Thursday, October 15, 2015

Monologue Dogs - Méira Cook (Brick Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Monologue Dogs.  Méira Cook.  Brick Books.  London, Ontario.  2015.

"Hunger fights Appetite to the death."
                                                                                     from Little children, little children

Early in  Méira Cook's excellent fifth book of poetry a young boyfriend spits W.H. Audenesque and Today's book of poetry was captivated.  But it did raise my suspicions about being up to the task as Cook rumbles through classical antiquity with a Tarantino grin.  Monologue Dogs is one of those books where your appreciation grows with every page.

Méira Cook's monologues are crisp and refined as she inhabits her characters like a mindful and diligent ghost.

The Devil's Advocate

My lords and ladies, gentlemen of the jury--
when you hear hoofbeats, assume horses, not zebras.
This is true in almost all parts of the world
except the African savannah, where it is safer
to assume zebras. Also eland, giraffes, herds
of this and that. In India, assume cows; in Spain,
bulls, matadors with their sun-blurred hooves.
In Tuscany, angels; in Kingdom Come, horses again,
pale quartets of Wish You Were Here.

My client sends his regrets. He is busy
falling through blank verse for all eternity, while a mere afternoon
passes its shadow over us. The sun moves from one window
of the courthouse to the next, and then it's tea time.
One sugar or two? Perhaps a bun. Stretch
and yawn and back we go. I submit
for your perusal Exhibit A.
This is a map of the world, of God, and of everything.
Above is heaven, below is hell--

the future is to the right, the past to the left.
My client, in his plea for mercy, wishes me to recall
his salient points. His sense of humour, direction, and yes, style,
his tendency to violent foreshortenings, and that finding
himself irredeemably zebra, he hoofed the streets
of his brawling, captious nature, kicking
up dust and all the limping platitudes
of this earth, our home. They tell you dreams
don't come true. But they never tell you how.


Today's book of poetry is always interested in listening to a smart Devil, there is generally some heat generated in his presence.

Cook has brought together a stellar cast from the staples of our literature, folk/fairy tales and the Bible.  Cook covers these bases, and more, with both vigour and a wicked sense of humour.  These poems compel you to a quick second and third reading.  That is because they are layered like a cake where you don't know what is beneath the icing until you bite in.  Devil's cake served up by Cook, who certainly likes to stir things up.

Once upon a time a mother...

I could say not hard or not very often
or his pain was worse than mine.
I could say I deserved it,
or I don't remember, not much,
or hunger is a flame blued through to salt.

First the rats come out of the fields
and into the city,
like one great rat with a million mouths
and each mouth with a thousand teeth
and the will to grind our lives exceedingly small.

Then hunger enters without knocking,
as if he's lived here forever.
He lays a place at the table and draws up a chair.
Good evening, good evening. Pass the butter, do.
My goodness, this porridge is thin!

The more he eats the leaner he becomes.
A skeleton, a piece of gristle, a singing bone.
The brats climb into my belly
and begin to gnaw their way out again,
cracking me like an egg,

not in half but in pieces.
I have put all my yolks in one basket,
now I can't sleep for the sound
of lapping in the dark.
In the morning, a cough of eggshell

on the sheets and the brats lolling
with their blue Persian tongues.
My darlings, my parasites!
One day their father returns
from the empty fields and the empty seas

and the sky where nothing grows.
Hunger, my lover, sits at the head of the table,
sharpening his knives and his teeth,
while the brats crawl
from their mother's eyes.

Little maggoty things, little grubs that feed
on the truculent gaze.
I could say not hard.
Not very hard at all. I could say
pain is a proof in the Theorem of Love,

or something less complicated to do
with the bruise and the sweetness
of the after-fruit.
I thought God would hear.
I knew the neighbours wouldn't.


Today's book of poetry sees Monologue Dogs as a gallery full of fine tapestry, you have to wander around, take your time, return to each well woven beauty like a warm memory.

Cook's cast of characters include Hansel and Gretel, Persephone, Federico Garcia Lorca, Vasco da Gama drops by and thinks he may be God, and then there are the rumpled pages of the Bible to contend with as well.  Cook takes it all with aplomb, gives her characters ample room to explain themselves, both in Eden and out in the rest of the world.


Young Eve

Summer's head of cabbage, each next
breath, the garter snakes oozing from the undergrowth,
fat ripples of black and gold. Some loose

green fuse tripped our intention.
I drove north along the highway with my boyfriend
in his daddy's pickup, looking for a place to park.

The day had a crack down the middle
was one way of looking at it.
Then I opened my shirt and unhitched my bra,

more for the relief of air than his distraction
although I achieved both.
Before was the garden, after the burn of day

down to the wick, the scuffle and cut,
his mouth stubbed out against my own.
And where did you hear we were naked

is what I want to know? Unzip unzip--
my jeans round my ankles, his open at the waist.
Blames me for what happened next, wants to snap

my thighs for a wishbone. As if there were wishes
(there are none). As if he could extinguish
himself in me.


Monologue Days has that thing, that mojo, vibe, rumble, whatever.  You recognize the feeling when you open the book and it never goes away.  

Méira Cook is entirely convincing.

Méira Cook

Méira Cook has published four poetry collections, most recently A Walker in the City (Brick Books). Her poetry won first place in the CBC Literary Awards, garnered a Manitoba Publishing Award (a “Maggie”), and has been featured in Winnipeg Transit’s “Poetry in Motion” program. She won the inaugural Walrus Poetry Prize in 2012. Her first novel, The House on Sugarbush Road (Enfield & Wizenty), won the McNally Robinson Manitoba Book of the Year Award in 2013. She has just completed her tenure as the Winnipeg Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence. Her latest collection of poetry is Monologue Dogs; her new novel, Nightwatching, was published in May 2015. 

“Again Méira Cook proves herself to be one of Canada’s most compelling poets.” 
     —Molly Peacock

“These are poems to read and reread with growing pleasure and admiration.”
     —Steven Heighton

Méira Cook
Read from Toward a Catalogue of Falling
video:  Brick Books

Méira Cook's poem "The Devil's Advocate" won the Walrus Poetry Prize in in 2012.



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