13 June 2007

Wigmore & Caitlin Represent

Gillian Wigmore, soft geographies Madeira Park: Caitlin, 2007.

Wigmore takes us to that soft surface we call ‘place’ and replaces us there. She is ‘born in the north’ and so are her words, but part of being a poet from north-central BC is being able to ‘crack yourself open’ to reveal the layers of the land within us. soft geography is a symphony of what is here, in this structure of feeling called home.
–Rob Budde ( from the back cover)

Not only is it exciting to see Wigmore’s book after the success of her Creekstone chapbook Home When it Moves You but also exciting to see Caitlin actively publishing poetry again. The Northern BC-based press had been jeopardized by the sudden passing of Cynthia Wilson but under the direction of Silas White has released two new poetry titles.

soft geography is a great way to re-establish a northern BC focus; it is gutsy, hometown, and bright. Books like this are never representative but they are important in that they add to the complexity and the self-identification of this place.

Wigmore comes out of creative writing training in Victoria but takes the stylistic and formal training from there and makes it her own. The poems in this book are narrative driven, meaning that they tend to tell small stories in a compressed way. They are located in geography and family. The most striking poems deal with childhood memories of the narrator’s veterinarian father and deal bluntly with the gritty details of such a job. These are reminiscent of W.D. Valgardson’s In the Gutting Shed. It is the specialized language that distinguishes these poems; I cannot believe another poem in the world would have the phrases “electro-ejaculator,” “a heifer’s prolapsed uterus,” or perhaps the most memorable lines in the book: “the hot bulk of a downed stud horse beneath her / she holds a cock for the first time ever.” This last passage is from a poem called “Vet’s Daughter” and not at all eroticized in the context of the rest of the poem. This series tends to dwell on the dark, oddly poetic moments of connection and disconnection between the narrator and her father.

Another striking section of the book is called “Fall and Burn” and is an account of the pine beetle infestation. She has read this poem on CBC radio. The poem documents the plague (in a poetic way not a journalistic way) via the narrator’s partner who is a faller. It is also the story of loss, both of the trees but also of the husband/father who is away for his job:

because nothing can stop this oncoming wave of red
not heat, not falling trees, not pheromones
. . .
not one thing except a locust cloud,
except me: my desire, myself reflected

Place is really an interaction, an ecosystem in the broader sense of the word, between location, history, planet, and a perceiving individual. Wigmore gets this and the place she invokes is larger one of self-conscious emotional reflection.

I have a quarrel with Robert Hilles on the back cover where he describes the poems as “authentically depicting the rugged and sinewy lives of the heartland of British Columbia.” The word “authentic” is a tricky one at the best of times, but to take a book of poems as representative is always a problem. I am very much a part of this place and am in no way, shape or form, “rugged and sinewy.” Believe me. Such claims (like “truth,” a word Hilles also uses) deny the experience of diversity and multiplicity that is evident in every place. Wigmore, as opposed to Hilles’ reading of her, locates herself, and makes no claim to being a spokesperson; her poems are intimate, specific, and “true” to their own particular space.


At 9:11 AM, Blogger Rob said...

Hey Rob -- Although I generally agree with your comments here, I don't
know that 'authentic' automatically means 'representative'. I think many
authentic voices are possible for a place, but perhaps you know enough
about Hilles to lead you in that direction. That aside, Jill's got a
couple o' fistfuls of poems here that fight for -- and get -- our
attention. For a chance to see narrative still able to hold it's own, I
recommend Tin Boat, Beach Fire and Spring Breakup. --Al Rempel

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Al said...

Thanks Rob -- I think I've got my account working again


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