The citation of Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire in the acknowledgements at the end of the poem is a hint that this is not your Sunday lyric poetry. Although, Yas tells us, "the presumptive cruelties / the villages that nursed these since time, / it's always in the lyric // the harsh fast threatening gobble, / the clipped sharp knifing, it's always, in the lyric." Her despair at the constancy of cruelty throughout history and into the future is perhaps most pronounced in "ossuary xiii," the potential epistle to her younger self: "if only I had something to tell you, from here, ' some good thing that would weather / the atmospheres of the last thirty years." Instead, she laments, she could only say "the brilliant future doesn't wait, / forget this, / I've been wasted, look, the chest like a torn bodice." But if this is not an easily welcome "lyric," it is a poem that repays lavishly the effort of reading it. Indeed, the effort becomes pleasure if one reads aloud, although pleasure sits uneasily with the witnessing which is the reader's work here.
I will read this again now, working through to track down the many references -- Jacob Lawrence, for example, an African American artist whose cubist War (WWII) series are the focus of "ossuary xi." Probably have to track down the jazz pieces by Monk, Coltrane, Mingus, Bird. I'll raise a glass, as well, to toast Brand winning the (Canadian) Griffin Poetry Prize for this book. And I will begin to annotate my copy with the pencil markings that make a text my own. Can't do that with
my Kobo. *Thanks, commenter Fred, for the correction here
Nor asterisk favourite lines: "I, the slippery pronoun, the ambivalent, glistening, long sheath of the alphabet flares beyond her reach" OR "call it heron, great blue, long-legged migrating alone / north, it broke off, it took air, / flew into an apostropher, / heading to the wet marsh of another lake"
Nor put exclamation marks in the margins of the six virtuoso pages sans verb since "verbs are a tragedy, a bleeding cliffside, explosions , / I'm better off without" . . . .
For those of you who sometimes ask me to recommend Canadian literature, I'd say start here to defy any expectations of what that term might mean. And let me know what you think.
Again, please excuse the inadequacy of this response to a marvellous book, remembering that this blog is primarily intended for me to record my reading rather than attempt to review titles comprehensively.