Fourteen Beautiful Dogs
the field beside my heart isfilled with ugly deer and one beautiful dog
a poem doesn’t have to have fourteen perfect linesor else you’re spitting on graves
maybe you’ll slip up and tell a truthstick your elbow into something
under the moon your tongue hangs outyou’d like to howl but
the horizon grows ever largerplease save my family from complication or sudden death
listen: a small movement in the linden leavesbe brave be brave be brave
and here’s another beautiful dogsighing sighing sighing
After years of publications through small and smaller presses comes Hamilton writer and musician Gary Barwin’s The Porcupinity of the Stars (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2010). Barwin’s poems and prose poems/fictions are getting sharper, subtler and still leave many readers uncertain as to what, exactly, to do with him. Surreal bents get a bad rap, it seems, slipped alongside humour in poetry that somehow gets dismissed, even with his recent co-win of the bpNichol Chapbook Award for the chapbook Inverting the Deer, itself incorporated into the manuscript that became this current work.
There is an element of Barwin’s writing that, no matter how far and better and sharper his writing gets, much appears an extension of previous work, a continuation, a line. Is this a neutral, positive or drawback? In The Porcupinity of the Stars he speaks of the stars, but seems to have a soft spot for contemplating children, planets, wildlife and even existence itself, writing poems on straightforward and often massive subjects but through a perception that often moves around what we so rarely question, as though a child’s imagination writing with the comprehension and intelligence of an adult. Through a collection of magnificent, sometimes confusing poems, I wonder, where is this Gary Barwin, exactly, heading?
We Are Family
an organism which pressesagainst the planet
an organism which has hair(sad, believable hair)that refuses to believe
which has sensationssick movesand an interesting history
an organism which holds up its fingershow many fingers(if fingers are what they are)?
an organism with other organisms on itand upon which it rains
an organism which sleepssoft as a cloth
a baby in a bed full of babiesand the earth full of babies