From the hagg and hungrie goblin That into raggs would rend ye, And the spirit that stands by the naked man In the Book of Moones - defend ye! That of your five sound senses You never be forsaken, Nor wander from your selves with Tom Abroad to beg your bacon.
Lisa Robertson’s Nilling (BookThug 2012) and Roger Farr’s IKMQ (New Star 2012) offer two very different examples of poet’s prose—but both books are enthralling reads, with deceptive depths hidden in their slim volumes. Robertson and Farr are also two writers I feel I have perhaps learned the most from, and been most deeply challenged by, as a poet, and I continue to read them, eagerly, as a friend, student, and interlocutor.
Robertson’s volume is a collection of seemingly occasional essays (for gallery catalogues, invited talks, and contributions to journals) which nevertheless hangs together nicely as a series of brief excursions into the social heart of language and the complex ways in which identity is both overdetermined and, in the clashing multiple forces of that overdetermination, allowed a clinamen’s swerve towards freedom. As we’ve come to expect, Robertson’s language is luxuriously lyrical and a pure pleasure to read, regardless of what she has to say (my summer reading this year has been Proust, and I so often find myself thinking, “I don’t care what any of this adds up to—these are just such good sentences!”). But there are real depths of thought here—form and content never leave each other for too long in this dance—and there is a wonderfully idiosyncratic drift in the direction of Robertson’s argument that does indeed read more like a novel than most essays we are used to now.