Trillium Book Award–winning poet Adam Sol’s newest collection is made up of poems that are loosely linked to the traditional Jewish morning prayers, the Birkhot haShachar, which try to find moments of blessing in the midst of personal and public pain, shame, and worry
How do we respond to others’ pain, both the pain of those we love and the larger global pain of those we don’t know? In a religious context, a witness can offer blessing when those in the midst of suffering cannot. Taking on the responsibility of blessing, then, is a way to shoulder that burden for the sufferer. This presupposes the idea that blessing is a necessity — which may be a point up for debate.
In the context of his wife’s recovery from surgery, and with civic violence prevalent in his city, the speaker of these poems leans on the structure of the Birkhot haShachar (dawn blessings) to carve out space for empathy, complaint, and occasional flashes of wonder. These poems showcase Sol’s trademark blend of humor and lyric virtuosity, and display his familiarity with Jewish texts and traditions, but add a new intimacy and urgency that break new ground for one of Canada’s most respected poets. It is his most risky and most accomplished collection to date.