Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Stereoblind — Emma Healey (House of Anansi Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Stereoblind.  Emma Healey.  House of Anansi Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2018.


"these are the kinds of things you own when you cannot control your own future."

"everywhere in this city of the future, people walk arm in arm, discussing their childhoods."
                                                                                                               — Emma Healey

Everything I am about to tell you is true.

Everything that happens in Emma Healey's diaphanous Stereoblind is true.

Everything that happens in Emma Healey's deuteronomously delightful Stereoblind may be dreamspeak.

Every dream Emma Healey lets you/us in on, in fact, may be a real event and all real events may be dreams.  And so on.

And already Today's book of poetry is misleading you about Stereoblind.  It is not as deliberately complex or confusing as our comments suggest.  In fact, when you are reading Stereoblind, and once you start it is hard to stop, Stereoblind has both it's own gravity and it's own centrifugal force.  You get pull, pulllled, pullllllllled into Healey's stream of unconsciousness, all the while marvelling at how comfortably at home you are in these poems.

There are short poems that flit across your eyes like a swift in flight, skittering across your line of sight just long enough to marvel and then there are longer prose poems that spiral through the air, the connections vaporous and ethereal, the white noise between dreams.  Yet Healey makes it all work as simply as tic tac toe.

Stereoblind works wonderfully well.  The reader doesn't browse these poems, you are compelled forward like a new convert being introduced to a new holy text.  Healey simply pulls you forward and off of your feet before you know what has poetry slapped you.

from Forced Swim

Sometimes the question of what is made inside or outside
the body feels pressing. I'll be out in the world by myself,
among others—at the gym, running on the treadmill, or in
the grocery store, staring up at a punishing multiplicity of
hummus—and all of a sudden I know something endless
and dark wants its way through me, wants to take my
bones out one by one, to swallow and dissolve. In these
moments, the world drops away and I stand there
forever—my face strange, my fists tiny and strange—
sweating under the fluorescents. In these moments, I can
feel the things it's already claimed, aching just outside my
reach, like phantom limbs.


Emma Healey isn't content with re-arranging our understanding of dreamworld, she manages to throw in footnotes, sudden shifts in light, direction and volume, and it works.  These poems move the reader forward with an unsuspected weight, they have a hidden velocity.

All of this happening in poems tenderly disguised as an odyssey in modern living.  Healey plays it all out on a canvas only accessible through Stereoblind.

Our morning read was held in an almost empty office.  The Today's book of poetry minions are all away on holiday or attending to personal issues.  None the less we managed to give Healey's Stereoblind around the office and the results were surprising.  Stereoblind lent an air of cool calm to the office, and in the face of many impediments.  We're usually blasting some sort of jazz through the speakers but Radiohead seemed called for this morning.

Ontario Today

The guy wants to know if he can prune his spruce himself;
he's worried about wind. How big exactly is this tree? asks
Ed, his cadence level, tone bemused. I can't fit my arms
around it, goes the guy. Which, look: kitchen table, chairs,
dog, sink, weak sunlight, radio, your front lawn in the
bruise and split of sunrise, kids and wife asleep. The spruce
predicting shadows in the driveway, how it croons and
keens against the night in the key of future, denting,
vantage, glass outside your bedroom. How insurance is a
prayer misfiring, how deep green makes your tongue taste
rust for weeks. How you can't but gaze into a pool of water,
Ed, without a spray of needles shattering the edges. How
the air can do you violence, speaking skips against the
present, reference fails and fails again. Maybe we have to
do it this way—voice and air and wires and distance. Trust.
Maybe the only metric is attempt: what can be held by you.
What you can stand to hold.


Nothing Today's book of poetry is going to say will do justice to the "in the kitchen" level of comfort you are going to feel when you walk in to Stereoblind.  And as soon as you settle in there, Healey shifts quiet gears and you are in a Joni Mitchell "dreamland, dreamland, dreamland."  These are splendid places to be.

Today's book of poetry enjoyed Emma Healey's Stereoblind the way you enjoy an afternoon matinee during the blistering dog days of August.  A cool calm somewhere just east of dreamland, dreamland, dreamland.

Beautiful Boys

Pink silk jackets. Feathered hair, impeccable skateboards,
liquid jawlines, triplicate. Thin hands gripping thin
forearms, in a pyramid in order the Beautiful Boys
doppling down your street like a snake, or the dream you
had about a snake. Taken together they sing like distant
pavement in a heat wave, colour warbling at the edges like
a melted VHS, craft beer dying in the backs of all their
throats like a bad secret. Eyes like wrenches. Skin like
petals. Wheels that whisper to the pavement as they pass
under your window: please yes please yes please yes please


Today's book of poetry regrets that we've been sporadic of late, there have been some absences in our office and so on.  But we are terribly happy to present Emma Healey and her splendid Stereoblind.  This is the book of poetry you need to buy today.

Image result for emma healey photo

Emma Healey

EMMA HEALEY’s first book of poems, Begin with the End in Mind, was published by ARP Books in 2012. Her poems and essays have been featured in places like the Los Angeles Review of Books, the FADER, the Hairpin, Real Life, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the Walrus, Toronto Life, and Canadian Art. She was poetry critic at the Globe and Mail (2014–2016) and is a regular contributor to the music blog Said the Gramophone. She was the recipient of the Irving Layton Award for Creative Writing in both 2010 and 2013, a National Magazine Award nominee in 2015, and a finalist for the K.M. Hunter award in 2016.


“Who needs a tightrope to stroll across Niagara Falls when you have the prose poem — pliable, surreal, infinitely hackable. These poems from Emma Healey signal the arrival of an exciting, nimble, new voice.” 
     — Sina Queyras

“Healey’s work operates close to the edges of contemporary poetic discourse — and sometimes beyond them . . . but [it] is also concerned with the experience of life lived in the personal present. A poet well-versed in critical and theoretical discourse but who also has a keen eye for the everyday and the real.” 
     — Philip Coleman, Penny Dreadful (Ireland)

“A bit confessional, a bit surrealist, a bit Miranda July, and very New Sincerity . . . These poems dance and ramble, propelled by an earnestness that can’t help but charm.” 
     — Nico Mara McKay, Broken Pencil



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