“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.