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) have / will be appearing here in December 2009, January 2010, February 2010, and March 2010.
To help wring in our brand-spanking-new year, here’s January 2010’s sneak peek: the first section of a three-poem sequence, ‘quarter-year triptych’. And yes, it’s even got the good ol’ month of January snuggled right in there as an ‘element’ of the poem.
from ‘quarter-year triptych’
i. january; storm
and the city? it seems
abashed, its face gone near purely
white, with the knowledge of what we know
(of love). the sky, too, it seems
is heavy with this, with us, with
lazy mornings and those languid moments
before the eyes give in, finally, to sleep.
each ticker-taping flake
that falls — that worries its way to
the ground — is simply a moment gone
crystal, held briefly static in near-zeroed air.
in this way the snow is a fleeting
warning; a sudden crisp augury:
the season’s vertiginous manner of telling
us to steel ourselves to the cool
elemental, to starch each concise beauty against
the wrinkling rip of the wind as we puzzle
our way down or through. to
both splay the arms as wide as they stretch and
then, vice-like, hold — hold dear
what we have, what we have taken in.
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.”