Meditative Magic

THE UNOBTRUSIVE NARRATOR IN BETSY WARLAND’S LOST LAGOON: LOST IN THOUGHT PROSE POEMS

Betsy Warland’s Lost Lagoon: lost in thought prose poems is an exploration of the timelessness of one human’s connection with nature in a busy city. Written to Lost Lagoon in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a protected forest on the edge of the busy West End, a densely populated area teeming with both apartments and marine wildlife, Warland explores the impact of humans on nature by stepping gently into the realm of trees and pond, both observer and quiet participant.

An author of fourteen books, Warland is also well known in British Columbia as the founder of The Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio, as well as a writing coach and workshop presenter with thirty years in the field. While Lost Lagoon: lost in thought prose poems builds on the empathy and insight common to Warland’s work, what is most unique about this particular collection is the unobtrusiveness of the voice as she refers to herself simply as “The Human.”

Stepping back in this way allows Warland’s enticing diction like “pre-twilight” in poem 5, (6) to surface, for visual images to nourish the reader. The gentleness of the narrator’s relationship with nature flows in all her descriptions, including her relationship with her own identity. “As crows flourish between the apartment buildings and Stanley Park’s 400 hectares, The Human (a person of between), flourishes between these opposite yet interdependent worlds,” (6) she writes, of the privilege of living in both a city and a protected old-growth forest. Referring to herself as “a person of between” is a notion Warland first developed in her book Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas in 2007 in the vulnerable state of newly single, grieving not being with her three-year-old son who called her “dad-mom.” The language “A person of between” flows softly through the pages of Lost Lagoon: lost in thought prose poems with the cadence of Warland’s prose poetry, a natural grace evoked through an unobtrusive yet present point of view, a Canadian style of wholistic gentleness that allows cohesive truth to emerge, a peaceful strength rather than dramatic confrontation. The ease of point of view, The Human, adds clarity and solidity to wildlife descriptions, so that realities like non-binary gender identity become a respected and accepted natural fact, simply part of the story.

Warland’s descriptive words like “Chartreuse” (43) and “tidal basin” juxtapose west coast Stanley Park landscape with the beauty of the Canadian east as she travels back and forth through the country, bonding more and more with her new home in the West End and the creatures she shares it with.

Identifying only as The Human gives texture to other sounds, scents and lives of the region, such as beavers and swans. There’s an overall smoothness to the way sounds like crow caws fit in and flow in gentle rhythm, a balance of explanation and poetry. There’s a depth to the human and natural world. Reading poetry is like reading a friend’s journal, getting insight to the deepest parts of them, how they see the world at this time, this time of aging and loss in the narrator’s life, of slowing down, reconnecting, taking time for self, walks, the outdoors. We walk with The Human through the park each day, noting erosion, the damage humans cause to the lives of other species. We grow to love the nuances of the lagoon with her, lamenting with the narrator as she ends with the frightening truth that the places in which we find solace are disappearing from our lack of connection with them, our lack of care. “How quickly elation could morph into elegy” (79) she says in the last poem, number 55.

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A master storyteller, Warland makes five years of penning and polishing a book look simple. Lost Lagoon: lost in thought prose poems was composed in the early stages of the pandemic when the narrator welcomed a return to quiet and nature, a needed slowing down. The point of view of The Human creates a timeless voice reminding us that we too are nature, that we need to repair our relationship with the flora and fauna around us as regular park board and city policy, that an integral part of that restoration is taking time to learn each crow, each beaver, each marsh and lagoon, to co-exist attentively and respectfully. Taking the narrator out of the story and referring to them as simply The Human achieves a healthy opportunity for us to be in the ecosystem, part of it rather than dominating it. Lost Lagoon: lost in thought prose poems will remain on the shelves of time as a guide for integration to sustainability, day by day, walk by walk, person by person.


About the Author

Betsy Warland has published poetry, creative nonfiction and lyric prose. Her 2010 book of essays on new approaches to writing, Breathing the Page—Reading the Act of Writing became a bestseller. Author, mentor, teacher, manuscript consultant and editor, Warland received the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2016. She is the founder of Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, co-founder of the national Creative Writing Nonfiction Collective, and established The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University where she was director of the program from 2001–2012.

  • Publisher: Caitlin Press (Feb. 28 2020)
  • Language: English
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1773860259
  • ISBN-13: 978-1773860251

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Karen Schauber
Karen Schauber
May 18, 2022 21:27

“A master storyteller, Warland makes five years of penning and polishing a book look simple.” – a wonderful review by a master poet.