Kirsty Elliot has released her most recent collection of poetry True through Leaf Press. She lives with her husband and their two children on Lasqueti Island (located on Vancouver Island) where they cleared a portion of land, dug a few ponds, made a garden filled with fresh vegetables and built themselves a "cute little plastic shack." They just completed their fourth winter on the property and like to refer to their sacred retreat as the "plastic fantastic."
Elliot claims to have accidentally been born in England because she is Scottish. Her mom was a midwife and her dad was a chemical engineer. She lived in Carnoustie, Scotland until the age of three and then moved to the Bahamas until she turned seven. She describes life in the Bahamas as being all about glass bottom boats and swimming all day until her dad was recruited by a nuclear power plant in Ontario. She spent the rest of her childhood in Inverhuron and then she thinks she went to high school in Port Elgin, but she's tried to block those years out.
She attended Trent University until her global cycling addiction prevented her from finishing up her Native Studies degree. She spent a decade living in the Yukon and Northwest Territories before settling down south to care-take a dreamy private island. She would spend the days (three years) living all alone in a house that floated in the ocean and looked like a walnut that fell to earth from outer space. It was during that period that the poems for True were conceived.
True proved to be a wonderful read. Elliot takes us on a journey through some of the more fantastical and impressionable moments in her life, slapping the reader with picturesque snapshots of narrative glory. There is little left to the imagination, as Elliot chooses to instead drop any shroud of mystery at the readers feet, challenging them to read on.
Elliot dedicates True to her former partner in crime, Lulu, and upon giving her a short stack of poems to read prior to the book being published, she noticed that when Lulu returned them to her, some of the words were blurry because she had cried on them, and they weren't tears of sadness Elliot pondered, it was something else.
True has been shortlisted for the 2012 Gerald Lampert Award.
When I remember Arik
it is like remembering a sickness.
My first love
his body a constellation I would lie beneath
and gaze up at
his tongue ring flashing like a star.
Broad shoulders, long body, white hair
a dogwood flower tattooed on his hip
Hitler would have held his breath.
That summer in Whitehorse
I was blissed out.
I wore my prettiest dresses so he would
peel them from my body
untie my sandals
press me into the fireweed
as the midnight sun
drifted over us.
A pale season
that passed like an afternoon.
We ate magic mushrooms
and climbed up a mountain.
I was a fairy tale girl in a long pink gown
he was a barefoot, sun-bleached prince
and I had a revelation.
Arik, I said,
"All we need to do is plant some vegetables
save their seeds and plant them again
we wouldn't need to work
we could just go on loving each other like this
He threw his antidepressants into the river
and my love poured into him like medicine.
But then autumn began to creep
down our long laneway.
The colours changed as I swallowed
Nalgene bottles full of bitter tea.
Pennyroyal, rue, tansy, black cohosh
witches' brew copied off the internet.
As the skies darkened
he broke his hand punching the truck.
I would ride my bike to work in the dark
tires rolling over the frozen ground.
Glowing snow soaking up the last light
of those days
slipping away like my body
becoming so small
I barely recognized the feel of it
under my fingers.
sharp points piercing the darkness.
He was gone by the time the stars came back.
He Could Be a Model
There is such poetry
in the things that man does for you.
His poetry is silent.
I remember the first time
I ever saw him dance.
His poetry is loud.
He arrives like James Bond
in a helicopter
engagement rings jangling in his pocket.
His fingers press into my jaw muscles
and the knots tied by the first one
to ever call me Bucky
When he builds his massage studio
I better carry bear spray
to protect myself
from marauding women
who just want to see me dead.
There will be so many promises
of casseroles at my funeral
swarms of women with red lips and black dresses
that show a bit of leg. Hear them whisper:
He brings you gowns in paper bags.
As CBC talks about the decline in the forest industry
he says I better write my bestselling poetry book soon
so I say give me something to write about
and he says look around
what else do you want me to do, die?
No! Most of the time, no.
Except in January I did.
It just seemed easier than breaking up
especially if death was fast and painless
and he'd filled out the Blue Cross papers
I'd left lying about.
But I know that as soon as my body received
even the tiniest drop of vitamin D
I would descend into grief
I would want nothing
but to go back.
To the plastic house he built for us
and joined with old church stairs from Demex
to the '57 Airstream bedroom he painted pink
while I was still up North.
I look at his beautiful posture
his strong warm arms
and beyond him Coco is throwing her voice
so it spills out of a blue-haired pony
while Basha drills with his pretend Impact Driver
and everything looks so pretty
from the jar of chocolate chips
to the sparkly pink armchair.
The carpet's nitrogen completely fixed by diaper-freeing
all my good lipsticks dug out by little fingers
a mobile of shells and beach glass
twirling in the breeze.
The king size bed where we sleep
all warm and cuddled up together
breathing in and breathing out
and breathing in and breathing out.
*Note - Photography by Glen Keddie, Kirsten Charleton and Kinga.