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Majlinda Bashllari Discusses Elana Wolff’s Startled Night

Startled NightMajlinda Bashllari dicussed Elana Wolff’s collection of poems Startled Night as part of Brick Books’ anniversary celebration of Canadian Poetry. Majlinda Bashllari is a poet herself, having written Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home) which was published in Tirana, Albania and Love is a very long word, which is forthcoming from Guernica Editions. The Brick Books anniversary celebration of Canadian Poetry will feature a new article about a Canadian poem or poet every week.

Bashllari’s contribution focuses on Elana Wolff’s “book of strong images and sudden wit, with lines that keep working on you long after you’ve read them, but it is first of all a book that evokes change as the cause and aftermath of every event in a person’s life.” Bashllari draws on various poems from Wolff’s collection, such as “Hokey Pokey Poem” which “surfaces as an innocent life lecture for beginners, who perhaps intuitively know much better than adults how to deal with important issues”, as well as the poem “Art Sometimes Makes Me Vague”, which raises “the most interesting metaphor in the book: ‘startled night’ as a symbol of one of the most intangible possessions a person can own, or rather, pretend to own. Human nature is weird and wonderful: it’s looking for answers, but not for all of them.” Bashllari concludes her commentary by referring to poet Wisława Szymborska’s observation that “There are no questions more urgent than the naïve ones”, and that “Elana Wolff’s poems in Startled Night approach the big and difficult questions with the naïve openness of the beginner – the constant beginner, forever struggling with change at every stage. Yet these poems also imply a natural order to history and human life – it had to be like this: from ugliness to beauty, from blue to orange, from weakness to wisdom.”

Startled Night is one of four collections of poetry that Elana Wolff has published with Guernica Editions, among them is You Speak to Me in Trees, which was awarded the F.G. Bressani Prize for Poetry. She is also the author of Implicate Me, a collection of essays on contemporary poems; co-author of Slow Dancing: Creativity and Illness (Duologue and Rengas); and co-editor with Julie Roorda of Poet to Poet: Poems written to poets and the stories that inspired them. A bilingual edition of her selected poems, Helleborus & Alchémille was awarded the 2014 John Glassco Prize for Translation. Elana has taught English for Academic Purposes at York University in Toronto and at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She currently divides her professional time between writing, editing, and designing and facilitating therapeutic community art courses.

To read Bashllari’s article, visit the Brick Books website at:

To read more about Startled Night, visit the Guernica website at:

To read more about Elana Wolff, visit the Guernica website at:

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