Sue Goyette, Undone
Reviewed by Jay Ruzesky (The Malahat Review # 149, Winter 2004)
I can list several adjectives to describe Sue Goyette's work: finely honed, practiced, and careful. The phrase that most easily leaps to my mind though is well crafted. She has a strong sense of rhythm and of line, and a sharp eye for fabulous images.
Her writing seems very deliberate, a quality that finds its best expressions in poems like “A Lesson in Tying or Being Undone” in which she avoids any hints of cliché by thoroughly investigating the idea of the love knot. The poem begins with a line about children tying shoes, made unfamiliar by Goyette's subtle presentation: “There was something about rabbits, one chasing/ the other or running around a tree. I could never // remember. Backwards!” As soon as the reader has a chance to realize that those rabbits are part of an early childhood introduction to the mechanics of laces, she pushes further and makes a relationship to the complicated interactions parents have with their children when she says, “I taught you to tie, you taught me to undo, patience.” She release a rich idea and then, well, ties it up neatly.
With similar skill, she presents a man's biography in two pages (“Second Attempt”), using the imagery of the sea to cohere the poem. The man begins as small as a boy who “once planned to empty the Atlantic/ with his red pail.” His fascination with the ocean continues through his life so his mother notices that he has “a rhythm” because he can “come and go so easily.” This quality is Goyette's great skill –every line, every phrase in her poems seems intentional and adds to the poetic argument of the piece. There is not a poem in Undone that falters or seems uncertain. Her work is tight enough to hold water, skillfully made, full like an arc.