Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
July 10, 2010
Gordon makes splash with simplicity
Reviewed by Zanna Joyce
In this debut volume of poetry, Winnipeg's own Ariel Gordon makes a major splash with simplicity and verve.
Winner of this year's John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba writer, Gordon writes about life with a wry twist, describing walking in the park, interacting with her spouse and moving through the many steps of the process of becoming a mother.
Some of these 43 poems have seen publication in literary journals. Also making a return appearance are the mushrooms Gordon has shown off in her photography.
At times so personal as to be enigmatic to the outside participant, her conversation nevertheless captivates with small details.
Gordon makes many local references - even Winnipeg's cankerworms make a lyric appearance. But while Leo Mol is known in many places that people treasure art, one has to wonder how Don's Deli will play in Vancouver.
Her poems on fall in Assiniboine Park are stark and written in high contrast:
"On the last good day we shiver // at the traffic noise of geese that don't know whether they're coming or going // up/down the lakes the ditches the half-frozen fields // & as the wind climbs over this stand of trees // it doesn't matter what's green, what's fallen // what's about to fall. // It will all // fall."
But it is Tit Poem that bites deep. The recounting of a mastectomy, it contains none of the pity that women who have undergone the experience speak of disdainfully.
"Handle with care!" is written across the patient's chest in bold permanent marker. Afterward, she shows off her bandage with something like pride.
The odd speculations of hospital staff leave her puzzled. Maybe she was the sort of woman who would leave home without her underwear?
The bulk of the volume is about going from non-motherhood to motherhood, from the less-than-romantic Pre-conception ("but he has no idea / / I am his axis that I make him rotate // until his back-throat black-hole // is as far from me as it can get") to the drippy, mushy months of pregnancy and the curious sensation of being mauled from within by tiny hands and feet.
Not so much sweetness and light, Gordon channels Adrienne Rich's dichotomy of love and frustration with her realism.
Let's hope that she eventually finds some reprieve from the omnipresent demands that infuse even the most unrelated of activities.
"The city's tinkling bracelet of sirens// your fingers rasping over // soft flesh sudden alarm // of teeth."
Gordon, a Free Press poetry columnist, has written a personal and observant collection that takes us to familiar places but forces us to look at them with fresh eyes.
Zanna Joyce is a Winnipeg project development specialist, a freelance writer and a mother.