Today's book of poetry: Porcupine Burning. Blair Trewartha. Baseline Press. London, Ontario. 2012.
Porcupine Burning is a series of poems about a Canadian mining town that burned to the ground in 1911 and those who bore witness to the event. Trewartha gives us a Ken Burns historic against a Deadwood drama reality show where gold has literally melted into the streets of ash.
Blair Trewartha has a fierce precision to his language. When he talks about smoke you can feel the acrid taste at the back of your throat.
I wait for an avalanche. A mountain's chest
to come pummeling down on my head, unearthing me.
I want to be gutted like a sow on a string,
window-framed and hanging.
You were going to be gorgeous.
I was going to be strong.
Now I carry your torso like a chain that can't be unhooked,
my mind a series of sparks waiting to be lit.
This heat is a tree I'd like to climb, barefoot,
breaking through the surface until there's only sky.
I wander through a sea of tents, sweating metallic.
Children run beside me collecting silver droplets in a cup.
My body bleeds itself out,
and the entire town replenishes.
I am a goat splayed open under moon.
A log of timber burning forever.
I collapse beneath cloud cover on a sundial.
Everyone else is keeping warm.
Porcupine Burning by Blair Trewartha has only the fault of being too short. A voice with this much wit, charm and intelligence is one worth listening to.
Clearly I liked these poems.
Now I want to talk about how this book looks and feels. Magnificent would be cutting it short. The binding is of St. Armand Canal paper, the flyleaf from Thai Banana paper and the poems themselves on Wansan 70lb. Royal Linen. The very elegant fonts, Perpetua, Forum and Bodoni suit each other perfectly with a faint whiff of the early twentieth century to them.
Karen Schindler is the mind behind Baseline Press and the designer of this stunningly beautiful book.
All of that beauty wouldn't mean much if the poetry of Trewartha didn't hold its' own weight, but it does. This is the sort of book other small presses can aspire to.