The Scent of Spring, Elegies Out of Season

Poetry, The Black Spring Press Group, UK, Spring 2022

A unique style of documentary and witness poetry, Karen Mulhallen’s collection powerfully captures the turbulence of contemporary life, its individual crises and global disasters.

In this collection of 15 elegies, we travel through a colourful array of settings that include a little boy riding his bicycle through the wreckage of his hometown, Mosul; an animal rights activist attempting to rescue a truckload of pigs heading to slaughter; St John ignoring the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and proceeding to write a chapter of the Judeo-Christian Bible in his cave nearby; in Toronto a homeless beggar woman unexpectedly showing the narrator a glorious Asian pear; and a Japanese fisherman traveling to northern B.C. in a redemptive moment encounters his childhood boat and an elusive spirit bear.

“Karen Muhallen has wisely chosen the elegy as the keenest instrument to bear witness to our disappearing world. With exquisite elegance and ironic humour, her logbook of things seen and unseen is an admirable, necessary memento mori for our anguished times.”

Alberto Manguel,
Author of A History of Reading, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places and
The Library at Night


“In The Scent of Spring: Elegies Out of Season, Mulhallen moves through various cities and geographies narrating elegies of loss, of cultural murder. In this poetry of atrocity, the poet is asking us to face the devastation we have wrought through war, greed, and careless inattention. But she also writes elegies radiant with love. She ends the book with the image of the West Coast Spirit Bear, ‘ghost bear, giver of miracles, healer.’ We have ravaged and defaced. Now we must learn again to celebrate.”

Rosemary Sullivan,
Author of
Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary
and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva


“This is a book about death. Close to Karen Mulhallen, in her entourage, the deaths are individual – and, reading her magnificent elegies for her friends, one is filled with a piercing nostalgia for what is. Elsewhere the deaths are collective, and with consummate mastery Mulhallen makes the impossible seem easy – bridging the gap between the calm of the poet’s desk in a still-affluent neighborhood of the Western world and the raging inferno of places and people devastated by pollution, corporate greed, poverty and fanaticism. A tour de force.”

Nancy Huston,
Essayist and author of Cantique des plaines,
Fault Lines
and winner of The Prix Femina

Listen to Karen read poems from The Scent of Spring, Elegies Out of Season

St. John on Patmos

I’m Your Man

Little by Little

Mosul, Child and Bicycle

Amor Omnia Vincit, Jane Somerville

Pikangikum – a French translation of Karen’s poem by Nancy Huston

Where to find The Scent of Spring, Elegies Out of Season

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