Birds Flock Fish School
In Edward Carson’s Birds Flock Fish School, what’s incandescent in his old-school pull toward what might actually be important (“the speech of noise and night”) is the joy in soaring over and the cheat of slipping through. These uncommonly direct, deviously wrought poemsshow scant care for poetic fashion and no fear in addressing, head-on, what we all like to pretend isn’t the quandary: “We’re not at all sure, before/ knowing them, what we see is real,/ what we see emerging and disappearing before us,/soon vanishes for good…” That’s gorgeous, as is so much else here.
– Kevin Connolly, author of Revolver
Birds Flock Fish School gathers and carries us along in a swim of poems. With insight and grace, Edward Carson’s new collection unfolds the possibilities within each of us: “inside of you / another life.” A book of migrations, in which poems open, close, rise and fall, it reveals the simplest, yet most difficult of human undertakings—“how to arrive and when to depart.”
– Anne Simpson, author of IS
“Birds Flock Fish School is preoccupied with the invisible energy that leads birds to flock and fish to school. Throughout the volume, Carson considers the ways in which this energy might be, or is, imitated in the human world. “We long to give ourselves over to its might / to find in its flow something to find ourselves,” the speaker remarks in “Undercurrents.” We also “long,” I think, to “give ourselves over” to the clean, lyrical rhythms of Carson’s poems. Almost all composed of six couplets each, they are loosely ghazal-like: and indeed, in their insistent pursuit of illumination in the realms of “fish” and “birds,” they find an obvious Canadian literary precedent in Phyllis Webb’s 1984 volume of (anti) ghazals, Water and Light. Carson’s limber movement from image to image, couplet to couplet, emulates the mind in action: these poems think vigorously, on behalf of the entire human community. The impersonal grandeur of the collective “we” assumed by the poems leads to sweeping statements and occasionally lends an awkward vagueness to the otherwise precise poetry, but what that “we” sees always dazzles—like snow falling in the morning light, “an intelligent patience filling the air.”
– Laura Cameron, “Canadian Literature, #222, Autumn 2014”
In Birds Flock Fish School, Edward Carson’s meditation on the coming into being and vanishing from existence of life-forms is full of questions: what can be learned from the fluidity of nature, it’s patterns of accumulated wisdom and its intuitive knowledge? A firm sense of the interplay of human and non-human forms underlines the examination of these puzzles: and there’s always a sense of wonder ready to bloom into ecstasy or resolve to contentment, the poems holding out, not just the possibility but the inevitability of a transformation where the secrets withheld from human awareness will unfold. The allusion to Heraclitus in the epigraph is apt: the elements of creation are simple: their multiplicity unfathomable.
– Marilyn Bowering, author of Soul Mouth
These rhetorically intricate, sculpted poems are torqued by a careful energy; their measured turnings and sudden twists, while speculating on the impossibility of knowing the always unfinished real and the fragility of our constructs of time scatter “brilliant mosaics of now” and assert what eludes. This is a fine apophatic poetry that “takes us into currents of colliding waters”.
– Brian Henderson, author of Sharawadji and Nerve Language
Edward Carson’s linked poems praise at once the logic of love and the place of love. Taking Shape combines his elegance of style and imagination (think of a musical composition) with the immediacy of the erotic. A rare performance.
– Robert Kroetsch, author of The Hornbooks of Rita K
Ed Carson’s Taking Shape is a gem. In this new book of interconnected poems, in an attempt to name what love is, to give it a shape that can be grasped, like a metaphysical lapidarist he facets and re-facets it’s language so that the light it reveals refracts and reflects within it and “exceeds its reason for being”. “We come away believing in the shape of something with no shape at all.”
– Brian Henderson, author of Nerve Language
Ed Carson’s linked poems, Taking Shape, rising and falling in easy cadences, examine how things take shape in the world. Yet for all their fluidity, these poems have a blade-sharp edge. Showing us “held together in a fierce ring of light,” they reveal, poignantly, what it is that makes us human.
– Anne Simpson, author of Loop and Quick
Love, the argument goes, is not a force that can be contained: Ed Carson’s poems in Taking Place don’t attempt to bind the un-bindable — they approximate love’s flavour, turning outward to the other and inward to the self, and also wandering among love’s mysteries, This meditation on love over time rewards re-reading: the reach for the divine is threaded through with human failings:these strike me as not only graceful, but truthful poems.
– Marilyn Bowering, author of Green and What It Takes To Be Human
Edward Carson’s Taking Shape is a feast of immanent thinking. It shows that time-worn tools can indeed, when used with patience, sensitivity, rigour, and devotion, yield pleasures rare and contemporary.
– Mark Truscott, author of Said Like Reeds or Things
Edward Carson’s Taking Shape is a subtle meditation on love and change, lovers caught up in the changes and rhythms of life on this mortal earth. The elegant couplets repeat phrases, words, and images to hypnotic effect. In a manner reminiscent of E.D. Blodgett’s Apostrophes–yet entirely its own–Taking Shape in its play on repetition and variation traces “the faint / shape of things taking shape,” evoking the weather of love.
– Hilary Clark, author of The Dwelling of Weather
Within Ed Carson’s grave meditation on love we can hear sounding the ghost of our old, stately, inexhaustible pentameter. As his measured words resonate and rhyme, accumulating weight, so do his ideas. This is mature poetry that appeals toboth the heart and the head—accomplished, thoughtful, and moving.
– Keith Maillard, author of Gloria
With evocative imagery and the keen eye of a photographer, Carson gives shape to a language of the heart.
– Christopher Dewdney, author of Signal Fires and Acquainted with the Night
Like ocean tides these words pull and push our logic, hearts and spirit into a communion of evolving spaciousness. Taking Shape is powerful and provocative.
– Lucinda M. Vardey, co-author of Being Generous
A collection of poems about love and how it touches all aspects of our lives. Never flinching from truth, Edward Carson demonstrates all the brutal honesties and shapes of his subject. Love, too, comes in a multitude of shapes which we learn to sometimes embrace, and sometimes repel.
Edward Carson is twice winner of the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award in Canada, the University of Toronto St. Michael’s College Award for Excellence in English Literature, and is the author of Scenes, Taking Shape, Birds Flock Fish School, and Knots. In 2010 he was Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto, and in 2011 his work was long listed for the CBC Literary Awards.
He has had a variety of careers involving the word, including co-founder/editor of the literary periodical,Rune, and lecturer in English Literature at the University of Toronto. He has served as president of several major book publishing companies, including Penguin Group Canada, Pearson Technology Group Canada, Distican (Simon and Schuster Canada), HarperCollins Canada, and, while head of publishing, founded the successful indigenous publishing list of Random House of Canada.
Throughout his publishing career he taught the business of publishing at Ryerson University, Humber College, and as co-director of theBanff Publishing Workshop. He also has participated on various Boards of Directors, including PEN Canada, BookNet Canada, and is a past president of the Canadian Publishers’ Council.
As an editor and publisher, he has worked with an array of accomplished local and international authors, including Carol Shields, Dennis Lee, Marilyn Bowering, John Irving, D.G. Jones, Keith Maillard, Julian Barnes, John Ralston Saul, Barry Lopez, Robert Kroetsch, Eli Mandel, and Janice Kulyk Keefer.