Sunday, November 20, 2011

Daniel Scott Tysdal's The Mourner's Book of Albums


In the last picture she smailed
she is naked. In return he sent a copy
of the Kama Sutra, pencilling
on the first blank page, “Here is the map
of that city we can never travel in
because our bodies together compose
in avenues and apartments, its flocks
and bright puddles. As these streets,
I hope, we will meet again
soon.” Once he went to the airport
with money for a ticket, prepared
to cross the ocean and surprise her
is her home, and he wonders if
she also dreams of a terminal
without passengers, schedules,
or planes, one holding nothing more
than suitcases, satchels, shoulder-strapped
backpacks crammed tight
in anticipation of all the lands
imagined but never departed for.
It is in this waiting we do not lift off from
where the last we see of love is the photo
of a pose we'll never again enframe
in our own naked poses, the life
we'll never grow quiet with, not in time
for the next uniting flash. (from “Desire, A Lyric Pornographologue of Autoerotic Haunts”)
Even with publications in journals across the country, there was something about former Saskatchewan poet (currently in Toronto) Daniel Scott Tysdal's first poetry collection, Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method (Regina SK: Coteau Books, 2006) that came out of nowhere, receiving both the ReLit Award and the Anne Szumigalski Poetry Award. Not only out of nowhere, his first collection was a wild collage of poems, prose, visual poems and image, an eclectic and electric mix, even more unusual for the fact that it came out of Coteau, known for years for publishing poetry collections predominantly constructed out of (comparatively) relatively straight lyric narrative. Since then, Tysdal has released The Mourner's Book of Albums (Toronto ON: Tightrope Books, 2010), a collection that exists as a novel of sorts, or a scrapbook of the disappeared, mixing poem with prose with theory, writing poem-as-artifact, or even, art installation. Starting with a kidnapped boy, Tysdal's collection moves its way through the G20 riots in Toronto, the war in Afghanistan, and his best friend's suicide, moving through a book of loss, of losing, and what's already lost, before coming back to what remains, and what gets found. A rich, vibrant collection, so tight you could bounce a quarter off it, The Mourner's Book of Albums is impossible to compare, a mix of different forms and structures, managing mutability, confusion and play, all while master craftsman Tysdal keeps the book a complete and comprehensive unit.

A week before this book went to press, I spoke
to Dahlia's mom. I told her about the poems.
She asked me to include a story I'd never heard.
As a child, Dahlia nurtured obituaries in place
of pets. She fabricated death notices for birds
and beasts she never in the first place possessed
to lose. She invented a sophisticated cockatiel
who chirped her name when it was time
to rise for school, a border collie who saved her
from slipping through cracked sheets
of frozen water. As a favour to circling vultures,
and to expose the promiscuity of skins in their decay,
she pretended her imaginary dead pets
remained carcasses unburied at the edge
of the garden rather than buried bones,
the breadth of the backyard's burgeoning life
pierced with a stillness so singular it defied
what the siding and shingles asserted to be
the nascent relation of divided hides.
If lightning were to have struck her fantastical pile
of remains, she had known that none of the paws
and fins and wings decomposing into this dreary
chimera would have twitched awake, but in one obit
a newt taken too soon to the pile startled the sky
when parrying thunder slithered from its slender throat. (from “Desire, A Lyric Pornographologue of Autoerotic Haunts”)

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