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Poetry Canadian

How I Joined Humanity at Last

by (author) David Zieroth

Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd.
Initial publish date
Jan 1998
Canadian, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 1998
    List Price

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How I Joined Humanity at Last, David Zieroth's fifth book of poems, explores the mid-life road to renewal and tells the story of one man's journey toward compassion.

Zieroth's work delves deeply into the issues that affect all of us, from relationships between children and parents and "the old blood turbulence/ of families, tribes," to the day-to-day thoughts of working life:"I want a lateral transfer/into the position of office enchanter./Think of the power/I'll add to my workload." And beyond these concerns he also examines the roles of spirit and imagination in our daily lives: "The function of the individual/ to provide the lightning strike/ to matter."

How I Joined Humanity at Last evokes the clarity of Zieroth's first book, Clearings, but it also reaches a new level of maturity and depth. His poetry is concerned with inwardness, with loss and longing, with imagination and memory, and ultimately with dream work that returns us to ourselves and to a sense of community. The voice that emerges is as strong as it is haunting and compelling.

About the author

David Zieroth’s The Fly in Autumn (Harbour, 2009) won the Governor General’s Literary Award and was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry in 2010. Zieroth also won The Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award for How I Joined Humanity at Last (Harbour, 1998). Other publications include the trick of staying and leaving (Harbour, 2023), watching for life (McGill-Queen’s, 2022), the bridge from day to night (Harbour, 2018), Zoo and Crowbar (Guernica Editions, 2015), Albrecht Dürer and me (Harbour, 2014), The November Optimist (Gaspereau, 2013), The Village of Sliding Time (Harbour, 2006), The Education of Mr. Whippoorwill: A Country Boyhood (Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 2002) and Crows Do Not Have Retirement (Harbour, 2001). His poems have been included in the Best Canadian Poetry series, shortlisted for National Magazine and Relit Awards and featured on Vancouver buses three times as part of Poetry in Transit. He watches urban life from his third-floor balcony in North Vancouver, BC, where he runs The Alfred Gustav Press and produces handmade poetry chapbooks twice per year.

David Zieroth's profile page


  • Winner, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize

Excerpt: How I Joined Humanity at Last (by (author) David Zieroth)

How I Joined Humanity at Last
When love
in the heart speaking to me
dies out, I walk
the street to be near
men and women who might recognize
the death in me.

Instead I see the death in them:
in that man's eyes a wound
glows through; this woman
loved a man
whose body turned away.
They could make no deal
to sidestep pain for the sake of
a good night's sleep, for
comfort and companionship
so regret
will not cut so deeply in years ahead
that it might kill.

I look for signs: a scrap of paper
on the street, the word
that will start me off again.
Instead I see
those I did not see before
who want from me
what none of us can give.
We turn away, and later
can only bear a very little violence
on TV, and later still,
awakened in our beds
with nothing but the clock to say
time has not yet passed,
our hearts turn
terrorist, aflame
in the two a.m. nightmare
with its need for vengeance
--and its sword of dismay.

Consider the Men
We lock ourselves into days
when nothing gets done but sweat
and not the good kind; but then
how extravagantly we dream, toss all
our saved holiday lives into the car
and roll away, our cigarette smoke
sailing out the window one last time.
Now we're going pure
for two weeks, find ourselves suddenly
up against the kids who seem
only to be talking to their mother
-and I'll admit I'm half
on the tasks left behind,
counting phone booths along the way.

And then returning to the office:
that's the glory-be, to have gone
and felt the summer unravel
out of my feet, to nap while the green
grows up through my chair, sip
the drinks that appear
near my still-white hand
the same one that grips again
my friend the desk, its broad fake top
waiting for arrangement, the in, the out,
the top drawer where the clips
are kept, the pens, the pills,
the comfort of the lists.