Review: Elemental by Kate Braid

My Quick Take: I was enchanted by these poems that explore our connection to the natural elements.
I was seeking more local poetry and stumbled upon Vancouverite Kate Braid’s body of work. She’s published several volumes of poetry, as well as non-fiction books. I’m planning to read a duo of her books soon: Journeywoman, and Hammer and Nail, about her work as a woman carpenter in a male-dominated profession. I can’t wait!

But before that, I also checked out her most recent poetry collection, Elements (2018), published by Caitlin Press. Today was a rainy Vancouver day, with darkness setting in early as late-afternoon stumbled into early-evening. The perfect time to settle into earthy, evocative poetry. I read this book slowly, in one sitting.

It’s divided into five sections, and I want to give you a taste of each. The poetry speaks for itself, with few words of explanation needed.


“When–if–the light finally shines,
we will rush out onto balconies
and bicycle paths,
spreading over sidewalks like puppies,
our eyes cast upward
to Sun.”

(Vancouver Spring)

I loved this! It is so true about Vancouverites. Isn’t it wonderful that the darkness, the rain and the cold make the eventual return of the sun more powerful?


“...Behind her dark eyes
there are more important things she must consider–
like the balance of the world, its emptiness,
its lack of fire.”

(A Photograph of Her When She Was Three)

The idea of the author gazing at a photo of–maybe?--her younger self is intriguing. But I do wonder who is actually in the photo, because it is not entirely clear.


“The next day she will tell him, ‘That wood has character.’

Yes. A novel’s worth, a whole library.
‘There will be many stories,’ the carpenter had said.”

(The Wood Hanging)

This speaks to me, as my spouse has recently reclaimed some lumber that he’s made into planks, from a neighbourhood tree that lost a thick branch in a storm last year. I like to run my fingers over the grain and look at the patterns in the wood.


“Or is it your song that leads, gives me courage,
tricks me, some days, into looking up. Just this.”

(Redwing, I Say)

I always love identifying the call of a red winged blackbird then trying to find it in the trees, that quick flash of bright red as it takes flight!


“Here is where a woman nourishes herself,
prepares for certain battle, eases herself
into other armors, keeps the dagger of her loss


This poem was inspired by Canadian author Anne Michaels, and I’m just now reading her book The Winter Vault, so this resonated for me. I’m always amazed when my reading life syncs so beautifully.

These are just some of the passages that I want to remember from Elements. Since I’ve been engaging with a secular Buddhist practice, I’ve come to appreciate the idea of the elements. For me, they are symbolic of our bodies, and our intimate connection with the earth. This book was a reminder of that notion in such a beautiful way. I look forward to reading more from Baird’s work.