A Stone Diary

Pat Lowther

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At the beginning I noticed

the huge stones on my path

I knew instinctively

why they were there

breathing as naturally

as animals

I moved them to ritual patterns

I abraded my hands

and made blood prints

 

Last week I became

aware of details

cubes of fool’s gold

green and blue copper

crystal formations

fossils    shell casts

iron roses     candied gems

 

I thought of

the Empress Josephine,

the Burning of Troy

between her breasts,

of Ivan the Terrible lecturing

on the virtues of rubies.

They were dilettantes.

 

By the turn of the week

I was madly in love

with stone. Do you know

how beautiful it is

to embrace stone

to curve all your body

against its surfaces?

 

Yesterday I began

seeing you as

desirable as a stone

I imagined you coming

onto the path with me

even your mouth

a carved stone

 

Today for the first time

I noticed how coarse

my skin has grown

but the stones shine

with their own light,

they grow smoother

and smoother

Pat Lowther, “A Stone Diary” from The Collected Works of Pat Lowther (NeWest Press, 2010). Copyright © 2010 The Estate of Pat Lowther. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Pat Lowther.

Source: The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (Oxford University Press, 1983). 

Dive in: 
  1. This poem seems to be about the speaker’s deepening love of stone. What does the speaker say about that love? How is she affected by it? How has she been changed?
  2. You might notice the poem charting a passage of time and the progression of this love. Take note of the first line of each stanza. What are those first lines doing to help move us through time and through the poem?
  3. After reading Pat Lowther’s biography, and especially about the way she died, does your reading of this poem change? How do you understand the speaker’s love of stone?
  4. You might find the first stanza of Lowther’s poem enigmatic or puzzling. The speaker seems to be speaking symbolically or withholding details. How do you understand these first four lines of the poem?
  5. Notice this poem’s short lines. We tend to read short lines more slowly than longer ones. How fast or how slow would you recite this poem? Where would you accelerate or decelerate your recitation speed to maximize the impact for your audience?
  6. Try writing a poem that borrows the first lines of each of Lowther’s stanzas. Your own stanzas will start with the same words as hers does, and out of them you’ll make your own “story”:

        At the beginning I noticed...

        Last week I became...

        I thought of...

        By the turn of the week...

        Yesterday I began...

        Today for the first time...

 

Useful Links

 

The Pat Lowther Memorial Award was first given out in 1981. Honouring books written by those who identify as women, it was created as a celebration and remembrance of Lowther’s life and work. Click here and then scroll down to see the list of winners of every Pat Lowther award, which reads like a who’s who of Canadian poetry.

 

“I abraded my hands / and made blood prints” is such a visceral image, and it also brings to mind some of the oldest art known on the planet. One brilliant example can be found in the Cueva de las Manos in Argentina, estimated to be between 9,500 and 13,000 years old.

 

Have you ever seen people “stacking stones” before? Here’s a video of just that: all you need are stones in your path, gravity, and an endless supply of patience.

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