by Celeste Nazeli Snowber
Be swept into The Marrow of Longing
An exploration of Armenian heritage uncovers universal themes of longing and belonging.
The Marrow of Longing, Simon Fraser University professor Celeste Snowber’s deeply personal and interpersonal third book of poetry, traces the inherited trauma of the Armenian genocide, lessons learned in kitchen conversations, fragmented memories of grandparents, parents’ love letters, prayers in the night, and bodily yearnings. “Fragments can hold a world,” she says. A descendent of genocide survivors, she explores relationships between longing, belonging, and identity, uncovering universal themes that guide readers to what has shaped their own lives.
Photo credit: Michele Mateus
In excavating her own vulnerabilities and longings she invites the reader into a community of reflection. “look beneath the surface / how many dimensions/ one object, one heart holds.”
Motherhood is a recurring theme: “My mother had an / eggplant soul / a beauty of both / dark and light / rough and tender…the meeting of art and life / just beneath the skin of plum black.” Celeste speaks to her ancestral homeland as living entity, “I am letting you / wash over me /kachkar to kachkar, / lavash to lavash…dance my olive skin / on your baptized land.”
Along with 54 poems, The Marrow of Longing contains 7 full-colour images by Boston-based artist Marsha Nourtiza Odabashian www.marshaodabashian.com. Odabashian’s drawings and paintings uniquely reflect the tension and expansiveness of being raised in dual cultures, Armenian and American.
The Marrow of Longing is available in print (96 pages) from HARP Publishing: The People’s Press of Nova Scotia (www.harppublishing.ca). Partial proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Atken Armenian Foundation https://www.atkenarmenianfoundation.com/ of Montreal supporting Armenia’s development through cultural and economic development initiatives.
PRAISE FOR THE MARROW OF LONGING
Celeste Snowber is a creative dynamo encompassing music and dance into her poetry in such a way that it echoes with a myriad of emotions reflecting like a mirror in which we can see our own heart and soul. The Marrow of Longing is a gentle generational walk down a highway of smiles and tears that weaves us into Snowber’s blanket of lyric and dance that permeate the fabric of relationships and life. The words and emotions in this mix of free verse and prose poetry dance with eloquent ease to the surreal symphony they evoke in the reader’s mind.
Candice James, Poet Laureate Emerita, New Westminster, BC and author of Rithimus Aeternam
Harrowing, beautiful and surprising…through her exquisite capacity to listen, Celeste shows us person & place, land & love, all that is treasured beyond time, can be discovered within the living heart. It is clear to me that these poems are made with the soles of her bare feet, listening.
John Fox, Author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making
I savored this volume with its carefully constructed fragments about identity, food and longing, all of them representations of love and wisdom. A morsel of joy
Lola Koundakjian, Author of The Moon in the Cusp of My Hand
Celeste Snowber’s The Marrow of Longing is a liminal site where land, food, bodysoul, the domestic, and the wild intermesh. These poems celebrate the succulent riches of Armenian cuisine in a tradition where food-making and artmaking are one, the kitchen a studio holding an eggplant’s “plum black” richness. Readers are invited to open hearts and minds to the intergenerational traumas of the Armenian genocide of 1915 while stepping into a world where an Armenian mother’s sweeping of floors sweeps us into an ever-present, enduring love.
Susan McCaslin, Author of Into the Open: Poems New & Selected
In this period of tremendous loss for the Armenian nation, it’s good to see that our artists continue to so carefully share our complex and unresolved history through their personal journeys.
Atom Egoyan, Film Director, Writer, Producer
Here, held in the warm love of the familial kitchen and the embrace of earth longing, you can taste beneath the skin of black plum, experience sticky bursts of knowing dancing on your lips, and hear the grace in mother’s admonishment of “Do it again, sweep the floor with love.” Be swept into Snowber’s embrace as she wraps you in voices, echoes and sighs, journeying us through heart and earth healings. While these poems share Snowber’s cultural memory fragments, her words echo universal themes bringing us back to ourselves into the generational embodied cycle of mother, child, mother earth, child, repeating. We are reminded that love is created in making, through birthing, and Snowber generates love in the recursive process of helping us remember. Read and be reborn.
Pauline Sameshima, Canada Research Chair, Poet and Artist
Celeste Nazeli Snowber, PhD is a dancer, poet, writer, award-winning educator, and Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Her previous books include Embodied prayer and Embodied inquiry: Writing, living and being through the body. She is author of two other collections of poems, Wild tourist: Instructions to a wild tourist from the divine feminine and co-author of Blue Waiting. Celeste creates site-specific performance and has been the Artist in Residence in the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden creating full-length performances connecting poetry and dance out of each season. Celeste also creates one-woman shows integrating voice, comedy, and dance and has performed across North America and Internationally in a variety of venues, including concerts, galleries, museums, conferences and outdoor spaces. Celeste’s mother was born in Historic Armenia in 1912 before immigrating to Boston and integral to Celeste’s own artistic process is excavating fragments of ancestral memory, which find their way in poems and dances. She can be found at www.celestesnowber.com.