Geomantic riposte: 'The Crow's Vow'

Susan Briscoe has been shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award and the CBC Literary Awards, and has won the Lina Chartrand Award. She teaches English at Dawson College in Montreal and divides her time between the city and Quebec's Eastern Townships. The bold and arresting cover of her first poetry collection The Crow’s Vow has received a lot of attention, but it is actually what is inside that keeps us fascinated, as Briscoe manages to chronicle the breakdown of (a) marriage in finely crafted lines, communicating through seasonal shifts and bird life, including chickadees, cardinals, jays, finches, sparrow, blackbird, grackle, nuthatch, robin, geese, hummingbirds, and yes, crows. LEMON HOUND, a fairly useful and often incisive template for what Canadian literary blogs could be, doing its bit to grout in the lacunae that mainstream media and Nation-gazing bodies leave for esoteric poetry (read ‘thinky’) and alternative book culture (read ‘Shostakovich tuning up The Nose for soft-serve Stalinist plenipotentiaries’ – why not, lets!), at the end of this Proustian sentence, has a charming evaluation of The Crow’s Vow on its list for the most engaging books of 2010:

For the break up, for the straight-ahead, for the thrill of a great narrative high-wire act, for the pleasure of the line. “How do I not/ find chickadees, scattered, hard/ as marbles, on the snow?” Indeed there is little that escapes this speaker’s eye, “You have been pulling stones for months—/ thought I wouldn’t notice,/ but I knew.” With a keen ear and relentless scrutiny, the familiar terrain of the domestic is transformed into a dramatic Pas-de-deux where the couplings of words is as lovely and toxic and as complex as the heart is broken. You are loved? Yes, but enough?

The Crow’s Vow by Susan Briscoe (Signal Editions, 2010, Page 24)


The streams are running again

after a night of rain,


flowing around slabs of ice,

their stilled selves.


A drawing exercise: negative shapes.

What is left unsaid


becomes an affirmation. A cracked sky

for branch and twig.


A ghost of you

erasing the chair.


Geomantic Riposte: Exhumed


Outside the ice cracks up    a temporary slough rises from run-

off and beavers resume futility       but less tragic than Canada

Goose eggs on the roofs of highrises where I used to loiter    A

preoccupation with last moments has always puzzled me      a

negation to getting said what is left unsaid before things are

that downhill        ghosts of the living too     taken for granted

in fleeting profile or wisp of hair that conjures manifold pain

of memory         every year the construction is        rewoven

if someone would simply reappear when you want them but

maintenance of ice predominates  like some black market for

                                 exhumed hearts


                                           or maybe we are                   machines all