Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sarah Pinder, Common Place

Tumbling behind pleasure
on our best behavior,
holding its hands.

The sweeter version:
hollow, ropey, and roaring,
in redux with the truest reds.

Step by step, man in a blue suit,
man with a baby, man kneading the grass,
carrying some matte black apparatus.

Digging the trough for a headstone,
a fleshy neutrality of debt, lymph-tinted.

You can’t pay back flicker –
we’re in a marked space, using
our bottle caps to place
three-minute video calls home.

For her second trade poetry collection, Common Place (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2017), Toronto writer Sarah Pinder shifts her short, dense lyric meditations into the structure of a single, book-length poem. She writes: “We are trying to keep the moment / when the worst seems to have / not happened.”

In Common Place, Pinder writes a suite of seemingly self-contained fragments into a slow, meditative monologue blending self and landscape, the private and the public, as disparate threads that sometimes connect, separate, overlap and even blend. It is intriguing to see a poet long known for her explorations in brevity and the small moment attempt to extend the canvas upon which she writes, allowing every word and line to be part of a single unit, and the resulting book provides a slippery single-portrait, one that shimmers and distorts even as it begins to come into view. What is this book working towards, or doing? I admire the ambition of such a project, and the fragments exist less as a linear suite than an accumulation, and one that doesn’t require every connection to connect to achieve, writing layer upon layer upon layer. Shifting voice, tone and location, perhaps the closest to a description that might encapsulate the entire project comes from the mid-section of the collection, as she writes: “I wore so many layers when we met / and drank doubles, which destines me to say CAPITALISM / again and again like a more diligent newspaper Marxist, / but I did it anyway, pulled the glow on us.”

Before it had been absent, it was a task,
water ready to empty.

I was absent in the tension
throughout my body.

I didn’t discuss it.

When I got to Chicago,
I kept splitting into quarters,
then eighths.

Fingering waistbands,
bag checked and a playing card
slipped in my back pocket.

Five of diamonds
laminated with packing tape.

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