Borrowed Rooms


Borrowed Rooms

by Barbara Pelman


  • Autumn 2008
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-061-3
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 136 pages
  • Poetry

These poems, spare and nuanced, explore the borrowed rooms we inhabit in personal relationships: the temporary homes of marriage and parenting; the personas we carry for a little while and must ultimately abandon. In tight and unsentimental poems, Barbara Pelman grieves the death of a father, notes the changing dynamics of mothers and daughters, watches the doors irrevocably close on a marriage, and delights in the temporal beauty surrounding her: the simple splendour of garry oak and hawthorn, arbutus branches bent to the shape of wind, and the stutter of shoreline.

The idea of a borrowed room finds expression in Pelman’s deft use of form: she writes sonnets, sestinas, ghazals and glosas borrowed from ancient Persia and Renaissance Italy that surprise us with their intensity and tactile clarity. The image of a borrowed room has other implications: from the window of the unfamiliar, her perspective on the familiar changes — her poems glimpse a Zen garden of star magnolia and early daffodil, islands drifting in a new sea, the rain shining the bones of trees on the beach — a sense, finally, of home. As she tells us in the final poem, “you do not know where you are until you are there, and even then, only time seems to have moved.”.

“Barbara Pelman uncovers beauty in all that is broken, lost, and forlorn. Here are poems of straightforward clarity and sure control that capture the music of what it means to have loved and lost loved ones, to let go and yet find peace and beauty in the daily living of life.”
— Pamela Porter, Governor General’s Award winner for her verse novel, The Crazy Man

“In these tight and nuanced poems Barbara Pelman has woven a parachute from the things that are broken in her life: her marraige, an almost affair, her father’s death and has let it catch the wind as she watches it fall, singing. She knows these broken things ‘would have the power to hurt her, but they were beautiful.'”
— Wendy Morton, author of Six Impossible Things before Breakfast



“The magic of this book lies in its embracing notion of human spaces. . . Pelman also provides a creative and refreshing variety of poetic “rooms” which include braided haiku, terza rima, sestina, sonnet, fugue and glosa. These forms are treated with such a deft touch, such a lightness and grace, we can only pause to admire them.”
Canadian Bookseller

“Pelman has excelled in mastering form poems, especially sonnets and pantoums”
Pacific Rim Review of Books

“eloquent and passionate . . . Borrowed Rooms celebrates the emotional trajectory of a woman seeking a new narrative, vulnerable and headstrong, pointing ahead to the shadowy unknown”

“The details in ‘Ghost’ and in all of Pelman’s finely crafted poems are exquisite and painful. . . .I recommend that you read the book and savour it. I will do so also, again.”
Story Circle Book Reviews