Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Karen Solie, Pigeon

The Prime Minister

He looks out to the spring night composing its indifferent themes.
He looks out through his point of view. Looks through

the window to the darkness, which throws him back. He stares
at the night, his mirrored face, as into an unsolved

private sea. His pain elusive, dangerous, vastly intelligent.
Like the largest living giant squid his pain down there in his private sea.

He reflects on the playoffs, the anthem sung by a sellout crowd
at Scotiabank Place, dead soldiers’ faces scrolling through TV time-outs,

and starts to weep. Afterwards, he is simply starving.
The way a good cry can really make a person ravenous.

For Saskatchewan poet Karen Solie (currently a resident of Toronto), her third poetry collection, Pigeon (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2009) exists as an exploration of country, traversing time, geography and ideas, and writing her way through her own understandings of just how we live. For a poet originally from Saskatchewan (a farm near Moose Jaw) who has lived in Edmonton, Victoria, Fredericton and now Toronto, her collection writes from the perspective of what she’s picked up through her Canadian places, writing of geography, ex-lovers, and heartbreak on the fringes of what we comfortably want to think about. Solie’s poems wrap themselves along the edges of the dark suburbs of comfort, neither city nor country but that expanding new middle, that increasing in-between, almost as a contemporary no-man’s land.


Synchronicity is a theme
science can’t explain. Mutual
appreciation brought us
no closer. More like
we showed each other what we’re
made of. The human brain,
three pounds soaking wet,
its attentions divided.
My attentions were divided.
Nevertheless, I saw what I saw.

In her third collection, after Short Haul Engine (2001) and Modern and Normal (2005), Solie writes a series of meditations exploring the ways that we think, we move through the world, and we carry our scars.


It’s lucky to have someone to talk with.
To whom this strange soft snow falling
out of the blue, for example, might be
described, that thought defined,
and the past, always, its fortune,
hellish stopovers, sheer marvels
of bad planning, affection. Likewise
to listen, doubled within and without
against sorrow’s long compromise. What

is this remainder, then—selfish,
inconsolable—setting out alone
each night to wander freeways’ dangerous
collectors, amid hanging gardens
of electrical transformers, through
the so-called green belt’s terrified
remnants, sustaining a truth that can’t
be spoken, from place to like place,
never giving the same name twice?

I just wish the back cover wasn’t awash with hyperbole, saying that she “is now considered one of Canada’s best poets.” I would rather the work simply stand on its own merit, without the baggage of awards, the baggage of reviews, and whether or not I, as a reader, would even agree with the assessment. And whether or not any of it matters to the poems, which they most certainly don’t.

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