Pioneers in the Study of Motion by Susan Briante (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2007)
The more I read the poetry collections by American publisher Ahsahta Press, the more I not only like them, but even envy them; the most recent of which is a first poetry collection by Texas poet Susan Briante, Pioneers in the Study of Motion (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2007). From her first section "Eventual Darlings" to "Pioneers in the Study of Motion" and "How Cities Get Founded," I'm in awe simply of her titles, even before the movement of the poems themselves.
A fire, a scalpel, a needle or the flagpole
in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral,
the horizon pitches south, demands
and remedies written out long hand on cotton sheets
bleach-scented, sweat-damp as mothers-
in-law before the
from a wrought iron fence, indiscriminate in class
or species, soldiers lower the flag in spread
and crease, a fevered palm unfurls in a gesture,
in a fresco, of nation building towards me
to transmit infective histories (just a twinge)
the Keynesian vaccine inspires steeples
or a tar-driven scourge of rooftops.
How do the movements of geography shape themselves? In Briante's poems, the geographies are shaped internally and only form their way outside of the body once a relation is made. One of the charming elements of these books is the material that comes with it, including a page or two of "Biography" and an "Author's Statement" with the press release (available in full on the publisher's website). In her "Author's Statement (in the form of an ideal interview)," Briante writes:
Regionalism, like notions of nationalism, strike me as extraordinarily cliché. And yet in a time of Internet cafes and Fox News at airport gates, our relationship to our environment seems tenuous at a great cost to our physical, political, and spiritual survival. Most of us don’t know how to name the things around us, because there's nothing in the market that requires us to have such an awareness. As my friend, the poet Dale Smith, reminded me: just being able to identify the grasses in the alleys can seem like radical knowledge. That feels to me like one of poetry's strongest imperatives: to provide us with vision and vocabulary.
The poems in this
collection may seem to cover an ambitious amount of territory from
Rob Mclennan is an Ottawa-based writer, editor & publisher, and the author of over a dozen trade collections of poetry, including The Ottawa City Project (Chaudiere Books, 2007), & the novel white (The Mercury Press, 2007), as well as two non-fiction titles, subverting the lyric: essays (ECW Press, 2007) & Ottawa: The Unknown City (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007). He often posts reviews, essays & rants at www.robmclennan.blogspot.com, & he was recently named writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta for the 2007-8 academic year.