Thursday, July 10, 2014

Catriona Strang, Corked

Just a Little Bit of Bad News

Lax makes a deft pass
forward – devoured or
devouring – (no animals
were harmed) apparently it all stands
for “how far back can
these traces be?”
            (none but me)

Once again, I show no
fortitude. Shall we now
origin-up a brilliant intake
extrovert – Nothing

Oh, this way to no
where, circuitously
revealed: henceforth I am
my own
personal exit

Vancouver poet Catriona Strang’s fourth trade poetry collection is Corked (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2014), following her solo trade collection Low Fancy (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 1993) and two collaborations with the late Nancy Shaw: Busted (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2001)and Light Sweet Crude (Vancouver BC: LINEbooks, 2008). The poems in Corked are built on politics and domestic patter, articulating both a language of personal spaces as well as a wider engagement with the surrounding world. In the title section, she writes: “Deposits have been made, and faults / are probable, which constitutes only a fraction of the weight / women carry daily.” What appeals about her engagements is in how inclusive her perspective, soaring across boundaries, purpose and reference in condensed, even staccato, spaces. “Perhaps our moments are / as much as we can hope for, little hopeful portals. In which / case, what shall we constitute?” Her language is a sing-song cadence that propels, bangs and pings about, as she writes to end the fourth part of the first section/sequence, “Unsettling”: “Hatsies ditch stick / odour has much berucked / Dance much? I knock unseined // Nun’s wiles out-magazine / – I get my drift – / what I suck, I happily fund / way-simmer’s my scene[.]”

Dear Proust,

You’ve been dawning on me. Gradually, by the charm of all your explanations, our lives have come to be constituted through art, though not without strain. We have made several realities, far beyond the reach of terrible conservative eyes, which grow greater, or are illuminated. Consequence really lives thus, I mean all the time.

The book is constructed in two sections, the introductory sequence “Unsettling” (that includes prologue and twenty numbered sections) and the extended title section which takes up the bulk of the collection, constructed out of a collage of fragments, prose poems and short lyrics. “Corked,” dedicated to Marcel Proust, is a mix of short pieces and letters-as-chorus addressed to Proust himself, writing through and around Proust, composing a series of bouncing-off point towards further considerations. By engaging Proust, Strang speaks of contemporary through an historical lens. As she writes: “Of course we are for sale. It’s an / imperfect reconstruction of the past, okay? Imagine a little / outstanding detail, in image or language formed.”

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