Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Truth of Houses - Ann Scowcroft

Today's book of poetry:  The Truth of Houses.  Ann Scowcroft.  Brick Books.  London, Ontario.  2011.

Ann Scowcroft does a very difficult trick in The Truth of Houses.  This is the trick where one writes about the banal day to day, cradle to grave journey we are all on - and gives it new meaning, gives us a new understanding.

There are harrowing poems of haunting stories in a section of the book called (Palimpsest) and it is preceded with the poem Letter to my mother.

Letter to my mother

We have years of words, decades
of clauses caught in the soft spots of our throats
where the skin is supple and concave;
they have massed in our vocal chords
disorderly, unruly --
sheer numbers make it difficult to breathe.

The sound you hear is not a rasp,
not the result of cold or strep.
It is an echo, listen:
the words are saying themselves in my throat.

And you?  I always assumed it was emphysema,
but perhaps it is the breath constricted by your
own words, air whistling through
the crowded space of your best intentions,
of what you would
have said, of what you meant
to say, if only


Scowcroft shows no fear as a poet as she explores the fear felt by the voice in the poems.  She mines that fear and scours the corners of family secrets and the consequences of silence.

This is brave poetry.

What remains

Be careful that it is not
only dust between floorboards,
orphan screws clustering on window ledges
like hollow winter flies,
drawings drawn,
dishes washed.

Let it be the memory of a gesture
in a difficult moment,
the brush of lips when the red and yellow leaves
rattle the air like rain,
the belly laugh of nothing in particular.

Your gesture as it slips into our boys' bodies,
making their hands move to their chins
like this


And redemptive.

I never set out, on this blog, to provide any sort of critical response to poetry - that isn't my skill set or my interest.  Instead, I am striving to share the books that I like, the writing that impresses me. The Truth of Houses by Ann Scowcroft is a perfect example.

The emotional response I felt when reading this was visceral, in my gut, and that is most often what I depend on.  If poetry touches my heart, punches me in the stomach, kicks me in the nuts or makes me laugh out loud - then to me, that poem is working.

Scowcroft's The Truth of Houses, her first book, is filled with poems that worked for me.

1 comment:

  1. I too read this book and felt this visceral impact. What a fine book and thank you for such a gracious, eloquent review.

    Bruce Hunter


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