Fruitfly Geographic

by Stephen Brockwell
ISBN: 1550226479

Post Your Opinion
A Review of: Fruitfly Geographic
by Andrew Steinmetz

The poems in Fruitfly Geographic, Stephen Brockwell's third book, are generally hard and clear, clean and spare: pure things made by an imagist. The poem "Dart" is a good place to begin. The clarity and attention to rhythm and careful use of enjambment will fascinate, and reward, the close reader. Here, in the first 13 lines, Brockwell's aim is true:

I've spent half my life
learning to play darts
in the dark. To find
the sharp point without
bleeding was the first
lesson. To measure
distances by the dart's
thud in the wood
paneling downstairs
or by the skitter
of feathers on the
linoleum floor
was the second.

The poems range from brief three liners ("Montreal", "Toronto"), to one-page travel pieces ("Penang", "Meditation On The Cold From The Home Office", "Aukland"). "Hand Of The Father" is a handsome elegy, and in "Blue Bonnets" Brockwell looks though his grandfather's discriminatory bet-making eye, and we end up with alternate visions of the same horse at the race track

Does a mare
pummel the turf
with her hooves
or is her gait -
the counter-weight
canter of the sulky
the full-throttle
gallop of the flailed
furlong-a strategy?

Other poems, such as "Three Deaths of Hippasus Of Metapontum", "Parthenon Stallion's Head", "Aphrodite of Melos", are playful and intelligent, but of a more abstract nature. In the powerful "History of Scribes", the lines are relaxed, the metaphor plain-spoken: "The ideal scribe / has no understanding / of the content of a message." What better description of an imagist poet than these first three lines? Later, Brockwell enlivens the metaphor with a narrative.

It is said the king's trusted scribe Nasul
transcribed his own death sentence.
Loyal in matters of the text,
beautiful, nave Nasul
seduced the king's
daughter in her royal chambers.
His sentence read exactly as follows:
Ima hanta hasi ol siman nasul ponti holotle.
The untranslatable
may be paraphrased:
I, Nasul, for violating the princess,
will cut off my hands.

Brockwell has a gift for the well-crafted short poems. "Tiger Lily" is reminiscent of Pound's "In The Station of the Metro". The poem reads:

Grass cannot grow
tall enough
to cover

the fire bulb
of the tiger lily.

The black
fleck on the petal
names the species.

"A Jar Of Gasoline" is slyly named after Wallace Stevens's "Anecdote of the Jar" (which, itself, famously begins, "I placed a jar in Tennessee"). In Brockwell's poem the last line whips the preceding lines into action. In an instant, it forms an image for the reader that transcends the sum of its parts. Here it is in full

Fire rises in a field
hidden from the road
by a tangle of hawthorns.
To conquer
fear by lighting fire,
a boy holds a jar of gasoline,
afraid to let it fall;
his friends watch him.
As the column of flame
climbs to the jar,
a voice
calls. Heat
cracks the glass in his hand.

Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us