Books

crazy bonesa short history of crazy bone
Mother Tongue Publishing
121 Pages
© 2015
$19.95

The voice of Crazy Bone takes you on a mesmerizing journey in Patrick Friesen’s evocative new long poem. Crazy Bone lives on the edge of the world, at the edge of time, wandering the mid-path of her life, on the outskirts of a small town. She is caught in her own monologue, soul-talking, listening to herself, to the river. Crazy Bone is a trickster, a fool, a wild woman laughing, a campesino, who through loss is finding her way back to herself. In the forest she has her own rituals to place her feet on the earth again, though sometimes she floats or spins on her toes, blurts a curse or licks blood. Society has dismissed her presence as irrelevant, but Crazy is cleverly confident, and tests the reader. In her rambling, she references writers, singers, artists, theologians, tightrope walkers, philosophers, not as experts but as guides along the way. You won’t forget her voice after she has passed you on her way to the river.

“Crazy Bone’s solitary life on the margins is at once a performance of the archetypal feminine forever at odds with patriarchal order and a libretto for the wayward, solitary, and vulnerable spirit of art, passion, and expression.”
­— Sharon Thesen

“This poem is a single penetrating take into the mind of the deeply disenfranchised. It seizes the margin as its centre and looks out from there, seeking the whole amid the
broken. Always, Patrick Freisen is a poet who understands the necessity of, and insists upon, compassion.”
— Anne Michaels

Frayed OpusFrayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments (poems by Ulrikka Gernes, translated by Patrick Friesen and Per Brask)
Brick Books
61 Pages
© 2015
$20.00

Elegantly translated by Canadian collaborators Per Brask and Patrick Friesen, Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments is a new collection of poems from celebrated Danish poet, Ulrikka S. Gernes. These are lyrical, somewhat surreal poems that are nevertheless full of concrete, earthy details; they zoom in and out of places and states of mind, from a lit bicycle shed in the backyard to a root canal in November, from a typhoon in Hong Kong to instincts astray in various Copenhagen neighbourhoods.

“This collaboration between Danish poet, Ulrikka Gernes and Canadian writers, Brask and Friesen, is astonishingly successful, every line at home in its new language. The poems have not stopped being poems. In fact, now that they are speaking through three mouths (one female, two male) they seem to have gathered an extra layer of strangeness which suits their dream-like, mutable, almost anonymous voice: ‘Since then I have been standing in the subway singing to passersby and nobody knows my name …’ The world of the poems is twilit, borderless, melancholy, associative, seeping; and these qualities are carried over from the imagery into the fluid, blended structures of the verse. Full of arresting detail and quiet everyday language, this is the second Gernes book to be translated by these writers and it is masterful.”

­— Griffin Poetry Prize Judges’ Citation

A Dark Boat
Anvil Press
118 Pages
© 2012
$16.00

The poems in A Dark Boat shake hands with darkness; the kind of darkness that is rich and necessary for a full human life, the darkness of soil into which seeds drop and grow, the darkness of the grave into which the body is lowered.

Heavily inspired by cante jondo (Spanish “deep song”) and Portuguese fado, these poems explore the kind of yearning that is contained in the Portuguese word saudade: a longing for something in the past that can never be found because time has shifted everything away from what it was.

“I don’t know how Patrick Friesen has found his way into these poems: they seem to spring from the beginning of time. Nothing is held back. The poems — beautiful to read — are as devastatingly real in their drama on an immense stage of sun and shadow, as living bone. The literary haunting is Lorca and the memories are of the stranger, the stray dog, the witness to the wedding on the banks of the river of death. I read these poems with the utter conviction that Friesen had crossed barriers of time, place, and culture to draw forth poems out of the heart of mystery.”
­— Marilyn Bowering

“When I enter Friesen’s poems I am sent to my deepest roots of Sephardic, Arab, and Celtic blood. I “hear the heat somewhere over the wall” and wonder, as he does, “what is behind her/ in the dark room/ what she will enter when she turns/ for a moment.” It’s a window I may have seen in Lisbon. When Friesen mentions death in this book, it is the same death of my culture, so much intermingled with life that you cannot separate them from each other. “Earth’s cornada” wounds me in this exile where I live “made of rivers of thirst and birth.” Friesen knows well what there is behind silence.”
— Lala Isla

Jumping in the Asylum
Quattro Books
60 Pages
© 2011
$16.95

“These unpunctuated, rhythmically complex poems, like jazz improvisations, are direct, immediate demonstrations of consciousness itself, how we make connections when the mind is open and aware of its entire history. They have great weight and speed. Their long, sweeping lines flicker with vivid, sometimes astonishingly evocative images, and flashes of insight leap across time, contextual fields, belief systems, cultures, idioms and geographies, compressing language to brief illuminations that ask, again and again, those profoundly necessary but unanswerable questions that bring us face to face with our humanity.”
— George Amabile

“In these poems images like modern harmonies are presented unresolved yet compelling us forward—we can’t not look—the rhythm of his words delivering us into the delicious discomfort of sentience, the bittersweet of recognition, the hot sun on our face, death licking at our heels, drowning in life and dragging the river for ourselves.”
— Marilyn Lerner

The Shunning: The Play
Scirocco Drama
96 Pages
© 2010
$14.95

The story of one man struggling to express his personal views within a society that demands conformity. Peter is trying to live a good life, a faithful life. When he begins to question the doctrine of his Mennonite church and his faith in general, he is ostracized from the community. A decree by the church forces his wife to abandon him if not in person, then in spirit. The strain of domestic and community pressures forces Peter deeper into isolation, but he still refuses to stop questioning. Integrating dance, text and tragedy, The Shunning blends movement and spoken word that will carry you through a sea of emotions.

Manitoba playwright Patrick Friesen weaves a tangled web between faith and the faithful, introducing a new generation to his lyrical masterpiece.

The Shunning tears heads off clichés, making us see a whole place freshly. It is a complete world, reeling and tilting but enduring.”
— Books in Canada

“Painful, achingly beautiful picture of faith, and its fading.”
— Amazon.com

Earth’s Crude Gravities
Harbour Publishing
102 Pages
© 2007
$16.95

Part spiritual autobiography and part distilled observation, these poems address the reader with rare simplicity and openness, creating a profound sense of common ground between writer and reader: our being “at home in need.”

Patrick Friesen’s lyric sense is both natural and sophisticated; as you read him, music rises from the page, shaped by an ear attuned to the full range of sound, human and divine. And yet as intensely musical as these poems may be, they are imbued, as well, with the spirit of the painter Paul Cézanne, with all his doubts about the discipline to which he was devoted, his courage and persistence in continuing to paint. The lines “sitting in a red
chair with a paring knife/ as if about to peel an apple/ a living blade a knife/ that loves one’s flesh” conjure up for me both a painting by, and the very image of, Cézanne.

Robert Hughes talks of Braque’s love of Cézanne for “‘sweeping painting clear of the idea of mastery.’ He loved Cézanne’s doubt, his doggedness, his concentration on the truth of the motif, and his lack of eloquence.”

And it’s exactly that sense of facility, mastery, eloquence that these poems shake off or transcend, so that they can be more than what Donne called “little worlds made cunningly.” –Janice Kulyk Keefer

We Are Here
poems by Niels Hav, translated by Patrick Friesen and Per Brask
Book Thug
© 2006
$15.00

Niels Hav’s collection Grundstof, from which most of the poems in We Are Here hail, was welcomed in one of Denmark’s most widely read newspapers Ekstra Bladet with these words: ‘Niels Hav is an economical writer. He only inconveniences the public when he has something important on his mind. Hav’s aim is to give weight to every word and to cut to the bone… Grundstof’s words are saturated with experience and wisdom.

The English translations of his poems in We Are Here are no different. For more than fifteen years the Canadians Patrick Friesen and P.K. Brask have been following Niels Hav’s work con amore. His voice is direct and humorous, intelligent, lyrical and philosophical, a voice that takes into account the difficulties of staying close to the elemental. Hav is devoid of sly obfuscation; he is a poet unafraid of being clear. What could be more direct or elemental than the fact: We Are Here?

Niels Hav is a poet and short story writer living in Copenhagen.

Epigram

You can spend an entire life
in the company of words
not ever finding
the right one.

Just like a wretched fish
wrapped in Hungarian
newspapers.
For one thing it is dead,
for another it doesn’t understand
Hungarian


Interim: Essays and Mediations
Hagios Press

143 pages
ISBN 0-9739727-0-X

© 2006

$17.95

Patrick Friesen is a writer who has never turned away from ethical and moral concerns. Interim reveals a master in full stride, one who is prepared to take on the subjective truths of his world. At once inventive and personal, patient in observation and restlessly curious, Friesen speaks both for and beyond the poetry that is his first love as a writer. There is a natural rhythm in his prose that gives Interim a music all its own.

Whether writing about Russian poets, Canadian dancers, the haunting voice of Richard Manuel, or his own Mennonite upbringing in rural Manitoba, Friesen hooks the reader with the intensity of his language, employing the refined wordplay of the poets to exploit the analytical techniques of prose. These “essays and mediations,” his first collection of nonfiction, prove as diverse as his output as a poet and playwright, and are essential to a fresh understanding of Patrick Friesen as one of Canada’s most important and influential literary artists.

Calling the Dog Home (CD)
Patrick Friesen, voice; Marilyn
Lerner, piano
; Peggy Lee, cello; Niko Friesen, percussion
© 2005

$15.00

A CD of text and improvised music, Calling the Dog Home emerges out of the on-going collaboration between Patrick Friesen and Marilyn Lerner.

On this CD they have two musicians join them: Peggy Lee on cello and Niko Friesen on percussion. The CD was recorded at the Western Front in Vancouver, BC on March 13 and 14, 2005.

Bordello Poems
Vancouver Film School
56 pages
© 2004
Limited edition chapbook
Numbered series of 200
$20.00


2/3

your finger
tracing

my ear
and down

along
my jaw

you smile
turning

and ask
if

I’m all
talk

Small Rooms (CD)
Patrick Friesen, voice and Marilyn
Lerner, piano

© 2003

$15.00

A CD of text and piano music, small rooms emerges out of Friesen poems and prose pieces and Lerner’s improvisational interaction with them. These pieces interweave piano and text, coloring each other, informing each other.

“Got your Small Rooms. It’s beautiful. I love its starkness, its space. Marilyn’s composition blends in seamlessly, so that the voice and piano really are part of one soundscape, and not just complementing each other. It takes courage to leave out so much, to make the space around a sound or a word or a note into an idea–to use silence as a part of that nexus. The work is a quietude. After listening to it, I wanted to go into a ‘small room’ to think about everything.”–Brian Brett

the breath you take from the lord
Harbour Publishing
79 pages
ISBN 1-55017-284-0

© 2002

$16.95


26

barefoot jesus coughing in the rain in samaria
no one good in sight and the figs not ripe
you imagine a fever and you imagine his
thought sometimes you almost know what
he saw

a man stumbles to the water to wash his blind
eyes and opens them to an old world
does he hear a sparrow darting through air or
does he enter darkness once again?

you love the story of assisi preaching to the
birds calling on them to sing praises to the lord
and they sang their wings fluttering the
songbirds sang but you wonder where the hawk flew

you lose the world over and over love is unruly
the disorder that brings good it can it can
it’s what you hold here your children your lover
death in your heart it’s possible

who is it you hear speak as you speak sing as
you sing what voices live in you?
a harsh call in the clearing and that breath that
deep breath you take from the lord

A Sudden Sky (poems by Ulrikka Gernes, translated by Patrick Friesen and Per Brask)
Brick Books
106 pages
ISBN 1-894078-18-7

© 2001

$14.00


Silk

purple whisper
silk falls

from your body
of snow and ashes

the room turns
faster on its axis

the air is woven
from the delicate fluttering of wings

cones of sparks
rise at the glistening touch of skin

carrying the shadow
Beach Holme Publishing
111 pages
ISBN 0-888-78-401-5
© 1999

$12.95


small town

a dog sleeps in the sunlight
someone’s playing harmonica
I’m waiting for something to happen

a ’56 chevy rounds the corner
the banker singing a hymn
his arm signaling the turn

four crows on the roof
I’m thinking of a carpenter
hauling shingles up the ladder

the mid-afternoon is silent
and still as a photograph
in the unearthly heat

everything’s a secret
grandmother in the garden
her apron stained with raspberries

a cat stretches on the top step
then slowly descends
in to the world

a bicyclist blowing
through the shrubs
his legs thrown wide

bells are ringing
it’s another wedding
bride and groom at the door

What others have said:
“How to speak of that particular muscle and urgency in Patrick Friesens’ poetry? There is always a poetry beyond the words, a music the longing lines reach after, overrunning the sentence, a place where grief and celebration aren’t separable and the dead are all ears. Time and again the reader is struck, not just with amazement, but with gratitude.”
(Don McKay)

“If less is always more in poems then Patrick Friesen has found it. There is a new simplicity here, as narrow as ecstasy, as thin as sorrow. Friesen’s poems are rare and fine and we are blessed by these tireless sweet words, these whispers in the dark.”
(Patrick Lane)

st. mary at main
The Muses’ Company
94 pages
ISBN 1-896239-32-3
© 1998
$12.95


the moon in the streets

tonight the moon’s sunk into the city
and all the houses are shadows
I thought I wanted to break down the walls
but I just want to turn from the snow

I want no one’s death but my own
the clarity of a struck piano key
the fabric of a plucked string
I want no other life than this

everyone’s walking in someone else’s shoes
the heart disorders the world
love’s mayhem and sorrow drifting
with the moon in the streets

music through an open door
the heat of the room billowing out
I see her dancing on the floor
here at the heart of things

it’s st. mary at main
where you forget everything
nothing being born
but the light

What others have said:
“Between ‘blue silk umbrella’ skies and ‘night’s dark foliage’ Patrick Friesen sings us a city of music and memory, trains and terrors, bookstores and bridges. This is poetry that matters, poetry that calls us home and calls to the homelessness within us.
“The strength of Friesen’s rhythms, the sureness of his vision, the sense that he hears with his very skin the ‘lost human song’ of ‘a city that sends its blood/pumping toward both coasts’–all these make his readers into citizens not just of Winnipeg, but of the heart, ‘that restless immigrant/without a passport,’ that midden the poet sifts, layer by layer, uncovering not just dust but silver bracelets of light.”
(Janice Kulyk Keefer, on st. mary at main)

“I haven’t read a book like this since Hart Crane’s The Bridge or Federico Garcia Lorca’s Poet in New York. Friesen dreams Winnipeg into being, fills its streets with the ghosts of its dead artists, hears its beauty and its muscle, caresses its modern indifference with words. He has a winter soul, with the resilience, steel and beauty of winter that doesn’t flinch. The music leaks through. A wonderful book.”
(Rosemary Sullivan, on st. mary at main)

A Broken Bowl
Brick Books
132 pages
ISBN 0-919626-93-9
© 1997
$12.95


a dish
stone steps
a dancer

scattered in grass
buried in deserts
these things of man and woman
an obsidian blade
a painted wall
these things
made us gods
in our own right

an ancient breastbone
ribs
held a fire
and let go
the contagious heart

spreading
through valleys
of the rift
the serengeti
himalayas

a disease
to make us gods
beasts in love
and war
turning to watch
the infected sky

the world going down
around us

What others have said:
“Picture-building poetry doesn’t get better than this. Patrick Friesen communicates directly to your imagination. These fragments of a broken bowl are, indeed, much greater than the sum of their parts as they spur imaginal encounters not only with Friesen but with the scattered bits of the reader’s self–each piece a new gesture to try on.”
(Per Brask, on A Broken Bowl)

“These are the end days–someone’s got a kitchen knife and is ‘looking for the government’; the river is a ‘filthy transfusion.’ Patrick Friesen sings this dark song with beauty and a guttering love. We’re long past apology, reconstruction: there’s only Friesen’s voice–not nearly enough, sure, but the only thing worthy of trust.”
(Tim Lilburn, on A Broken Bowl)

Blasphemer’s Wheel
(Selected & New Poems)
Turnstone Press
150 pages
ISBN 0-88801-1792
© 1994
$12.95


finding god

I can sing that’s all not much of a commodity nothing to scrawl on my resume just something I’ve found again
finding god in a God-riddled world finding love her feet in my hands her tired body loosening into sleep
lying beside her past understanding curled against the world’s map the curve of her shore

I can sing like a child gathering stones or an old man rounding the corner with his eyes full of night
finding god in my nightstand drawer a blue shell from a beach a bottle of danish glass and a dozen letters of love
in her sleep she turns into my arms and sighing back to dream she’s sheltered for a moment in the world

I can sing to the cold stars and lake I can sing to the city where lovers’ rooms gather dust
finding god in the absence of the come-on shrug of her shoulder the absence of her scent
falling through fear and sorrow through dreams of my companion in her shawl and tears

I can sing on a broken bridge with a broken child I can sing when there’s nothing else to be done
finding god in the night rumble of a distant train finding god in the memory of my bruised skin
nothing’s meant if it doesn’t happen living a diary of finding god a small pretension of words

You Don’t Get To Be a Saint
Turnstone Press
83 pages
ISBN 0-88801-163-6
© 1992
$9.95


you don’t get to be a saint

like stars snow’s falling all over town
headlights are passing on the walls
a god’s walking barefoot through the drifts

the town drunk’s leaning against a tree
he sees a dead hand in the snow
and reaches down to offer his own

you don’t get to be a saint the dead man says
you get to warm your hands for a moment
you get to catch your breath and say one thing

I can make you a wizard he says
I can give you life forever
but I can’t take the price off your head

I don’t want to be a wizard says the drunk
I live with the price and I don’t mind dying
I just want to sing a lullaby

he clears his throat and sings the dead man to sleep
then he turns into stillness
like none ever heard ever more still than snow

what others have said:
“Witty, lucid, passionate, the long lines of Friesen’s poems reach into ‘human days that can’t be helped’ and retrieve images of intimacy and humility. This is a book of dances and conversations: between the poet and his anima, speech and the outward silence of thought, language and gesture. With his customary stateliness and elegance of mind, Friesen engages us to think ‘somewhere between yes and no’–a place, as it turns out, filled with the voices of friends.”
(Sharon Thesen, on You Don’t Get to Be a Saint)

“Tonight, having just read (twice) the two Anna dances, I say surely Friesen is our best poet. Tomorrow, more moderate, I shall say he is one of our best. No matter. He is very good indeed. And he gets better and better. He writes of ‘the flesh and the spirit/the red heart and the blue wind.'”
(P. K. Page, on You Don’t Get to Be a Saint)

Flicker and Hawk was a revelation. Where had this voice come from–this taut, amazing line, with its gritty humanity and furious equipoise?
“The new book confirms that Patrick Friesen is one of the poets we cannot do without. I particularly admire the way poems of private extremis nudge toward the condition of psalms. At their best, they bring news of first and last things: ‘there’s a limit I guess to art there’s no end to desire.'”
(Dennis Lee, on You Don’t Get to Be a Saint)

Flicker and Hawk
Turnstone Press
73 pages
ISBN 0-88801-113-X
© 1987
$8.95

sunday afternoon

on sunday afternoons all the fathers in town slept
I think they dreamed of old days and death
sometimes you could hear them cry
the summer air was still at the window
flies on the screen and the radio playing softly in the kitchen

mother slid a fresh matrimonial cake onto potholders on the stove
picked up a book a true book of someone else’s life
sunglasses a pitcher of lemonade and a straw hat
spread a blue blanket in the backyard near the lilac shrubs for shade
lay down one ear hearing children in the garden
she never escaped all the way nor did she want to not quite
this much on a sunday afternoon went a long way

downtown boys rode main street toward fiery crashes they imagined
twisted wrecks with radios playing
rock ‘n’ roll insulting the highway
townspeople gathered on the shoulder
standing as near as they could to the impossible moment between what’s here and not

a girl’s body sprawled in the ditch no one knew at first whose daughter she was
though someone pulled her skirt down for decency
the smell of alcohol and fuel everywhere
her lipstick so so red beneath the headlights
they couldn’t take her eyes from her lips
what was she doing in a wild car like that? who was she?

at night I shivered in bed wondering how to get out of town
side-stepping wrecks they were everywhere on all the roads heading out toward the lights and laughter
a dented hubcap an amazing shoe with its laces still done up made you wonder how someone could step right out of a shoe like that like the flesh was willing or surprised or not there to begin with

in nightmares angry lords walked through my room
it took my breath away how ferocious love could be
sometimes jesus hung on the wall or was it the shadow of an elm?

in the morning at the kitchen table green tomatoes on the window sill we held devotions with careful hands
father’s eyes focussed hard on me so he wouldn’t remember but of course he did
listening often to mother’s sunny childhood dreams
I thought I was free I was a child with a dancing mother
and my town was filled with children and my town had backstreets and sheds and black dogs and sugar trees but she disappeared and he died and I got out I’m getting out I’m getting out
what I left there the child gathering raspberries in an enamel bowl
he’s not dead he went back to where you are before you’re born again
waiting for the next time and another town

What others have said:
“Pat Friesen is a philosopher of the human condition…rooted in the premise that people’s lives are important. These poems ask questions that are worth knowing…they are tough and beautiful. They are incendiary to the spirit!”
(Allan Safarik, on Flicker and Hawk)

Unearthly Horses
Turnstone Press
78 pages
ISBN 0-88801-088-5
© 1984
Out of print, author has limited copies of this title available at $20.00


sonata

almost a hand the glove dangled
from the baseball bat across my shoulder
we were talking about hook slides
I said ‘see ya’ to jim    turned into my yard
when ‘moonlight sonata’ drifted through a window

I froze between the poplars
their leaves evening-still
still hearing ‘see ya’
and jim kicking a stone down the street
the western sky emptying
and from the front room the piano
mother    her eyes her fingers
playing a sonata

someone shifted a mirror in the last sun
must have    something flashed    leaves
someone took out a handmirror to comb her hair
mother’s outline in the window    a lamp    its chain dancing
and outside the poplars filling with stars

that’s all and that’s true    the slow notes
hanging there in time
like a perfect hook slide round the second baseman’s glove

The Shunning
Turnstone Press
105 pages
ISBN 0-88801-038-9
© 1980
$12.00


I latch the barn door
bend to pick up a pail of milk
then wobble through snowdrifts

a steel guitar cries from our house
I pause    the night below zero
and listen to Peter’s nasal song

He lifted me up to a heavenly place

I look up    there

icy sheets of northern lights
planets reeling above the barn
only words sung    the guitar
encounter this star-marred night
and utter folly

bluebottle
Turnstone Press
72 pages
ISBN 0-88807-007-9
© 1978
Out of print


bluebottle

he died on a stone pillow
his hand on the bannister
there was nothing between us

for the moment

I was the staircase and the last touch
he the debut
between touch and ghost

I heard a bluebottle in the blind

the droning was   summer days chewing the stems of lilac leaves

the fall of yellow afternoons

suns glinting
on the blue hood of our ’53 dodge
and father hoisting me
to the hot fender for a photograph

sitting still
and father brushing sandflies off my back

between touch and ghost
while I heard time
everything happened at once

the lands i am
Turnstone Press
44 pages
© 1976
Out of print


terrain

in thrall to the roots,
perennial in their mode,
I find the constant windflower
easily abandoning its petals.

this land is daubed with ashen easters,
with blue-eyed grass and goldenrod.

there is something vague in the colour,
something explicit in the form.

fire-confirmed and tree-broken,
this land holds the valerian edible
along the railroad, along the marsh;
the birdsfood violet in the churchyard.

and yes, in thrall to the oak
and all divining months
when I hardened in grandfather’s desert
of thistle, stone and snakeroot.

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