Sunday, September 19, 2021

Kevin Andrew Heslop, the correct fury of your why is a mountain


through beauty in and through beauty out

don’t remind me                         to tell you the story about the world
on the eve of the fiasco of souls               during the emblematic day

capitalism shot that Vermont state messenger appealing on the spot 

through                    and through
to            beauty in                       beauty out         so     don’t sugar-coat

the pulpit                                 the gas cult
after                                         saying to the future    no

The author of three chapbooks prior to this new release, London, Ontario poet Kevin Andrew Heslop’s full-length poetry debut is the correct fury of your why is a mountain (Guelph ON: Gordon Hill Press, 2021), a curious exploration of lyric thought through pointed language. I’m fascinated by the ways in which Heslop’s rhythm and cadence meets physical space. His poems are less composed by continuous flow or narrative stretch than a sequence of points met that connect to form a larger narrative shape. “a thought, barefoot //// slips,” he writes, to open the poem “forward,” set prior to the first section of the collection. To follow this, as part of “i cavalloni,” the opening poem of the first section, “one whole third of your life is spent getting used to gravity,” he offers:

when my son was a boy           his theatre teacher        a woman who’d spent
            sixteen months tending stables in her twenties told his mother and me

actors       are like teenagers                  are like horses 

capable of bucking the very sky
but with the nervous system of a humming bird

she must have sensed we didn’t know what to make of him
the turbulence of his septembers

His is a poetry of observation, and the precision here is incredible. Heslop composes poems as articulate bursts: he makes his point and quickly out, refusing to linger or tarry across any stretch of lyric. His poems contain multitudes, and are less about and around subjects than utilizing references as source material to provide narrative context; the ways through which he speaks on human interaction and a very living language. As the first of the two part poem, “about the twice-bent blast of that good night,” reads:

Into the habitable painting of the world, a text
like What’s happening bro? arrives. “Fuck,”

candidate responses start. “Fuck, I don’t
know. What’s happening with you?”

The world and everything in it. That night,
was from the Hebrew word for dust;

calculus, a pebble, from the Latin.
“I know that it’s a stupid question, but

how are you doing?”

Offering multiple contemporary references across the collection—Siri, the destruction of part of Notre Dame Cathedral, Twitter—he almost includes these as a means to a particular end; an intimate lyric built in, around and of its particular temporal space, a lyric not possible through any other time. “I’d woken from the dream in which a man,” he writes, as part of the poem “popliteal fossa,” “who in the dream I both was and could see, // mutters Esperanto to himself and walks. Limestone / and moonlight. Mulled wine in a teal ceramic cup // in his hands.” There is almost an echo here of the work of American poet Rosmarie Waldrop [see my review of her latest here], through the way Helsop utilizes structure and syntax as a way to propel his poems. What drives his lyric appears to tbe how and through language and meaning are constructed; a language not specifically assembled around the idea of structure, but a structure of ideas, allowing meaning to simultaneously be both building blocks and destination. There are some remarkable and envious things happening in this collection, and a lyric I haven’t seen done this way by anyone else.


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