Monday, September 03, 2007

Natalie Simpson, accrete or crumble

Ah, the Canadian west. Here the lines of geography and time are still very much apparent. History's crossroads often singular, lines in the prairie are still lines in the prairie, train lines through mountain passes are often the only cut lines other than tree lines, and of course, the lines of fire, of logging, of strip mining...but the signs and lines are still readable, they don't have the layers, the confusion of intention that one has when driving through Williams' New Jersey for example.

And the poetry? Well, there are big leaps out here, and big canvases. Did I adequately convey my delight with Mancini's text? And Walschots? These are impressive debuts. And now Natalie Simpson's accrete or crumble, one of the first titles to be published by Line Books, in association with the excellent West Coast Line.

accrete or crumble is a perfect title for a text that takes aim at the very core of language, the structure. I'm reminded of Annie Dillard's Wreck of Time where she describes watching the water lift and separate from the back of a boat, looking deeply into the molecular structure of it...the incessant and random nature. A simple image, but powerful too, and that's what Simpson is doing here, fomenting language, moving through it like water. And she achieves this with no small measure of erotics. Not unlike Walschots, but without the flogger lammy. Echoes of Margaret Christakos and Rachel Zolf are here too, but Simpson has her own approach to language. She lilts into it, slips into it, taps into the rhythms. "History lilts," she suggests, and in the speaking of it words lose meaning, or shift or change. Language is context too, and speaker, and as Mancini's Ligatures points out, it hardens or softens depending on how the vowels fall in a piece. The tongue shapes these fonts. These three poets remind us of that, and even as I type am mindful of the tongue's necessity in bringing them alive...

What can I say about the text? "Not an equal here to be seen..." metronomes, symbiotic, iteration, finding the tune in words under the pedantic and commodified familiars of them. Walking through these lines you won't feel like you're in the Eaton Centre, you won't feel like you're walking mournfully along a pine barren, or a prairie river, lamenting the meaninglessness of the human condition: here the canyon is the runnels between sentences, and there is a kind of energetic looking that is hopeful without being sentimental. This is a feature in many of the poets I have mentioned lately in fact. "bracket small ways:" the structures are meanings, associations, narratives and open to rebuilding. Indeed:
that this is a narrative
scrape of boot on concrete
squeal of heel in fuel
In a world where we are trained daily to accept language without meaning, and to support it, buy it, vote for it, collaborate in the death of it, these words in their mellifluous order, let us look again, and hear, and in the seemingly random couplings new meanings or possibilities emerge.
I work to displace you or centre you or enter you.

Shriek through naked the story was a staleness
a not-going-nowhere taking form.
It's a text that requires an adventurous reader. So if you're looking for a fully formed poem, one that leaves little to your imagination, one that tells you how to feel, how to think, when to have your epiphany, etc., it's not for you. But if you're a collaborative and open reader, there is a lot of pleasure to be had.

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