Saturday, April 6, 2013

when this world comes to an end - Kate Cayley

Today's book of poems:  when this world comes to an end.  Kate Cayley.  Brick Books.  London.  2013.

"Oh there'll be signs and wonders" - folk song Appalachian Mountains

This line appears in a verse of song on the first page of Cayley's first book of poems.  Clearly Kate Cayley is not at all shy about announcing her intentions of what is to follow.

when this world comes to an end is Toronto writer Kate Cayley's first book of poems.  Cayley is a successful playwright and it shows.  Some of these poems and prose poems sound like theatrical monologues.  Not theatrical as in over-emotive and and over-acted, but that lovely place where you suspend your disbelief and are taken willingly into the speaker's world.

A beautiful looking book, designed by Cheryl Dipede.  I believe design matters and this cover is splendid.  So are the contents.

Kate Cayley knows her stuff and is a consummate story teller.  These poems are riddled with fine moments, incredible juxtapositions and an invitation into a world where intelligent play persists.

Silver Cross Mother, 1919

She rides a cart,
medal on brown coat, small hat on head;
she mocks the crowd, waving.

Memory.  Loss.  She is both, she will
harbour both under her ribs, excavate
whatever else was there.  A tight hermetic grief
too close for sunlight to slide through, too spare
for narrative cleverness, a quiet seepage,
as if under her dress
her breasts leaked blood.

Beside her,
waving flags,
some small serious children
who are not hers.


This poem is from the middle section of Cayley's book titled Curio: Twelve Photographs, where Cayley has used a number of photos from the William James Collection of the City of Toronto Archives as a launching point for her fertile imagination.  Cayley riffing is a bit like Pavel Datsyuk with a puck.  Pure spontaneous glee for the observer (as a result of much unseen hard work and practice behind the scenes).

This book is full of the promised "signs and wonders",  Just like the photo on the cover where there is a white horse diving from a tower into the water, the reader gets totally submerged into a new world of Cayley's making, one where Judas survives to a life of quiet contemplation and T.E. Lawrence is forever driving an old Brough Superior through Gwendolyn MacEwen's mind.

Kate Cayley's most excellent debut is a complete pleasure to the senses.

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