Honey days of times past
Reviewed by Bill Robertson (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, October 30, 2010)
VICTORIA poet Karen Enns, in her debut collection, That Other Beauty, writes about that same deep concern for the fleeting beauty of life in poems as lovely and nearly as short as Kerr's [Don Kerr in The Dust of Just Beginning, AU Press].
In Dan's Market, Oldfield Road she writes, "Look, I want to say to all the others/ . . .this is passing, this moment/ of peach and melon, radishes . . . ," while in The Smallest Thing, it isn't all those things we think should help define a relationship between a man and a woman but the way "he put his hand/ flat against her back,/ the lowest part,/ and there were lilacs." These are the smallest bits of beauty in life we may so often notice, but don't take the time to savour, let alone record.
Enns uses light in many variations - laid-down light, lamplight, headlights, flat-handed, interrupted, yellow, a truly startling catalogue - plus shadows and encroaching darkness, as a ready metaphor for that fleeting moment of beauty, and of life itself. So, like Kerr, she lays claim to what she can: "You claim these cold, still fields," she writes in Other Worlds, while in Entering, "[i]n half-light now," she speaks of walking into a barn to capture the precise moment of its perfect self, rather like what "so much depends upon" in William Carlos Williams' Red Wheelbarrow.
Near the end of the collection, in Wisdom, Enns writes of the "persistent unfolding," and concludes that in this short precious life, conscious as it also is of death, "[t]his is the edge, papery thin/ and it's all we have./ But you already know this, you/ who walk softly under the pink, blossoming trees." And we've heard in Pound's Canto 13 that you can't put those blossoms back up.
Robertson is a Saskatoon freelance writer.