Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Grace & Poison

Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, c2001.
196 p.

I've read most of Karen Connelly's nonfiction and poetry - still haven't read her novel The Lizard Cage (about a Burmese political prisoner) despite rave reviews from many bloggers & friends. I don't know why I haven't done that yet, I really love her writing.

This book is a collection of her poetry, two earlier works republished in one package (The Small Words in my Body & The Disorder of Love).It also includes an essay about her early poetry and the travels she's been on since her teen years. Karen Connelly has had character since her very first works and in these poems her voice comes through strongly. It is so impressive to reread these now and realize how talented she was even at the start of her career.

I enjoy her poetry for a simple reason: I get it. She writes of emotion, of relationships, of nature and things seen and treasured. Her perspective is different than mine -- I don't think she could have ever been as naive as I was for much of my youth, and her experiences and fearless witness to her own life lead to a raw and powerful take on the world around us. While I don't 'recognize' these things in my own life, I feel that I recognize them as a human experience and understand more about our world just by reading them.

The language is beautiful, even when it is not pretty. She is able to capture a feeling, an emotion, or a fleeting image in a way which communicates her intent clearly. I think I simply admire her ability to say things without fear of what people will think, and without any attempt to mask her meanings in obtuse language. I found these poems memorable for their images and the use of language, and enjoyed reading them gathered up together into one collection.

Here's an example of what I really like about her poems; this excerpt is a description of Spring, looking at it from the perspective of being away from home, and in a much different place --

The Smallest Slaughter

In my country,
spring arches its glossed back
out of the ground.
Spring slips in among the stones
and waits to splinter out sharp and green
and alive.
Perhaps I should be home now,
wrapped in the growing
soft pelt of blue air.

It is dry season here.
The fields tear open,
orange with fire.
Trees dance among the blowing red sheets.
Insects and birds batter against them, screaming.
Veins of smoke burst and bloody the sky for miles.
Then the fields uncurl gnarled as burned hands.


Read the rest of the poem in this book or in The Small Words in my Body

Read an earlier poem, Nightingales from the book The Border Surrounds Us

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