Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Licking Stamps: The Laurie D Graham Edition

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It has been a long week and I’ve done lots of talking. I talked to Spencer Gordon about toilets and literature, I talked to Cameron Anstee, Mat Laporte and Bardia Sinaee about chapbooks. But there is still a bit of talking left to be done!

Maybe you don’t know Laurie D Graham, and maybe you don’t know that her first book, Rove, will be published by Hagios Press this fall. But you do know—because I am telling you now—that this is a book you should pre-order now so you can read it as soon as it comes out. It’s also a book you should draft in your book award fantasy league because if it’s not on the Lampert shortlist this time next year then I don’t even know.

But enough from me. It’s Friday afternoon, which means I am now morally obligated to mail it in. Here’s Harold Rhenisch (who edited Rove) with a few words about working with Laurie on her first collection:

"While we were editing Rove, Laurie showed an incredible willingness to try any approach I suggested to unlock the organic language of the poems. The result is a book of organic strength and oral and aural unity that is reflective of Laurie's openness to deep reading of her work. It was an honour to be read by her book in this way and to be a part of helping her see how it was reading itself."

Most first poetry books are a best-of collection of whatever the author’s written up to that point. Rove, though, is different—it’s a book-length poem that, as Harold suggests, has a deep strain of open thoughtfulness* and care that is almost unheard of in a debut collection.

*I usually roll my eyes whenever a book of poems is described as “thoughtful’ for two reasons: i) the thinking that occurs in poems described this way is often easy or uninteresting, and ii) the thoughts usually don’t go anywhere, and tend to be idle blinking rather than actual speculative inquiry. From what I’ve seen of it, Rove offers a long, loping consideration that truly exerts the time and attention necessary for real insight, and it certainly doesn’t waste time blinking.

But what you really want is a poem from the book. I’ve read this one a half-dozen times now and the cognitive dissonance between the opening and closing brackets of the poem—“Imagine” and “same damn thing every year”— gets me every time. (And I won’t even start in on the sound—or as Harold way more smartly notes, the deep oral unity of Laurie’s entire book—except to say that this poem makes my ear want to high-five my brain.)

Here it is:

Imagine waking halfway home.
   The sun jet-straight, the grass jagged.

Scar tissue a child’s drawing
    of the line splitting road from ditch—

the split cheek, missing digits,
your wheels along this road,

                 just accidents.
This road with its nervous skiffs of gravel.

          Quackgrass, blanket flowers
    stitching roots through its ditches,

barn swallows tethered to strings of startled grasshoppers.
You could swear

your tires were aimed at the fog of city lights on the horizon.
You didn’t have a prayer.

             All that wind migrating the topsoil in tangled threads,
coyote jogging head down along the shoulder,

                   steam huffing from his nostrils and the barbed wire
strung loose to keep the cattle out

or in, spread carcasses of trees from tornado seasons,
                             all those rocks pilgriming back to the field,

the same damn thing every year.

1 comment

That was an incredible post! Many thanks.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Andrew Faulkner

Andrew Faulkner co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. His first book, Need Machine, was published by Coach House Books in April 2013. He lives in Toronto.

Go to Andrew Faulkner’s Author Page