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.
- A Ruined Institution by Jennifer Lawn
Books reviewed: Petrified Campus: The Crisis in Canada's Universities by David J. Bercuson, Robert Bothwell, and J. L. Granatstein, Racism, Sexism, and the University: The Political Science Affair at the University of British Columbia by M. Patricia Marchak, The University in Ruins by Bill Readings, and University of Toronto Quarterly 66.4 (1997): Special Issue on Bill Readings's The University in Ruins by University of Toronto
- Animate Perceptions by Monika Lee
Books reviewed: The Essential George Johnston by Robyn Sarah, Actualities by Monica Kidd, and Time's Covenant by Eric Ormsby
- Voir le visible by Cyril Schreiber
Books reviewed: Le silence est une voie navigable by Catherine Fortin, Les Rives claires by Michel Létourneau, and Lointain écho de la petite histoire by Olivier Labonté
- Artistry to What End? by R. W. Stedingh
Books reviewed: Cartography and Walking by Adam Dickinson, Colours: Poems by Michael Bullock, and The Work of Snow by Gary Hyland
- Loving and Leaving by Ian Rae
Books reviewed: Dove Legend by Richard Outram, The Lover's Progress by David Solway, and Leaving Holds Me Here: Selected Poems by Glen Sorestad
MLA: Hall, Matthew. Memory and Lyricism. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 June 2013.
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