Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Ivan Drury, Un


history too erects signposts
“eighty years from Siberia:
to become it a place different

a Solzhenitsynist Tolkienite cloud world
never from we here

Bagram does not disappear
Guantánamo does not torture

no distance: no sign 

where I grew up
we were all “middle class” and
everybody was “white”

all the time (“Enter the Municipality of Blacksite / (A Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone)”)

From BC-based editor and writer Ivan Drury comes the full-length debut, Un (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2022), a book titled through a curious echo (for certain readers, at least) back to Toronto poet Dennis Lee’s own poetry title of the same name, published by Anansi in 2003. Where Lee offered his Un as the first step in a two-volume bookend around an undefinable space, Drury composes a language-lyric to acknowledge the lost, dismissed, overlooked and disappeared, writing the negative space around an ongoing colonial occupation. “I am casting off from Canada in search of un,” he writes, early on in the collection, as part of the poem “Chainlink’d,” “as though my recognition could be a cure [.]” Drury’s Un writes a lyric of trauma and witness, accessing elements of lyric and language writing, allowing a musicality that also offers echoes of the poetic structures of such as Jeff Derksen, Renée Sarojini Saklikar or Danielle Lafrance. “the spectre of apocalypse / has no folk songs,” he writes, as part of “The Spectre of Apocalypse,” “has poems only to remember / and organize genocide // has martyrs only to apocalypse // has no Victor Jara / to conduct handless the detained thousands / and raise soulful song / against fascism [.]” He writes of the US “War on Terror” and the disappeared, from America through the Middle East to North Africa, writing the spaces around what is impossibly silent, unknowable and numb.

Offering theory, poverty and politics through language, Drury’s is a documentary poetics, one propelled by an insistence upon acting as witness, reminiscent of contemporary titles such as Layli Long Soldier’s Whereas (Graywolf, 2017) [see my review of such here] or Cecily Nicholson’s From the Poplars (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2014) [see my review of such here]. “this new Canada is at once academic and trrrrtrrrrial,” he writes, as part of the sequence “K. to the Prison of Grass,” “hard at the edges and marrow where the lives meet the days // pungent grey marrow // at the joints of these bones is / the lubrication of grinding contact [.]” His poems articulate the questions of how to continue, to move forward and not simply endure but thrive, fully aware that survival must certainly come first. Imagine the direct force of Winnipeg poet Colin Smith [see my review of his latest here], perhaps, but with a lyric edge. “The combustion of the sun’s daily nuclear fusion,” he writes, to close the poem “On Engels’s Dialectics of Nature,” “confronts the dark waters of the deepest craters of the / earth // as primary contradiction / as negation of negation // the purest synthesis of opposites / is humidity [.]”

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