Sunday, February 17, 2008

Suspended: A Short Thesis in Seven Parts by Kate Hall
From Jason Dewinetz’ greenboathouse books, comes its second-last chapbook publication, former Montreal poet Kate Hall’s Suspended: A Short Thesis in Seven Parts. For a number of years now, Dewinetz, author of a few chapbooks and a trade poetry collection himself, has been producing enviable chapbooks through his small press, but has decided to take a break, producing this lovely volume in an edition of one hundred, and the forthcoming Woods / Pages by Toronto poet Jay MillAr [see his 12 or 20 questions here] before he closes the whole enterprise down (with rumours of another whole project to begin a year later). A former editor/manager for the Montreal chapbook publisher Delirium Press (when she was still a student at Concordia University), Hall is a poet currently living in France, where she teaches at Quai D'Orsay Language Center. I like the intelligence and play at work in Hall’s seven part thesis, and this poem is easily the finest of what little I’ve seen of Hall’s poetry over the years, a clever and sharp sequence made of densely-packed lyrics.


Bats basically scream
until they hear their voices
echo off bugs and trees. Then they know
where they are and exactly what and how large
the thing they are hunting. If we had
a precise stopwatch we could tell
how far it is to the other side.
In the middle of the night even my own
breath sounds loud. I’m not an expert
in echolocation so I just open the fridge
and use the little light. I ate an entire jar
of chipotle-lime mustard. Half asleep,
I’m not sure why. According to a health pamphlet,
asking questions is a roadblock
to real communication. Dennett says
we’ll do whatever it takes
to assuage epistemic hunger
My findings are inconclusive.
Yesterday I yelled at myself and
nothing came back at all.
You have to admire any poem that includes the line “Skeptics do not believe / we can prove we are not dreaming, / but they are very glad for the existence of / anti-psychotics.” and “Narcissus fell into himself because of / light rays and surface tension.” You have to admire any poem that ends on the heartbreaking “I didn’t want to know / that you could add up so many things / and have them equal so few.” Hall’s Suspended is almost a poem in the fashion of others like Juliana Spahr [see her 12 or 20 questions here] or Lisa Jarnot, working the direct statement and series of powerful, single lines that accumulate into something layered and much larger, except Hall packs her sentences together, making them flow more easily than a simple visual leap over leap over leap.


We’ll begin in a vacuum with
artificial tools. We’ll assume the big bang was
the origin of the universe and there was
nothing before it. Nothing will be
a substance to suspend years of facts.
A game show will turn into a sparkly thought experiment.
People are running around behind the set but
god knows what they’re doing.
Faced with three identical doors, you choose.
The hypothetical host shows you one of the losing doors.
You have to decide whether to change
remaining doors mid-game. The mysteries are in need of
continual rephrasing. After seeing a loss,
change is always a good idea; it improves
your odds.
There’s a lot in this poem, and a lot more to admire about it. According to her bio on the greenboathouse books website, she’s working on her second poetry manuscript; does that mean we might be close to seeing the publication of her first? I anxiously await.

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