Friday, September 6, 2013

Pearl Pirie reviews Waldrop, mclennan and the mclennan/McNair collaboration

Ottawa poet, blogger and above/ground press author Pearl Pirie was good enough to discuss three recent above/ground press titles over at her Pesbo Poetry Journal as part of her "95 Books for 2013, Part 11, 106-116" post: Rosmarie Waldrop, OTHERWISE SMOOTH (2013), rob mclennan, The creeks (2013) and rob mclennan and Christine McNair, The Laurentian Book of Movement (2013), all of which are still available. See the original post on Pirie's blog here. Thanks very much!
95 Books for 2013, Part 11, 106-116
Continuing the reading habit, mostly poetry, a little memoir/biography.

106. Otherwise Smooth by Rosemary Waldrop (above/ground, 2013)

I’ve long said for every book published, forget the blurb or synopsis. The cover, fine, price, useful but give me even two lines from the work and I’ll know from it than all that. That tells me more of angle, subject, control of language, freshness, density, style and match to my needs and taste than secondary sources. In poem 8 she started, 
Without you to say you to. Without you saying to me. Words don’t rise to the roof of the mouth. The rose is obsolete. The color of your eyes subtracted from the air. Fabric undone.
This isn’t going to be a lineated anecdote. Not the usual sentence structure. Maybe the usual I miss the generic object-you but still, there’s not the sentimental indulgence that such subjects are apt to become. The choice of how it is expressed is fresh.

In poem 5 she says, “I say “I” and thereby appropriate the entire language.” Like that interconnectedness. We see a conflict when both sides of a war claim the same god on their side but each person says I and means someone else. Funny universities we can parse. It reminds me of the prosody prof who described pronouns as professional nouns. They don’t need the spotlight. They will play as a band for whatever Proper Name act comes to town.

108. The Creeks by rob mclennan (above/ground, 2013)

What a lovely palate cleaner. Livesay takes one firm step after the last. The Creeks by contrast are not such a holding forth. The mood is for the reader. He moves instead to a more crisp and delicate gestures that are about living and directing attention more than directing. There are pings of well-turned and suggest what could be unpacked with time.

The opposite of poetry,

I never knew approximation. We were always precise. The invention of trickery, to save time and effort. A poppy, in stubbly light. Each fool makes a doctor, a trading ship. I would understand doors, thick and scrupulous. Reproduced as a corpse. A grape hyacinth. Strawberry posies.
There’s something like aphorism coloring but it glides more as an observation than a pat opinion. What relationship between the images are there? Doors as scrupulous, knock offs the way corpses copy one another. Then among all the disingenuousness of talking through loopholes (of the first 3 sentences) and overestimating what you know, there’s the relief of flowers and the surprise innocence of strawberry posies but even that image is troubled with posies being associated with stench of plague. A beauty not for its own sake but to survive with until loss is past. It all makes a kind of oblique sense.

110. The Laurentian Book of Movement by Christine McNair and rob mclennan (above/ground, 2013)

This collaborative series from a Quebec cottage has some starlit spots. For example the first poem where one place is held constant, but only as a place does with it fast-forwarding decades from thick woods to present

A thread pulls powder across various landmarks. We walk into the Metro. This is not a pilgrimage.

The English language corresponds with optical illusions. One looks too close sometimes, and words begin to shimmer, flick. A chance occurance, breathes.
The next poem has some of my favorite turning the tables on parts of speech and our relationships to objects “I pablum up the stairs. I beige myself to sleep. I infuse myself with weak tea.”

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