Braiding the Voices: Essays in Poetry
John Leonard Press, $32.95 pb, 319 pp, 9780980852349
Peter Steele once described his teaching and writing as ‘acts of celebration’. He is – and was – quite literally a celebrant: in his role as a Jesuit priest, and as a poet of praise. Those acts of celebration extend to his prose works as well, both his homilies and his literary essays, especially those that take up the matter of poetry. Peter Steele passed away, after a long illness, in June of this year, but not before his latest offering was presented at a book launch he attended the week before he died and a few days after he received a national honour. Unable to speak, he had his brother read a list of five major concerns that animated his poetry and which he looked for in others: ‘Imagination; learning from experience; fascination with experience in all of its many forms; the world imagined in a different way; and earth and spirit interlocked.’ This new book, of eighteen essays and six poems, bears out those concerns, establishing his voice among us in a kind of afterlife, not of fame, but of familiarity, someone we might turn to, that is, as an intimate or a familiar.