I like mythology as much as the next guy, assuming that guy does, in fact, like mythology. Next to the Norse, the Greeks did a fine job of it, leaving it to those self-important Romans to change every character’s name in history’s most flagrant example of plagiarism. You could read all about it but I’ve yet to find a publisher for my manuscript Why Romans Lie, Cheat and Steal. Truly sagacious stuff, if I say so myself.
Nancy Mackenzie takes us there – a place and a time – deliciously blurred into the present. And she does it with originality in Crisp-Maned Bay. So buckle up, or chain yourself to an Argo oar, and let’s embark on our odyssey. “Unto the sea. Where the red to purple light / sinks and glows and rises like campfire flames / or an angel performing rights and guarding me, / my heart a luminous stone in the deep sea.”
Set into three sections – Marble Island, The Mermaid’s Tale, and What We Are Formed By Nature to Bear – Mackenzie’s work forms a poetic triptych, finding uniformity in a blend of dreamy introspection, observation, and personal experience. With a toe in the water, we peer through a glassless window, a portal to seemingly everyday seaside scenes. “The way a woman folds cloth / patterned with nautical blue // The way a woman rows a dinghy, / her nine-year-old catching serpent fish on the shoreline.”
Mackenzie manages a musical playfulness akin to fauns dancing through a glade, or in this instance Greek hills, finding their way into town as we join the author for Greek Coffee (Metrio) and a Slice of Karidopita. “Clouds gather amid the mountains, / doves coo and a goat bleats. The surf / attending to its needs, erases as it sings its songs. // Mermaids rise / in wrought iron, a recent date – 1998 – / in mosaic at the apartment’s lip / and the Mycenae acropolis-symbols / and imagination, temples for ordinary citizens / no matter, no matter, the time of day.”
And with pleasing circularity we’re brought home by way of water, across time to Alberta, New Year’s Day, to a lake just west of Edmonton. “We went inside and shared our stories, / and the grey ghost left me alone / for a little while. Its tattered raiment / fluttering around in Mink Lake air on Renata’s deck. / Across the way, cross-country skiers schussing and clipping by, / the sun low on the horizon, / a memory of childhood surfacing.”
First published in Canadian Poetry Review.
Crisp-Maned Bay by Nancy Mackenzie
About the Author: Nancy Mackenzie is the author of several books of poetry and books for children. A dressage enthusiast and long-time fan of horse-racing, Mackenzie lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She teaches Creative Writing at Grant MacEwan University and operates a professional writing and editing service called Bronze Horse Communications. A novel, Nerve Line, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2014.