Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On silence

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On silence

I grew up in a silent house, aside from the times when the silence was punctured with yelling. The crying was always quiet. The children did stay quiet—even when not crying—as best they could, to stay out of my father’s gaze. It was hard learned tactic. There is enforced silence and chosen silence—a malicious form of control or a necessity for survival. All of us know many manifestations and purposes. What of the silence of a silent house? What of the silence that follows the noise? What’s spoken and unspoken? Where do our chosen words come in—and what words? Why do we use them?

In Effing the ineffable, Robert Kroetsch wrote, “You must acknowledge the angel’s face at your window. See the silence. Reply to it.” Each time I read his words, and I do go back to them frequently, I add: sometimes the angel is the devil. I address my devil. My devil addresses me. There’s always a betrayal in the communication.

This post would bring negative feelings for my family. There are things we write that others may wish we hadn’t. Sometimes it’s our own selves who we kick in the kidneys. So be it. Is there always a healing? I don’t know. But I do know that while writing can re-embody crisis upon the page, it can also offer hope. And sometimes just replying to the silence is enough. We say what we say when and as we can. Devil or angel, be damned.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sandra Ridley

Sandra Ridley’s first full-length collection of poetry, Fallout, won the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for publishing, the Alfred G. Bailey prize, and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second book, Post-Apothecary, was short-listed for the 2012 ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. Also in 2012, Ridley won the international festival Of Authors’ Battle of the Bards and was featured in The University of Toronto’s Influency Salon. Twice a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative poetry, Ridley is the author of two chapbooks: Rest Cure, and Lift, for which she was co-recipient of the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Her latest book is The Counting House (BookThug 2013). She lives in Ottawa.

You can contact Sandra throughout the month of September with questions and comments at

Go to Sandra Ridley’s Author Page