Against the Hard Angle – POEM PREVIEW – ‘perhaps you can’t go home again’


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 been / will be appearing here at in December 2009, January 2010, February 2010, and March 2010

Here is March 2010’s sneak peek from the forthcoming collection: a short poem called ‘perhaps you can’t go home again’ a brief lyric that interrogates the idea of nostalgia while revisiting a Halifax park named after the guy who came up with the idea of standard time, among other things.




-The Dingle (Sir Sanford Fleming Park); Halifax, NS


                  standard: briefly, upon a time, once, we were

we suspect, we guess amazed.             but now, we’re sure,

the park’s stone entryway fails fully

to impress; upon further inspection is, we might now suggest, nothing

but a small, lopsided cobble framing an asphalt-grey

tongue’s splay; some awkward uncle’s wry party smile after

one too many gin.               even the scattered

smattering of metal gates slalomed further down the drive, just off the winding

road those thresholds nearly hidden at the ends of

our tree-studded high school lovers’ lanes, those underpinnings

of each re-repeated conquest are, in this day’s light, a slight

let-down, a disappointment. each season’s paint, the uneven slopped green

coats, just the ruddy, pock-marked cheeks

of some sudden sidewalk-seen faux starlet whose skin, up close, has gone to pot

from day after day of too much foundation, too much

exposure to the bright, brusque honesty

of stage lights, of performance.             in fact, a closer look would

show these aging welds rust buttered; seaming. a briefly outstretched hand

would find the old lock boxes suspect, lichen moist, near

seeping; the simple roads we’d guessed we took once, now a maze.


 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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