Reading Out loud to Find the Texture | Review of “Coal and Roses” by P. K. Page (2009) The Porcupine’s Quill

I am discovering that – in my 42 year – I am reading out loud in order to get nuances and phrasing from certain pieces of writing. Is this a skill I never picked up on in my younger days or is my mind slipping? When I was taught reading and being quiet, did I miss out on certain details of prose that I could have better enjoyed? These are the questions I am asking myself as I read and tried to appreciate P. K. Page’s Coal and Roses: Twenty-One Glosas.

Opening Paragraph – Page 9

The glosa form opens with a

quatrain, borrowed from another

poet, that is then followed by four

ten-line stanzas terminating with

the lines of the initial passage in

consecutive order. The sixth and

ninth lines rhyme with the

borrowed tenth. Glosas were

popular in the fourteenth and

early fifteenth centuries among

poets attached to the Spanish


I originally pick up this book because it referred to the works of other poets I might be interested in. But after reading the introductory paragraph, I realized the wording was much more complex. As I read each work over and over again, I understood how important it was to refer to the original work.

Domain of the Snow Queen – Page 56

(Referring poem – And Once More Saw the Stars by Phillip Stratford)

This is the winter garden. White on white

Bunches of snow like cherry on the bough

Ground cover- icing sugar, flour or salt.

The pupils of my eyes have turned to milk.

(Opening of the Glosa)

Ice curtains on the windows, flowers and stars

etched for the Snow Queen, crystalline and cold.

Her blood subzero. See, how white her face,

how white her fingernails, her lips, her eyes,

Imagine then her heart, a block of ice

unmalting, permafrost. She whitens night

and everything she looks at -red or black

is bleached of colour by her frigid glance.

Even the rainbow is a pale delight.

This winter garden – white on white.

While this was a complex book for me to read, the challenge was worthwhile. The problem was reading out loud for me to do. I normally read in coffee shops, in public transit, or in libraries, but doing so without disturbing others.

My Chosen Landscape – Page 60

(Referring poem Finally Left in the Landscape by Gwendolyn MacEwen)

I am a continent, a violated geography.

Yet still I journey to this naked country,

to seek a form which dances in the sand.

This is my chosen landscape.


(Opening lines from referring Glosa)

Sand dunes, interminable deserts, burning winds

the night temperatures bitter, a land of grit;

and floating above me stars as violent

as fire balloons, tactile and brilliant.

The all-enveloping sky, a cloak of soot.

This is my story, my brief biography.

The sum total of my experience. I travel –

a compass useless in my useless hand –

through a sandscape, a singular topography.

I am a continent, a violated geography.

Not only has Coal and Roses opened up my mind to the way I read and communicate but it has opened me up to a whole new collection of poets. This is exactly what a good piece of literature is suppose to do.

No Exit – page 68

(Referring poem In a Dark Time by Theodore Roethke)

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.

My soul like some heat-maddened summer fly,

Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?

A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.


(Opening lines from referring Glosa )

The Dark Night of the Soul, the darkest night.

There is no darker. ‘Pitched past pitch’, he said –

Hopkins, that is. And Saint John of the Cross

knew equal suffering – a loss of faith

that nothing equals, so they say, but I

who lost my life – why can I not compare

my loss with theirs? Life is no little thing –

your own life or the life of a beloved.

The sun goes out, the moon. There is no fire.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.

Coal and Roses by P. K. Page has opened my mind up to different nuances in phrasing and words. No doubt I will be reading this book over and over again. Just hopefully someplace where I can read it out loud.

Wikipedia page on P. K. Page

The Porcupine’s Quill’s page for Coal and Roses



3 thoughts on “Reading Out loud to Find the Texture | Review of “Coal and Roses” by P. K. Page (2009) The Porcupine’s Quill

    1. After all these years of reading so called theorists of communication, I am discovering insights from people who actually write and talk. I am looking forward to reading more of her work.


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