Janine Canan   Books


Under the AzureReviews of ARDOR: poems of life


Pilgrims Press, Varanasi, 2012, 250 pages
$10 paperback, $15 hardback.

ARDOR is the culmination of half a century of creativity by California poet Janine Canan, whose roots reach into the traditions of the world. This is an inspired poetry of passionate engagement, contemplation, spiritual ecstasy, and prophetic wisdom, abounding in natural majesty, intimate lyricism, and a searing vision of human life. Janine’s poems overflow with devotion to the word, breath-taking imagery, courageous truth-telling, piercing grief for our world, deep love for Nature and the Feminine, and luminous all-encompassing mysticism. How Janine combines these is the mystery of her unique gift.

Tower Journal Video & Review: www.towerjournal.com/fall_2012/index4.html

“This book is inspiration itself dressed as a poet—Janine’s best book ever. A perfect work—exquisite—a crowning achievement!”  —Linda Johnsen, author of Lost Masters: Sages of Ancient Greece
“Janine is a contemporary mystic whose soulful weaving of words evokes the divine love, passion and devotion of the medieval Mirabai, Lalla, Teresa, and Hildegard. These poems are profound offerings of fierce Mother wisdom.”  —Laura Amazzone, author of Goddess Durga & Sacred Female Power
“In a time where poetry has become largely mindless word games, the sacred pure and simple work of Janine Canan rings with the startling rounded clarity of a temple bell. The rapture that runs like a golden river through it has been earned—by suffering, by long devotion, and by cherished and matured revelation.” —Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism
“Astonishing poetry....very pure. A book you keep by your side like a bible. These poems shine the inner mirror of self. They powerfully show that women are the sun, flowers, moon, and muse.” 
—Barbara Brooker, author of The Viagra Diaries

 “Is Janine enlightened? All I know is that there is a lot of light in her and it streams in and out of her poems. When you read her poems, you feel better....”  —
Andrei Codrescu, author of Whatever Gets You Through the Night: a Story of Scheherazade & the Arabian Entertainments

“Janine Canan's ARDOR: poems of life reminds me that, ultimately, poetry is not words...
—Eileen Tabios, Galatea Resurrects


Read Eileen Tabios' Full Review          click to view

Radioactive (A Work in Progress)

Algerian Sahara
Bora Bora
Christmas Island
Connecticut River
Farallon Islands
French Polynesia
Hunter’s Point
Jornada del Muerto
Lake Huron
La Manche
Long Island
Los Alamos
Pit Nine
Praire Island
Rancho Secco
Rio Grande
Rocky Mountain
Sacramento River
San Francisco Bay
Savannah River
Sierra Mountains
Simi Valley
Sosnovy Bor
Spokane Reservations
Three Mile Island
Yucca Mountain—

radioactive forever

The feminization of everything
is required.

Janine Canan's ARDOR: poems of life reminds me that, ultimately, poetry is not words.  To read the poems in ARDOR is not to end up focusing on the words so much as what's traveling in-between the words: skeins of light, rapture, desire and other stuff one can't articulate.  There's an energy within the book that, in its best moments, even hearken musica universalis (I felt such a moment at the end of Section 1, "Meetings with God").

To have the ability to generate that effect in a reader testifies to ARDOR's great accomplishment, especially because it is religious (from "Dictionary" is a line I find absolutely divine: "every word is holy").  I think it's difficult to write religious poems that move the non-practitioner.  Laura Amazzone, one of the back cover blurbers of the book and author of Goddess Durga & Sared Female Power, describes the poems in ARDOR as "profound offerings of fierce Mother wisdom."  I am not a devotee, nor even particularly knowledgeable, of the Mother goddess tradition, including Hinduism/Shaktism (which I mention as the book is published in India and the author has written books on goddesses).  But my ignorance was not a hindrance in understanding why another blurber, Barbara Brooker, author of The Viagra Diaries, says of the poems: "They powerfully show that women are the sun, flowers, moon and muse."

Yes, the poems attempt something also very difficult: manifest the interconnections of all things.  From such a lofty goal, many poor poems have been written.  These in ARDOR are not among them.  Witness--and do chant to yourself!--this one example: (shown on the right)

 To life’s vicissitudes, the poet does not respond with hatred.  Instead, she responds with compassion.  Here's a poem, which I also appreciate as an example of how the poet so seamlessly weaves together references from different moments in time and history (see the dedication at end of the poem).  It's a poem that hearkens indigenous culture's notion of that time collapse such that past, present and future are one:


Horrible acts of ignorance happen all the time.
Even as the bullet enters my heart too,
may I stand still and utter no harmful word.

May I be strong, invincible, honest and true—
understanding he is only an ignorant boy
who was told he was King—not vindictive,

laying my anger tenderly, with great love
into the casket I set on fire and burn to a cinder.
Even as his bullet enters my heart, too.

To Gabrielle Giffords
in memory of Benazir Bhutto

However, because of everything I've noted so far in the above, it's jarring to come across a poem like "Imposters" that scorns other ways that poets might create:


There’s a world of “poetry” here
I scorn, and after subtracting
sour grapes, scorn even more.

What makes these so-called poems?
Not poets!  Mechanics toying
with parts, vampires sucking blood

from words instead of shedding it,
strangling language since they have
nothing to say or praise.

A poem like "Imposters" (just like other statements during the contempo poetry wars) makes the mistake of criticizing a general creative approach, forgetting that there are many ways to create and all ways of creation create bad as well as good art (hence the importance, and fairness, of looking at specific examples).  Look at a specific poem and critique it but don't make the mistake of telling an artist how to create, telling a poet how or what to write.  I won't get into this BIG issue here, but I'll note it as a jarring moment that threatens to undermine the overall integrity of the book.  I (but perhaps not other readers) will choose for now  to have faith in this poet and in this book (in part because of the lesson from the last poem ending this article) by continuing to write about the positive forces within... I continue:

I don't wish to inadvertently diminish ARDOR by giving the impression these poems relate mostly to the Mother.  I should just say that the poems are open to all of life, and it's Canan's prowess that she can draw from everything to manifest how Poetry Can Be About Anything.  Here's a lovely example:


I’m ecstatic—have written four poems listening to Bach, and now will do the dishes. Then shower and go over to Helen’s to hear her tape on self-love and the levels of love.  At five I’ll do my shopping at the Co-op, buy two new tires and get my car washed, then come home and get ready—uh oh, the phone is ringing and it’s Carol asking about the party and I say, Come over at ten, we’ll have a drink, then go on over to Steve’s. She says, That’s perfect, and I say, I’m writing a poem and if I hurry and hang up I can get you in the poem too. I’m beginning to realize that everything really does belong in the poem and this poem could go on forever.

There is also a power in these poems that have nothing to do with what are, in other poems, referenced as moments of suffering and abuse.  The power in these poems come through because the poet who looks unflinchingly at these dark moments comes out of the experience considering herself "Blessed":

All complaints aside,
I cannot believe how blessed
I have been in this life.

First, I was given a human body.
You might say, doesn’t that mean
an awful lot of suffering,

but I say, Would you really
rather be a cow or
a lizard?
—from “Blessed”

This is to say, the poet of and/or persona in ARDOR did not succumb to forces that would diminish her.  She only became strengthened by her sufferings; she does open the poem "A Gift" with the line "Suffering arrives with a gift." It's a blessing that the author had the skill to make the texts support the life force underlying them.  Let me end and you begin with this purrrrrr-fect poem:



“Janine Canan uses poetry to share what she has experienced—the wonderful, painful, ecstatic and contemplative aspects of life... Mary Ann Sullivan, Tower Journal, September, 2012

Read Mary Ann Sullivan's Full Review

Janine Canan's most recent book of poetry, Ardor: poems of life, dedicated to the spiritual leader, Amma, is vast in scope and courageous in its numerous referrals to God as the source of inspiration and creation. Her poems are spiritually delightful, naturally delectable, didactic, and very dear. 

Poet and psychiatrist, Janine Canan, has spent her life in an exhaustive pursuit of truth and beauty. Now, in her final stage of life, she who followed the path of a humble seeker, is finding. And what she encounters she generously shares with us through poems that offer broad panoramas of enlightenment along with moral lessons and pure moments of ecstasy. 

The 250-page collection is divided into eight sections: Meetings with God, Tears for the World, Indestructible Woman, Suffering Arrives, Teachers Everywhere, Singing to the Stars, and River of Life. Some poems explore the exquisite beauty of the natural world and the indivisible bond between humans and nature. Others are brief proverbs. Some express sorrow at the degradation of Mother Earth by insensitive beings. Others, her love poems, offer spiritual union as the ultimate form of ecstasy. 

Without doubt, Janine Canan uses poetry to share what she has experienced—the wonderful, painful, ecstatic and contemplative aspects of life. And, it is quite apparent, her current vision is acquired through God's eyes. Here is a sample poem from Ardor: poems of life:


God peeks

through your eyes—

buds pushing open their dewy petals

to mirror the dazzling

morning light. 


“Ardor is a fine addition to any contemporary poetry collection, recommended.”
Mary Cowper, Midwest Book Review Bookwatch


Read Mary Cowper's Full Review

Midwest Book Review Bookwatch
February 2013

A dedication to the written word is something that can come with a lifetime of work. Ardor is a collection of poetry from Janine Canan who shares her half-century of work dedicated to world's wisdom and excitement on many levels, focusing on nature and the life of our world. Ardor is a fine addition to any contemporary poetry collection, recommended. "Awakening": Arisen/ out of the imagination of God/ into the world—/ each of us/ an avatar awakening. —Mary Cowper

 “A collection of poems that examine the state of the modern world without sugar coating anything... Serena Agusto-Cox, Savvy Verse & Wit, Dec. 13, 2012

Read Serena Agusto-Cox's Full Review

Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan is a hefty and heavy set of poems and essays about life, the destruction of the earth, and the destruction of the planet wrought by men. Broken down into eight sections from communing with God, homage to the strength of women, the sadness that comes from a destroyed planet, and a general awaking to the wonders of the world and moving into a full experience of life. The second section, “Tears for the World,” and section three, “Indestructible Woman,” offer a no-holds-barred perspective on destruction caused by humanity or the oppression of women by men in societies across the world even today. In many ways, some of these poems mirror the most radical forms of Ecofeminism, in which women are the closest to the Earth and should resume their position as leaders and teach men to cooperate with nature rather than dominate it — though some even espoused the dominion of women over men. There is even one poem dedicated to the late Mary Daly, one of the main philosophical thinkers of the movement.

Woman is space

the wind

the grass

the river

the peacock complaining

to the river

the word emerging like the river

the woman stepping out of the river.


like a rising river

From “Woman Is Space” (page 89):

There are lines and images and moments here that will make some angry, while others will nod their heads at the truth of it. There is the destruction of nuclear bombs created by men, there are the women who are subservient to men, and there is even more.

“Boot” (page 64):

The air writhes.

The water gags.

The rocks slide.

The mountains sweat.

Plants cringe.

Trees crash.

Animals glare.

Women bleed.

Man has his boot on every inch of the world.

His conquest is nearly complete.

While these are hymns and elegies to the earth and women, there are other poems that are less “abrasive” than others, but still offer a sense of what the reader is trying to convey about the harm that has come to the planet and to women. The less declarative poems are the most powerful, offering imagery that recalls in the mind the beauty of nature and the wonders that are yet unexplored. These poems call on readers to regain their childlike wonder and stand in awe of the world around them, not to tear it asunder in the thirst for fulfillment.

From “A Divine Meal” (page 23):

I like my disheveled plate with a well-licked fork

sprawling satisfied across it, a pause

between each dish for emptying my mind

and manifesting a new one.

Conversation too I enjoy, voices harmonically arranged,

And food, the kind that tastes good.

I love my senses sublime, and a good cook

is one of the million gods I worship.

From “The Joy” (page 104):

Along the hills of your body

I rooted in the fragrant earth.

Stretching my blooming arms

I heaved with offerings.

I was a peach dripping gold

and you drank me.

Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan mixes philosophy, history, poetic imagery, and declarative statements to create a collection of poems and essays that examine the state of the modern world without sugar coating anything. There are moments that will get under readers’ skins and maybe cause them to stop reading in disagreement, but Canan’s poems should not be ignored given the degradation that continues to happen from the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico to the oppression of women that continues today. These are issues that cannot be ignored if the planet and humanity are to survive beyond just a few generations.


“I found Ardor very spirited... Kat Merriweather, Synchronized Chaos

Read Kat Merriweather's Full Review

This collection features earlier submitted works of poetry from other books and journals. I found Ardor very spirited. Ardor contains free verse, koans, commentary on modern life, verses on women as goddesses, a few translations, prayers to deities, and, quirkily, some poems that the author is self-aware about writing poetry. Some poems were very simple (only a few lines at best). It appears as if the poems are meant to be read, not spoken, as it would sound quite awkward listening to its uneven meter.

Interestingly enough, the poems about poetry made me laugh. One in particular, “Imposters,” slams other “poets” who are nothing but mechanics and vampires. At least Canan isn’t “strangling language” to get her message across and does have something to say or praise. Canan has been writing poetry for a very long time, evident by her writing credits.

Readers who are into Eastern mysticism, Goddess worship, and female empowerment will enjoy this book.


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