Friday, December 08, 2023

Nikki Reimer, No Town Called We


Fear Is, Um, Part of Love

an insect’s eye is how we begin
we’re thick with it
fear with

riotous cones and rods
how we melt into it
sick with

worry into muddled
now you see
not fear but

one dozen refractions of
the other’s body

blink again, whoops
followed one dozen arms
to their logical conclusion
now we don’t

The latest from Calgary poet and editor Nikki Reimer—following the trade collections [sic] (Calgary AB: Frontenac House, 2010) [see my review of such here], DOWNVERSE (Vancouver BC: Talonbooks, 2014) [see my review of such here] and My Heart Is a Rose Manhattan (Talonbooks, 2019) [see my review of such here], and chapbooks fist things first (Windsor ON: Wrinkle Press, 2009), that stays news (Vancouver BC: Nomados Literary Publishers, 2011) and BEHIND THE DRYWALL (Gytha Press, 2021) [see my review of such here]—is No Town Called We (Talonbooks, 2023), published alongside the companion above/ground press visual chapbook, Dinosaurs of Glory (2023). Composed across a quartet of lyric clusters—“No Town Called Poetry,” “The Daily We,” “One Poet Always Lies” and “The iLL Symbolic”—No Town Called We is a suite of lyric experimentation and cultural discourse, working to orient and even articulate oneself amid a field that pushes an insistence to keep moving, move forward and do not question. “consciously enter the state of we,” the poem “Keep on Truck” ends, “via this inherited truck / in the land of trucks and honey / to keep moving: / just keep moving [.]” If David Martin’s recent Kink Bands (Edmonton AB: NeWest Press, 2023) [see my review of such here] examined considerations of the underground, including minerals and their extraction, Reimer examines the effects of those very extractions upon the land, the landscape, the people and multiple cultures above ground. As she wrote specifically of that companion chapbook in periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics: “Resistance, too, might take the form of art practice, a deliberative contemplative act that refuses to be yoked to the wheel of capitalism. Not product, but practice. Listening to the bees while turning your pain into art. And together these methods of resistance might become a kind of agnostic prayer.”

Reimer’s is a lyric that has been increasingly open and engaged on deeply personal matters of grief, fear, loss and anxiety, examining death, climate crisis and capitalism generally, and Alberta’s oil production and ensuing climate devastations and overt cultural loss through the capitalist engine more specifically, as well as her ongoing grief following the sudden and unexpected loss of her brother. In No Town Called We, she speaks of direct human consequence upon the land and landscape, the responsibilities and failures of humans generally, and even poets, specifically, offering the poem “But the Moon” as a kind of complaint on distraction, focused on what is happening in the sky instead of here on the ground. “What exactly did you think the moon was going to do for you, poet?” she writes. “Why are you writing these words, line by line by line?” As Reimer writes to open the poem “Plants We Have Killed”: “what duty of care do we owe each other? // when embodiment stands in / for direct action?”

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