Saturday, March 18, 2023

Jen Currin, Trinity Street


Trinity Street

Become later our butter and bread

woke to evening

long lyric written by a drone

small buzz, handheld, last unmodified bee

in the shed, shovels

bag of lime

pruning shears & gloves

the lover of poppies

leaves broccoli seedlings

sat on her stoop last summer

before and after meditation

watered those words

her infinity earrings swinging

she crashed the fence

into a garden holy

with unburdened bodies

Award-winning New Westminster, British Columbia writer Jen Currin’s fifth full-length poetry title, following The Sleep of Four Cities (Vancouver BC: Anvil, 2005), Hagiography (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2008), The Inquisition Yours (Coach House Books, 2010) and School (Coach House Books, 2014) [see my review of Currin’s 2013 Nomados chapbook, The Ends, here] is Trinity Street (Toronto ON: House of Anansi Press, 2023). The poems in Trinity Street seem composed as a kind of sketchbook across a great expanse; as a singular sequence of lyric reports, documenting Currin’s particular time, space and place. As they open the poem “Around a Bend”: “it takes four months / to fill a notebook // poet’s telephone / broken again // with ‘good’ intentions / ‘I intend’ // wasting faith and water // calling witness / for watching TV [.]” Set in four sections—“The Convention Is Not Over,” “Dear Community,” “Saint in the Rain” and “Late Prayers”—there is a simultaneous intimacy and distance to these lyric notes, as Currin writes as an engaged observer, documenting events and moments, often from the inside. As the short poem “Gingko Tree” ends: “Raining cold—I quickly mothered / my way out of there. / Into friends’ apartments / of incense and coffee, / alley views. Awareness / of tenderness, someone’s good / luck. Someone gathering / bottles. And now the clanking / of the train.” Currin’s lyrics exist as compressed notes, writing of texts and misfits, poets, poetry and late hours, bus transit and coffee, ginseng and gingko. This is a work deeply rooted in the Pacific Northwest, writing the ecological crisis and persistent rain alongside social action and engagement, offering a narrative lyric shaped to the space of daily life. “Eating a sandwich on the pier,” the poem “Periphery” opens, “she is seldom here, dusty / eyebrows of cinnamon  and sunburnt lips. // Taking notes: realist, romantic, romanticist.”

The poems as a whole centre around Currin’s particular geographic, social, political and intimate landscape, even as each lyric section clusters around particular groupings of poems, each of which lean into one particular consideration or another. This collection is all, one might say, around conversation, circling the whole of what it means for Currin to be a citizen, a partner, a friend and simply a human being. “It can be said that spirit found // No distinction could keep us together,” Currin writes, as part of the poem “Poem Beginning and Ending with Lines from Lissa Wolsak,” “To visit her house you must // Four jugs needed to boil water // We were advised to carelessly // In a tiny waterfront shack for twenty minutes // Such perceptions—the snort of a horse [.]”


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