Ghazal of July Storm by Matthew Holmes
Ghazal of July Storm
The smell of greenstalk tomatoes
on my fingers
The wind pressing into windows
testing their ripeness
The dog pacing
unsure of our night movement
The bamboo I’ve taken from the basement
to tie my plants
Moments of love
talk that pauses into sleep
This short poem, originally appearing in the first issue of echolocation (2003), published out of the University of Toronto, and subsequently reprinted as above/ground press broadside #177 (above/ground press, September 2003), is an example of the strength of Matthew Holmes’ shorter poems. The poem is evocative of place, without being of that place. Placed within its own placelessness.
Since first reading his work around 2002, I’ve been an increasing fan of Holmes’ poetry, from seeing his poems in literary magazines, to his small self-published letterpress pieces through his bad repoesy Mfg. Co. (publisher also of the zine Modomnoc), and to his chapbook Hitch (above/ground press, 2003), but I’m much more taken with his shorter, punchier work. Holmes’ longer pieces seem somehow less effective.
The ghazal, as worked in Canadian literature so often since American-born New Brunswick poet John Thompson’s Stilt Jack appeared posthumously in 1976 through House of Anansi Press, influencing a whole range of other poets then and since, including Patrick Lane, Phyllis Webb, Douglas Barbour and D.G. Jones.
Lately, it seems, the ghazal has become one of those forms, like the sonnet, that everyone and their dog is working on, with varying degrees of success. I’m not a big fan of the collection Bones In Their Wings, ghazals (2003, Hagios Press: Regina) by Lorna Crozier, for example, but for her postscript "Dreaming the Ghazal into Being." Vancouver poet Catherine Owen has done some interesting things with the ghazal in her second collection, The Wrecks of Eden (2001, Wolsak & Wynn) and since, and, as I’ve said before, I think Edmonton poet Andy Weaver is just brilliant.
With recent stints in Ottawa (where he joined the editorial board of Arc magazine) and Toronto, Matthew Holmes has recently returned to Sackville, New Brunswick where he went to university, where he plans to simply write for a while.
There is an essential slowness to Holmes’ piece, pausing and pauses which go against the storm, the dog; against the restlessness of what else is happening outside the scope of the narrator’s hands. The tender action nearly zen against the suggestion of rage of wind and rain. And such a thin, thin line between.