Friday, May 24, 2013

of luminous bones


Throats Full of Graves

a book of poems by Gillian Prew
Lapwing Publications, 2013

These poems are not only presentiments of oblivion; they are also the felt now of lived-in time. Grief is a way of conversing with those stilled tongues under earth. It's also a wan melisma within our stubbornly persisting marrow.

And yet....

Dark themes are cushioned here and become instances of art by the very quality of saying. In “After the Funeral,” Prew casts emotion and vision to us through remarkable cadence and symbol:
The river rocks solace to the hill
where the rowan rests ruined
from death's decent rumor
and a best life is gone in a burst joy.

Ennui for a poet of depth is a peculiar trance state. Even as consciousness drifts before the horizon of death, that abyss is a potential volume for new energies of language and perception. Out of the moribund of days might come a sense of existential irony. In "August, Departing," the bare fact of the phenomenal world's being inspires a sly sarcastic wink:
The tide is loud with the drowned
and the windy chains of gulls.
The air smells of salty bone
and the womb forgetting.
By the rotting light I breathe,
counting the pretty darknesses.
Again, the sensitive and artistic handling of the lines creates a kind of slow surprise in the reader – aesthetic frisson blends into and startles the ennui and irony.

Despite instances of levitation and beauty, these poems are requiems sounding an inconsolable harmonics in the deepest bass register. And glimmers of ostensible solace are, finally, subsumed in transience and a broken tongue. Even "Memory" is a futile refuge:
A scarred truth roaming bone. You fail
with a brave despair
like widowed songbirds, their throats full of graves.

I enjoyed this book of poetry so much that I found myself reading it three times in a row. Recommended. 

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