Sandy Shreve
Paintings, Photo Art, Poetry

Blog - Wednesday Poems

(posted on 26 Jun 2024)


For this week’s Wednesday Poem, I’ve chosen another one from Suddenly, So Much (Exile Editions). Today, A Cormorant also appears on one of my poetry postcards, alongside a photo I took at Trout Lake when I was living in Vancouver. (The story behind the poetry postcards is in my June 5 Wednesday Poem, Crows.)

My husband and I first started visiting Pender Island in the late 80s/early 90s. On one of our first visits, I came across a chapbook of Pender Island poetry. There, I found The Gift Shop, by Gudrun Wight, a two-stanza poem in which the lines in verse one are repeated in verse two, but in the opposite order. This was the first time I’d come across a poem written as a palindrome, which I usually thought of as a word or phrase spelled the same both ways (kayak; Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba).  I was just beginning to explore writing in various forms, and was drawn to those that featured lines repeated in a particular pattern – pantoums, villanelles and the like.  So this poem intrigued me.  How difficult would it be to write a poem to this structure and still have it make sense?  Not easy, I discovered.  Over the years I’ve managed to write only two palindromes that I felt succeeded. In today’s poem, I’ve used punctuation to alter the sense of some lines in each stanza, subtly shifting emphasis or meaning. I’ve also varied the form a wee bit, making it four stanzas instead of two, and in the second verse where the lines begin to appear in reverse order, I’ve inserted the poem’s title to smooth out the turn.

Some years ago, poet Kate Braid and I co-edited In Fine Form, A Contemporary Look at Canadian Form Poetry (Caitlin Press). Our chapter on the palindrome has a discussion of this form and more examples of how various poets have approached it.