Sep 17, 2014
For this week's Snapshots we focus on three really different books by three really unique publishers. (With three colour coated covers!)
What Lies Behind
What Lies Behind is an work of expression. Not only does Luann Hiebert experiment with her own attempts at expression, but she also speaks to the art of self-expression itself: “a darkroom / crime the photographer forges light / disregards what is hidden / a voyeur, covert, aims click / the aperture you peer through shudders / startles light & divides / /multiplies lies” Fragmentary, but not nonsensical, Luann Hiebert’s poetry compares the everyday to the emotional, the casual to the complex. She explores both the public and personal, as well as the physical and the ephemeral: “hold me while / I read you over & over / & all over me.” Her wordplay is addicting, like a “coat of many colours / lined & buttoned / to the page”, it pulls the reader in to a world of questions and curiosities. As Hiebert asks: “what in the world do we mean / you mean the world to me.”
Saviours in This Little Space for Now
Stephanie McKenzie’s Saviours in This Little Space for Now explores the lives and artwork of painters Emily Carr and Vincent Van Gogh. The poems in this collection are fluid, they run through each other like paint. The lives of Van Gogh and Carr blend together as McKenzie explores the similarities between the artists, both real and imagined. But McKenzie also contrasts Van Gogh and Carr, linking one’s struggle with madness to the other’s difficulties with gender: “To be a woman is always to be mad. / There is no cure.” The emphasis is on sameness as well as difference: “If I’d been born a woman prostrate / falling sexless in the eyes of lords / I’d swear the patterns would be different / in my skies.” Many of the poems in Saviours in This Little Space for Now focus on the search for truth but McKenzie refuses to accept an absolute as the answer. She walks the line between historical truth (as illustrated through the several notes and appendices at the end of the book) and the subjective truth of her art (as seen in her poetry.) She interprets the narratives of Carr and Van Gough not only through their histories, but through their artwork as well. Saviours in This Little Space for Now speaks to the existence of an artist beyond their bodies and into their paint painting, their “little space,” or—even—their poem.
Bonsai Love, like McKenzie’s Saviours in This Little Space for Now, is fluid and intimate. Like McKenzie, Diane Tucker digs deep into the darkest and most beautiful aspects of humanity’s relation to art, music, and literature: “It gets them there in the end. They always fall, laughing, / back into melody, back on to the path, soon enough / for the well-remembered, footsore, sweet refrain.” In Bonsai Love, even the most eloquent moments can be violent. Tucker creates a melancholy so bittersweet it seems to resound endlessly with its empty, but ever-present, pain: “my life / a blue-lit nightmare / into which you blundered.” Tucker sweetly mocks our habits, our desire to put a pin in the stars and “learn / without maps.” The effect is both loving and jarring, both comforting and cruel. We feel alone and in communion when reading Bonsai Love; the experience is spiritual and intimate, but ultimately it tears us from the comfort of our past selves. For more on Diane Tucker, check out this interview with her from PRISM International.