Giramondo, $24 pb, 75 pp
Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions … From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms, and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old.
Virginia Woolf, in her seminal essay on modern fiction (1919), might have been describing Claire Potter’s method in her fabulous and highly original new collection: Acanthus. These poems seem to break apart consciousness before it becomes encoded, crystalised, as syntax. As a consequence, they have an uncanny and richly compelling ability to lead you away from the dimension in which you think you have entered the poem, in its opening lines, into something entirely different by the time you have reached the end. Somewhere between the beginning and the end something can be depended on to have shifted – mood, pace, imaginative compass bearing, subject plane. You think you are on one edge, only to find yourself on another. As Potter herself says: ‘on the edges something occurs almost out of the corner of one’s eye like an annotation: this insignificance is precious and full of life … these edges are very important to architecture as well, are such interesting places’ (Author Note). Tangency is evident in some of the titles of these works: for example, ‘Eight-nine Degrees’ and ‘The Art of Sideways’, the latter of which might describe the whole collection.