The Witch of the Inner Wood
Like the novella in fiction, the long poem is an oft-neglected form. Too long for publication in most literary journals and anthologies, too short to merit book-length publication, the long poem occupies a lonely space in literature. M. Travis Lane is a master of the form, in which her considerable poetic skills reach their apex. There are few that match her brilliance. This volume collects all of her long works — most of them now out of print — from a five-decade commitment to the art.
M. Travis Lane has long flown under the radar of Can Lit, crafting luminous poems and sharp literary criticism — much of it published in the Fiddlehead, one of Canada's premier literary journals — but in recent years her work has been drawing the attention it deserves. Evidence of this recognition is her 2015 Governor General's Award nomination for Crossover, a collection the still-vital poet published at the age of 81. Her poetry is modernist, dense, and highly allusive, drawing adeptly on classical and biblical sources, imbued with a feminist and ecocritical perspective. Her musical lines, vivid metaphors, and phenomenological acumen launch her into the company of such poetic luminaries as Don McKay, Jan Zwicky, and Tim Lilburn. In the long poetic form, these qualities reach their highest expression. This volume, an exquisite collection that brings together her long poems for the first time, constitutes an important addition to the canon of Canadian literature and to the canon of feminist literature in North America.
"Canadian poetry has always had secret masters; poets who, without fanfare, deepened their style and vision — and extended the presiding genius of our tradition. M. Travis Lane is one of these figures. She has become, for our attitudinizing era, an especially powerful example of how emotional complexity and psychological depth aren't a matter of 'spontaneous overflow' but are built from lucid stanzas, uncompromising compression, and effective metaphors. These qualities can be seen in the astonishing long poems selected for The Witch of the Inner Wood, a book that will cement Lane's status as one of our most significant poets." — Carmine Starnino
"'You either go or you get sent.' If you've never thought of poetry as page-turner, wait till you delve into M. Travis Lane's masterful long poems, collected together here for the first time. Hypnotist, conductor, and hobgoblin, she liberates life from its usual haze, so we may consider it in the changing light — so we must. Almost any single line by Lane seals the case for the necessity of the lyric. This welcome volume reshapes the narrative around the Canadian long poem, placing one of our finest poets at the centre of the rise of this widely beloved form, now an essential component of our literature." — Anita Lahey
"M. Travis Lane keeps the Aristotelian tradition in poetry: to move from lyric poetry to longer verse forms. Thus she has always done — with meet cadence, with right diction, with sweet wisdom. But the Collected Long Poems gather at long last her consistent achievement, her persistent excellence, her insistent, epic impulse. Lane accepts our collective debt to classical poets, the undead — deathless — bards of antiquity. The wording is precise, the imagery compelling, the verses supple. If you have not read Lane before, prepare to travel: like T.S. Eliot, she wants you to have a transporting experience in your imagination. If you have read Lane before, prepare for fresh astonishment. She is Homeric breadth and Sapphic brevity in this suite of superb poems." — George Elliott Clarke
Pub date: October 4, 2016