Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign: Small Beneath the Sky

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on the Eco-Libris website.


This ache, this country of wind and dust and sky, is your starting point, the way you understand yourself, the place you return to when there's nowhere else to go. It is the pared-down language of your blood and bones.

Canadian poet Lorna Crozier, born in 1948, grew up in Swift Current, a three-block-long downtown of a city in Saskatchewan. Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir is her recollection of that time, that place, and her family and friends' particular experiences then and there.

Starting with and then interspersed between the peopled stories are prose poems that hinge on Aristotle's notion of the First Cause--"something beyond the chain of cause and effect, something that started it all," Crozier explains. Such a conceit grants Crozier license to forefront gorgeous descriptions of animals and insects, grasses, wind, horizon, and light instead of keeping them in the background. (These nature-centered brief chapters might be seen as reason enough to include Small Beneath the Sky in any green campaign, but it earns its place in the Eco-Libris tour due to its paper: "acid-free paper that is forest friendly (100% post-consumer recycled paper) and has been processed chlorine free." )

Even the stories themselves are often akin to poetry; Crozier expands her poem "Fear of Snakes" into a four-page chapter, "tasting the air," describing how her brother rescued her from a gang of neighborhood bullies who then proceed to nail a hapless garter snake to a telephone pole. (I found the prose version even more affecting than the poem, but perhaps that's because I read it first.)

Despite growing up in poverty, with a father's alcoholism to keep hidden, Crozier has not written a memoir to showcase her family's dysfunction. Although her family members' weaknesses are exposed, this is more a celebration of connections, characters, and countryside, all the elements that worked to shape and inform the individual she'd become. Even a friend who becomes pregnant, then married, at 15 doesn't follow the typical path for one who finds herself in that position; indeed, she later becomes Crozier's connection to royalty.

I'm glad the Green Books Campaign brought Small Beneath the Sky to my attention. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have already added Crozier's The Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems to my wishlist.


  1. Lorna Crozier wrote some amazing poems about food, too. I'll have to look this one up.

  2. another poet for me to check out. Thanks for the review and "green" information. I reviewed Saffron Dreams today.

  3. I loved this book when I read it for many of the same reasons you mention here - the descriptions of nature, the way it is not all about family disfunction - plus I just love Lorna Crozier so much! And it is about Saskatchewan, which is my homeplace as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it; I hope you'll enjoy the poetry as well.

  4. I seem to find the most fascinating books reviewed at blogs. Thank you for this review.


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.