American poet Emily Carr’s [see my 2015 Jacket2 piece on her here] third trade poetry collection, after Directions for Flying, 36 fits: a young wife’s almanac (Furniture Press, 2010) [see my review of such here] and 13 ways of happily (Parlor Press, 2011) [see my review of such here], is Whosoever Has Let A Minotaur Enter Them, Or A Sonnet— (San Francisco CA: McSweeney’s, 2016), a self-described volume of “divorce poems.” Carr’s poems are elegantly carved fragments, composed as scraps and ellipses that collage into something elusive, yet incredibly coherent. Structured in six sections—“drama of the forfeit,” “show & tell,” “scouts across america,” “amateurs,” “cathedral” and “state of grace”—her collection of “divorce poems” revels in compound words and the portmanteau, and a wonderfully striking linguistic density of meaning and sound, as she writes in the opening poem “) A SPLITBRAIN GRACE NOTE”:
imagine it: fleshliness.
leapfrog slingshot see (like eve side-arming apples from the trees.
gravity curls fernstalk, a red wind licks
your elbows. in current downriver singing the ocean grows. smoke
bellies the flagpole. slim–
ankled oaks dream in the soil.
he goes ahead coatless, lightsoaked. breathing in folds, like a fish. he
deals all his selves (was it a rib or catgut
LIKE THE COROLLAS OF A DYING SUN HOW/ BRILLIANT
Carr is also the author of a number of poetry chapbooks, including & look there goes a sparrow transplanting soil (above/ground press, 2009) (reprinted in full in the anthology Ground rules: the best of the second decade of above/ground press 2003-2013), UP THE SHINBONE SUPERLATIVES (Horse Less Press, 2012), Resurrection Refrains: 22 Tarot Lyrics in the Form of the Yellow Brick Road (Dancing Girl Press, 2013), STAY THIS MOMENT: THE AUTOPSY LYRICS, ACTS 1 & 2 (Little Red Leaves, 2013) and STAY THIS MOMENT: THE AUTOPSY LYRICS,ACTS 3 & 4 (Little Red Leaves, 2015), some of which has appeared since in trade editions, and some, such as “THE AUTOPSY LYRICS,” suggest a further full-length volume. Her poems, much like Toronto poet Margaret Christakos’ poetry collections, are constructed out of fractals and fragments and sentence-strands that break, sequence and accumulate into something far larger.
) IN THE BONE MARGIN
gentled on tended lawn, slender neurotic dinosaurs.
pale cows bewildered in the open air.
a greyhound pursued to static. her thin & scarcely believable arms.
fishy sounds from sherbet strollers. in the flaming
liturgical distance: souvenir flowers, beer
cans, propeller wings, clipped feathers, tears. railroads
part like children. a suicide swaggers in a garden plot. breaking
this fall, itself
FALLING/ WHILE BREAKING
As the back cover of Whosoever Has Let A Minotaur Enter Them, Or A Sonnet— offers: “A swiftly moving poetry of love—and divorce—that rips open romance in the age of men who, for all they love you, just don’t know how to love you anymore. These fairytales are for the heartbreakers as much as the heartbroken, for those smitten with wanderlust, who, no matter how hard they try, aren’t at home with themselves or this world—the beauty of that, in a kind of SOS way.” Carr utilizes fairytale and myth to speak of marriage and an eventual break, as in the poem “) STRUGGLING (IN FACT),” that includes: “the grassblades touch & touch in their small distances, the myth / begins: as family life, one lash by lash undreamt— [.]” Marriage is a subject that runs through the length and breadth of her published work, exploring marriage, happiness, expectation, heartbreak and disappointment as a kind of extended, meditative study, akin to the work of Anne Carson or Cole Swensen, attempting to approach the minutiae of the break (via myth) from multiple angles. As the opening of her author biography at the end of the collection tells us:
emily carr writes murder mysteries that turn into love poems that are sometimes (by her mcsweeney’s editors, for example) called divorce poems. some other folks say she’s writing a life-long love poem, & that’s probably true, too. regardless of the form she’s writing in, she’s most interested in experiment, with heart.