Friday, October 4, 2013

We Are Not The Bereaved - Jesse Eckerlin

Today's book of poetry:  We Are Not The Bereaved.  Jesse Eckerlin.  Frog Hollow Press.  Victoria, British Columbia.  2012.

Over the past several days I've had the leisurely pleasure of reading, reading, and then reading some more.  It has long been my habit to reread my favourite books whether they are novels or poems.  This week John Irving's The Cider House Rules came around again.  For me it remains one of the great novels of the 20th century and I enjoyed it more than ever.  As I like to read multiple books, have several things on the go,  also looked at Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace and now you don't have to.  As much as I love much of Mr. Young's work – as a writer Mr. Young is a good musician.

I read another thirty or forty pages of Histories by Herodotus, it's been beside the bed for several weeks now and no matter how much I read I don't seem to be able to turn the pages very fast or get very far ahead...  and as much as I enjoy it, I hardly understand a thing or retain much of what I do understand.

Megan K. Stack's Every Man In This Village Is A Liar is making for a very interesting follow up to Karina Dawson's Masham Means Evening.  Of course Dawson is a poet and Stack is a journalist but they are both writing from very rare positions of privileged information about dark parts of the world the rest of us never see, about human experiences most of us never have to consider.

Read Austin Clarke's Where The Sun Shine's Best and dipped into Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker.

But the book I enjoyed the most was the Steampunk poetry of Jesse Eckerlin's We Are Not The Bereaved.

What They Inherited

toque on a maul handle on a canoe

braying candle lost somewhere leprous beyond
the slope and they sound distressed

wild strawberry patch its stunted bitter berries
twisted 'tween overgrown tire tracks

pile a' toxic trash by a rotting split-shake shed
rusty cans, kerosene, fabric softener & brood

toque on a maul handle on a canoe

Looking for tenants with an expired lease
The haggard rats that pray and feast
upon the bodies of the recently deceased

Tragedy is comedy for those who have
a short attention span

Comedy is tragedy for those who are born
with an impaired sense of humour

the will, they said, itself was skewed

that toque on a maul handle on a canoe

Looking for tenants on a month-to-month lease
The eager rats that pray and feast
upon the bones of the recently deceived

History is comedy for those who have
a short attention span

Lineage is tragedy for those who are born
with an impaired sense of humour


Eckerlin hasn't rediscovered the wheel, but he is a new voice with an utterly clear recast of modern traditions.  Eckerlin has a vocabulary so splendidly robust and playful that his moments of harsh drama tend to sneak up on the reader.

For an Arctic Tern

In a pseudo tundra with errant pines
tossed about like so much salad––
in a yogurty landscape hemmed in
by the glare of a moon askew as
a defective hourglass––
I would set my 35 dollar
secondhand magnesium snowshoes
just to reassure your skittery
that the Northern Lights
are indeed


Eckerlin has overtures that are almost operatic, finely detailed glances that snag your attention and an exciting tone that is constant throughout We Are Not The Bereaved.

 This lovely book from Victoria's Frog Hollow Press was edited smartly by Shane Neilson, designed by Caryl Peters with cover and illustrations by Joshua Bastien.  At 48 pages We Are Not The Bereaved is a chapbook, and a limited edition (100 copies), one as good as any other book I've read in a long time.

Jesse Eckerlin's excellent debut We Are Not The Bereaved delivers a great read, promises very good things to come.

What They Finally Discovered

To no longer want to grow into the shape of things to come.

The outflow of a borough's artery
diverted through your bedroom transom,
cholesterol levels intolerable.

Cafes & bistros frequented out of habit,
entryways buffeted by moral credulity,
inflamed throats clogged with beige stucco.

Imbibed & flirting, sharpshooting the shit,
we incensed a rat in calico, bungled over
a gum-rot border, then went our separate ways.

Renunciants emancipated upon the fault lines
of championing bumph we were decrying in private,
emaciated by all that tenuous dread sovereigon stuff––
wondering whether Captain Scavenge be fate or a favour.

What we finally discovered made monuments cringe,
bronze soldiers peel their eyelids like so many anonymous onions.
What nobody knows can't hurt 'em,
but that was the biggest misnomer of all:

continually mistaking the baby for blood
in the virgin shape of things to come.


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