Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pigeon by Karen Solie

I don't usually blog about the books of poetry that I read unless they form a verse novel. The reason is that I don't know what to say about poetry. I like reading poetry, but don't feel smart enough to write about it. This post is an attempt to conquer that feeling of inadequacy.

The very first poem in Pigeon, called Pathology of the Senses, stumped me. I liked the science words - phospholipase, eutrophic, caducous - but couldn't grasp what the whole thing was about. I handed it over to my sweetie, a poet and wordsmith extraordinaire, and she handed it right back to me, turned off by the first word of the poem, oligotrophic. Solie includes the meanings of these specialized words right in her poem, so that was not the problem for me. My friend Amy was more helpful. She read it and told me it was all about feeling the summer heat and humidity of an urban lakeshore in Ontario... and a tryst. Ahh! I've read that poem a few more times and I really get it now.

The rest of the book took no effort at all, so it is maybe a mistake to have Pathology of the Senses appearing first. But maybe that's just me. There are poems that I read over and over because I loved them so much: The World of Plants; Migration; Geranium. I took the book to my friends' house when I was invited there for thanksgiving dinner so that I could read the poem Tractor, in honour of the farmers who grow our food. Four Factories is about industrialization in Alberta; a poet describing the chemical plants in the east end of Edmonton deserves accolades for that alone. In Air Show, Solie echoes my own sentiments about the folly of this so-called entertainment: "celebrating / car alarms, panic attacks, canine / episodes, migraines, / childhood hearing loss / and it's free, an added bonus / of the CNE." There's also a great narrative poem, Archive, set on the High Level Bridge in Edmonton.

The blurb on the back of the book describes Solie as a "sublime singer of existential bewilderment." That says it better than I ever could.

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