Today's book of poetry: White Sheets. Beverley Bie Brahic. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Markham, Ontario. 2012.
Beverley Bie Brahic is a Canadian who was born in Saskatoon, raised in Vancouver and now lives in California and Paris. This poetry reflects, casually, the world weary wisdom of a traveller who has seen her share of the world.
First let us render the atmosphere, both hazy and dry - dishev-
elled - in which the cigarette reclines, all the while creating it.
Then the personage: a tiny torch, less luminous than fragrant,
from which a calculable number of small heaps of ash fall at a rate as yet
to be determined.
Lastly, the passion for it: this fiery button sloughing off its silvery
scales, cuffed by the most recent ones.
after Francis Ponge
These poems are never condescending but they certainly do test the reader. White Sheets is Brahic's second book of poems (her first book of poetry was published outside of Canada) and is jammed full of poetic gems. Brahic has been perfecting her craft busily translating the works of Guillaume Apollinaire, Francis Ponge, Helene Cixous, Jacques Derrida and Julie Kristeva. After sharpening her teeth in translation Brahic has become a deadly serious poet in one poem and then uproariously funny in the next. But the tone is consistent, there is an undertow of excellence in this book that must wash away the dross.
The Same Complex System Can Contain
Both Predictable and Unpredictable Behaviour;
or, Two Views of a Squirrel
Trapeze artist, tumbler, high-wire act -
it never falters long enough for air
or leaf to let it down, never miscalculates
the velocity over the distance
a body must travel to bridge the gap, it
is the pippin that flouts Newton's laws,
the arrow whose trajectory
is divided and divided again, the messenger
dispatched from the scene of the battle
whose body count never hits the front page-
this one lay under the mailbox next door
Reposed on its side, cheek on a cushion
of mulch. It was a glossy, well-exercised
Silicon Valley squirrel. My stomach
lurched. Tell me it's taking a break
the way birds stunned by their reflections do;
say it found this sweet spot to lie down and
listen to the background noises of every day;
sprinkler systems sprinkling as programmed; gears
crushing trash; next door that voice insisting
it be allowed to stay outside and play
for half an hour, just one minute more.
Brahic's poems jump around between styles and emotions - but the weight and presence is always the same. Beverley Bie Brahic cuts like a surgeon, kisses it better like an old pro. These are the poems of a mature writer who has mastered craft but is more concerned with content. Some of these poems appear deceptively simple and that is a very hard trick to master and pull off. Brahic does it with alacrity.
of the year, almost.
bedraggled as the pelican
feather you scavenged
from the beach.
split, they spit seed
taffeta of leaves wrens
tussle in - see, just
what's here. Look
at this kitchen
from Chardin! burnished
kettle upended on
a slab of wood; an
earthen bowl (big
enough to beat
two eggs) glazed
umber brown. Erect
in its wooden fist
the pestle. A knife
pares the shadow
of a red onion.
Short and sweet, like this book. White Sheets will have me looking for more from Ms. Brahic.