I've reread more this year than any year before, and one thing that keeps surprising me, which really it shouldn't by now, is how little I remember from previous reads. Rereading Solie is no different.
There's lot to love in Short Haul Engine. It's an accomplished first collection, but like most first collections there is a rawness. It's a little messy, not at all self-conscious. I like that the edges haven't been all polished down.
I had forgotten that Solie once lived in Victoria, the city I now call home. I think of her as a Toronto poet from Saskatchewan, and I'm curious how long she lived here. There is a great poem in Short Haul Engine called "East Window, Victoria" about the longing for a real Prairie winter while living on the West Coast, where "Everything about the place/ demands affection." It was the second stanza that compelled me to read the poem to my husband last night:
In Edmonton, they are cursing
ancestors and old Volkswagens, shovelling
themselves into cardiac events.
snow is an animal.
When I finished the poem, my husband said it was like the poem had been written for me. Here I am, living in what many consider paradise, but part of me longs for Edmonton, especially the winters. I know that I've romanticized our time there--my anger at the cold, long winters, the predatory johns, the crack-dealing neighbour have all softened. I loved all the free outdoor skating and I know I'd have become a cross country skier if we'd stayed.
Here, it's beautiful. Here it's always lush, even in the middle of December. Today, not only did I see robins, but also hummingbirds. It smelled of mud and new life. It felt like April. As Solie wrote, "So much evergreen. So much/ a constant."
The penultimate stanza sums up my longing, my strange allegiance perfectly:
But how dare you long
for those first mornings of frost
you bit into like an apple, the winters
skating an unbroken line
around your small clean body.
I do feel grateful to Solie for writing "East Window, Victoria" a poem I don't remember reading the first time, but now, where I am in my life both physically and emotionally, is the perfect poem for me. I suppose that's how all good literature works, but it seems especially true for poetry, that its meaning shifts as time does, as people do.
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