I’ve felt blissfully on top of new poetry for a change, though of course even the 40 or so volumes I’ve read this year are a tiny fraction of what’s happening out there. I’d hoped that total immersion in the craft would get my own juices rolling, but this year I have not been able to write poetry or to paint. I’ve managed several short stories, though, a genre I’d like to work more in, and I’ve been writing about food, mood, and books like mad, so I won’t complain. That said, next year I am switching up my focus a bit to try to cajole the poetic and the painterly muse back into mind. I can’t really live for long without the image-oriented muse.
Still, it can be intimidating to try to harness that muse when you’re holding something like Sue Sinclair’s Breaker in your hand. I wonder often whether the world really needs any more poetry, but then I read something like this, and know we can’t live without. We sleep side by side with eternity, and never touch, she writes. Birds that fly into that eternity- they are “chips of bone in the sky.”
Here’s a few lines from Portugal Cove, Night, that express something perfect that I’ve never been able to.
Shivering, you realize he’s the one
you’ve called on to keep chaos at bay-
how foolish you were.
Using nature to describe the nature of the heart is the oldest trick in the book, yet Sue manages somehow to make it all fresh, waves, stars, trees and all, as if the world itself was new and just unfolding. Breaker is her fourth book and I’ll be looking for the first three. Even their titles are poems of their own: The Drunken Lovely Bird, Secrets of Weather and Hope.
Like Sue, David O’Meara has also been shortlisted for a variety of prestigious awards, and he won the Archibald Lampman award in 2004. His third collection, Noble Gas, Penny Black is the kind of book you should read in a bar with a notebook open, scrawled thoughts littering page after page You read, you muse, you swig, you jot things down. You wish you smoked again, so that you could occasionally fumble for matches, or lean to the guy at the table next to you and say, “Got a light? Hey listen to this:”
Arriving here, across the blue sheet
at the inside of your thigh:
that supple groove
The sandwich was crap, the tea
the air all Bogart
with smoke and goodbyes.
John Donlan’s Spirit Engine is the last book of poetry I will read this year, so I leap right into the last lines as if to read my fortune for the next year.
yet once there wasn’t a single living thing
on earth: chemicals, complex mixes, lightning, and
something began remaking itself, stubborn,
creeping like happiness across the landscape.
Perhaps it’s cheating to sneak a peek at endings, to skim poems, or chew them, or reread them over and over, or perhaps that’s how you are supposed to experience a book, sprinting through the pages that aren’t relevant today but might be tomorrow. If the end is most important today, then a beginning may be more important tomorrow.
Regardless of the correct literary protocol, of the poet’s chronology here (John dates each poem, and they go in order), you’ll need to, want to, go through and ruminate and ponder. Donlan lives surrounded by Ontario wilderness, and you’ll want to pack this volume when you go canoeing, read it by a campfire, reflect on nature’s serenity and calamity with the poet while in its midst.
You can sing about the rain,
but it won’t do a damn bit of good.
Oh, but it will. Another song about the rain, another poem about the sea. There is nothing new under the sun, oh, no, and so what flows out of my pen won’t exactly won’t shatter the earth with originality. We write of rain, of love, of eternity, same as all the poets before us, and those yet to follow. What is the meaning of this? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps, as John writes Birds repeat their parents’ songs as if their lives depend on it.
Visit writer Lorette C. Luzajic at www. thegirlcanwrite.net.