Monday, September 22, 2014

Ordinary Hours - Karen Enns (Brick Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Ordinary Hours.  Karen Enns.  Brick Books.  London, Ontario.  2014.

Last August Today's book of poetry thoroughly enjoyed Karen Enns' first book That Other Beauty. You can see that blog here:  http://michaeldenn
Now we happily suggest to you that Enns' second book Ordinary Hours fulfills all promises made.


Nothing is happening.
Rachmaninoff plays in the other room
but there is nothing here. No heavy veils lifting,
no burning cities or collapsing kingdoms.
No one is drinking wine and talking politics.
There are no communists in sight, high priests
or seers, prophets or angels, no dark horses
taking to the hills. Not a train in view
or bicycle, no bells or chimes,
the light is simply window light.
There is no moon, no path
to take you through the underbrush,
through rain or sleet to clearings and wide vistas
or a glimpse of lemon trees against a low stone wall.
No one comes carrying a package,
an orphaned child or green apples in their arms.
There are no hands at the window, no doves
or nightingales perched on the eaves,
no blooming trellises or dusted flagstone walks.
There are no tin roofs from which to see
the domes of cathedrals or the sea.
No rivers, nomads or sacred bulls.
The walls are white.
The floor is made of wood.
There is absence, not emptiness,
and something close to echo.


Enns is obvious.  She writes with such unveiled honesty and unfettered purpose that you barely notice the vice grip her reasonable voice employs.

Reading Enns is a sublime pleasure.  Like hard candy, a succulent.


Maybe she knew what she was doing
following him to the bunker
like she did.
Maybe the girl who hung from fence posts
making faces for the camera,
who water-skied and danced,
who took pleasure in hats
and swimming and shoes,
wasn't as simple
as they thought.
Maybe she knew
the way we know sometimes.
A solid wall comes down,
quietly, intact,
locking into place something not yet said,
not even thought,
but heard.
That low whirring in the inner ear,
the wolf ear,
barely turned.


It's all in here.  The secrets to knowing the universe, what Eva thought going into that bunker before she didn't think anymore.

There are several unnaturally large sunflowers directly outside the Today's book of poetry offices.  It is late September and the bees on the sunflowers are slow in the cooler air.  They walk across the faces of the big flowers like little old men with arthritic hips.  Karen Enns' poems know these things, and more.

Whether Enns is riffing on farm implements or the murder of a farmer by a hired hand, Polish culture and crystal or the precise nature of beauty, this is a voice I will strain my ears to listen to.

In the Waiting Room

The man who walks out into the day and the city
isn't you, but there is something in his shoulders,
in the way he holds his back
as if he's lived with reticence and dream
too many years, that reminds me
of your slenderness,
and I wonder, sitting here,
if someone ever watched you walk
from shadow into light, years ago,
someone seeing someone else in you,
And isn't this the finest bloom of loss?
the opening of recognition into all its other lives.
In an instant: resonance
reminding us of everything at once
and love.


I so like the poetry of Karen Enns.  Ordinary Hours is no surprise.  I told you all last year that this woman was the bomb and I was right.  She still is and I still am.

Karen Enns

Karen Enns grew up in a Mennonite farming community in southern Ontario. She currently lives and writes in Victoria, B.C., where she works as a private piano instructor. Her first book of poetry, That Other Beauty, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award.

"A patient, observant poet...Enns is most interested in life's peripheral moments, the things that vanish if you turn to look at them directly, like the light from distant stars."
     -Quill and Quire

"Using unfussy language, Enns has a sumptuous knack for the visual and a stateliness of observation that allows for a slow, deep rhythm to be established across the poems..."
     -Jury Citation, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award

Karen Enns reads from That Other Beauty


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