Daniela Elza once told me that Weight of Dew is meant to be travelled with — to be slipped into a tote, and consumed on the road. While you journey through the book, your physical self journeys through the dips and turns and looming mountains of a BC road trip. I first read Weight of Dew in the winter of 2014, before leaving BC for two years for grad school. I never got to travel with it, to experience its gaps and silences echoed in the landscape outside. This time on the return trip home, with two cats, a husband, one very dirty Civic and most of the country behind us, I did.
Elza’s Weight of Dew considers space, existence, and language as intimately tied to each other. Taking us on a journey from suburban Vancouver through the Rockies, this collection considers how vast space and unyielding silence juxtapose each other in the landscape and in ourselves. These ideas are carefully echoed in Elza’s use of language, structure and form. A rippling river doesn’t pool, it is “( p ( o ( o ) l ) i ) n ) g )” and when things start tumbling along, we are asked to “p a u s e” and to
“( li s t e n.”
I knew Weight of Dew was special, but it wasn’t until I took the journey with it and experienced the physicality of the words on the empty highway that it truly came to life.
My journey with this collection feels stretched over two years. The all too familiar restlessness and suffocation that comes out in part one, “gather here” sets us up to move, to get up and get out and rediscover what has been lost by staying put. In “serving time (in the burbs” we feel imprisoned by the city and its suburbs. Elza writes “the empty space is limited/ to lawns where thoughts are/ regularly zapped with mowers” These poems are just itching to get out on the open road, desperate for space to spill words onto the page, yearning to find out what they’re worth. This is why I return to Weight of Dew now.
Part two asks “what is it we want from this long journey?” and as I find myself winding through towering mountains and old growth trees, I ask myself the same thing. Weight of Dew leaves Vancouver and the Valley, I am returning to it. How do these words, the reverse path, the return trip, affect me/us/readers/writers?
I am compelled to work backwards through the collection, to travel back to the valley instead of toward it. The final stanza in part three “still words” suggests this too:
everything that has happened to you
begins here— the way
pavement embraces sky the way
you are drawn to this moment
and you could fall through it.
The highway dips over the hill, bends around the mountain. Who knows where it goes next? Was that a bear? A moose? A train? Going back does not mean going backwards; we must be careful we do not fall through the pavement into this cycle.
Elza takes us “through the Rockies” where the spacing of the lines says as much or more than the words within them. Line breaks and open-ended brackets force us to take our time and breathe — “(we are reduced to awe” at the “breath-taking/ peaks.” Then, still moving backwards through the collection, “on the Crowsnest Highway” Elza speaks of old routes travelled. I too am reminded of how I have been here before, “afraid/ to enter the words” there is that hint of anxiety that this might not be the right path, but just the easy one.
Then we are “through the Okanagan valley” and given time in the vastness of empty space.
as if time grows clearer with
the silences (
The fear subsides, and familiar landscapes come into view. Where the vertical space of the Rockies was stifling, the horizontal space of the Okanagan is freeing, welcoming. Then before we know it, we are “past Hope” and we know where we’ve been, and why we’ve come back.
the sign said:
find out what lies beyond Hope.
It’s a challenge, a promise to find something wonderful, peaceful, and vastly different from whatever was before Hope. For us, beyond Hope is the next step in this journey — not a challenge to discover the untamed wilderness of BC, but a challenge to rediscover and re-appreciate life in the Valley. The cats are done with sitting in the backseat, the car needs an oil change and we are home.
Elza’s Weight of Dew is a travel book. It begs you to take it along on the road, either the physical highway stretching across this province, or your own personal journey. In it’s pages you will discover space to speak, space to be silent, and space to contemplate the next turn. It reveals more of itself each time you visit it, and you should visit it numerous times, on numerous journeys. This is a fall book, a cozy book, a book for thinking and tea and campfires. I hope it finds its way into your travel bag.
Irregular spacing is intentional.