Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Distillo - Basma Kavanagh (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Distillo.  Basma Kavanagh.  Gaspereau Press.  Kentville, NS.  2012.


Rain making rain
making rivers idle into quiet inlets,
making mists rise above great tides,
making dense forests soar from thin soil,
making shade, making coolness, making breezes
making moisture seep from a million transpiring green things;
making humidity, making water coalesce and drip down leaves,
making winds that shake free the drops,
making snags that reach the sky
and pierce the ready clouds;
rain making rain,
making rain.


Basma Kavanagh's rich and textured treatise on rain and the many ways it can fall is remarkably capped by the poem "Rain-making", a poem completely atypical in style and form from all those that proceeded it in the first section, of four, in this delightful collection.

Kavanagh's highly precise and delicately nuanced catalogue of the types of rain that fall is a lyrical treat.  Read these poems out loud and let them fall off of your tongue while the rain slakes whatever thirst you might have.

Kavanagh has an excellent concrete poem called "Gift" which I was unable to reproduce for Today's book of Poetry.   It's not often I'm taken with a concrete poem.  This one in particular brought to mind the fishing lure paintings of the late Dennis Tourbin.  

Distillo is all about the essence of things, the distilled essence.


Not knowing the boundaries
of a form, but bit by bit,
moving over and into
an expanding space, with a tool,
with a fingertip, with the heart.

Sensing; yielding,
or gently pushing
until a shape is found—
not only know, but felt,

embossed          embodied

the lilt of it, limits
synonymous with the thing


Kavanagh has a light touch and uses a broad canvas.  She is engaged in the natural world and these poems show both intellectual and poetic vigor.  More importantly — they are entertaining, engaging and illuminating.  Distillo is one of those books you want to return to.  Kavanagh's poems, strong enough on first reading, resonate with each return.

Hummingbird Wife

When light rains come, and brush
salmonberry bushes silver, inviting
crushed pink petals out to touch
cool spring air, when first sun

sips water from ditches, colouring
curving fruits, blushing greenish drupels;
when a slight breeze ruffles rusty alder catkins,
dusting earth with pollen, when your people

return from their gruelling journey,
arriving weathered, aching, jubilant—fling
your glittering feather cloak about your shoulders,
clasp it tightly below your chin, pin it

with the gleaming abalone brooch, and fly
to the handsome Sitka spruce you chose,
the strong one, festooned with old man's beard
and witches' hair swaying in the wind. Take

the eagle-down, spider-silks, fireweed fluff,
fibrous lichens you have gathered, work
some flecks of moss and bark with those fine threads,
ready the nest-knot for your hummingbird wife, and then

wait there with your beak-cup full of nectar,
to pour into her longing, lovely throat.


Gaspereau Press continue to produce books that are the envy of every other small press in our country.  Distillo is no exception.  Simply beautiful books.  And with Distillo, Basma Kavanagh has done Gaspereau proud.  Content = Design.

Basma Kavanagh is a painter, poet and letterpress printer living in Kentville, Nova Scotia.  She produces artist's books under the imprint Rabbit Square Books.  Her chapbook, A Rattle of Leaves, was published in 2012 by Red Dragonfly Press, Minnesota.


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