Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This World We Invented - Carolyn Marie Souaid (Brick Books)

Today's book of poetry:
This World We Invented.  Carolyn Marie Souaid.  Brick Books.  London, Ontario.  2015.

You all know how Today's book of poetry loves a list poem.

Carolyn Marie Souaid gives us a killer with "City of Everything."  This poem, does indeed, contain everything.

City of Everything

City of arrivals.
City of missed connections.
City of plate glass windows shouldered in fog.
City of terminals and interminable waits.
City of Beefeater.
City of laptops and mobile devices.
City of flux.
City of escalators.
City of criss-crossed time zones.
City of no time to lose.
City of left-hand turns down a staircase of shopping bags.
City of Gucci.
City of umbrellas.
City of "Excuse me, can you tell me...?"
City of looping echo.
City of strollers.
City of wheelchairs.
City of carry on and carry off.
City of parabolic laughter, 7.5 on the Richter scale.
City of Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup.
City of blush.
City of Apple.
City of lithe women in arching doorways.
City of legs.
City of incubating disease.
City of extended naps and early risers.
City of day.
City of ordinary details, like the sun, repeating.
Flip-flops and hideous toes, flip-flops and hideous toes.
City of hangnails.
City of rot.
City of concrete.
City of stiff.
City of shine.
City of cufflinks.
City of shirts and business suits pressed into cardboard.
City of standby.
City of hurry up and wait.
City of beeping electric carts backing into the throng.
City of turbans and burkas and Biotherm.
City of parasites on toilet seats.
City of farts.
City of India, Poland, Spain, France, Turkey, Japan, but mainly India.
City of credit cards.
City of faulty wiring.
City of Christmas tchotchkes in October display cases.
City of grandmothers in turtlenecks.
City of convergence.
City of fragrance.
City of chocolate.
City of paper.
City of glass, chrome, lead; city of nickel.
City of neon, marble, steel.
City of hard.
City of edge.
City of nerve.
City of trench coats.
City of emergency exits.
City of maps.
City of girls going to Idaho.
City of lost in the shuffle.
City of cloying loudspeaker distortion.
City of fat.
City of broom-pushers.
City of urinals.
City of Starbucks.
City of accelerating innovation.
City of hyper.
City of connections.
City of "Stop," "Go," "Move your ass."
City of billboards.
City of blinking.
City of cancelled reservations.
City of complainers.
City of lineups.
City of corduroy, denim, suede, leather and cotton.
City of canvas.
City of vinyl.
City of rubber.
City of stretch.
City of oversized watches.
City of Made in China.
City of mustard stains.
City of buttonholes.
City of unravelling hems.
City of dharma.
City of who among us is dying of cancer?
City of c'mon now, which one of us?
City of weakened immunity.
City of abandon hope ye who enter here.
City of night.
City of cooled surfaces.
City of cobweb.
City of drift.
City of swirling green gas.
City of border patrols.
City of passports.
City of fog.
City of departures.


So that was crazy fun and a little amazing, but atypical of the rest of the book.  Go figure.  No more list poems.

Souaid isn't playing with the same normal deck of cards as the rest of us.  She has Tarot cards of her own design, old baseball cards with gum stuck to them, the card from the package of cigarettes the ghost of someone's dead grandfather left sitting around.

Put another way, Souaid knows things we don't.  How else can you explain her interstellar wit at precisely the right moment - even though all your senses were telling you that something else was called for.  It isn't sorcery but these poems inhabit the reader like spells.

I kept saying stuff to myself like "did I just read that?", "did she really just make that leap?"  I could make a list of poems that caused various gasps of astonishment.


Africa was an inch and a half wide on my ruler.
The teacher smiled and pasted something into my book,
either a gold star or a moth with exceptional markings,
I don't recall.

She died. Lots of people died.
Push-pins came off the map, but more went in.
Overnight, the population doubled.
Where sprightly children once leapt about,
there were meaner ones
who excelled at games--

tagging a hapless ant with a magnifying glass,
harnessing the sun, funneling it into a prick of light,
then watching the scrabbling insect shrivel
into a seed.

It was, of course, the same destiny that awaited Joshua,
whose miraculous entry into the human race began
tentatively, on a bed of straw.

It isn't any one individual per se; it's the layers
of human thought that append themselves to an idea
and set its entire life course.

Back two thousand years,
blue sky met the ochre sand
in a perfect line.
It was the wandering shepherd who triggered all the fuss--
the celebratory gesturing of his hands.


Carolyn Marie Souaid's This World We Invented is one of those books you WILL hear more about.

Reading This World We Invented gave me spontaneous fits of joy.  Deeply disturbing when you are generally a miserable goat.  This book was a kick in the ass.

Again and again and again Today's book of poetry has told you readers how much we admire smart -- but it is more than that -- Souaid has her fingers so delicately placed on the pulse of her audience that they hardly notice when she starts to pinch.

The Holocaust Tower

You lost your gloves at the Jewish Museum.
Autumn trees were unseasonably bright,
the plazas a patchwork of knackwurst
and graffiti, beer and bicycles and surreal
collectibles of days gone by:
gas masks, canisters, helmets and arm bands,
the rare and not-so-rare.
Items from the Cold War
in their original boxes.
Everything else was uber-real.
Real coffee to go.
Real people from everywhere,
waving their art around.

Three days we watched poetry films
from Norway, Canada, Egypt,
pixilated worlds composed and decomposed
the time it took the froth to settle on our coffee
It's what happened afterward.
We were looking deeply into the eyes of the oven-bound--
great, gaunt sockets. It was there, I think.
Neither of us noticed. Somehow your glasses fell
unannounced into the quiet sweep of tourists.

Or we were too focused
on the darkness at the end of the hall,
the absolute void of a stilled pavilion,
which lured me but swallowed you whole,
your silhouette disappearing
into the matrix of '44,
where your mother shivered inside a cattle car,
World War II exploding overhead.

Later, we found you a new pair.


This World We Invented is full of fascinating beauty.

If I could, I'd award Souaid a special prize.  Not many books of poetry dance like this.

Sublime and superb.  I would like to use every compliment I can think of.


Carolyn Marie Souaid

Carolyn Marie Souaid has been writing and publishing poetry for over 20 years. The author of six books and the winner of the David McKeen Award for her first collection, Swimming into the Light, she has also been shortlisted for the A.M. Klein Prize and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Much of her work deals with the bridging of worlds; the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility of it, but the necessity of the struggle. She has toured her work across Canada and in France. Since the 1990s, she has been a key figure on the Montreal literary scene, having co-produced two major local events, Poetry in Motion (the poetry-on-the-buses project) and the Circus of Words / Cirque des mots, a multidisciplinary, multilingual cabaret focusing on the “theatre” of poetry. Souaid is a founding member and editor of Poetry Quebec, an online magazine focusing on the English language poets and poetry of Quebec.

(This bio was lifted from the QWF Literary Database of Quebec English-language authors.  You can see more of that here:

"These bold, important poems have grappled with beauty and chosen honesty; they venture into territory where the lyric stops in dismay, horror, silence. Poems from the middle of a life, in the midst of a world that wounds and is wounded, they offer no easy consolations, but because they are made things, in their moving evocations of brokenness they reflect a hope for change."
     -  Stephanie Bolster

Carolyn Marie Souad
reads from This World We Invented
Video courtesy:  Brick Books


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.

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