Finding New Rooms to Grow: Moving to Delilah by Catherine Owen

If one were to dissect a “home”, what would be found?

Owens’ latest collection of poems — her sixteenth — is founded on an initial grief (“Prologues”) that underlies her displacement from the BC coast to the Alberta prairies. Actually, this grief, and the memories woven through this experience of loss, are less an unseen foundation as they are a layer of richly-textured wallpaper, over which Owen adds new experiences and insights, and which still influences the patterns of the rooms of her house, Delilah.

As the poems expand further outwards — from “The House” to then “The Garden” and, finally, “The Neighbourhood” — they consider our ties to physical spaces: how owning a home, and owning a body, provide one with the ability to create new life. How home is a feeling fuelled by the collection of experiences and hearts of people we meet. How we carry these physical and emotional artifacts with us, even long after they’re gone.

Long after I finished reading, I wondered whether the “Delilah” that she moves to — this name that she hears whispered from the walls of the home she buys — is actually the author; the heart of a home, of a neighbourhood, is one’s own heart, both in the memories and those to be made in the future. And perhaps that’s why I so thoroughly enjoyed Moving to Delilah (and am keen to look up Owen’s earlier collections): I’m a sucker for approachable lyrical poetry that speaks clearly, but also warmly without being cloying, such that I continue to think about it, and find that each re-read adds new treasures. I liken it to a pie I imagine resting on a home’s windowsill, comforting yet full of rich filling and crisp layers that bloom.

While my use of the word “initial” makes it seem like the grief goes away, what Owen reminds us beautifully is how time allows us the space to give grief its own room, so that we can build a new home around it.  

Owen reminds us beautifully … how time allows us the space to give grief its own room, so that we can build a new home around it.  

CATHERINE OWEN, from Vancouver, BC, is the author of fifteen collections of poetry and prose. Her work has won and been nominated for awards and has been toured across Canada 12 times. She edits, hosts the series 94th Street Trobairitz, and runs the podcast Ms. Lyric’s Poetry Outlaws from her home in Edmonton, AB.

Publisher: Freehand Books (April 1, 2024)
Paperback 9″ x 6″ | 136 pages
ISBN: 9781990601583

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Bryn Robinson lives in Quispamsis, NB, although she still, and always will, consider herself a Saint Johner. She uses her BA in psychology and French, and her PhD in experimental psychology, from the University of New Brunswick, to help her support health research in the province. She prefers contemporary fiction, narrative non-fiction, graphic novels and poetry - and if they are humorous, all the better. When not reading, she's exploring the New Brunswick forests and seascapes, camera in hand.