of Canadian fauna at work in Godwit. Thus, in “Incorporated,” the poet bows to the voracious blackflies of Western Ontario and their “persistent, ubiquitous business of insects.” And in “Three Pieces of Cod,” a panegyric to the depleted cod fish, she laments both the fish’s demise and that of the Newfoundlander’s livelihood that depended on the fish—“Closed down yer factory,/ thousands lost their jobs.”


In 2009, Godwit: Poems of Canada received the Andrew Eiseman Writers Award, which was accompanied by a $1,000 prize. “A widely published poet, editor, and creative writing teacher at SUNY Brockport, Karla Linn Merrifield is also ‘first and foremost a trekker,’ writes Annette Weld, advisory council member for River Campus Libraries and University (of Rochester) alumna and one of the Eiseman Award judges. “By sailing ship, motor home, kayak, or on foot, for the past fifteen years Merrifield has trekked the world to create ‘a body of poems rooted in place, observing them with a naturalist’s as well as a poet’s eye.’ “

Read the review.

Romantic Poetry


I n love with Canada since developing a crush on a visiting Canadian Cub Scout years ago (we were both 7), it’s no wonder to me that Karla Linn Merrifield’s captivating Godwit snatched at my heart — I identified with her covetous attachment to things and places Canadian early in the introduction — and it wouldn’t let go, the last empathetic beats of me continuing to resonate in the northern needles, cones, native elders, butterclams and roe inhabiting the final poems.

– Eve Anthony Hanninen, poet and editor, The Centrifugal Eye

Karla Linn Merrifield may not be an ex-patriot, but her literary sense of Canada — its landscape, its people, its essential there-ness-is as acute as though she had spent her entire life above the 49th parallel. Or perhaps more acute, because, as with anything seen from the outside, her focus is sharpened by distance, honed by reverie, and described by detailed poetic sensibility. For Canadians and non-Canadians alike, this book is a treat to read-unrivalled by even the tastiest bite of cod cheeks . . . or Tim Horton’s.

– Alisa Gordaneer, award-winning poet and editor of Monday Magazine, Victoria, B.C.

Karla Linn Merrifield Images

Get your copy:

From the author: Signed copies from the author via email query.