Wayside Sang

Surely, reading and then writing about poetry, requires some level of skill I may not possess. I say that now because I have a stack of poetry sitting in my living room and I’m worried things are going to get a bit weird.

Let’s just get that out of the way. I’m going to take the stance, rightly or wrongly, that poetry, like art, is less about understanding every nuance in a message and is more about the feeling the poetry (and art) leaves behind. Deal? I hope so. Because if not, I don’t understand anything at all.

If we posit that to be true (and maybe you don’t) then Wayside Sang, by Vancouver based poet Cecily Nicholson, feels like gravel and grit in your mouth. Nicholson writes about destroyed industrial landscapes and communities, letting the us picture the small, worn out towns struggling to maintain themselves in the face of environmental and industry changes.

“low crude prices continue to take their toll
and we continue to live”

She writes about contradictions and promises that lack substance or truth.

“the great multitude communicates
without wires things tend to rattle apart

Puncture-proof tires on the shoulder”

Her book contains this quote as well:

“I saw then very clearly that a border is neither a line nor a long tall fence, but a waiting room. It’s a waiting room with a pin-up calendar on the wall, it smells with glue and the wood of cheap pencils. There people are stripped of everything except for the meat that can sit and stand upon request.” – V. Mort

I include this because of the sudden and unexpected relationship this creates between Nicholson’s poetry and Go, Went, Gone by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, which heavily ponders the meaning and impact of borders and immigrants. And maybe this is what poetry is really about—finding connections in strange places between things that we would never have seen without a poem to show us.

And as an aside: the cover of Wayside Sang is awfully peaceful and soothing for contents that really are not.

Cecily Nicholson was at Event 76 (A Celebration of Talonbooks) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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