Home is small bills. Packing 99 square feet.
Shale tight. Shale slid.
Eyelids by day.
And day all equations.
Equatorial new guinea, old soft shoe. Who bids?
Why not try sampling?
These days are harpy. (“Echo Localial”)
Calgary poet and lawyer Natalie Simpson’s remarkable second trade poetry collection is Thrum (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2014), following on the heels of her accrete or crumble (Vancouver BC: LineBooks, 2006). Her poems accumulate in quick rolls, composing line-fragments into a collage of meaning, linguistic purpose and rolling, luscious sound and spark. As she writes in the poem “Sentencing,” close to the beginning of the collection: “Wings would shudder. // Arisen single syncopate. / Single single syncopate.” There is an Olympic-sized twirl, twist and precision to her language, more nimble than the taut gymnastics by Toronto poet Marcus McCann, and more open to the possibilities of lyric and narrative flow than the works of Vancouver poet Dorothy Trujillo Lusk. The opening stanza of the poem “Vallarta,” towards the beginning of the third section, “Jack State,” suggests, possibly, a statement of purpose for her entire craft:
Terrible moments, these. Nothing to do
and must write. Pelicans swim the sea
and please. The land is a light and
falters. Flickers. False as old fortuna this
problem of poetry.
It is as though her poems are stripped of nearly everything except language itself, pointing off into an endless series of directions, all working to answer, as she suggests, “this problem of poetry.” Through the pulse and strum and boom of the rhythms that make up her Thrum, Simpson shows just what writing can make possible. As she writes in the second section, the poem/section “Echo Localial”: “Thrum sticks firm into firm place. Subordinate rhythm save reason. / Laid face to face.” Certainly, hers is a movement that doesn’t abandon meaning entirely (which arguably would be impossible, given the fact that her poems are still composed out of words placed side-by-side), but one that isn’t composed with any kind of straightforward meaning as its main purpose. She writes collage and sound, allowing the words to do, themselves, whatever they might, pinpointing her collage of sketch-poems point by point by point. Even before the book begins (according to the page numbers), she begins with this untitled fragment:
The poem trails the typing hand. The hand creases and clatters. The fingers jumble twitching. The poem defies corrosion. The hand defiles the poem. The poem clothes the hand.