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A Poet of Process

October 2000, no. 225

and dug my fingers in the sand by Brook Emery

Five Islands Press, $16.45 pb, 110 pp

A Poet of Process

October 2000, no. 225

From Masefield to Beaver, the anapaestic metre of a double unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one is often used in poems about the sea. It reproduces the rhythm of waves and also suggests a reflective but eager mood. Brook Emery’s strongly crafted collection is often based in anapaestic metre (‘a pelican, flying a loose ellipse / … sets his head / and great hooked wings lift him into sleepy light’) which tightens into iambic (single down stress plus up stress) when he wishes for a feeling of conclusion. One would not normally begin a review by discussing metre, but in this case I felt the metre was intrinsic to the authorial tone and perhaps reveals why the work’s effect is of much memorable insight, beauty, and precision in conflict with strategic monotony.

The monotony is strategic because the conflict comes at points in the poetry where the persona suggests his existential tension: ‘Inside my parked car dark converges / on the radio’s illuminated dial / and music’s caught between the window glass.’ The persona rests his ‘hands against the wheel’ and leans back to listen as the windscreen starts to fog. / I can’t hear my heart or breath and tapping / makes a hollow sound.’

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