Sylvia Mangalam – An Open Heart Poet

This is the latest installment in our series, “Yours in the Land”, written by Mary Ellen.  Mary Ellen is a farm kid at heart.  She is a Food Action Committee member and a poet who’s passionate about farm and food issues.  She collected the poems for Open Heart Farming.

Sylvia was one of the three visionaries that started EAC’s Food Action Committee ten years ago.  Anyone who attends FAC meetings knows how passionate she is about food issues and social justice.

Sylvia began farming in her teens.  In the late 70’s – early 80’s she and her husband farmed near Newport, Hants County, NS.  They sold their veggies to food co-operatives; I believe CSA’s were not in existence in NS at that point.  Local legend has it that Sylvia re-roofed her barn single-handed.

Over the past two years she’s shared her lovely garden with me.  Sylvia lives right on the Bedford Highway, but when you enter her property from the back lane you feel like you’ve discovered a secret garden!  I can attest to the fact that she is a master composter.  She is my urban farming elder.

She has published other poems including a collection of poems, “Barns.”

Oh Compost Heap!
By Sylvia Mangalam

I can make a forest, I can, I can.
Out of the builder’s waste
Which is the back yard land.
All green and trembling
In the morning dew
With rustling leaves,
And darkling shadows
All shot through.
And not so far
You have to take off in
The greasy, gassy car.

Just give me time
And garbage.
I can make haste
with dung.
Tall standing corn
And climbing beans
From black earth sprung
Entwine to make
A sanctuary
For slugs and snakes
And me.

Sylvia’s poem ‘Oh Compost Heap’ appeared in ‘Open Heart Farming’, a special issue of ‘Open Heart Forgery’.

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