Pam’s most recent book is Passing Stranger, published by Inanna Publications (Toronto) 2014
poems by Pam Galloway
November 14, 2014
Passing Stranger is a memoir in verse of one woman’s life. Poems weave through a marriage, a desire for motherhood, considerations of fertility and infertility, an eventual divorce and a woman finding herself in late middle age, ready to experience life to the full. Its themes will speak to all women who have experienced the joys and the tribulations of motherhood in all its complexities. The interweaving of its story of divorce after many years of marriage reflects a new reality for many women of middle and past middle-age. Nothing in life, as we know, is certain. We make plans, head into directions that go awry, our destinations shift and we find ourselves in the company of people who, but for being family, might be strangers.
It is these “passing strangers” met essentially by happenstance, in the close relationships a woman forms throughout her life who are at the heart of these poems. First, the passion and intimacy in a marriage believed to be “till death us do part” soon to be followed by pregnancy and motherhood. But in the space between these two major life events great loss is recounted. As she walks the path into and along her life’s journey this woman experiences love and joy, disappointment and grief. There are glances back and forward through a marriage and beyond. The desire for children is strong and appears to be denied in poems about pregnancy, loss and infertility. Until a birth brings a change of focus into motherhood. Ultimately, children grown, the marriage ends, and the woman realizes her strength.
“Gifted with a lyric and elegiac eye, Galloway marks many of life’s key moments–marriage, divorce, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, parenting– with poems of exquisite tenderness and grace. These poems depict the ache and echo of loss with clarity, honesty and lyric intensity. This moving journey through heart and body bears witness to life’s myriad beginnings and endings, anticipations and losses.”
“In Passing Stranger Pam Galloway combines direct language, striking imagery and beautifully rendered metaphors to take us inside a woman’s experiences with infertility, motherhood and marriage breakdown. The title poem and the sequence “Ways of knowing” are just two of several poignant pieces that peel back the veils around the pain of multiple miscarriages. Equally powerful, however, are celebratory poems like the gorgeous “Arrival”, about her daughter’s birth. Galloway is an accomplished free verse poet who is equally successful when she decides to write in forms, as in her exquisite palindrome “Remembering. Autumn.” and her delightful, “Three echoes of love”, a two-column poem that can be read three different ways. This book pulls no punches when it comes to diving into grief – but Galloway does not leave us stranded there; instead, she takes us through losses and into hope with lines like these, where an arbutus offers inspiration:
This tree stands
like a fork of lightning
grabbed by the earth,
it shouts of all that I could hold,
the entire sky,
if I would open up my arms, stretch
if I would let the air smooth my skin,
let it peel, know
there are stronger layers beneath.
(from “On Galiano”)”
“Pam Galloway’s Passing Stranger is a world many women will embrace as a familiar, a voice given to a shared understanding. And for many men a sliver more understanding of the other half of the world, and how they endure.”
Pam’s first book of poetry Parallel Lines was published by Ekstasis Editions (Victoria) in 2006.
Parallel Lines explores the distance between her adopted home in Canada and the old country with poems reaching back into family history. Poems cross vast distances in time and place, from 19th century industrial England to 21st century coastal BC unfolding a memoir in poetry that explores the loss, discovery and longing that is the immigrant experience. Galloway summons her ancestors from their work and play. We meet them trudging along canal banks, assisting at a birth, joining a sing-song at the pub. Their memory persists, reaching forward to a schoolgirls’ skipping game shared across three centuries, their presence resounding through the landscape of the new world: forest, ocean and “the vast, lilac-washed and vibrant sky.” Galloway’s poems carry the steady pulse of loss and yet also have the power to uplift with celebration and hope.
She collaborated with four other poets on the book Quintet: Themes and Variations (Ekstasis Editions, 1998).
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Ekstasis Editions (Nov. 1 2002)
Out of print. Available in libraries and amazon.ca
This book was the culmination of a fascinating experiment as five women wrote to themes. (More).
This is the best anthology I have read in ten years, perhaps closer to twenty. From the jacket copy, “Each section of the book takes its impulse from a particular theme, and these themes are linked within the manuscript in a renga-like fashion.” After reading the book, I went back to a book Renga, a chain of poems which Octavio Paz and three others did in 1971 which seemed an analog, of sorts. Aside from the chain aspect, the books have little in common, but, as usual, Paz’ introductory essay is valuable: The element of combination consists in the making of a poem by a group of poets; following a circular order, each poet in succession writes his stanza in turn, and his intervention is repeated several times. (Writer unknown).