Museum of Space
UQP, $22.95pb, 102pp
‘His poems, now more and more exclusively in prose, have become taut and aphoristic, for he seeks patiently to release energy potential in language, and to make of poetry an instrument of revelation, indeed a close ally of philosophy.’
These words, by R.T. Cardinal in The Penguin Companion to European Literature (1969), in fact gloss the poetry of René Char. They could be taken as an apt description of Peter Boyle’s fourth collection, Museum of Space, which represents a subtle but significant shift in his oeuvre since the virtuoso What the Painter Saw in Our Faces (2001). These are sparer, more abstract poems, less cluttered by competing images – deft, attenuated and often written in a lean, delicate prose, as if having left some of the mechanical devices of poetry behind for something more suggestively metaphysical.
The title poem for example, which opens the collection, heralds a kind of manifesto: ‘In the museum of space you open the lost codes.’ It is a kind of proffering of possible new ways of knowing for the reader – and for the artist, who ‘sits in primordial solitude’. We are invited (and I think of Michael Ondaatje’s ‘Trust me’ at the beginning of In the Skin of a Lion) into this museum, which ‘opens onto the silent and inexhaustible corridors of the brain’ and in which ‘no art work is ever completed’ to explore teasing, beautiful fragments.