Poet deploys wordplay and humour

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October 6, 2013

Sit You Waiting

By Kim Clark

Caitlin Press

112 pages, $16.95

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

Sit You Waiting is the first collection of Vancouver Island writer Kim Clark, whose poems reverberate between the mental processes we are all captured by and the world we inhabit. Topics include illness, love, desire, travel, and poetry, and Clark infuses several of the pages with bold wordplay and wry humour.

Clark uses square brackets, which can be a bit unnerving until it becomes evident that the recurring technique provides a sub-text. For example, in “A Woman Builds a Body, Post Tsunami,” the brackets help build the poem:

Sleep [stealthy] leaves

the makeshift bed, the woman

[a subduction].

Many poems use this technique, almost as a signature.

Clark handles a variety of length with ease. In “Lavender,” thirty-two words reveal the force of scent-driven memory. In “Three Days on a Train In and Out of Dreaming,” a longish poem of thirteen pages with fabulous use of white space, Clark delves into a train trip across Australia, a place of great space itself. Again the poet employs symbols, this time the number sign (#) and the equals sign (=) to organize the sections. The first is #= and the poem moves to #======= and then back to #= while maintaining more than half a page of space on each page as the traveller observes the landscape and contemplates the journey, both physical and mental. In the poem’s middle section, “A herd of stones gets up and walks away on wooly legs. / The treelines in motion are not stones or sheep but alphabetic arrangements. . . . “ These poems touch magic.

Even a short poem can tell a story, and “Wishing for a Colt” is a clever and funny look at people in a bar hoping for more than a drink. This poem is completely grounded in the concrete. The speaker tries to talk to a “failed cowboy, / dust-diving rodeo rider, / seven broken ribs with a mighty big / hat, and a real small / herd of hay burners / in the interior” while the bar waits for action. It comes.

I am drawn to poems about poetry, and Clark delivers. In “Primate Remuage,” the speaker advises readers to “Be the guerrilla / in the midst.” The corny pun works beautifully as the directions continue and focus on destabilizing the domestic environment until the final command: “Warm to this poem / deep in your pocket. / Leave crumbs / to find your way out.” Overall Clark’s poems appear to be about digging deep within the pockets of our minds,  then pulling the treasures out into the light.   How lovely.

Candace Fertile teaches English at Camosun College         





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