“field poetics sky blue”

Reviewed by Sean Braune

Andy Weaver’s Gangson and rob mclennan’s Glengarry each approach the problem of space and the significations of a space in relation to language, history, poetry, and memory. In the title poem from Gangson, Weaver mines material from Herbert Asbury’s Gangs of New York, thus poetically creating a space of violent affectation. rob mclennan’s Glengarry (named after the Glengarry county of his youth) exists as a paradisiacal, Elysian field of memory and escape. mclennan references the pastoral as an influence, but the “threat” of a Gangson-esque modernity hovers on the other side of the “discursive / field” where there is a “lawnmower big as cars.” mclennan asks, “[I]s it possible to be pastoral in a city?” This question, posed in the afterword, frames Glengarry as its own “field” of poetry: the county of Glengarry is beautifully presented as a post-Wordsworthian (almost neo-Wordsworthian) oasis. Glengarry is as comforting as the brightest childhood memory. Modernity encircles Glengarry, positioning it on the outside of an unspoken gangland Babel—the topic of discussion for Weaver. In “Weavings,” Weaver begins with an epigraph from mclennan that reads: “I could get here, but I could not get there.” Perhaps the “there” is the “there” of Glengarry. Both Weaver and mclennan seem aware of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which argues that space is always “traversed by the simple impetus of words that have been experienced.” Words then, in the Bachelardian sense, tattoo spaces and construct them in relation to a symbolic order that is entirely unspoken, sometimes unread, and only felt or experienced.

The spaces Weaver and mclennan reference are not only large, chaotic spaces (such as a country or a city), but also smaller spaces, such as the spaces in which we experience love. There are several “love poems” in Gangson: Weaver’s “you and i” is one of the best love poems written in years. Weaver and mclennan speak to each other’s work when they write about sex (as homages to Barry McKinnon’s work). In Glengarry, mclennan discusses the poetic space constructed by the experience of “sex at thirty-six,” while in Gangson, Weaver writes “Homage to Sex at 31.”

Henri Lefebvre argues in Rhythmanalysis that “[e]verywhere where there is inter- action between a place, a time and an expenditure of energy, there is rhythm.” Lefebvre’s observation can be contrasted to Weaver’s poem “Theory,” which reads: “Theory on / the radical / importance of / spatial geography / to the meta/ / physical act / of love.” The metaphysical act of love is an expenditure of energy, defined (or organized) in a rhythm that signifies a space. Poetry is pure rhythm: both Weaver and mclennan are cogently aware of this—the words dance on the page and embrace Olson’s famous call to “compose by field.” Weaver and mclennan not only compose by field, they also create various fields as spaces of poetic escape.

This review ““field poetics sky blue”” originally appeared in Indigenous Focus. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 215 (Winter 2012): 184-85.

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