Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Lost Gospels / Lorri Neilsen Glenn
London, ON: Brick Books, c2010.
I received this volume of poetry from the publisher, Brick Books (thanks, BB!) What a treat it was. I hadn't heard of this poet previously, too bad for me, as this was a wonderful read.
Lorri Neilsen Glenn has one attribute that automatically made me want to read her work. She is from the Prairies. ;) And, something that will interest many of you, in her day job she researches literacy. She was the Poet Laureate of Halifax (where she lives now) from 2005-2009.
All this to say that this is a marvellous collection well worth anyone's reading time. It is divided into sections, each containing a few poems, or a longer cycle. The central section is called "Songs for Simone" and is addressed to French philosopher Simone Weil. It is a fascinating approach. Each of the poems takes a moment or a physical object -- lilies, history, war, trees, cemeteries, a dress -- and makes it into a deep, meaning-filled image. I found them all moving, in different ways. Glenn's facility with language and with all the other poems, songs, philosophies she refers to in her work make each piece resound with deep currents of meaning. The title of the whole work, Lost Gospels, reflects the intersection of history, nature and philosophy as Glenn reveals the divinity in human life and our natural world. Looking back at her childhood and at images of both numinous beauty and existential despair, as well as her interplay with the words of the mystic Simone Weil, show an interest in the place of God, of spirituality itself, in our lives and human existence itself.
I read this volume bit by bit, one section at a time, and went back to reread them out of sequence once I'd read the entire book. I can't explain why it gripped me so intensely, but I do know that I felt all these poems, understood and was moved by the images and the language. The natural world plays a large part in this work, and perhaps that is what resonated deeply with me. I will share one of the poems from the section entitled "Just So You Know" (by permission of the author & publisher) -- I loved this one so much that I have copied it out to pin up above my desk. So here is "Dusk", by Lorri Neilsen Glenn, from the highly recommended collection Lost Gospels.
is such a ragged time. The shirred day loosened from the line we strung
across the reach of morning, when a bird called out its signature, its signature,
and we opened to the hours ahead, settling in to carve again a pure
clear shape around each thought and plan, an offering, a duty done,
a passage read, or one more step or image caught or lesson learned or heart
set right, but sundown pulls along its arc the last descending string of light,
leaves us with minutes in our hands, frayed recollections, wild release,
the folly of ambitious plans we trade for rest and abject peace.