Undone by Sue Goyette
Reviewed by Angela Hibbs (Matrix vol. 69 (2005))
Sue Goyette's second collection of poems Undone constellates around domestic environments, Tolstoy, Neruda, Mahler, Margaret Laurence and Georgia 0'Keefe. She speaks confidently about artists, for instance in "Before Mahler's 9th," saying “A great grief requires stringed instruments." The three sections are not so very clearly defined, although the first section, “Forgotten" focuses on the loss of a significant love relationship. In "And After," the speaker and the poet are one and Goyette records her daughter complaining "how often I say I'm lonely. / This, she says, is what you wanted ... I find myself crying in the Superstore."
The poems, for the most part, have such long lines that the book's length is actually greater than its height. The poems are expansive and inclusive, often featuring prose-like lines and observations. The long lines are furnished with tension by being regularly broken into quatrains, couplets and tercets. Repetition also provides structure and in "On Hearing Elizabeth Bishop read her "Crusoe in England," the repetition of "Her voice is a..." recalls Shelley's "To A Skylark," using metaphor instead of simile to grasp at a description of her subject. This poem also displays the frustration of trying to capture a subject in words by using strange word choices that suggest the use of a thesaurus, for instance, "the archipelago of poem".
In "Hope," the speaker uses the house as a guitar, hammering in nails and tying wires between them, which sounds like something out of an offbeat craft magazine or the Things to Make and Do section of an encyclopaedia. However, it is these quirky observations and activities that make Undone compelling and unique. For example, in "First Attempt," the speaker asks, "How could you have known / that words aren't waterproof until it really rained?" These are intimate, revealing poems of great courage and confidence.