Wednesday, February 07, 2024

M.W. Jaeggle, Wrack Line



He’s at that cabin on the Cariboo plateau,
that one he’s always yapping about,
washing chipped bowls with lake water,
careful not to get needle-thin bones stuck in the drain.
He keeps the big red gate locked, the chintz curtains closed.
The garden, long gone to thistle, is home
to his eggshells, burnt barley, soup dregs.
Nothing can stop him from mundane pleasures,
catching rainbow trout only to release them,
noon-warm tea with Kundera, a few laughs
from Diefenbaker on vinyl.
He’s in the cabin at the end of Antoine Lake Road,
counting cracks in the foundation, where the rooms
are parting ways. He’s in that tin-roof tinderbox,
cataloguing birds, flowers, stones,
watching Bogart movies,
reconciling Clapton with Buddhism.
If you were to ask him if it gets lonely
in the hush of the cabin, he’d say
he’s distracted easily.

I’ve known his name for a while now (through seeing copies of his three published chapbooks), so was curious to see a copy of Wrack Line (Regina SK: University of Regina Press, 2023), the full-length debut by Vancouver-born Buffalo, New York poet M.W. Jaeggle. Wrack Line is a collection of carved lyrics exploring and examining form, from prose blocks to sonnets to more open forms of the lyric. Jaeggle works through first-person lyric narratives to articulate grief, loss and distraction, writing out the distances and the distances between, as the piece “POEM BY FRIDGE LIGHT” offers: “Here I am in the culvert where we found a car’s die mirror. / Here I am in the fields of horsetails, / in the blackberry with stained fingers. // Here, there’s no wristwatch on a nightstand, / just a mind kidding around / someplace unaware it’s unawake. // If I look up at the canopy now, the day’s / a shredded rag. If I close my eyes, / the light is honeycombed.” There is an intriguing way that Jaeggle works through form through an extensive reading list—examining and echoing form through the masters, as one does—and the poems offer an array of literary models, from cited poets Denise Levertov and Phyllis Webb to Paul Blackburn and Wang Wei, as well as hints of poets such as John Newlove, perhaps. His lines are solid, offering precise rhythms on memory and land, although it is the two-part opening prose poem, “AUTUMN, ACCORDING TO CHILDHOOD,” where the lyric of his line really shines, a sparkle and rush that rise above and beyond the precise specifics of his line-breaks, as the first poem opens: “Your mother whispers your name, draws your eyes away from the / loon threading water, tight stitch. Look, she says. Look: there’s a deer / chewing dandelion, right here in the yard. Knees bending, she slowly / breaks distance.” Either way, there are some stunning moments and movements across Jaeggle’s Wrack Line; I am very curious to see where he might go next.


Each time on a well-marked and auspicious day, waiting,
a metic again in some new place,

the thought of you outside the terminal sharpens,
a narrow band of silver on a lake come midnight,

then, far away, there at the baggage carousel,
hawthorn beside fir and cottonwood, you short person you.

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