A collection of lyric fictions representing the comedy, pain, and chaos of everyday life.
Beliefs fail, projects, decades, lives; not hours and minutes, this one. Through the foliage of the old estate the river hangs in sequins on the trees, and windows on the Jersey heights ignite with morning like the golden stones in the mosaics of the saints.
"The emergence of Sheldon Zitner as a major figure in Canadian poetry is itself a matter for rejoicing. Before We Had Words is a work of wit, passion, and discipline. He deserves all the honour we can give him." Books in Canada"Sheldon Zitner's writing combines energy and wisdom, vigour and experience. In one poem he speaks of an art that, distrusting show, achieves elegance without forgetting 'beginnings and their frugal joys.' His own work delivers just this mixture of gusto and refinement, memory and activity. Staying close to things of the earth and early loves, it lives in the here and now, thinking and dreaming ... This new book grapples with our 'thought-encumbered images' in a poetry that means 'to cherish not to awe.' Its success is our enlightenment and pleasure." A.F. Moritz "These poems speak to truths overturned and reformed; to the essential contradiction of being alone in the midst of people, and to those peculiar moments that come from a life lived: ordinary in its form but always unique in its quietude." The National Post
The late S.P. Zitner (1924-2005) lectured at Trinity College in the University of Toronto since 1969. His poems have appeared in Accent, The Dalhousie Review, Poetry, The Nation, and numerous other magazines.