Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems.
Sarah Tolmie. Baseline Press. London, Ontario. 2014.
Sonnets that are sweet to the eye and the ear.
The old sonnet is not the most common popular form, not in the real world, or at Today's book of poetry.
BUT Sarah Tolmie has struck a rich vein, Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems reads vibrant, modern and true.
Not to suggest that Tolmie has taken the sonnet to the roller derby or a Tom Waits concert.
These poems ring off of the page with considerable authority and precision dancing around inside the certain boundaries of form, they dance modern.
These are old problems, old as Augustine.
He said we must have faith in things unseen:
Believe our friends befriend us, lovers love.
We cannot know, because between us lies
The great distance of mind from mind, galaxies
Apart. Yet from across the room I feel
Your heartbeat quivering on the air.
I start when you come in, involuntary.
You disturb the air and I'm inspired
By your chemistry: I breathe you in,
As real and clear as oxygen. Fort, da
Is bridged in juice. Even if you stand aloof,
Faultless information loops across our
Space, no matter what Augustine says.
There is a simmering heat beneath these poems. It is tangible on the edge of each page.
Tolmie is one pole-axed pole-cat with a problem. Unrequited love is always a bitter trail of tears, and for all her obvious wisdom Tolmie gets tangled up in the wrong doors of love just as foolishly as the rest of us. Bob D. might say that she was "tangled up in blue".
The ace card here is these perfect little gems Tolmie has carved out of her chosen form. Like a jeweller on a mission, she has carved each facet so.
See you and raise you. Raise you like an island
Hove in sight. Raise you like the wind under
A kite. To an angel down from Paradise.
Raise you to the power of the infinite.
All games of chance bore me to death, so
I raise you like a feather on my breath.
No-one bets against the gods but fools
And they have nothing else to do, except
Rule nations and shoot to win at pool.
Not so I you. You are the real deal.
I've spun you high on fortune's wheel
Because you deserve to be there, in my view.
And then, seeing what you have become
Just staying in the game, I've won.
The heart wants what it wants, what it can't have, what will hurt it most.
Historically, hearts suck. They don't work like a brain, won't listen to reason. We are hopeless meat-sacks of love and desire and our weak-kneed hearts know it. So does Tolmie.
We think love can beat death and entropy.
It can't. Best you can do is have it age
And change with you, capably. Holding
A new penny in your hand doesn't make
You any younger, and only richer
By one cent. The youth and beauty of
Another does not mean yours is not spent.
What did you buy with yours? Of that love,
What is left? What interest has accrued?
And how much would you lose, only to
Start again with a single penny? Not
Even yours, but merely lent? A sum
So small you hardly see it in your palm,
Just a glint for which you would trade all.
Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems resonates for me. These poems are so damned smart and vibrant and those are things we love here at Today's book of poetry.
If you get a chance and use You Tube, look up Dexter Gordon's song "Tanya". Play it. These poems are that good and in the same mood. Gets richer with every listen, these poems do the same with every read.
Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems is another blue ribbon publication from Baseline Press. Karen Schindler continues to get Today's book of poetry's vote, not just because her books are all so beautiful, they are, but because she continues to find such good poetry to fill the pages.
ABOUT THE AUTHORSarah Tolmie is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo, trained as a medievalist at the University of Toronto and Cambridge. Her novel The Stone Boatmen came out with Aqueduct Press in April 2014. Her first full-length poetry collection,Trio, is forthcoming from McGill-Queen's in 2015.
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.