Against the Hard Angle – POEM PREVIEW – ‘(flashback: a holiday offering)’


With matt’s NEW collection Against the Hard Angle due out from ECW Press in April 2010, sneak previews of some poems included in the book (1 per month) will be appearing here in December, January, February, and March. 

To kick things off, here’s December’s sneak peek, an excerpt from the collection’s eponymous long poem / sequence, ‘against the hard angle’. In keeping with the fresh snowfall that’s gradually melting away, it’s even got a holiday-ish slant. 



from ‘against the hard angle’ 


viii. (flashback: a holiday offering)    



let me say this much,
he says:


i have nothing here to offer you

this christmas;  


nothing but 


the now blooming pulse  

of what  


we’ve known
this year as it leaks —




bottle-spilt — from the heel 

of my left hand.             


                    my tongue —
a fist — is heavy with this


salt gift, 


with the heft of knowing that it is 

at once both 


all too much and so clearly






The two sections that comprise matt robinson’s fourth full-length volume of poetry, Against the Hard Angle, though disparate in terms of form – the first consisting primarily of a long poem; the other a collection of shorter lyrical pieces – nonetheless share a common concern with ideas of relationship and its examination. At their core, these are poems about where we stand in relation to the rest of our various worlds. In the collection’s opening section, the eponymous (and 2009 Malahat Review Long Poem Award winning) “against the hard angle” steadily develops a grudging momentum, all the while searching for a way to articulate loss, in the end becoming a kind of meditative catalogue of relationship breakdown and divorce. The second section takes as its immediate subject matter a different sort of relationship altogether. Having returned home after nearly a decade elsewhere, these are poems that reference robinson’s native Halifax, NS, more specifically and vividly than in his previous work; these are lines with “the near / magical pull of some deep-seeded magnet now spinning, / we’d guess, completely / and fully out of control – a crazed, elemental / ballet.” Part extended love song to and for a city and part meditation on what a city can both say to and about us, Against the Hard Angle uses some of Halifax’s most and least famous places as jumping off points for a stop-and-start lyrical tour of eastern Canada’s largest urban centre, a sometimes fraught journey that leaves us “all tendon-tensed, / against impact, near white-knuckled to / breakage.”


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