Isabella Caro, born in Florence at the de-occupation of Italy in WW2 is a woman shaped by the resilience of her country and a thirst for knowledge.
In this fictional Novel-in-Verse we take a journey through one woman’s life, told from the perspective of three characters: Isabella, her daughter Alina and her granddaughter Georgia. Three voices weave through a lifetime in and out of harmony as they tell us a story of innocence, feminism, intellect, motherhood, immigration, understanding and loss. Ancient mythology is weaved through the poems and the character’s voices ring with the echoes of the maiden, the mother and the crone.
This is the story of a feminist and scholar and the story of mothers and daughters that takes us from 1944 Italy to the the Prairies in 2014. We meet Isabella as a child and follow her story as she marries, suffers from postpartum depression, immigrates to Canada, struggles to connect with her teen daughter, takes on the care of her grandchild and finds peace in old love. In poems both blunt and confessional a woman’s story is revealed, page by page.
This debut collection by Rayanne Haines is a creative threading of perspectives and memories about the fictional life of Isabella Caro, by three women who are fictional and yet remarkably real.
“In Stained With the Colours of Sunday Morning, Rayanne Haines brings us an emotional, intense love story in verse that sweeps us up for the sort of journey usually found in sprawling historical novels, deftly captured in brief, vivid poems. We begin bold with promise, as in Wedding Vow: “Say it is always you and I, hands clasped against/ those who would burn us down,/ and I am yours, forever.” In these poems, Haines sketches truths which turn out to be the enduring truths, that “to love so deeply is learned,” and she writes with a robust love for life and living, so that we believe in depths beneath the moment. Thanks to Haines’ skill at letting them speak plainly of their strengths and weaknesses, joy and grief, we swiftly feel like we know the women in these poems, and that through them, we can remember that everyone we meet is living an epic personal journey. Finally, she gives us a man, made complicit by love, whose own complexities shimmer below the surface of his few statements: “To my woman/ even shadows bend their knee.” This book is as tasty as a loaf of home made, braided bread, and as easy to devour in one sitting.”
—Anna Marie Sewell, Edmonton Poet Laureate 2011-13
“Rayanne Haines creates a braid of voices that is moving, vivid and sensual–a lovely synthesis of lyric and narrative.”
—Alice Major, first poet laureate of Edmonton, and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award recipient
“As the reader meanders through the lives and times of three generationally interconnected women of Italian origin, Stained With the Colours of Sunday Morning reads like an orated walk through a gallery of richly detailed portraits exposing blood connectedness to, and disconnect from mother/land. The images of three women: Isabella, Alina and Georgia sing lush, strong and sensual, and at times weep, broken, hurt and fragmented. One feels compelled to visit and revisit the characters, to immerse in the complexity of women’s relationships to (or journey to) selfhood, as each moves into her own as she must; loves, births, accomplishes and attempts to breach the gaps that cleave.”
—Pierrette Requier, poet, playwright, performer, producer, mentor, and arts activist, and Edmonton’s Sixth Poet Laureate
“Through her sublimely distilled poems, Haines fuses together four evocative voices of one immigrant family in a tale that is steeped in love and heartache, independence and wisdom. Her poems “whisper stories, passed from daughter to daughter” that honour family history, atonement, human frailty, and above all, a fierce loyalty to each other and to their right to be themselves. “It is a daunting thing / looking at a lifetime / of almosts / admitting / the darkness you lived / in was only a brief shadow” but Haines deftly weaves the beauty, the pain, and the nuances of distinct perspectives in a series of brilliant poems that tell the story of family, immigration, love and loss.”
— Dymphny Dronyk, author of Contrary Infatuations, and past-president of the League of Canadian Poets
Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning by Rayanne Haines
reviewed by Candice James
Canadian Poetry Review – September 2, 2018
Rayanne Haines takes us on a rough and tumble ride through the sweet and the sorrowful fields and mind diagrams of her carefully sculpted poetic storyscape. On these pages we hear four voices, but predominantly we are presented with three main voices sharing the functional and dysfunctional sides of familial love, disappointments, and the razor’s edge of resilience.
In “Brushstrokes” (Isabella’s voice) Her rebellious spirit commands the stage as she states “But I’d rather be a wanderer than waited on / Would rather write of mythic sires than childhood fantasies.”
“Spices” in its entirety is one of the most primal and best poems about casual sex that I have ever read; twelve impacting lines in three stanzas that say it all! What is certain is that this poem definitely is ‘ a must read poem’!
An underlying weave that emerges off and on throughout the book is a recurring resentment and disappointment caused by the many absences of Haines’ mother in her life, particularly in her young and formative years. In “not gently to love” (Alina’s voice) Hayne’s bares deep wounds: “my mother’s love / always left me behind” and again in “for a walk that was not mine: “she never thought her child / would wish to remain in Italia / had no interest in a foreign country / she never thought to ask.”
“When Spring Came” (Isabella’s voice ) Here we see the poet’s view of what her mother thinks: “my angry daughter unreachable by me // by another winter she / would look at me with love.” And the follow up poem to this “In Canada my mother flourished” (Alina’s voice): “I could almost love her then / when the three of us / sat with our fingertips entwined // I could almost feel / that she wanted me.”
Then the poem “Moon lullabies” (Isabella’s voice): “I think I was a better mother / in her dreams. // such a burden for a young soul. / To have to wait for the sun to go down / before she could love her mother.”
There are so many terrific lines in this book I simply can’t stop quoting them. These lines in “she should have known better” (Alina’s voice) are a glowing example of Haines ability to expose the inner reaches of buried sorrow: ‘my soul aged like the leather / of my suitcase, worn down / from too many trips breathing / broken air // she should have known better / returned with me / shouldn’t have left me / to suffocate in metal birds / to drown on parched ground.”
“Advice to My Daughter” (Isabella’s voice) offers the following poignantly surreal lines of truth: ‘Do not love a man wearing shadows / For he will turn on you / with the angle of the sun.”
Again the resentment and disappointment read their heads blatantly in “finding our resilience” (Alina’s voice): ‘ I resented / her some days for daring / to occupy my place // I was afraid to admit / that she knew how to mother /when even then / I accused her of / failing as mine. // resenting the innocence / of your child / and the resilience / of your mother.”
The last four poems are in four successive voices remembering Isabella:
(Georgia-her husband’s voice): “Without her/ I am thin as the edge of an eggshell / I am empty as a fallow wheat field.”
(Georgia – her granddaughter’s voice): “maybe it is about living / undone, living unconstrained/ living on the edge of too much. // I read her eulogy. Maybe / we should all learn to live like her.”
(Alina – her daughter’s voice): “I want it to be winter again / and I am climbing off the plane / overwhelmed and feeling / smaller than an insect // I would rather feel / that than this being / alone on the earth again.”
And the fourth and final voice is (Isabella’s departed presence): ‘How strong is hope in the face / of alone? When alone / is what you are left with. // There is no alone I am not alone.’
Rayanne Haines has written a brilliantly carved out poetic saga that unravels with eloquent ease on the pages within Stained With the Colours of Sunday Morning. It is definitely one of 2018’s best offerings.
About the author: Rayanne Haines is the executive director of the Edmonton Poetry Festival. In 2017, she was shortlisted for Edmonton Poet Laureate and a Mayors Award for Arts Management. She has had the immense privilege of performing her fiction and poetry for diverse audiences from youth to business professional, for various reading series, conferences, and festivals. She has been published in anthologies, magazines, and online. Her poetry has been used as the text for the National Youth Choir of Canada, as well as recorded for a United Kingdom, talking newspaper for the Blind. She’s had work published in Canada, the USA, and the UK. Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning is her first full-length poetry collection. She lives in Edmonton.
About the reviewer: Candice James served as 2 three year terms (2010-2016) as Poet Laureate of New Westminster, BC and was then appointed Poet Laureate Emerita She founded Royal City Literary Arts Society; Poetic Justice; Poetry in the Park; and Poetry New Westminster. She is author of thirteen poetry books published by five different publishing houses: the first A Split In The Water (Fiddlehead Poetry Books 1979); and the most recent is The Water Poems (Ekstasis Editions). Some of her many awards include: Bernie Legge Artist Cultural award; Pandora’s Collective . Further Info at: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candice-James and http://www.candicejames.com