Suzanne Robertson is a surgeon of a poet. In Paramita, Little Black she pulls back concrete and penetrates intersections to expose a poignant emotional geography of Toronto. Presenting the city as both vulnerable backdrop and vibrant organism, she captures a unique visceral reality that lingers far beyond the last poem.
In her first poetry collection, Suzanne Robertson meditates on the nature of intimacy; moments that bind stranger to stranger, human to animal, heart to mind. Inspired by the Buddhist paramitas, the poems attempt to both transcend and stay grounded in a conventional universe. Follow the plight of a secretary grappling with her noonday demon, her love affair with Little Black, and the metamorphosis of her marriage as she harnesses the power of poetry, marrying words “to the wind horse,” “to the lies and the gossip and the truth of the river / as it pours out the mouth of right-now.”
Photo credit – Pete Doherty
Suzanne Robertson was born in Perth, Ontario. Her poems and short stories have appeared in various Canadian literary anthologies and journals, and she has been the recipient of a Chalmers Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council. Her first collection of poetry, Paramita, Little Black, published by Guernica Editions, was shortlisted for the 2012 Gerald Lampert Award. Suzanne lives in Toronto, where she is member of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography and works at the Children’s Aid Society.
Excerpt from Paramita, Little Black
Turning About in the Seat of Consciousness
I closed the book at Bloor & Yonge when I felt
the crybaby working up a crescendo in my throat.
Beside me sat a man who smelled of burnt toast
and mortality as the passengers got sucked out
the doors like astronauts in zero gravity.
From then on I was a passenger aboard
the eastbound train heading towards Tibet. The Book of Living and Dying was at my fingertips,
but a woman kept looking at me with eyes that
resembled the eyes of a boy I loved in Hong Kong.
I tried to come up with a nice metaphor
for the colour of her hair but all I could think
of was motor oil. Not something pleasant like
the night’s yin-dark soul. No, I was curled inside
my small ego trying to release thirty-three years
of attachment, my hands resting solemn as
First Testaments upon each knee – till the sun
smashed its face against the window
like a pimple-faced teenager and I found another
metaphor for breath.
The train railed to a stop above the parkway
and I saw what was once my life
standing on the bridge, waving her limp
handkerchief of defeat. The man beside me took
a deep breath and touched his forehead
with great formality, as if he had just delivered
a painful homily. I turned back to the figure
on the girder who introduced herself:
Renunciation, she said and extended her hand
through the window. I shook it with an enthusiasm
that scared her. She tried to let go,
but I held on.