The Scent of Spring: Elegies Out of Season

By Karen Mulhallen

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A unique style of documentary and witness poetry, Mulhallen's collection powerfully captures the turbulence of contemporary life, its individual crises and global disasters. In this collection of 15 elegies, we travel through a colourful array of settings that include a little boy riding his bicycle through the wreckage of his hometown, Mosul; an animal rights activist attempting to rescue a truckload of pigs heading to slaughter; St John ignoring the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and proceeding to write a chapter of the Judeo-Christian Bible in his cave nearby; in Toronto a homeless beggar woman unexpectedly showing the narrator a glorious Asian pear; and a Japanese fisherman traveling to northern B.C. in a redemptive moment encounters his childhood boat and an elusive spirit bear.

Karen Mulhallen has worked as a publisher, editor, teacher and writer, helping to develop a national English literature in Canada by working for decades on non-profit magazines, including Descant and The Canadian Forum. Simultaneously she has published 24 books, while making her living as an English Literature Professor working collaboratively with other multi-disciplinary professionals at a polytechnical University, Ryerson University, in the downtown core of the city of Toronto.

 

 

Karen Muhallen has wisely chosen the elegy as the keenest instrument to bear witness to our disappearing world. With exquisite elegance and ironic humour, her logbook of things seen and unseen is an admirable, necessary memento mori for our anguished times.-Alberto Manguel, Author of A History of Reading, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places and The Library at Night

In The Scent of Spring: Elegies Out of Season, Mulhallen moves through various cities and geographies narrating elegies of loss, of cultural murder. In this poetry of atrocity, the poet is asking us to face the devastation we have wrought through war, greed, and careless inattention. But she also writes elegies radiant with love. She ends the book with the image of the West Coast Spirit Bear, “ghost bear, giver of miracles, healer.” We have ravaged and defaced. Now we must learn again to celebrate. -Rosemary Sullivan, Author ofStalin’s Daughter: The ExtraordinaryandTumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva

 

"This is a book about death. Close to Karen Mulhallen, in her entourage, the deaths are individual – and, reading her magnificent elegies for her friends, one is filled with a piercing nostalgia for what is. Elsewhere the deaths are collective, and with consummate mastery Mulhallen makes the impossible seem easy – bridging the gap between the calm of the poet’s desk in a still-affluent neighborhood of the Western world and the raging inferno of places and people devastated by pollution, corporate greed, poverty and fanaticism. A tour de force." -Nancy Huston, essayist, and Author of Cantique des plaines, Fault Linesand winner of The Prix Femina