Friday, February 09, 2024

Fawn Parker, Soft Inheritance



I was introduced to the idea of starvation
at the mercy of men by my mother

Walking into the parting crowd
she pointed and said,

“He loves you, he loves you.”
When she’s wrong I blame the men

The way they stomp their boots on asphalt,
on porch steps, in the basement

Into the precious diorama my horned father
built to cage my small, small mother

I’m presented with the microphone
asked: what is it called if you get the worst hand possible

My mother, beat-less, says, marriage!
and laughs. She embellishes

each time, she embellishes.

The author of the fiction titles Set-Point (Winnipeg MB: ARP Books, 2019), Dumb-Show (ARP Books, 2021), the Giller Prize-nominated What We Both Know: a novel (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2022), and the forthcoming auto-memoir Hi, it’s me (McClelland & Stewart), the first full-length poetry title by Fredericton writer Fawn Parker is Soft Inheritance (Windsor ON: Palimpsest Press, 2023), published under Jim Johnstone’s Anstruther Books imprint. I’m intrigued by the back cover quote by Toronto writer Lynn Crosbie, and there are echoes and influence in Parker’s approach to narrative content, whether swagger or swipe, to Crosbie’s own fierce lyric: you can see it in Parker’s first-person storytelling slant that refuses to be held, or held back; occasionally reactive. “My husband says there is one place I can’t / do it and I do it there,” Parker writes, to open “POEM AGAINST MY HUSBAND,” “I don’t come, and I don’t want to / so instead I write couplets.” The poems lead with swagger, but hold through precise measure, as Parker crafts sharp lines of meditative, observational grace, composing short monologues across a lyric surrounding grief, maternal loss, marriage, caretaking and how one even begins to feel safe. As the same poem ends: “But for the love of things / I do nothing. // My work needs me like an infant— / this is why we understand each other.”

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