Gould brings Prairie, people together
Reviewed by Bill Robertson (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, June 30, 2012)
Nora Gould, who has a degree in veterinary medicine, lives in east central Alberta where she is a rancher and a volunteer with a wildlife rehabilitation centre. These characteristics, but most notably the land and her life on it, inform her poems, many of them prose-like meditations that sweep across a page or two. There are also short, almost haikus, of four or six lines, in her first collection, I see my love more clearly from a distance.
In these varied poems she mixes up - sometimes in abrupt and startling juxtaposition - her life as wife, mother, rancher, veterinarian and, most intimately and beautifully, as woman: Emotionally, spiritually, sexually and medically, her body a site of love, longing and loss.
As readers can see from her collection's title, Gould likes them long and poems like Our place is medium-sized: The school board deals with sparsity and distance issues are typical. Out on the land, and in her heart, she discusses her body's breakdown, the loss of cattle to winter and disease, the raising of children, the changing face of Alberta's land with oil and gas extraction, and her deep concern over her relationship with her husband, its sometimes stunning coldness or abruptness as he struggles to work the land with his own failing body.
She freely mixes these concerns in her poems, making no apologies or introductions as she moves from one subject to another. In The raven was an iridescent black, for instance, she begins with a coyote eating its way into a fallen animal, then moves to the pathologist slicing her tissue and staining it, leaving her for days "to believe I had ovarian/ cancer."
In another poem she moves among her father's death, her sister and husband not telling her about it, and her own surgeries, ending with the doctor exhibiting her to his students as if she were a sideshow. In another she talks of life as a veterinarian, not always wanting to deliver death to people's animals, and that be-comes a chance to think on her husband's lack, ever, of offering a comforting word in those tough situations.
These are tough poems, not sharp and violent, but quiet assessments of a life on the land with hard-working people and animals. Gould brings together the prairie, the people and the huge spaces that surround them in their great desire and dependence on one another.