NEW ENGLAND IS OLD
After the first first late antiquity,
things are a little –ish.
THE BREAKERS: They are not soldiers.
THE SOLDIERS: You see I cannot see.
EMILY: They were a part of it.
THE SOLDIERS: They were not Emily.
Go through a hole to the nook,
little sister, send all your messages by mice.
Hurrying, there was a green light.
SYMBOL: I am a symbol.
THE LION AT THE LIBRARY: Listen up, Marilyn.
MARILYN: Bronze turns that dark color.
I took the trains out. I just wanted
to see the boats in the snow.
Ottawa-born American poet Paul Legault’s second trade collection, The Other Poems (Albany NY: Fence Books, 2011) is a collection of seventy-five sonnets, bringing something new and refreshing to the form. On the whole, the sonnet is an entirely overused, and yet, under-utilized form, too often little to nothing brought new to the form, with the rare exceptions of works such as Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets (Lorenz and Ellen Gude, 1964), or Camille Martin’s Sonnets (Shearsman Books, 2010). As Marjorie Perloff’s back cover quote on the collection explains: “Each of Paul Legault’s seventy-five taut and dazzling sonnets begins with a cryptic couplet, follows with a four-line dialogue, whose voices (animal, vegetable, mineral, or disembodied like the date) engage in debate, as ardent as it is inconsequential, and then puts four more couplets to work, analyzing what we have just heard or spinning variations on its tense, absurdist drama.” Legault’s poems in this collection are small scenes performed by a variety of voices, centred around a narrator, and including multiple others, in a sequence of surreal stories. My name is Legion, the poems tell us, for we are many.
Then they made another garden
FRAGRANCE: There’s always something in color.
TEXTURE: There are always bird walks.
SOUND: There are turkeys on these grounds
and José the Beaver
far off in the forest without thoughts.
AUDIO TOUR GUIDE: There is almost always
an irregular ball
about two feet high
described on this phone-line.
In the future, or in three months, the plants will chance,
or else they will be about to have to.
THE FUTURE: Who senses me when I’m not there?
LAVENDER: The bed is knee-high
an lined with a single wall.
WANT: You want to grow your own food,
annihilating all that’s made,
and live in Paradise alone.
Legault’s poems are a sequence of collage that leave an almost magical residue. The pieces in The Other Poems suspend believe for a moment or two longer than one might think is possible, and manage to weave perfectly a number of threads coming together from multiple directions, crafting oddly-surreal (even dreamily-so) poems that are bulletproof-precise. They might appear strange, and even confusing at first, but once they sink in, it might be impossible to remove them.