Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Metaphors for Miscarriage Metaphors for Miscarriage by Mackenzie Carignan

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
At the current moment, our avant-garde appears obsessed with whimsy. Even the AG's traditional role of social criqtique has of late taken the form of arch ennui, the Howl being replaced by the Smirk. Which is why it is courageous, in this climate, to field writing on subjects which, by their very weight, belie any kind of irony or the sort of "play" that has become part and parcel to our notions of "experimentation." To do with a body of poems as transparently titled as "Metaphors for Miscarriage" likewise jars the foundations of willful obscurity upon which we have built so many recent headquarters.

The subject of the loss of an unborn child is not one, however, easily understood by those not personally touched by it in some way. Therefore complete transparency does not seem to be the most accurate way to get at the subject, and the "transparency" of the book ends at the title. The form the writing does take is a stanza structure, presumably invented by Carrigan, in which a single word followed by a longer line of at least five syllables. These stanzas are sometimes serve as contained units; sparsely punctuated, Carrigan leaves it to the reader to determine the ways, if any, each unit is linked to the next. The end result is a kind of djembe-rhythm call-and response, reminiscent of ritual, which supports the book's seeming intent as both dirge and a kind of memento mori.

The emotional palette of the collection is complex--at times clinical ("polyp / looking like an eyeball and focussing"), at others starkly beautiful ("hill / stimulate the seedlings, starlings, sterling dress"), and sometimes brutal as one would expect ("carnage / who knew it could be so minute?"). Carrigan's proficiency with the form never feels forced, which is admirable with a structure which could easily become artificial.

The physical form of the book is likewise paradoxical, printed on pastel purple paper and with a diaphonous cover on which is printed a watercolor reminiscent of bruise or smashed wing (done by the author's 4 year-old-son and perhaps the sole evidence that the assessment of abstract art "my 4-year-old could paint that" could ever be accurate); upon initial examination the color scheme seems almost incongruous, but in context with the bruise-like image and the imagery of the poems quickly becomes the purple of a healing bruise of blood-in-veins.

Carrigan succeeds with difficult material (both literally and figuratively) and admirably proves that linguistic experimentation need not shy away from gravitas and that things remain in this world that transcend mere description and cannot be in any way ironic.

View all my reviews.

No comments: