Sunday, April 23, 2006

Elizabeth Bachinsky's Home of Sudden Service

Another young Canadian poet with a second collection is Vancouver resident Elizabeth Bachinsky, with her Home of Sudden Service (Roberts Creek BC: Nightwood Editions, 2006), after her Curio: Grotesques and Satires from the Electronic Age (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2005). More straightforward than her previous collection, the poems in Home of Sudden Service give voice and breath to growing up in the wilds that exist from the suburbs to almost rural, in small town writing of teenage hijinks, failures, successes and those furtive dreams of eternal escape. In poems that exist between childhood and adulthood, between dream and goal, Bachinsky writes of the delinquent teens who will one day become respectable old men, working the same job their whole lives, but still living in that place where everything is still potential, and nothing is actual; each poem existing in that underlying bubbling of sensuality and sexuality, bursting to get through.

HOW TO BAG YOUR SMALL-TOWN GIRL

Those small-town girls they like to marry early
you know. Can't wait to settle down, have
a kid or two. What they wouldn't give
for a solid man, one who's ready
to rein it in—that rampant prick—and stick
close to home, a good father, provider
and lover, a tall drink of water
who's cool when the pickup's bust,
stick shift stuck in second gear or the condom's broke
again. But there's no such thing as too much man
to handle. Those girls, they like them
rough around the edges, tough boys who'll never balk
at next month's rent with heart enough to love
a woman right, again and again and again. (p 23)
Considering the shift between the two collections, working from the stretches and flows of her first collection, to poems that look more like poems in this one, it will be interesting to see where her third collection will potentially go; it makes me wonder, almost, if the poems in this collection were actually composed before the poems in the first collection, as there is more of a confidence and maturity that exist within her lines that, although not necessarily lacking in Home of Sudden Service, but certainly don't exist in the same way.

AT FIFTEEN
after Irving Layton

Their chests like planks, bellies
like planks,
I want to undress boys
as a carpenter undresses

a block of pine.
Their clothes, shed like shavings,
smell of aftershave, of pine.
I want them naked, contrapposto,

still as posts. They are so polished
beneath their shirts and jeans.
They are so lean, penises
rearing, eager, impatient as ponies.

Young men: all edges, jut of hip, whip of spine.
What temperamental instruments they are,
what clichéd agonies they moan,
my mouth on them now
and then gone. (p 50)
The most interesting writing here has to be the fifteen-part piece "Drive" that ends the collection. There is something about Bachinsky's long thought, stretched and continued that achieves something more in her writing than in the smaller, more individual poems earlier in the book.

4

This prairie, mostly empty, mostly flat,
affords no respite from the desert heat.
My sister, who can sleep
through anything, will not drift off. She's hot,
goddammitall. She grabs a two-litre
bottle of water, chugs it down as fields
of corn and wheat shimmer past. She unfolds
the map to check out where we are:
seems like nowhere. We sing out Stompin' Tom:
"Roll on, roll on, Saskatchewan" and play at trivia
to stave off boredom. "Did you know," Chris says,
"Saskatchewan has no daylight savings?"
and I'm not surprised. What's there to save?
It doesn't care for us. It merely stays. (p 64)
[Elizabeth Bachinsky reads in Ottawa at the TREE Reading Series on Tuesday, May 23rd: find out other tour information for her here]

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