A poet rediscovers the artistic passion of her youth—and pays tribute to the teacher she thought she’d lost.
After thirty-five years as an “on-again, off-again, uncoached closet pianist,” poet and writer Robyn Sarah picked up the phone one day and called her old piano teacher, whom she had last seen in her early twenties. Music, Late and Soon is the story of her return to studying piano with the mentor of her youth. In tandem, she reflects on a previously unexamined musical past: a decade spent at Quebec’s Conservatoire de Musique, studying clarinet—ostensibly headed for a career as an orchestral musician, but already a writer at heart. A meditation on creative process in both music and literary art, this two-tiered musical autobiography interweaves past and present as it tracks the author’s long-ago defection from a musical career path and her late re-embrace of serious practice. At its core is a portrait of an extraordinary piano teacher and of a relationship remembered and renewed.
PRAISE FOR MUSIC, LATE AND SOON
“In this historic moment, a book about the courage required to reclaim and salvage creative desire through discipline is about as necessary as clean water and air.”—Michael Lithgow
PRAISE FOR ROBYN SARAH
“As in her poetry, spare colloquial surfaces carry hidden depths … subtle and suggestive, working on several levels at once.”—Globe and Mail
“Visual clarity, no-nonsense voice, compressed language, rhythmic prowess, and metaphoric agility. These qualities speak from a long-cultivated focus and bespeak a writer who pays fierce attention to the basic fact of being in the world.”—Anita Lahey, The Walrus
“Sarah knows the language: its pressure points, its traditions, its crevices. Trained as a musician, she also understands flow and timing, when to sing and when to keep silent.” —Montreal Gazette
“Robyn Sarah shows a masterly regard for how we all try to explain our existence to ourselves, and the wonder at the mystery of any human life … She presents contradictions in every human bond and reveals the almost miraculous way such bonds are forged.”—Ottawa Citizen
“Her distinctively digressive style allows Sarah to accommodate tremendous complexity in her stories … drawing us further and further down into the moment and at the same time showing us how the moment is textured by memory and experience.”—The Malahat Review
“[Her stories] lead us towards, and finally right into the middle of awarenesses that we hadn’t had before. They leave you feeling like this: suspicious that you’ve missed something, teeth slightly on edge … there is a faint sound of excellently played music somewhere … one may be failing in what one wants to do. What did that little piece mean? Will I read it again? The reader reads it again and experiences this network of feelings again, just like the first time. It is very powerful art.” —Hugh Hood
“[Her poems] illuminate the reader’s privacy without destroying the poet’s. And elegant play is going on even in the most acutely painful moments of clarity, a play of pure energy.” —Margaret Avison
“So assured and musical is the hand that shaped them that these poems tend to memorize themselves, as though they had always formed part of our experience.” —Eric Ormsby