This Is How It Is by Sharon King-Campbell

I didn’t really get into reading poetry until my English degree was long completed and I’d been removed from the scholarly study of the poetry canon – and particularly the canon was students are introduced to in elementary school. Periodically, if you’re lucky (and I was), an educator will attempt to drag their students out of the canon and make poetry more accessible than it often feels when you’re a preteen and introduced to the greats. These were my first glimpses at poetry as a thing I might enjoy. Studying poetry in university offered more glimpses, closer together, but it wasn’t until after I was established in a career of reading biomedical literature to give to other people to use in their work, that I circled back around to the idea that poetry might be something I really enjoy and something that I, in fact, needed after spending my Monday to Friday daytimes reading about a lot of really difficult things. So enter poetry. And while I’ve come to appreciate a lot of poetry and styles and themes, I find myself most fond of the poets and poems inspired by Atlantic Canada. These poems feel like home, comforting after a day of slogging through scholarly literature.

A #ReadAtlantic Book!

From the first line of Sharon King-Campbell’s This Is How It Is, I felt immediately comforted. Not because these poems are warm and fuzzy – though some of them certainly are! – but because these are poems that are unapologetically Atlantic Canadian. Even though King-Campbell’s collection traverses the world, it is centred with these roots in Atlantic Canada.

I highlighted so many good lines in this book when reading it, but my favourite is this one from the poem “Koh Talu”: “No silence is as full as the silence of the ocean.” The poem is set on the other side of the world, but King-Campbell compares it to the cold, grey ocean of home, and ties them together with this observation about the largeness of the silence that can emanate from such a body of water.

One poem, which is particularly well suited to reading in early spring is “Ice Fog,” with the perfect description of winter-weary souls on the first nice day of the year:

but then a single afternoon with blue
in sky, a naked sun, we flood the streets
afloat, forgiving

How true is that? I’ve seen it – I’ve done it myself – in the last month. And this is the beauty of King-Campbell’s collection: it’s relatable. It’s accessible and beautiful, it takes grand themes and makes them digestible, challenging us and then providing a cozy blanket of nostalgia in the next poem. King-Campbell takes music, travel, Biblical retellings, and weaves them together, and then takes us to the beach to look for sea glass. On my poetry journey, This Is How It Is brought me more deeply into the genre, and I really, really appreciated it.

Sharon King-Campbell is a freelance theatre artist and storyteller. Her work has appeared in Riddle Fence and Word, and on stages across Newfoundland and Labrador. Sharon grew up in Ottawa and now divides her time between downtown St. John’s and a little yellow house in Winterton, NL.

  • Publisher : Breakwater Books (March 19 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 96 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1550818694
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1550818697

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Alison Manley bounced around the Maritimes before landing in Miramichi, NB, where she works as a hospital librarian. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. When she's not reading biomedical research for her work, she likes reading poetry, contemporary and historical fiction, and personal essays. Noted for a love of bright colours (and lipstick), you can find her wandering the banks of the Miramichi River with a book and a paintbrush.