Poetry is something that has also fascinated me. I don’t know if you count song lyrics as poetry, but my brain is filled with lyrics. Give me a word and I can dig through my memory to sing you a song that uses that same word. Using images, allusions, and clever devices to express an idea or emotion appeals to me so much.
I appreciate humour and being challenged, which is why I am in love with Canadian rap artists Shad, K’nann, and Cadence Weapon. Shad especially challenges me and makes me smile when I get some of his allusions. He is a genius!
This love of song lyrics also extends to a love of poetry. One of my favourite activities is to go to my favourite neighbourhood book store and pick through the poetry section until I find a collection that I can bring home and savour. Plath, Crummey, Atwood, Kroetsch, John Donne, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I feel like poetry is not given the time and care it deserves in schools, and so I was a late bloomer when it comes to appreciating poetry. It wasn’t until University that I first sat down with an entire poetry collection and read it from cover to cover. After these satisfying experiences of reading poetry, it felt as if poetry had been used as bird seed, scattered around in an attempt to attract a student’s attention to a bigger topic.
This week, as I found myself with some glorious free time, I wandered over to the bookstore and spent a good amount of time just breathing in the books on the shelves. I also spent a lot of time in the poetry section and ended up walking home with Jason Guriel’s collection Satisfying Clicking Sound. I had never heard of Guriel before, so I was excited to get home and sink into reading.
As the title suggests, Guriel’s poems were satisfying clicking sounds. The poems had clipped lines that packed a punch. At points I was laughing and amused by the clever allusions and twists. At times my heart clenched in pain as he wrote about his father and the clear pain he felt. I enjoyed these poems because they were packed and did not linger. They spoke to the reader’s intelligence, both mentally and emotionally.
One of the things I love most about poetry is that it captures a moment and makes you sit in that moment to see it and appreciate it. “A Moving Picture” did just that: it described that moment when you stand still and look at something, only to have the thing you were looking at shift as you close one eye, open it, then close the other. You don’t move, yet the image you see moves. A simple idea, yet this poem brings meaning to how we can change perspectives, just like that “which happens when the pram / you’re in is like the Earth / the sort of ship a man– / –Galileo– shoves free from its berth” (“A Moving Picture”).
I think the most moving and tender poem in the collection is “Washbasin.” Guriel writes about his father’s washbasin: “still balanced on the sink / and brimming with / the final water he faced / but forgot to empty– / ripples into wrinkles / with every exhalation. / The reflection of my face takes it on the chin– / the very last of him, / the free-floating stubble / the old man’s jaw / now beneath the ground / no longer grows” (“The Washbasin”).
There are so many fantsitc poems that I was able to connect with in this collection that I could write about each one.”The Women in the Arts,” “Somewhere in the Piano,” “Two Girls Splitting a Set of Earbuds,” “The New Plath.” Guriel is honest, detailed, and clear. His ideas and views on the world come through in beautiful imagery and structure. What a pleasure to bump into this collection! It is a great gift to take the time to reflect on life through the images and ideas of another.
“Avoid writing if you can. If you can’t, avoid cliché, and be precise. Don’t try to ‘express yourself’; self-expression usually amounts to expulsion. Try, rather, to connect with another: picture a smart but demanding reader, and try to hold her attention. Ask of every sentence you write, why would this configuration of words keep the reader reading? Remember that she’s busy and owes you nothing. Remember that entertaining her is a worthy feat and much harder than you think.” (Jason Guriel, CBC interview)
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)