Canada AM interview (CTV)
with Nancy-Gay Rotstein
from Beijing, China



Also by
Nancy-Gay Rotstein...

Shattering Glass
Shattering Glass
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This Horizon and BeyondTHIS HORIZON AND BEYOND
Poems Selected and New

by Nancy-Gay Rotstein

Foreword by Irving Layton

Nancy-Gay Rotstein’s poetry has been hailed for its powerful imagery, perceptive insights and universal appeal. Her most recent collection, THIS HORIZON AND BEYOND: Poems Selected and New — which has been published in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom — presents a poetically crafted tapestry that pays homage to the joy of life itself.

“Her poet’s sharp eye detects the hidden diamond or pearl...” wrote Irving Layton in the Foreword. “She has the rare gift to see things as they are, the gift of the prophet. ... She is able to give her observations the quality of a vase or a statue by a Renaissance artist, and make the temporal, the timely, into something transcendental and eternal, which is the aim of all great art.”

THIS HORIZON AND BEYOND brings together landmark poems of Rotstein’s previous collections -- THROUGH THE EYES OF A WOMAN (1975), TAKING OFF (1979), and CHINA: SHOCKWAVES (1987) -- with those appearing in print for the first time. Included in this volume are poems from her travels through China as one of the early Westerners to enter that country after the Cultural Revolution (Watch video: Interview from China) as well as those poems capturing the stages in a family’s life written over a twenty-five year period and purposely held for publication as a unit.

This collection, arranged into sections titled Sightings; Compass Points: Eastward, The Equinox, Borders; and The Cycle, provides a probing look in verse at “this horizon and beyond.” Rotstein captures an awareness of time, of history, and of a sensibility beyond the surface of what she is describing. There are poems that are celebratory of life and light-hearted in spirit alongside those which are haunting in depth and meaning.

With intensity and passion, she paints indelible scenes of her homeland of Canada, its vast landscape and seasonal beauty, and addresses as well its challenges and concerns. We are at her side in countries such as Greece, Italy, Japan, Israel and the Caribbean, where, with poetry in place of a camera, she captures in print vivid poetic “snapshots,” all with stirring reality and impact, intertwined with her own emotional reactions to the view she so eloquently describes. She juxtaposes poems describing unspoiled nature with those portraying its destruction though mankind’s constant -- and often unintentional and careless -- acts to both land and water, and she reflects on the ecological legacy we leave those who follow.

We join her in the pleasures of family life that radiate through its circles of love, from birth and childhood to parenthood and the aging years. When THROUGH THE EYES OF A WOMAN was published over 25 years ago, Rotstein received enthusiastic response to the family poems it contained, and at the recommendation of book critics and other poets, she decided to hold further writings about the family for later publication as a unit in order to offer the reader the full range of family life. Reprinted in THIS HORIZON AND BEYOND is one of that early volume’s most requested poems, “FOR TRACY”. Layton commends her children’s poems both for “the maternity they exhibit, a feeling of caring and warmth and the kind of insight that only love gives” and for “their universality. She has compressed all mothers’ feelings about their progeny with an impressive freshness and vigor.” The Edmonton Journal wrote that her family poems “are tender and true and will speak to any parent anywhere.”

The section Compass Points contains the poetry of her unique China adventures. She writes of her three and half-day ferry journey down the Yangtze River through the Gorges, travelling with hundreds of villagers from the area; takes us inside a school classroom; and introduces us to such intriguing individuals as the Ambassador to Beijing and a city Block Captain. Rotstein, who had been granted a special literary visa in 1980 by the Chinese government, was able to travel without restriction in that country. When the resulting poetry was published in CHINA: SHOCKWAVES (Watch video: Interview from China), she received praise not only for her vivid descriptive power and attention to detail, but also for an awareness of a China in the throes of change. “It’s a rare collection in that it is one of the few, in poetry or prose, by a Westerner that goes beyond the surface of China,” wrote United Press International, and The Scotsman praised her for “a prescience which now seems extraordinary. ... Rotstein realized as early as 1980 that China was heading for another political revolution.”

Throughout the collection are her colourful, insightful poem portraits of people, from beloved family members such as “NANA” to poems like “THE VISITOR”, which, as Layton points out: “explode with delicious irony and nuanced meanings.” He praises as well “her gift to see into the core of people and events,” as in “POWER”, where she writes about “sophisticates of illusion / they have captured our world / and hold us all to ransom”. “I know of no more disturbing and pertinent remark about the contemporary world than what I find in these three expressive lines,” comments Layton.

In bringing together some of Nancy-Gay Rotstein’s finest work to date, THIS HORIZON AND BEYOND is a celebration of the craftsmanship, poetic vision, and humanity of a unique, dynamic voice.


“All her work is shot through with historical consciousness. ... But there is also the present moment, and in For Tracy, as she watches her youngest daughter sleep, Rotstein evocatively captures the stab of terror a child's vulnerability can inspire. ... If there's a single theme that links a lifetime's work, it's just that -- the impermanence of every human achievement, the fragility of peace, order and good government.”

“Her poetry [has] a descriptive prowess that cuts to the quick. Her textures of colour, light and history freeze moments to paper. ... And she does it with remarkable brevity ... casting aside the superfluous and refining the remaining with a surgeon’s exactitude, leaving in her wake surprisingly large, and extremely rich, pictures. ... Her children could be our children. Her geography is Canada’s. She has a strong sense of history, fair play and justice.”
   —The Ottawa Citizen

“She is an original. It is not just the words she writes, fashioned to fit a space on a page; they are words from the soul, given brilliant flight in the rare imagination of a daring spirit. ... You are drawn into her brilliant constructions, made to feel her layers of nuance. This book becomes a bedside companion, a wise friend who offers balm for pain and revives the aching spirit.”
   —The Hamilton Spectator

“The book is the culmination of a quarter-century of writing poetry. ... And they are good. There is a gem-like quality to many of them with a precision in language that somehow makes her poems both specific and universal.”
   —Edmonton Journal  | Read more reviews


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Nancy-Gay Rotstein
author of Shattering Glass: A Novel
This Horizon and Beyond: Poems Selected and New

Copyright Nancy-Gay Rotstein