Sunday, June 20, 2010

White and the River (Siv Cedering Fox)

And I am my father,
and I stop,
pull an orange from the pocket
and peel it,
throw the peelings in the snow,

pick up my gun
and ski back home,
hang my white killing
on a hook in the cellar
where bloodoranges lie

a crateful
of color
in winter.

Siv Cedering Fox, lines from "White and the River," from Cup of Cold Water.

When I was in my not yet jaded teens I came to know Siv Cedering Fox very slightly when she hosted a series of evening poetry workshops at a local library which I attended with a group of friends. At this point most of my memories of her are probably largely imaginary; in her mid thirties at the time, blonde, Swedish-born and speaking in a slightly accented English, she seemed to exude the mystique of both poetry and womanhood (a heady mix for me in those days), as well as wisps of the folklore of a not quite Christianized Scandinavia. For some reason I want to picture her wearing a necklace of white bones or fragments of seashells, but I'm fairly sure I'm just making that up.

Cup of Cold Water was published in 1973 by New Rivers Press, which still exists although the book is long out-of-print. It includes a number of black-and-white photographs, also by the poet. There was a vogue for that kind of thing in publishing for a while, but I think it has passed, no doubt because the market for poetry is no longer considered sufficient to justify the bother. Though I didn't know it at the time or had forgotten it, she was a painter as well.

"White and the River" is a poem in several sections, each told from the point of view of one member of a family. The section above, chosen because it works best self-contained, is the concluding one. The lines throughout are as crystal clear as the goblet on the cover, but the overall narrative is left somewhat enigmatic. I always more or less arbitrarily pair the poem with Glenda Adams's deliciously venomous short story "Sea." The two don't actually have much in common except that they deal with the mysteries of siblings, fathers, water, and death, but I must have read them first around the same time and the association has stuck.

Siv Cedering (she eventually dropped her married name) published a number of other books of poetry and children's books in English, as well as at least two novels in Swedish and a number of translations from one language to the other. She died in 2007.

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