Dancing With My Daughter


Sono Nis Press, 1993. ISBN: 1-55039-037-6. 6 x 9, 94 pages. $9.95

Bookman Summary2

Lyric and narrative poetry. Art, Land, Memory, Love. The culmination of Harold Rhenisch’s explorations of land, place, and land-based culture.

Bookman reviews2

Dancing With My Daughter is Harold Rhenisch’s fourth collection of poetry. Characteristically, the poems are alight with an ardent lyric impulse which is all the more intense for being shaped by an elegant restraint. The book is divided into three sections. The first shimmers with the surreal incandenscence of the poet’s dreamworld. This is a rhapsody. Yet when the poet performs a dance with his daughter, it is as measured and grave as a gavotte. The second section of the book considers the meaning of the past as it persistently and powerfully permeates the present. In the third section, the poet constructs a viable bridge between the artist and the natural world around him.Finally, these poems are a celebration of the living past and a passionate present where all movement —in water, in the dance, in wind and in art&emdash;is a statement of re-creation. Angela Addison

Drifting north from the Similkameen to the Cariboo, Rhenisch is a kind of Steppenwolf who manages to combine both the populism of wanna-be work poets and the subtleties of “poets’ poet.” The orchardist and the haiku poet both believe in the value of pruning, and there is a farmer’s economy of effort which lends emotional and intellectual incandescence to very line Rhenisch writes. Reading him always makes you feel as though you’re sitting at a farmhouse kitchen table late at night with a stack of books and a glass of something from the cellar, kids and stock safely abed, and an hour or two to talk quietly about what it all means. John Moore, The Vancouver Sun

Rhenisch puts the whole of the poem down so carefully on paper that it becomes a wonder. Prairie Fire

bookman excerpts2


This is not one of the Sefiroi
that is burning, phosphorescent,
in this dark room—the shape
of the night is showing
through the form of the room—
but the scent that wafts from it
is the scent of hay:
it is a thing of light,
a nest for birds, a jug
that will hold no water:
it is the body.

Mountains and trees are also
thin filaments of light:
the mind, perfectly attuned,
will look through them
and see Nothing—they are
the heavy seedheads of grass
in rain;

as soon as the body steps
out of the door
and the wind moulds itself
exactly to its face, it ceases
to be the body,
but is the threshing floor;

music is continually fighting
to return to its first
note, but no longer has within it
the form of a tree—it can form
the song of a tree, but can put forth no leaves,
gently fingering the light
like angels.

I have just stepped out the back door
into the sky. The light
in the leaves under the apricot trees,
and the light off the water
on those leaves, to hold
the frost from the roots,
is reflecting the sky:
the sun is burning within them—
but cooled, and still.

If you break apart
the sacred geometry of the Sefiroi,
you get no more than a heap
of light on the ground,
that quickly seeps out through the grass
until it is a skin
that so perfectly fits the shape
of leaf-blade and gravel
that it has unlearnt
itself—and all so quickly
that the mind does not see
that it is there, or even
that it was within its hands.

With such visions the body
walks down out of the bush,
dark with rain, smelling of clouds, and simply
to see the light burn up over its face
and to feel the shadows of light
burn down its throat as the door opens,
knocks lightly on the door of the mind
and asks for water. Music too
tends to unlearn itself
when thrown into the grass.

The body sees all, and because
it does not know what to make of it,
and with what it knows
cannot return into the water
the mind has given it
in a white pitcher,
but can drink it,
and so, bitterly, drinks—rain,
and wind through alders, the moon
shivering, a blur—and so
shivers, it dreams;
and those dreams are the mind.

If you break apart
the sacred geometry
of the mind, you get the body:
it smells faintly of a flame.
You can learn much from it,
like water poured down the throat
out of the hands,
directly into the rough wood-wind
notes of a tree,
so coarse they seem at first
without relation to water.


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