A few notes on Nicole Brossard's 'Notebook of Roses and Civilization'

[I was asked to compare my writing to one of my influences - and so I have chosen to speak a little of Nicole Brossard, and a book of her poetry that I read today.]

She has managed to obliterate strains of rationality in her poetry that mine perhaps still has. Her writing flies off the edges of experience; mine clings to a coherence set in motion by the imagery. She yokes together disparate images, line after line, freed from grids of rational grammars to create a poetry of resonance, echoes, synechdotal sightings, whisps of thought turning to steam during the heat wave of the text.

Her earlier work influenced me enormously, sliding easily, as she did, between a minimalist nearly surreal poetry of wet tongues on words that touch, and touch, to a prose woven on waves turning into poetry. On my shelf, Turn of a Pang (1976), A Book (1976), Daydream Mechanics (1980), These Our Mothers (1983), French Kiss (1986), Lovhers (1986), Sous La Langue, Under Tongue, (1987), Surfaces of Sense (1989), Picture Theory (1991), Museum of Bone and Water (2003) [in which she cordially wrote: 'Pour Brenda, /Avec mes salutations amicales /au coeur de la poesie /Nicole Brossard /Toronto /10 avril 2003'], to which today I have added, Notebook of Roses and Civilization (2007) and Fences in Breathing (2009).

Having just read Notebook of Roses and Civilization, I don't find the same connection points, moments of pins of light crossing from two different maps of a parchment of words, maps of mist, and yet I feel kindred, inspired, awakened to a world freed from its rational, linear, narratorial tethers in Nicole Brossard's expansive lexicon. The acrobatics, sudden shifts of image, signalling of moments in sparse truncated syntax, fleeting referents, in a vast field of signs, of Deleuzian-like multiplicities. What connects is the consciousness of the poet who does not describe a stable world, who describes her inner world for us, her readers. Who pulls us in to her vortex of meanings collapsing meanings until even the bones of structure are charred:

i arrive at this page burning.
others use the word light
to shake up reality. Let's see
if standing up you grab tomorrow naked
out of order (p55)

As Gertrude Stein writes of Picasso in her book, Picasso:

...this problem remained, how to express not the things seen in association but things really seen, not things interpreted but things really known at the time of knowing them. (Beacon, 1959: 36)

Brossard has long loosed the world of association and writes, not stream-of-consciousness, but from a rarified poetic. Images freed of their contexts held together by the undercurrent of emotions of the poet:

the poem can't lose its momentum
make you suddenly turn around
as if the sea
were about to surge up at your back
in pages of foam and foment


[I don't think these words scrawled in pencil in my writing Moleskine today after reading a book of poetry constitute a review of a book of the French Canadian poet, Nicole Brossard, but they perhaps incline that way.]


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