Sunday, February 21, 2010

Norma Cole, Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008


Human battens smoke to mouth

threatened fretted message

Return of self defying breath

one up against one side mind

one of a nether system of said objects

defy an inspired couch

let alone from it

neither couch sandwich and books

lived and taught to emigrate

Born and raised in Toronto, does her former city even think of her now, San Francisco poet Norma Cole, author of Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008 (San Francisco CA: City Lights, 2009)?

Published as the first in an ongoing series of “City Lights Spotlights,” the collection works through twenty years of her trade collections of poetic activity (starting some ten years after leaving Toronto for San Francisco), from Mace Hill Remap (Moving Letters Press, 1988) through Moira (O Books, 1996) to Spinoza In Her Youth (Omnidawn Press, 2002) to Natural Light (Libellum, 2008)


Like wasps’ nests

where we were

like many fires buildings

crumpling in flames in a

forest of trucks rushing

past in the night, headlights


To see, hand

covering her eyes, hand

brushing back his hair, the sounds

of forest days and night

sounds sun comes up or is

obscured by clouds or it is

raining or blazing light is it

late, too late for me to

come back to your place

I can only applaud City Lights for producing such a collection, but one thing that always frustrates about a selected poems is when it comes without an introduction (Dennis Cooley’s Sunfall from 1996 did the same); certainly, any book should speak for itself, but wouldn’t it be nice to have some kind of word to provide a context for the work and for the author, some kind of explanation as to why and what the poems are doing, why we should be listening? Still, this is the sort of collection that makes me want to read deeper into her writing (rumours of a chapbook came out of Montreal last year, published by Angela Carr, but I still haven’t found a copy), into the individual collections, to see where her deeper engagements lay. Can twenty years of service come through in only one hundred pages?

No comments: