The Escape Sonnets
Papyrus Publishing, $19.80 pb, 116 pp
Papyrus Publishing, $18.70 pb, 53 pp
Dominique Hecq and Brian Edwards are well versed in the contingencies of language, roaming in their poetry between experimentation and high tradition – at least in terms of content, if not so much in form. Both target the self-reflexive play of language early in their latest collections: Hecq in her title poem, with ‘words spreading / like couchgrass after summer rains / on my tongue’; Edwards even more demonstrably in ‘Reading Althusser on Marx’, where ‘Standing between objects and meanings / the language: there are only partial truths’.
Laying bare the disjuncture between words and ideas can, of course, add a layer of meaning while paradoxically questioning how we make meaning, but the results in these collections vary. The Edwards poem above closes: ‘Of course the text is subjectivity / and the code an artifice, / but there is something out there.’ What might have been overly academic is nicely rescued in that last line, an appropriation from any number of popular sci-fi and horror flicks employed to telling comic effect. Edwards regularly plays with the vernacular to enliven retellings of the classical. In ‘Rereading Rubens Reading Homer’, Athena ‘stays the course’; in ‘The Pale Cast of Thought’ (Hamlet rewritten), there is ‘Little wonder she [Ophelia] gathers wildflowers and sings mad songs’ – but at times the conversational grappling with discourse can be highly explanatory:
There are so many gestures and signs,
triple-plays of reference, of meaning,
such irresistible temptations in the perils of language.