Judges’ Comments: There is an acute elegiac listening moving through McGiffin’s first book, as if time were a place in which she tries carefully to craft “how to slip beyond the confines of our scanty minds.” In doing so, she is finely attuned to both the tangible and the intangible, the space of the natural world and the human, and their intricate interweaving. These spare poems have a beautiful sadness.
There are many journeys encompassed in the pages of this mature and well-crafted first collection; literal travels to different parts of the world are the outward manifestation of the inward quest, the asking of the old but still essential questions: What is real? What is true? What is honourable? What is right? Yet these questions are new in that the poet is deeply concerned with the need to find a new paradigm, a new way to relate to the earth at this time of ever-heightening environmental crisis. And this seeking for how to be in and of the earth is paralleled by a personal search for intimacy with her fellow humans.
Throughout the collection, McGiffin never forgets that we are also animals, that we are as vulnerable at twilight, in “the wolfish light,” as any other creature struggling to complete its brief sojourn on earth.
“I am undone by Emily McGiffin. Her images and insights create an immaculate architecture for the heart. Sometimes I think I’ll never read a good poem again and then she comes along with a book full of them. Astonishing.” – Patrick Lane
George Elliott Clarke, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, August 6, 2013