Monday, June 2, 2014

How to Love a Lonely Man - Rhonda Douglas (Apt. 9 Press)

Today's book of poetry:
How to Love a Lonely Man.  Rhonda Douglas.  Apt.9 Press.  Ottawa, Ontario. 2013.

"What is language but a habitable grief."  —Mark Strand

Rhonda Douglas opens the doors with this little quote from Mark Strand.  It would seem that Douglas has dealt with her own share of habitable grief, and maybe a bit of your share as well.  How do we love any man/woman?  Douglas tries to tell us.

Song for July 1

I give praise to my country
if by country I mean the man
lying over me now, his white shoulder
lit by Ottawa streetlights.

Instant ceremony:
your palm to my hip, my hand hiking the westward plain
of your nose, your urgent mouth driving me onward.
Everything between us Pre-Cambrian now—
let's say this means we haven't quite peaked
yet my love, let's say this iambic echo of breath signifies [    ],
slide of skin over skin some manifestations of what happens
in the middle, round about Manitoba. Touch me here and
invoke the three seas. Oh, I never thought I could love
Moose Jaw like this. Do you also feel eighty-million years old,
like geology is just beginning? Talk me down the Laramide
orogeny, crumpling of continental plates, eventual erosion—
someday soon we'll need a quiet place to retire.


Would it be wrong to say these poems have "pop"?  Douglas is staking a claim to the treasure to be found late at night, she's trying to find a use for men.  And she is writing taut poems that remind us how beautiful the strings sound when properly plucked, how sour when someone is just carelessly strumming.

How to Love a Lonely Man

Take it as imperative, the must assumed.
Email often, every evening, even after
just to say hey, or be forsaken. Surely there are instructions.
Take notes on cue cards - now cut and cue to you in the Yaris
driving yourself home to East Coker again. Shift
into manual, stroke and soothe with lotion, don't
linger, know how to want but to have or to hold—
cuddle, coddle, nuzzle, nudge...Nope. Stroke
the greying temples of the head on your lap, don't say
Christmas, don't imply there are weeks to come. Love leaps to lonely
so quickly, late-night reading locked in your lovely condo,
books in the bed, along in the glow. Oh man, mad men are
in fashion and we, we are the hollow men, hollowed out, inviting no one in.


I like the pace of a Rhonda Douglas poem.  I like the precision and I like the playful ease with which she navigates down the page.

Apt.9 Press continues to make beautiful hand-made books and continues to find excellent poetry to fill the pages.

A Few Uses for it When It's Done

Letters can line the catbox, or (catless?) compost—
where every last promise shape-shifts to useful mush.

Miniature painting from Iran - couldn't its inlaid frame hold
up the leg of that abandoned coffee table? Make a snow-dome

for your desk, shake it up now and then to watch snowflakes
settle at the base. there are statues on Major's Hill: stick your

loss next to Laurier, then leave it alone. Robins returning
to the March melt will ring this stone sentinel with their leavings.

Aren't you done looking for Reason in the park? by now
you'll have rubbed off tarnish: set your toy idol in the window

so the next one passing can see how it shines, this intermittent
trinket, tchotchke of tossed and lost Scrabble tiles.

Write it off, that boy you used to know, used to love, used to
pardon my Biblical reference. This is the art of lost and found.


"This is the art of lost and found" - great line.

I liked this collection a great deal.  Douglas has the line that I like - clear as a clarion bell, but never as intrusive.  Her hard won wisdom sneaks up on the reader as though it were their own idea.

Tree Reading Series - Ottawa - Featured Reader 08 December 2011 - Rhonda Douglas

Rhonda Douglas is originally from Newfoundland but has lived in Ottawa with her daughter Emma since time out-of-Memorial. She is the author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems.  Her poetry has won awards in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competition, the Far Horizons Award from The Malahat Review and the Diana Brebner prize from Arc Poetry Magazine. Her short fiction has been published in literary journals across Canada and won first prizes from both Room Magazine and Prairie Fire. Rhonda completed her MFA in Creative Writing from UBC in 2012. She spends too much time on airplanes and always intends to change that, right after she obtains SuperElite status again.


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