Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gary Barwin, The Porcupinity of the Stars

Fourteen Beautiful Dogs

the field beside my heart is
filled with ugly deer and one beautiful dog

a poem doesn’t have to have fourteen perfect lines
or else you’re spitting on graves

maybe you’ll slip up and tell a truth
stick your elbow into something

under the moon your tongue hangs out
you’d like to howl but

the horizon grows ever larger
please save my family from complication or sudden death

listen: a small movement in the linden leaves
be brave be brave be brave

and here’s another beautiful dog
sighing 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 presses
against the planet

an organism which has hair
(sad, believable hair)
that refuses to believe

which has sensations
sick moves
and an interesting history

an organism which holds up its fingers
how many fingers
(if fingers are what they are)?

an organism with other organisms on it
and upon which it rains

an organism which sleeps
soft as a cloth

a baby in a bed full of babies
and the earth full of babies

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