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Selah

by Nora Gould

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A long poem that limns the incremental mourning of living with a person who has frontotemporal dementia.

Selah, from Psalms and Habakkuk — to praise, to lift up, to weigh in the balances, to pause, or a purely musical notation. Biblical scholars debate the exact meaning. Selah, Nora Gould’s second poetry collection, is a sequence of fragments written in dialogue with all of these meanings. Stitched together, these fragments form a poem that runs from the ranch land of Alberta into the heart of a shared house and a shared life.

Selah is about living with a husband recently diagnosed with dementia; it’s about the looking back and the imagining forward, about saying what cannot be said — the wayfaring bush and its shadow. It’s about finding a way through all this: “The palette darker than I’d planned,” yes, but also shot through with humour and care, crafted with both frankness and decorum.

In her award-winning previous book, I see my love more clearly from a distance, Gould wrote, “When Zoë finishes high school/ I’ll be on this horse of marriage as if riding after freezing rain:/ muscles tensed to lift me in the saddle.” In many ways this book is that ride. It pares away anything that does not immediately, albeit subtly, get to the aching muscle of the matter.

Praise for Selah:

“This poem never slips into sentimentality but it breaks the heart. The fragments are wind-scoured, they startle like a fox and coyote suddenly appearing against the snow, they leave their marks on you like hard work scars the hands. I love them.” —Lorna Crozier

“Nora Gould’s second collection, Selah, works with presence and absence: fingertips versus touch, the burrs of a long marriage vs. the voids of dementia, a beloved’s body vs. anatomical drawings. “Breathe,” Gould advises, in a voice that is stuffed full of hand-made quilts and rusty barbed wire, “There is air in the room.” Air enough for Gould to take on birth and illness, maturity and sadness and death: “If I outlive him, when he dies / my grief will be stillborn.”   — Ariel Gordon

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About the Author

Nora Gould writes from east central Alberta where she ranches with her family. She graduated from the University of Guelph in 1984 with a degree in veterinary medicine. Her debut poetry collection, I see my love more clearly from a distance (Brick Books, 2012), was winner of the 2013 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book…

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