Whiteout. George Murray. Misfit. ECW Press. Toronto, Ontario. 2012.
It's not that George Murray doesn't have a sense of humour but he's so pared down bare-boned to the core clean and concise that he doesn't leave too much room for speculation.
These very precise poems lay out all the contradictions that make us human. Murray's Whiteout has a similar effect as the real weather condition — this sort of honesty can be breathtakingly blinding.
You know you've just been told a basic truth.
The New Weather
Just before the key catches in the lock
a snowflake lands on your eyelash and blurs
the scene; stretching the instant an instant
longer, slurring outer and inner worlds.
A moment, a moment more; you dare not
move, and so pause on the sill, wait for the tear
that will form in either the new weather
hot from the house, or your eye's open stare.
Murray is unerringly correct and it is a welcome purge, turn the page and find something else you must proclaim agreement with.
There's a vigorous intellect at work and play in these poems but there are no "show off" moments, none of the "watch me" tricks, instead — here is a voice you want to follow, hear more of.
Between every two people runs a fuse,
a line from head to heart or crotch,
cunt to mouth, eye to navel, hand to throat;
short or long, strung this way or that, welding
one desire to another love, one need
to another want, hate to deeper hate,
fear to loyalty, tremble to light touch,
flame to a bucket, fall to a turned back.
What's unique isn't its length or course,
whether travelling from one side or both,
or even who's stood at either end,
but ignition: just how and when it got lit.
These little poems are big poems full of big ideas. Murray uses palatable tension in his poems like a high wire connecting ideas. Murray is also aware that too much tension will snap the readers' attention. No problems here as this Whiteout is navigated with Murray firmly piloting, his passengers, the readers, safely to their destination.
The rooftop's stammered Morse code, dot-dashing.
Inside it's pews and chairs. Closer down,
nail crowns crater in hardwood floorboards,
satellite imagery of all our hung heads.
Hibachi outside the corner store strip joint.
Today's drunk steady at it, as opposed
to yesterday's spectacular fellow.
Foam rises in the glass, the beer's prayer
to be more than it is, to overflow
itself, flesh from the tops of jeans, chatter
among the locals. Fat people roll down
gangplanks and point, the fog lifts on occasion,
the sewer's end posing for pictures.
Oiled pigeons hold off dry gulls, anoint
the sidewalk again and again. Storefronts close
around the club, girls pacing outside.
Your future could lean in that door and you
might not recognize it as anything
but the next in another series of nows.
They stand on the walk, many highway billboards
read as one: distinct markets, general moods.
On the ocean, waves exchange momentum,
wait their chance to go rogue. Somewhere under
every inch of skin is a Venn diagram
with lovers overlapping just so,
and it's here I want us to be. No one asked,
What if there's only one universe?
If it turns out there is, then one is enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
George Murray's five previous volumes of poetry include the bestselling Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, which won an Independent Publisher Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the E.J. Pratt Medal in Poetry, as well as The Rush to Here and The Hunter. From 2003 to 2011 he owned and operated the successful Bookninja website. He lives in St. John's, Newfoundland, with his two sons.
"One of Canada's best young poets."
"George Murray remakes the world with a frightening and evocative music."
—The Globe and Mail
George Murray - Tree Reading Series - Ottawa