By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Marks at UBC
We all have—or dare I say, should have—a poet we can read in the knowledge that such a poet will give us pleasure, a spiritual frisson, an aesthetic epiphany. In other words: make the reading of poetry neither a duty nor a cultural obligation, but a moment rich with delight.
Such a poet for me is a friend and colleague from my Sacred Heart University days: the Lithuanian-American, Jonas Zdanys. Jonas’s formidable The Angled Road: Collected Poems, 1970-2022 will provide you with a comprehensive taste of the man’s work, a privileged portal to his imagination and heart, a roadmap for his spiritual questing.
But my treasured Jonas possession is the nicely compact and attractively executed Notebook Sketches: poems and drawings in which he captures something of the transcendental, of the purely and ever elusive nature of impression and memory, of his time on the west coast of Ireland. The concrete blends with the abstract, the material with the immaterial, with a concoction replete with possibilities. He brings our mind to rest on the real in a new way because in the end that is what a poet does: attend with fresh eyes.
I watched it pass the familiar chair,
mysterious and sweet, as a cold
February day rattled the windows
and gripped the front door.
I am up before the sun starts to warm
the kitchen, rattling weak as a lost love
testing the horizon. The grey breaks
to the textures of gray light, picks
time’s bones apart as the harmless gather
in the unlighted rooms at the front
of the house. I make myself small,
radiate with a constant light that
dampens the black spaces on the walls,
moves to perfection in the lines of the chair.
I accept my end and my beginning,
the quick shiver when the wall grows cold,
the unsteady night and the time to come.
And then morning, the indecisive thing.
In a time of Lent, in a time of geopolitical upheaval, looking for spectres on a darkening landscape, desperate for the luminous when all is opacity, we turn to the poets and attend.