A Look Inside

  Clarity Between Clouds
  Poems of Midlife

   by Susan Ioannou

   originally published by Goose Lane Editions
  — now a collector's item

About the Book
Table of Contents
Critics Praise
Three Poems
Order Information

About the Book

For Susan Ioannou, poetry is a highly personal act which surfaces from everyday existence. In Clarity Between Clouds, her disarmingly intimate voice strikes piercingly close to the harsh realities of existence, to reveal startling insights and sly bits of aphoristic wisdom. An ordinary act of cookery can transport her "far off to hanging gardens, swollen bees / frankincense and ancient stones," and the morning embrace of a favourite pet can teach her to "learn from him / how to purr / not snuggle under regrets."

But Ioannou's world is by no means narrowly composed. Rather, the poems in this collection expand beyond the everyday to include a dialogue with a Mannerist painting and a sun-struck idyll in a Florentine piazza, unveiling the commonality of emotions even in the most exotic locations.

Table of Contents
Part I - Rimming The Dark
9   Crystal
10 Last Photographs
13 Pink & Indigo
16 Before The Portrait Of Lucrezia Panciatichi
17 Across The Piazza [Italy]
18 My Prussian Past Holds No Comfort
20 Perdika [Greece]
21 Sea Deep, At St. Kitts
22 Persimmon
23 Sudden Absence
24 Dusk, Highway Seventeen
25 Fast Slow Fast
26 A Double Hook
27 Boardwalk, Early Morning

Part II - The Black Speck
31 Perfect Canvas
32 Domestic Artistry
33 If Age
34 Kathleen Marshall
35 Convalescent
36 Eileen And Jean
38 In Your Light
41 Waves
42 Old Black Cat
44 Small Comforts
48 Elegy
50 Balance Sheet Dream

Part III - Dawn Snow
53 Dawn Snow
54 Baptism
55 Haiku
56 Poem In February
58 Treasure Hunt
59 McDiarmid Watches The Children Fishing
60 Mothering Days
62 Runaways
64 The Little Dancers
65 Dusk, Edwards Gardens
66 After The Cub Meeting
67 Bath/Beddy
68 At The Ontario Science Centre
70 Solstice
71 First Snow
72 The Wheel

Critics Praise

"[In Clarity Between Clouds] Ioannou sings the praises of human nature and its strong ability to learn through hardships . . . an experienced poet who possesses a gift for expressing emotions that surface in the most unexpected situations. The most ordinary details of life, such as balance sheets and kitchen decor, become inquiries into human thought and reflections of very real, accessible feelings . . . a thoroughly enjoyable, highly recommended light read." (Carol Holland, Vox Magazine)

"Commendably, [in Clarity Between Clouds] Ioannou subverts the speaker's implicit faith in lost determinacy to the extent that she emphasizes the delusory nature of orders and origins. . . . Ioannou's work blossoms in the present tense, capturing the transmutative effects of light and the progress of seasons, gardens, and ‘indigo' skies." (Mark Cochrane, Essays on Canadian Writing}

"This is precious language in the best sense of the word—personification, onomatopoeia, art as motif (canvases, pastel portraits, watercolours, still-lifes, a preoccupation with dreams, nature, time passing, light and colour.) " (Anne Burke, Literature and Language)

"Susan Ioannou's Clarity Between Clouds celebrates the powers of light and sight. . . . In each case the moment inspires a luminous apprehension associated with love, grace, ease, or certainty. At their best, the verses seem effortlessly melodic. . . . I am especially impressed by the assurance of these poems, which observe but do not strain or moralize. Is this the attitude of midlife, as the book's subtitle suggests?" (Jon Kertzer, Canadian Literature)

Three Poems

The Wheel

The year is a great wheel.
At the top we ride
rocking-horse ornaments,
tiny red sleighs and stars
moon high over the frost unafraid.

Poised on a poinsettia point,
our spirits twinkle. Why frown?
Love we sniff in flaming brandy,
joy tastes eggnog-thick on the tongue.
Lungs ring full with carols,
later hush into lullabies.

We have climbed so far
through winter's long nights,
scratched down icicles with bare nails,
skidded through sleet, bone-cracking cold
for one eve to be
merry as children's candle flames
tripping across a frozen window.
We have gathered ourselves
together with ribbons and gifts,
and kissed in hope older than mistletoe.

We have no higher to go
on this wheel that turns
slowly, toward morning
washing red and green faces
white with new-fallen snow.

Domestic Artistry
(For Merla)

As naturally as breath,
her world is arranged.
The little black table, just so, by the kitchen window
quietly knows its place.
Above, geraniums spatter red
counterpoint to the tasteful restraint
of brass agleam from the ceiling rail.
The butcher block demands the centre,
while Classical French Cuisine lolls open,
"Fines Herbes" addressing tonight's beaujolais nouveau.
Even hand-quilted oven mitts
congratulate each other.
The impractical white floor shines.

In this room, as in all the rest,
one never simply is, but glides with grace.

Silent as primitives bordering stucco walls,
tinted pink through cranberry glass,
silvered from napkin rings,
pleasure is 9/10ths consciousness:
watching for a nod, that soundless "ah!" ,
the respect, jealous yet genuine,
for artistry's delicate clasp on life.

For Polly

Tail a rippling wave of fur,
Sporty bounds beside our wind-quick shadows.
The stubble cannot catch us, or the fence
wire us behind rough house and silo.

We have tottered onto rusted barnyard hinges,
dived, arm wide, into the hot tall grass,
swum from head-high corn
and, dried on goldenrod and Queen Anne's lace,
blown ourselves as light
as dandelion fluff, to clouds.

Now, far away as salt licks,
as the mailbox leaning down the thistled road,
we are shining toward the river
flooded black, white with slow cows
dreaming us into the leaf-splashed shallows.

Later, we will herd them behind the gate,
later, lock the evening-narrowed lane
and squatting into darkness
strain to hear sharp mews for crusted milk,
low hum-suck-suck from stall to stall,
the separator rattling curds from cream.

We will count down black-tipped stars,
trace languid outlines from the trumpet vines,
and happy as slop pails, muck and matted straw,
watch the barn light yellow
night's white cemented stones,
knowing we are wind-quick shadows, waves
not even the moon can catch.

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Copyright 2010 Susan Ioannou

Order Information

Clarity Between Clouds, Paperback, by Susan Ioannou (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 1991; Toronto: Wordwrights Canada, 2010), 70 pages, ISBN 978-0-86492-111-6, $12.95, New 2012 Price $5.99.

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    Updated January 2012