A “joyous sadness” for Judith Fitzgerald, one year on

One year ago today, poet Judith Fitzgerald passed away. Her last collection, Impeccable Regret, had been published just weeks before her death, and almost two decades since her previous book of poetry.

In recent days, Canada and the world lost another literary and musical luminary, Leonard Cohen. Cohen and Fitzgerald had a friendship of many years and occasionally collaborated. (Fitzgerald’s passing inspired a long thread in a certain online Leonard Cohen forum.) Of Fitzgerald’s work, Cohen wrote

Judith Fitzgerald’s poetry is remarkable. It is stunningly original; distinguished by wit, beauty, and a powerful sense of language, created always according to the high standards of integrity and craftsmanship which inform all aspects of her admirable literary enterprise … Her work is incredible … entirely inventive, deeply moving, and universally attractive.

You may wish to read a tribute to Fitzgerald published last year in the Globe and Mail or an even more detailed tribute in Quill and Quire. The Toronto Star also published an obituary. You may also be interested in a column Fitzgerald wrote on Fred Wah for the Globe and Mail in 2012.

Below, enjoy two poems from Impeccable Regret, in fond remembrance of both Cohen and Fitzgerald.

Blood Culture

In Memoriam Robert Kroetsch
(26 June 1927 – 21 June 2011)

By Leonard Cohen and Judith Fitzgerald
26 June 2011

Night comes quietly when you discover the simplest
of light lifting its wings to block the carnage.

How do you manage these broken days?
Can you believe what happened with the riotous?

You knew something got lost in the translation
so you stole that language, that lexicon, the only life

Capable of proving none exists except as converts
to some thing or other, lists magnificent or mundane,

Knew what lay in waiting for those western stars fading
against the unforgiving intrusion of what happens

When comets or catastrophes ricochet above the screech —
Or, do we mean roaring? — All nor nothing, just like that.



“I’m burning up the road
I’m heading down to Phoenix …”
—Leonard Cohen, “I Can’t Forget,” I’m Your Man

You know the road to hell
too well to believe pavement
could survive that blast, ash
phalt always, a word you know
but could never spell, would
think ash fault and wonder:
How in the hell does that factor
into the general view of anything?

Well, hell. An endless construction
site, really. You told
her over the long weekend: “We
shall all become CanAmericans; I
shouldered that truth; and, hell
froze over.” Always telegraphic,
an orange crush, red tide, blue moon
brought low by Lord knows who.