I have recently discovered that if I sit down with a poem first thing in the morning, it springs forth from the page like nobody's business with barely an effort from me. I am immersed, entranced, all those things. Emboldened by my discovery, and after dabbling in some of the lit mags - Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, Grain, CV2 - I thought I'd tackle a book. Happily, I had plenty to choose from, but found myself intrigued by Sarah Klassen's recent book of poetry Monstrance.
Do you know what a monstrance is? Neither did I. According to the title poem (and Websters) it is: "A vessel in which the consecrated host is exposed to receive the veneration of the faithful." The key words and phrases here are vessel, consecrated host, exposed, veneration, and faithful. But sometimes a chalice or a crown or a cross is no more than the wood or metal out of which it is made, even for the faithful. The act of imagination that invests the ordinary with the divine sometimes takes place and sometimes it does not. This intermingling of the divine and the mundane is what gives Klassen's poems their power. The objects held, the places visited leave us standing simultaneously in the world of spirit and the world of the mundane. It makes for a profound sense of spiritual longing that is sustained throughout. Of course, this equally applies to the book itself. Monstrance is a monstrance.
So yes, blown away, I am. And looking for more. Next up? I've got my eye on a book of poetry by Victor Enns, also recently published. It's called Boy. So far, I've only dabbled in it, but I'm getting ready to take the plunge.
Poetry in the morning? It's better than a good cup of coffee.Categories: Reviews, Poetry, New Releases
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Infamously referred to as the "Hungarian master of the apocalypse" by Susan Sontag, László Krasznahorkai's work has started to receive greater notice in North America over the last decade, both in print and on the screen. A collaborator of the acclaimed Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr, Krasznahorkai has served as the director's trusted screenwriter for his past five films, two of which were lifted straight from the page. The basis of their brilliant 6 ˝ hour long second film together, and Krasznahorkai's first book, Sátántangó is now available in an impressive new translation from New Directions Publishing.
To date, Krasznahorkai's work in translation has encompassed the serpentine, paragraph free Melancholy of Resistance (the basis for Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies); the powerful and picaresque War & War; and the beautiful novella Animalinside, a feral howl of a collaboration with the painter Max Neumann. Those readers that have already wrestled with his coiled sentences might find themselves surprised by the relatively straightforward structure of Sátántangó, but not by its content.
The narrative of the bleak and alcohol-saturated Sátántangó rears up from the mud churned up by an endless country rain and the tango (or 'csaradas') that the remaining residents of a small town stumble through at the local inn. This dance, the core of the book, serves as the focal point of Krasznahorkai's ongoing obsessions: the backbiting, gossip, crime and infidelity common to any isolated area where hope is lost, escape is impossible and distraction, despair and dance are all that the residents can hope to use to escape the pitiless force of nature.
Those encountering Krasznahorkai for the first time will be thrilled by the voice of a true master. Those that have delved into his world before will encounter a monochrome despair, brought to unexpected life through the author's unsurpassed lyricism, his firm structural vision, and his biting sense of humour.Categories: Reviews, New Releases, Literature, Book of the Day
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