1970 A Novel Poem

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1970: A Novel Poem is the story of one year in the poet’s life, encompassing “Öthe last year/ of the old decade, or/ the first year of the newÖ.”

1970 was a year of much turmoil and strife, the dark, bloody middle of the Vietnam War; the year of the Kent State murders in the U.S., in the spring, and the War Measures Act in Canada in the fall. The year women in both countries were breaking out all over, and demanding that their voices and their concerns be heard and respected.

It was also a year of personal struggle and change for the then-30-year-old poet; the year of her marriage in the spring, and of her own private revolutionary crisis that October, related in four sections “Winter”, “Spring”, “Summer”, and “Fall”.

1970 is novel not only in its narrative structure, but also in the poet’s treatment of verse forms, and their visual presentation, the object being to “open up the lines and let the reader in,” instead of “stanzas bristling with metaphors, forming a wall down the page, off which the eye glances, and turns away.”

The underlying theme of 1970 is the fact of Death, its certain occurrence and capricious exercise, and the terrifying and healing powers the recognition of its presence and nature can bring.

Excerpt: from “Summer”
That was a hot one,
that was, in the 90s
every day, the heat
climbed like a sailor
into the shrouded sky

The last summer of the 60s,
the last of that self-indulgent spell,
when everyone seemed young
because we were young;

those revolutionary years, turning
under our feet, time shifting
our lives, turning out differently
than imagined
-but we couldn’t
see it, then;
we didn’t
see our coming of age
coming to an end;
we couldn’t
see anything but ourselves

in the heat,
the heat,
the whole heat,
and nothing but the heat

Seven of us living in a big old house
on Beverley Street. We could barely afford
the rent, but we scored our hits of acid,
our lids of grass and quarters of hash,
chanting our mantra:

“Dope will get you through
times of no money, better than
money will get you through
times of no dope.”

Oh! it was hot that summer,
day after day the sun
baked the roof,
the heat
sinking through the shingles,
into the scanty attic, and down,
through the top floor,
the heat
slinking down the stairs,
the heat
oozing, like an amoeba engulfing
each cool molecule it encounters
on the ground floor,
the heat
spreading through
living room and kitchen,
meeting
the heat
beating through the windows,
crowding in the open doors;
inescapable