by Di Brandt
ERIN MOURE'S virtuosity dazzles. WSW (West South West), her newest collection of poems, is filled with the kind of energy, the quick movement from hand or eye to sudden landscape, dream, or memory that we have come to expect in her writing. There is also the continuation of her preoccupation with language, the precise and eloquent questioning of structure and syntax and surface, elaborated as a series of questions at the end of Furious (which won her the Governor General's Award for Poetry in 1988). Here, theory and practice merge in a vibrant poetic dialogue between speaker and poem. There are few poets in English-speaking Canada who are capable of such relentless self-questioning within the text without losing its inner tension, its power to entrance: "The stomach of the deer that my brother cut open, now/part of the narrative of the Holy." Each word in the line resonates in so many directions at once, claiming its place in the field of the poem, a field, moreover, which is open to constant changes, to weather: "The rain beating the crop down,/The end."
I'm learning so much from these poems about form and structure, the poem's "inner narrative," as Moure calls it, tuned exactly to the rhythms of thought and speech, and to its own destruction as it meets the world:
How the most sacred, in her infant
became the most scared. Which became
due to the lapse of time. The truest
things, if spoken
here, would sound like nonsense.
There is an externality, an openness and off-handedness to Moure's writing that sets her apart from such writers as Gail Scott and Daphne Marlatt, whose intense interiority sustains erotic intimacy with the reader but also entails, necessarily, a close-up vision of things. Moure's style allows for leaps in logic and sensibility, and altogether a nimbleness of thought that ranges broadly over a variety of landscapes and speaks easily with other texts. The problem for her becomes, rather, how to establish real connection with other persons and with the reader, given the randomness of the poem and the width of the poetic field and the world. This problem is expressed as intense longing, the speaker's (impossible) desire in the text: "My readers, I will be able to kiss you. The dryness of my lips. I warn you." Occasionally, it assumes the form of a howl running through everything, the cat, the dessert on the table, the applesauce, even the table, threatening to upset the terms of the poetic narrative, ending finally in a shout: "I've had it/Shut up, everything." In the final section, titled "Red Ends," there is a moving toward greater personal vulnerability, and engagement with an other. At the same time, however, it is a critique of "Romance," including the lesbian version of it, the "Iesbo-ex-machina: if the ending fails, send them to bed." There is a humility in these last poems, a giving in to the pain of the poem, to the romantic impulse (even though it is doomed), the snow, the "unaccountable excess" in everything. "The visible whole composed of these infinite fragments & every one of them
aches infinitesimal." The poem as replica, finally, of the lover's absence, "loony tune music," a dog's howl. Moure's narrative ends meditatively, on a broken relationship, a "torn hand of crocuses," the image fed deeply by "the root of that bitterness," but also, stubborn resilience, the refusal to despair: "All winter I will be this crocus. I will be stubborn as this crocus." An opening into winter, into the loss that's at the heart of language, with sudden, unflinching and unexpected tenderness.