Review of Breaker
From Frances Sprout , Materfamilias Reads blog, August 10, 2011

Sue Sinclair’s Breaker

I felt compelled to read her poetry after hearing Sinclair give a paper on Jan Zwicky this past spring in Fredericton. Handy that Kitty Lewis, the apparently indefatigable general manager of Brick Books, just “happened” to be there with copies of Sue’s books available. And was flexible about invoicing me. Kitty is a wonderful advocate not only for Brick authors but for Canadian writing in general, an inspiring gem in our midst.

Anyway, on to Breaker which I’ve savoured over the past few months. The collection overall presents a universe of overwhelming beauty, the wonder at it always tinged with melancholy? resignation? almost, but not quite, the “surrender” of the first poem. Not quite, I say, because there is also, throughout, “the momentary triumph of the present.” Still, wonder grapples throughout with loneliness, and the lone self under a night sky, rain, astronomical imagery prevail. Here, for example, a representative passage from “Dawn till Dusk”: “Things rise up . in their dignity / and will spend the rest of the day / sinking back / as our minds start to lag / behind the visible, unable / to keep up with the ever-receding / horizon of what-is.”

This comment on suburban bungalows in “Suburbs” mesmerizes me with its compassionate personification of the 20th-century blight that nonetheless houses so many hopes and dreams, its reining-in of an instinctive scorn:

“Vinyl-sided, slow-witted,
they insist they didn’t mean for this to happen,
this sameness, shackled to their own kind
like cattle transported slowly nowhere
in a broken-down truck. This is what happened to them,
not what they are. And they know the privilege
of even this adequate existence. Ashamed,
they lower their heads as children do
who think they have done something wrong
in being born. You too bow your head,
wish you could divest yourself of scorn.”

Another persistent, compelling image throughout the collection is that of a sinking into the ground, returning or digging down. These lines from “Homecoming” combine the pitting of lone self against night, of a star-filled universe, and of the move downward into earth:

“And when the sun fades and quiet descends, you’re still there,
have outlasted the day’s blunt heat. A thin armour of insects glitters
overhead as you linger on the porch, putting off sleep
like another task. The day is long but your mind is longer.
The night is deep but your mind is deeper. Stars creep over the horizon;
a fertile darkness sinks into the ground”

Many more images linger, many more poems for you to wander through and wonder with should you pick up this rewarding volume. As always, let me know if you do.

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