Afloat, John Reibetanz’s eighth collection of poetry, focuses on water in many manifestations. The centerpiece, a sequence on the Three Gorges Dam and its cultural and environmental implications, brings ancient Chinese sources (Meng Chiao and the painter Dong Yuan) together with modern ones (Edward Burtynsky’s photographs and violent video games) to create an elegy that is moving and meditative.
Although water is everywhere present as a subject, it is song that provides the motivating power, the vehicle of longing that animates the book. “We thirst for song” — the closing words of the “Lament for the Gorges” sequence — could really serve as the book’s epigraph. This is poetry exercising its full range of possible functions (to observe, to enquire, to elegize, to imagine, to think, to commemorate, to yearn and to feel), all in the service of that “thirst for song.”
Praise For Afloat:
“Afloat takes the reader into the world of water, how it reaches into everything and connects everything, until the poems make you thirsty. Moving like flotsam in their beautiful sinuous lines and rhythms, you realize that you too are water, nature, world. No longer exile but celebrant. A wonderful poet, a wondrous book.” — Rosemary Sullivan, winner of the Gerald Lampert Award and the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction
“One of Canada’s three or four outstanding poets, John Reibetanz writes work that is fluid, searching, and expert. In Afloat, his lines are ‘streams / that flow with the silks of sunrise on their backs / from heart through breath to words.’” — Richard Greene, winner of the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Poetry
John Reibetanz Afloat — The Malahat Review