Memory and Lyricism
- rob mclennan (Author)
A (short) history of l. Buschek Books (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Stan Rogal (Author)
Dance, Monster!: Fifty Selected Poems. Insomniac Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Erín Moure (Author)
The Unmemntioable. House of Anansi Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Matthew Hall
Erín Moure’s new work is the third installment in an unfolding tale of memory, language and the reliquary of history. E.M. arrives in Bucureşti, after burying the ashes of her mother in the Ukraine, where Elisa awaits her, centering Moure in her search for the nature of experience.
Moure’s layered, hybrid materiality articulates an attempt to trace her mother’s exile during the Holocaust. The Unmemntioable begins with Moure’s questioning the privilege of voice, the privilege of exemption, and explores the manifold of archaeological damage, as a generational trauma that affects not only survivors, but also their progeny.
I come from nowhere, her mother exclaims,
Some people come from nowhere; the poem seeks, with a syntactic primacy, an understanding of this location, of the time and condition of exile.
Moure’s lexical cadences and spellbinding sentences sustain the narrative of exchanges and thefts between Elisa Sampedrín and Erín Moure. The contestation of the lyrical voice entails a rupture and a redoubling, challenging the reader with questions of bearing witness, inheritance, collective knowledge and responsibility. The poem has a meditative trace structured on quotations from Celan, Descartes and Agamben, and represents an exploration of what propensity of the spirit might exist before speech.
As the reader is told:
Experience does not come out of the mind or imagination but from a deep and irrescuable need. It rents the entire person. Moure’s is not a book that will sit idly upon the shelf, but a quest that enters and tears at the body.
Dance Monster! should be credited for the editorial decisions that crafted a selection of poems demonstrative of the development of a unique poetic. Known for their idiosyncratic style and sardonic humour, Stan Rogal’s poems confound expectations. The lines move in tantamount directions, from ekphrastic and witty, to caustic and sensual; the contrastive space between the poems leaves the reader with no time for settling in; each poem charts its own directions.
Like the poet Dean Young, Rogal demonstrates a perception and craft which turns the urbane into the erotic; pop culture references jettison through the wilder currents of the tragic. From Einstein to Degas, Whitman to Rimbaud, the poems keep the synapses branching in a resplendent arcade.
Rogal’s capacity is most demonstrative in the selections from ( sub rosa ) and In Search of the Emerald City.
Sub Rosa and the poem’s transformations and modulations develop an articulated, processional exploration of form and theme. The opening stanza from this collection reads:
Beneath the rose begins a dark correspondence
As congress between the red lion & the white lily
Stretches one form towards the other.
The pattern that the poems create is daringly sensual and proudly lyrical. There is a focus on the embodied experience expressed through the communicative exchange of the sensual. At his best, Rogal’s lines are rapt in the lurid particularity of the everyday,
The fiery red mandragora swells to monster fruit primed to spoon its bare reflection.
I burn at both ends seems a telling understatement from mclennan’s latest book, A (short) history of l, a series of love poems based on the ghazal. mclennan’s investigation into the history of love and the capacity of the individual to sustain and grow through love’s negotiations and trials is uniquely tied to the lyric. Early on, he underscores the enquiry of the book:
I am interested in how lyricism
bonds itself to our molecules.
the insistence of light against
insistence of dark.
mclennan’s poems work to explore the particularity of the moments in which the other becomes a part of oneself.
dictionary of touch is one of the most profoundly lyrical and cadenced works in the collection, with an estranged sense of the capacity of love to open expansively to the meaning of small gestures. Through this poem, the idea of reciprocity and mutual understanding is incited:
… we are shades
of meaning, shadowing
the other. the dictionary
useless, for what
we have figured out. what
we already know.
The disparity between what we have learned and what we have to learn is part of the processional core of mclennan’s new book, an avid exploration of the materials, the moments, the changes we undergo through love. mclennan’s style courses through the collection; the thematic energy which he devotes to his poetic is exceedingly renewing. The poems are referential, meditative spaces in which the history of love is imagined through literary antecedents, subjective presences, and technological complexes, and pits mclennan’s love as testament to his development, as personal and poetic.
- Attending to Tensions by Travis V. Mason
Books reviewed: At the Edge of the Frog Pond by Nelson Ball, Go Leaving Strange by Patrick Lane, and Haunted Hills & Hanging Valleys: Selected Poems 1969-2004 by Peter Trower
- Improvisations and Rehearsals by Jon Kertzer
Books reviewed: Apostrophes: Woman at a Piano by E. D. Blodgett
- BC Lit in Extra Innings by Travis V. Mason
Books reviewed: The Fed Anthology by Susan Musgrave and Baseball: A Poem in the Magic Number 9 by Claude Boisvert
- Une éthique de la poésie by Nelson Charest
Books reviewed: Alma by Claude Beausoleil, L'atelier de L'Âge de la parole by Catherine Morency, and Ãme, foi et poésie by Jean Désy
- Formally Enlightening by Neil Querengesser
Books reviewed: A Pirouette and Gone by E.D. Blodgett, Apostrophes VII: Sleep, You, a Tree by E.D. Blodgett, and Praha by E.D. Blodgett and Marzia Paton
MLA: Hall, Matthew. Memory and Lyricism. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #216 (Spring 2013), General Issue. (pg. 175 - 176)
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