In Praise of the Healer

by Sandra Ridley

copyright ©2016 by Sandra Ridley

Wet by the shallows – our willow.

 

 

 

You do not cry because you cannot. I will not cry because you do not.

 

 

 

You give my hands the weight of your body.

 

Rest in me.

 

What I mean is this is where I choose to die.

 

Notes on the Poem

Throughout her 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Silvija, Sandra Ridley demonstrates an acute sense of where her words need to be positioned on the page. "In Praise of the Healer" displays notable attention to space on the page with, we believe, attendant impact on how we read and absorb the poem's content. As the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize judges observed in their citation for the poems gathered in Silvija, "Words are given the space they need to root and branch." We noted this previously in the horizontal spacing of the words in "Farther / Father", where we discovered that the space on the page translated to space - pauses, silences - in terms of how Ridley read the poem aloud. Beyond individual words, the configuration of "In the Praise of the Healer" gives entire lines - phrases and sentences - dramatic vertical spacing. The first line mysteriously offers a location, the possessive "our" suggests inhabitants in the setting, but the space that follows sets no context, reveals nothing further, demands that we wait. The spare textual diptych of the second line is made more poignant by the emptiness around it. The space that follows gives us time to determine who "you" and "I" might be. The relatively tightened spacing of the remaining lines connote urgency, perhaps grim resolution to get something over with, perhaps frightened determination to arrive at that final declaration. We've examined the effects of word and line spacing in poems such as Robin Blaser's "Suddenly," and an excerpt from "Rising, Falling, Hovering" by C.D. Wright. Ridley has achieved the same memorable power as those examples, with considerably fewer words and lines that, while brief, are still stunning.

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