North Saanich couple creates bridges through poetry

Poetry reminds us what it is to be human, says Lorna Crozier.

Renowned Canadian poets Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane

Spend an hour in the company of award-winning poets Lorna Crozier and Patrick Lane, and one starts to see the world a little differently.

The throaty burbling of a delicate fountain suddenly seems like the only sound that matters in an overcast garden. An older couples’ laughter is haloed in light as they walk down the street holding hands.

Poetry is the art of sinking into the tiny moments and not only finding the infinitesimal ecstasies within, but translating them into language.

Spend an hour with two masters of their craft and that observation, that deft handling of words, becomes something nearly tangible that begs to be stolen away from the poets’ living room and taken out into the world before it dissipates.

Crozier and Lane are arguably two of Canada’s most talented poets and they’ve had as much of an impact on each other as they have on their legions of students and colleagues.

“Lorna inhabits all of my poetry,” says Lane.

He sits, feet up, in the living room of their North Saanich home, looking over at his partner of nearly 40 years.

“She remains in disguise inside dozens of poems.”

“Oh, that’s quite good,” Crozier says, smiling. “I love that, ‘remains in disguise inside dozens of poems.’”

Their affection and a subtle, lightning-quick sense of humour is palpable between them and it’s not unusual for the lines between their professional lives and their relationship to blur. Often, one will catch a particularly poetic phrase in the other’s offhand remarks, usually resulting in a new poem.

Mere days earlier, Crozier had remarked, looking at their noble cat, “Basho has the blue eyes of a terrible angel.”

Lane’s immediate response was “Write that down!”

As they continue to muse, it’s clear a lifetime of considered words has imbued their very way of speaking; there are no ‘um’ moments.

Instead, Crozier and Lane both pause periodically, selecting just the right phrases to describe their writing processes, their relationship, their shared love of poetry. That attention to detail is undoubtedly part of what makes them successful readers as well.

“I never feel better than when I’m reading my poetry out loud,” says Lane. “A poem on the page is a musical score for the voice.”

It’s intriguing to note that while Lane has never felt nervous performing in front of a crowd, Crozier — even with a background in acting — always gets a little jittery.

“I can get very nervous,” she says. “I start thinking, they’re all going to hate me, or I’m going to offend everyone in the room. Or that they’ll start to think, who is she to be up there?”

That last sentiment is a beacon of hope to every aspiring writer out there.

If a poet who has authored 15 books, received numerous awards, been appointed a member of the Order of Canada, and even read for the Queen herself can have those doubting voices in the back of her head, then perhaps it’s time to ignore them and just keep writing.

Above all, one gets the impression that Lane and Crozier get just as much out of the process of birthing poems as their readers do from absorbing them.

“Good poetry makes you feel less alone, because it always reminds you what it is to be human,” says Crozier.

Lane looks over at his partner, nodding.

“It provides a bridge between people,” he says.

And perhaps it’s that bridge of shared beauty, of their ability to look out over the world side by side and face it in all its glory and tragedy, that has not only made these two such lauded poets, but also an enchanting couple.

Next up, Crozier and Lane are both reading at the sold-out Red Brick Reading series as a fundraiser for the Sidney and Peninsula Literary Festival this fall. Crozier has two books being released this year: The Wrong Cat, and The Wild in You: Voices from the Forest and the Sea, a collaboration with world-renowned photographer Ian McAllister. Lane’s most recently published poetry collection Washita was launched in November 2014.

For more information, visit lornacrozier.ca or patricklane.ca.