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Review of Breaker
From Jay Ruzesky , Malahat Review # 167 - summer 2009

Breaker by Sue Sinclair

It has taken less than a decade for Sue Sinclair to establish herself as a poet of depth. What is attractive about her sensibility is the intensity of her poetic attention; her poems often ache with longing for hte world as it is. That may sound ridiculous–how can you long for what is?–but underlying such a sensibility is an acknowledgement that few of us are aware enough to perceive the world in anything like its real complexity. Sinclair’s poems encourage us to look again and to try harder to see. The title poem of Breakwater is an excellent example of the way her attention works. The poem begins with a factual epitgraph: “In the 1990s a breakwater was built using erratics that once dotted the shore of Flatrock, Newfoundland. Erratics are blocks of rock dropped by returning glaciers.” What follows is a meditation into the being of these rocks as they serve their new, human-oriented purpose. The poem is strong because Sinclair is inventive and surprising because she does more than show off with language; she also finds ways to make the ideas in the poem resonate. The erratics are “raised in slings as though being rescued” and once in place they look outward “as if forbidden to speak, using ancient / telepathy to send a warning.” The next stanza focuses on the human response to the breakwater, the fear people have of those “blank faces” of rock as if they were “monuments to a mistake we had yet / to make.” The success of Sinclair’s work is that she goes well beyond clever. Rather than simply draw our attention tot he way that a breakwater is made of individuals trying to hold off harshness (i.e. what we do as humans), the reader is led to think through the breakwater and beyond. In this poem and in the body of her work, Sinclair takes us past our fear of “something they / represented” and makes the poem “a moment” where we can pause “to think through our lives / before they’re lost.”

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