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Gillian Wigmore, Orient
London, ON: Brick Books, 2014.

Wigmore begins her newest collection with a serial poem entitled “Skyward from the Self” which immediately thrusts the reader beside the narrator in the bow of her boat, revealing her penchant for meticulously placed devices such as alliteration and assonance in lines like “the flash of water flung skyward” and “the boat seats so cold our bums were numb.”

Orient is complimentary to her previous “eco-poetic” work (both poetry and fiction), as Wigmore’s attempts to situate and to understand the self and humanity no less involve and contrast the natural and unnatural worlds we inhabit. The examination of distance and proximity also acts as a catalyst throughout the book.

From “birthday cowl”:

your mother doubles the wool with other wool.
five hundred miles away she draws a line,
and afterward I draw a line too but don’t think to underline it.
she’s not here and I don’t scrub the bathtub.

I borrow you from my younger self for just a minute
to dig up a frisson of jesus yes from our first kiss.
the lines around us were concrete and undergrad,
definitive but unfinished – we made our own.

It is clear Wigmore draws deep inspiration from her surroundings and the spaces she occupies—already a defining and familiar thread in her work— which is no surprise considering the captivating vastness and beauty of her British Columbia home.

From the section “Grow” excerpted from “luckless, vinced”:

we aren’t the sum of the length of time it took to get here, nor the wail
of train hauling track down east and away, we aren’t and weren’t.
we got here and it hurt, there was sunset, the darker outline of the mountains

Though hard to favour one section over the other, Wigmore’s resilient, bumbling character(s) in the section “ditch flowers” are definitely the most charming. She perfectly captures their small-town, salty yet soft, down-on-their-luck Canadian-ness in poems like “last call”:

I love every part of this town es-
peshally the sidewalk

lay here with me, won’t you?
we can watch the stars go round

Wigmore’s poetry is true art: it reflects those pauses in life which remind us that no amount of will or logic can save you or your fellow humans from the human experience, for better or worse. Orient speaks succinctly to this complexity, inviting the reader to question, contemplate, orient and reorient their way home.

“Ash paintings, art gallery of Ontario, June 2012” (excerpts):
this is enough for a minute
to make us all more human –
because we burnt prayers,
because we remember war –

enough for the moment,
and I can walk away from the grey
into the white light of afternoon –
a cheer from Little Italy, England up by one.
beer blackens the asphalt, a heavy wet heat –
a breath of wind lifts the tang of smoke from my skin,
but the whiff of it,
the grit remains within.

 

Marilyn Irwin has been published by above/ground press, Bywords, ottawater and Peter F. Yacht Club. She has three chapbooks: for when you pick daisies (2010), flicker (2012), and little nothings (2012).

 

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