Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Helen Hajnoczky, Bloom & Martyr


Your vexed and tendril, columbine, each petal forged and broken. Rhododendron my honeyed amber, my raw and borrowed forge me. Blazon my sweet my hurricane your vines each tendril each tender and forge me. You vex me.


You make me ritual and incensed, mist or mortal, your conclusion, my cordoned soul. Blessed or my orchid and futile. Vain and fodder, your vein, my florid struggle. You make me steady or petal my pewter my kneeling, make me kneel. Your grip you make me ache or kneeling furrow make me bow.

Quickly on the heels of her second trade poetry collection, Magyarázni (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2016) [see my review of such here], comes Calgary poet Helen Hajnoczky’s chapbook, Bloom & Martyr (Kalamalka Press, 2016), a letterpress chapbook in an edition of fifty copies, produced as a result of the chapbook-length manuscript of such (a section from a longer work-in-progress of the same name) being awarded the 2015 John Lent Poetry-Prose Award. The short sequence of poems contained in this chapbook are constructed out of a delightful staccato of gestures, sound and syntax, bouncing across and around the condensed lyric. “Grace you raze me moth and flutter,” she writes, “temperate / and dahlia my joints, your pressure, roots or / twine you entwine me.” Given this is but an excerpt of a far longer work, I am very curious about the eventual final, full-length version. Rich with floral language, in tenor and subject matter, she writes a passion of and through flowers, allowing the language free reign, propelling her text in a far different and more overt way than she has in previous works. In her 2015 interview posted at Touch the Donkey, she spoke of the work-in-progress “Bloom & Martyr,” offering that:

All the poems are in the same style, using a discussion of flowers and gardens as a way to explore desire from a feminist perspective. Writing the manuscript was incredibly fun. At the time I had been tinkering with my then manuscript and now forthcoming book for a while, and I had become a bit forestalled while editing. Then in August 2014 in Calgary I had a chance to read with Natalie Simpson whose work I find enthralling, and she talked about taking an approach to writing where she’d write a lot down in a notebook, and then type up the lines she wanted to keep. It had been a while since I’d written something new and I thought, ‘I used to write that way, why don’t I do that anymore?’ So I went back to Montreal and reread Natalie’s book accrete or crumble which is such a dense, rich, and inspiring book that after reading it I wrote Bloom and Martyr in a week and a half, mostly on my phone on the bus to work, on coffee breaks, etc.

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