Signs of Life: Images Formed from Words and Clay by Gerri Frager

We all have experience with death. And dying. A couple of my grandparents died at home – apparently the peaceful, in-their-sleep manner. Another went at the hospital. As she passed she said with perfect lucidity, “Oh, look at the beautiful flowers!” (There were no painkillers involved.) The kind of stuff that stays with you, to interpret as you choose. But an in-law of mine passed after a stint at a hospice. What rattled me were the caregivers – unfailingly pleasant, kind individuals I’m certain aren’t paid enough.

Doing palliative work in pediatrics, however, is another level of engagement altogether. My books raised money for Make-A-Wish Foundation, granting wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, the closest I got to personal experience. But the stories, the lives, testing strength and optimism, granted me a window onto the very best human traits – gold flecks that cling in a prospector’s pan. Same as the emergence of earthenware art from a lump of turned clay.

Poet-potter Gerri Frager has created a unique, engaging collection of work.

Palliative pediatric physician, poet and potter Gerri Frager is one of those rare and special individuals, a bullion nugget in gravelly sluice. I felt privileged to receive Signs of Life, Frager’s beautiful book of poems with lustrous colour images of her pottery, kilned at her east coast home.

From Ode to a Goose: What do you most hope for? / Wherein lies your dream? / as you soar over land / your bird’s eye view takes in / both the intimately familiar and / the wholly unknown

The notion of dreams and aspirations, in other words, time, we too often take for granted.

From Circadian Song: No small wonder to witness / how your spirit rose / well above your so very ill body / and hear you hum-sing / transforming your Intensive Care room / into a room of intense caring

The thought of a dying child singing a song wracks me with a gritty, hard-to-define amalgam of every emotion. Yet looking at the pottery accompanying this piece, natural growth reaching skyward, fills me with comfort – mixed media caregiving.

This, from Signs of Life, the title poem: Gently sheltered / within this nearly silent pool / lie watery folds / of recent thoughts / layered softly / over / ebbing distant memories

In savouring this rich mashup of creativity, what resonates is that poems adorn left side pages, the poet’s pottery, the right. Because of this, whether by intent or happenstance, Frager’s kilned compositions stand apart as stars of the show. I love a good mixed-media event, and it radiates here, engaging the reader in a deeper, more comprehensive experience than a mere publication of text.

See also  Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees, Edited by Christine Lowther

From Frager’s Oh! Canada: We are a land of firsts / First Nations to first settlers / where geese are named for our country / and the call of a loon / tells us we are home

As I read Signs of Life, National Poetry Month is just around the corner. This passage, this piece, could well be the anthem. Poet-potter Gerri Frager has created a unique, engaging collection of work – literal alchemy, shaping words and hunks of this land into refined beauty – something hopeful, and remarkably reassuring.

Signs of Life has been added to “The Very Best!” Book Awards 2020 longlist for Best Poetry.

About the Author: Gerri Frager has worked as a physician in pediatric palliative care for over 20 years and was director of the Humanities HEALS Program, integrating the arts into health care and education. She also works as a potter in stoneware and porcelain and fires her creations in a kiln at her home in Spry Bay, Nova Scotia. Her website:

Signs of Life by Gerri Frager
Pottersfield Press

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Dr. Gerri Frager
May 3, 2020 13:27

For Bill Arnott:
What a surprise!! I was hunting on google for a link to my Artist Talk (for a show of my pottery & poetry at The Craig Gallery).
Anywhoo – that is how I discovered The Miramichi Reader, you, and your notes about my book! I’m delighted!
Just a small thing but I know you know how important words are.
“This, from Signs of Life, the title poem: Gently sheltered / within this nearly silent pool / lie watery folds / of recent thoughts / layered softly / over / webbing distant memories”
It is “ebbing” not “webbing”
Also, 1st I’d heard re: my book being in the running for “The Very Best Book Award”. Would love if you’d keep me posted.
– Gerri Frager

James M. Fisher
Reply to  Dr. Gerri Frager
May 4, 2020 12:54

Hello, Gerri! I have fixed the typo, thanks for noticing that. We’ll keep you posted!