Brick Books, 2020
Jane Munro’s Glass Float is a book that almost seems to float easily and beautifully in either air or water, taking readers on a voyage around the world, but also on a journey that leads us more deeply within ourselves as we read through the poems. She sets the tone with her epigraph, using a quotation from David J. Chalmers, who has written: “Conscious experience is at once the most familiar thing in the world and the most mysterious.” In her poetry, Munro asks us to consider what we see, but then to go beyond that in a closer exploration of our own lives. She asks us, too, to think about how we are woven together—despite any potential emotional walls or boundaries, and despite perceived and imagined distances or physical geographies—through the very fabric of our shared spirit and humanity.
Readers who are regular yogis will find poems that speak to them in intimate ways. In “You Hear Their Words,” the poet writes: “You ask Guruji, How can you be within and without at the same time?” Guruji’s response to his student is lovely: “you stop heading out and head in…spread your consciousness on the inside/of your body like a carpet in your room.” If you’ve been to a yoga retreat at any point, you’ll recognize the metaphor of practice in Munro’s series of yoga-centric poems. In “Decentralize Mind,” Geeta’s advice is to “Spread intelligence to all parts at once—be aware of toes and/hips and navel and neck.” In “If It Were A Vitamin Pill, You’d Take It,” Geeta tells her students that “Finding yourself is finding your soul” and—even more profoundly—“In the city of yourself, everything’s a work in progress.” Students of yoga will know this is more true than they often care to admit. After all, you can go to your ‘edge’ in a pose, but sometimes you need to have a chat with your ego to stop from going too far.
In Glass Float, there are so many poems that sing with clear and strong voices. In “Hearing Aids,” a woman’s husband loses his hearing aids after spending “all morning cutting down a couple/of trees and clearing brush.” His wife goes outside, “stopped thinking and let her feet take her.” She somehow almost miraculously finds the hearing aids in amidst a pile of sawdust. How has she even managed to find them, the reader wonders? She says, “I’m absolutely clear it wasn’t me who found them./My body was just an agent.” Munro goes on in the poem to say that there is a “visceral click—the embodied knowing—and the attention to/what is not produced at the level of habitual mental ruts.” These moments of ‘embodied knowing,’ as Munro calls them, are sometimes the loveliest bits of magic in a person’s life. They happen so rarely that they resonate deeply, and often for a very long time.
There is also the simple and profound beauty of “Us.” In that poem, a baby says “bubbles,” while “looking/out the window at snowflakes,” and an “old man tears up.” The poet writes of these two human characteristics, of speaking and weeping, and leaves the reader with a “both/move me/are you moved/by words—by tears.” Yes. How could one not be? Then, in “You Soften Toward Him,” Munro writes of being in a yoga class where the teacher says “Learning pranayama takes patience. This society doesn’t/teach patience. You are all impatient for success.” In these pandemic days, we are all learning patience, and so Munro’s words may speak and resonate even more clearly with her readers.
A glass float is something that’s meant to keep a fishing net afloat. It is also like a person in so many ways, and Munro writes that both have boundaries and are equally fragile. The title poem speaks of the importance of how we make things with our breath and our hands, of how that very act of creation—of making—has great value. As Munro writes at the end of that poem, “We can change what we make—within what horizon/we place the past.” We always have the choice to explore new horizons, or not. Hers is a poetry of being mindful and observant, and of considering the rewards of the depths instead of the ease of spending time in the shallows. The poet’s yogic practice is woven into her work, and—for readers who write—there is an echo of that creative and intuitive practice in the way in which writers tend to imagine and write. Jane Munro’s Glass Float is buoyant in its reminder to readers that they should be mindful of the present, while always trusting to look forward to curiously and adventurously exploring their own new horizons.
Kim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario. She was poet laureate in Sudbury from 2016-18, and was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim's latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She's a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Writers' Union of Canada, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim blogs fairly regularly at kimfahner.wordpress.com and can be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com