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Poetry Canadian

Take the Compass

by (author) Maureen Hynes

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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take the harp, take / the Fitbit and the Band-Aid box. Fold the whole / grey sheet of sky, lumpy and unalluring / into your rucksack.

A strong theme of journeys is threaded through Take the Compass. In a sense, every poem is itself a journey – into the past or the present, or toward what we hope and fear for the future. Poems can be journeys of repair and recovery, adventure and discovery. However, even in pandemic times when our journeying is curtailed, or at least confined, when we are abiding in one physical location with chafing and restiveness, we are still travelling. One of those journeys is discovering where language can take us.

Maureen Hynes’s poems travel through cities and their outskirts to rivers, forests, and graveyards. They travel in time into the troubled present, across decades into early childhood, and into our perilous collective futures, seeking guides for these explorations. The title poem addresses the search for tools and instruments that will “ward off adversity” – tools to help us move forward to our chosen destinations. Take the Compass calls on art and nature as invisible helpers, and on uncountable things – personal values and traits such as courage – to “break the bad news into nine living petals.”

As with all her collections, Hynes shows a commitment to social justice, to acknowledging historical and contemporary inequities, to the search for sources of remedy, repair, and renewal, and to the sustaining power of love. The variety of poetic forms she has chosen lets this search carry the complexity and seriousness of its themes.

About the author

Maureen Hynes ( lives in Toronto. Her first book of poetry, Rough Skin (Wolsak and Wynn, 1995), won the League of Canadian Poets' Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry by a Canadian. Her second collection, Harm's Way (Brick Books, 2001), was followed by Marrow, Willow (Pedlar Press, 2011) and then The Poison Colour (Pedlar Press, 2015), which was a finalist for both the League of Canadian Poets' Pat Lowther Award and Raymond Souster Award. She is poetry editor for Our Times magazine.

Maureen Hynes' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“In a world where ‘life’s a rough ascent, / an icy path, sometimes a precipice to hang from,’ the poems in Take the Compass point the reader to poignancy, compassion, and impish imagination. ‘Carry / curiosity and confusion in your hand,’ Maureen Hynes writes, and she does so bravely, in poems ranging from childhood to health and her bedside table. If ‘We have been too knotted / into death counts & pollen counts / & approval ratings’ then Hynes’s skilful poems are ‘silk or twine or rope for rescue or ascent.’” Kevin Irie

“Maureen Hynes welcomes us as an articulate and compassionate friend to a neighbourhood as expansive as human nature itself. Brightness emerges through bleakness: magnolia buds, lapis lazuli, the body a source of renewal, the firm, clear uplift of resistance. These poems are radiant.” Susan Gillis

“You never know what unpredictable imaginative connections Maureen Hynes will make of earth’s challenges in Take the Compass, but you can be certain to leave her poems surprised by a deeper awareness and a clearer vision than you would ever have thought upon entering them. Other people have books on a bedside table; but Hynes has a “silver pillbox” full of ampersands. Her associations unfold in calibrated order, her seriousness tempered by whimsy.Yet the poems in Take the Compass, with their environmental and social concerns, are not surreal. They’re grounded in a sure maturity of voice that can twist and turn Hynes’s flexible lines into helixes of fresh understanding.” Molly Peacock

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