Friday, March 16, 2012

Sinéad O’Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, Neil de la Flor and Maureen Seaton


is extremely skilled in hand to hand
combat, cantatas, and classical objects.
In her violent tale of Ambrosio
and Sisyphus she is obsessed with existence.
Her lust is apparent while she spies
on the blessed monks who love almsfood.
She is always seeking coincidence,
traveling back to her point of origin,
able to bear immense and sudden pain.
Above all, she is a rare example
of the not quite dead. She is permitted
weapons and is laid to rest in state.
Finally, it is she whose wounded
introversion makes her almost body gleam.
I’m fascinated by the poetry collaboration generally, especially now that Christine McNair and I are finally in the midst of ours, working slowly over the past near-year. The first I really noticed had to be Transference of November / Snow (Kingston ON: Quarry Press, 1985) by Roo Borson and Kim Maltman, who went on to trio with Andy Patton as Pain-Not-Bread. More recent collaborations of note include Toronto poets Jay MillAr and Stephen Cain’s collaborative “novel,” Double Helix (Toronto ON: The Mercury Press, 2006), Toronto poets BillKennedy and Darren Wershler’s apostrophe (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2006) and update (Montreal QC: Snare Books, 2010), Amanda Ackerman and Harold Abramowitz’ Sin is to Celebration (arrow as aarow #8, House Press, 2009) and the ongoing collaboration between Edmonton poet Douglas Barbour and Arizona poet Sheila E. Murphy, first published as Continuations (Edmonton AB: University of Alberta Press, 2006), with a second volume forthcoming over the next few weeks. There have also been smaller collaborations between Phil Hall and Western Australia poet Andrew Burke, and the manuscript by Amanda Earl and Sandra Ridley shortlisted for the 2010Robert Kroetsch Award.
Aurora, a simple tree of a girl, once told me the story of the earth’s ionosphere, the way she held to her original spring and fall, always more nimble than northern life or the completely selfless ultraviolet of science fiction—in other words, the fascinating spectacle of a young female who is mostly red, occasionally ultraviolet, and America’s favorite hometown to boot. Aurora is normally open to space and the cause of electrons and protons evaporating off the surface of her limbs. She is predominantly female, a little goose of outer space, a permanent river feature that bends along the Kentucky and Indiana shoreline, but invisible, like the increase in atmospheric turbulence. E is for looking to the east, she once told me, a little shy. I’m a little refugee deflected by the vivid description of experience, she once told me, as she flew through the ozone. Aurora is lighter on Wednesday. (“Aurora”)
According to the biographical information at the back of their collaborative collection Sinéad O’Connor and her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds (Firewheel Editions, 2011), American poets Neil de la Flor and Maureen Seaton “have been collaborating since 2004 when they holed up together in Miami for Hurricane Frances and got bored with the weather channel.” Given the few dates mentioned within the work, and some references as well, it would suggest that this collection is the direct result of that initial beginning, composed during a hurricane. I’m taken very much by the structural shifts, from the lyric poem to prose-lines that wrap into each other, and distinct shapes that shimmer, shimmy. I wonder, am I losing or gaining for not knowing either of their individual works? I would be interested to know the precise measure and structure of their collaborations, if poems were individually worked and traded into an accumulation, or if begun by one and completed by another, for example. There is a great deal to admire and intrigue in this collection, and it makes me interested in seeing just what else they’ve been doing, and hope that they might continue in their collaborative efforts. Still, for all the shifts, the strongest works in this collection appear to be the poems composed as prose-poems, striking out in ways the shorter pieces just can’t quite grasp, such as this, the final section in the four-part title poem, that opens the collection:
Pondering them, I flew into Spanish. I was Spanish and covered with light.
Light of a goose, light as a father; re-numerated and stunning.

I pulled them over my existing legs and trotted around like a mouse. I was looking for a hole in the wall, proverbially.

That’s when I found Sinéad O’Connor, singing, when blue birds flew out of her mouth.

Her coat was a thousand bluebirds coming to life and flying away like pieces of transformed sexual abuse.

And the crowd was pointing fingers at her coat, her blue tongue of feathers.

Such an intelligent bird, I thought, and all the cats inside me whispered: mouse.

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