THE INFLUENCE OF COMPLETE DARKNESS
In the dusk of a November eveningsomewhere in the mid-seventeenth centurynothing is concealed or conveyed.There is, simplya concentration of sunflowers.
As the world turns, they turnfrom pathos to persuasionguided by the radiant light.
Two fresh puddles insert themselvesand are read as a dark eclipse.Nothing hinders them from soaking through.
Perhaps a fish detects them before disappearingits far-off murmur a mutter nowsounding something like an inscriptionon a Japanese fan by Totki Baigai:
“Outside the city walls there’s an odd fish.I don’t know its name.”
I’ve long been enraptured with the quiet confidence of Toronto poet Lise Downe’s poems, and feel rewarded in my patience through the publication of her long-awaited fourth trade poetry collection, This Way (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2011). Downe is a poet of big ideas and phrases, exploring the possibilities that poems allow in such small spaces they become impossibly large. This Way follows her collections, Disturbances of Progress (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2002), The Soft Signature (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1996) and A Velvet Increase of Curiosity (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1992), each carefully and thoughtfully constructed collections of sharp, smart poems. The poems in This Way create not a signpost to a single direction but a series of directions, and possibilities in ways that make Downe seem a meditational language poet, blending considerations that aren’t often intertwined. Structured with three sections and opening poem, “THE INFLUENCE OF COMPLETE DARKNESS,” the second section, “Small Mysteries” writes a sequence that seems to articulate the collection as a whole:
The volatile contents itself
like a sphere with the world inside.One understands immediatelywhat the space allows.
There is no other word for it.This novelty notwithstandingall the conformity that was needed
to show that it, too, is continuous.
What very much compels about this collection, and Downe’s work, overall, is in how the book is constructed, from the single poem opener, to a sequence of fragments to a section of individual poems, to close with a sequence of haiku-like three-lined koans, resonating like packed bits of wisdom disguised as fragments, disguised as knowledge.
You can’t seriously expect that a storybased on something overheard might serveas a point of departure. Oh evening, speak.