Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan

Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan is a hefty and heavy set of poems and essays about life, the destruction of the earth, and the destruction of the planet wrought by men.  Broken down into eight sections from communing with God, homage to the strength of women, the sadness that comes from a destroyed planet, and a general awaking to the wonders of the world and moving into a full experience of life.  The second section, “Tears for the World,” and section three, “Indestructible Woman,” offer a no-holds-barred perspective on destruction caused by humanity or the oppression of women by men in societies across the world even today.  In many ways, some of these poems mirror the most radical forms of Ecofeminism, in which women are the closest to the Earth and should resume their position as leaders and teach men to cooperate with nature rather than dominate it — though some even espoused the dominion of women over men.  There is even one poem dedicated to the late Mary Daly, one of the main philosophical thinkers of the movement.

From Woman Is Space:

“Woman is space
the wind
the grass
the river
the peacock complaining
to the river
the word emerging like the river
the woman stepping out of the river.

like a rising river” (page 89)

There are lines and images and moments here that will make some angry, while others will nod their heads at the truth of it.  There is the destruction of nuclear bombs created by men, there are the women who are subservient to men, and there is even more.


“The air writhes.
The water gags.
The rocks slide.
The mountains sweat.
Plants cringe.
Trees crash.
Animals glare.
Women bleed.

Man has his boot on every inch of the world.
His conquest is nearly complete.” (page 64)

While these are hymns and elegies to the earth and women, there are other poems that are less “abrasive” than others, but still offer a sense of what the reader is trying to convey about the harm that has come to the planet and to women. The less declarative poems are the most powerful, offering imagery that recalls in the mind the beauty of nature and the wonders that are yet unexplored. These poems call on readers to regain their childlike wonder and stand in awe of the world around them, not to tear it asunder in the thirst for fulfillment.

From “A Divine Meal”:

“I like my disheveled plate with a well-licked fork
sprawling satisfied across it, a pause
between each dish for emptying my mind
and manifesting a new one.

Conversation too I enjoy, voices harmonically arranged,
And food, the kind that tastes good.
I love my senses sublime, and a good cook
is one of the million gods I worship.” (page 23)

From “The Joy”:

“Along the hills of your body
I rooted in the fragrant earth.

Stretching my blooming arms
I heaved with offerings.

I was a peach dripping gold
and you drank me.” (page 104)

Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan mixes philosophy, history, poetic imagery, and declarative statements to create a collection of poems and essays that examine the state of the modern world without sugar coating anything.  There are moments that will get under readers’ skins and maybe cause them to stop reading in disagreement, but Canan’s poems should not be ignored given the degradation that continues to happen from the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico to the oppression of women that continues today.  These are issues that cannot be ignored if the planet and humanity are to survive beyond just a few generations.

About the Poet:

JANINE CANAN’s first book of poems, Of Your Seed, was published in 1977, thanks in part to the National Endowment for the Arts. Since that time, the poet has authored 18 books of poetry, translations, essays and stories.

This is the 27th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.


This is my 85th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge in 2012.