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Pickle Me This

April 28, 2010

One Crow Sorrow by Lisa Martin-DeMoor

Lisa Martin-DeMoor’s One Crow Sorrow, poetry winner of the 2009 Alberta Literary Awards, is an intensely personal collection. Each piece seems rooted in experience, focused on immediate details rather than zooming out to capture their wider, more universal implications. There is no place carved out for the reader here, in the intimate address between the poet and who she refers to as just “Mom”, and so the reader is interloper, a position by turns privileged and disquieting.

“I am almost never home, now,/ no matter where I am” writes Martin-DeMoor in “One last time, in our old kitchen.” The collection deals with her mother’s illness and death from cancer, also touching upon her father’s early death many years before, and the cycle and rituals of grief. And other stories, family reference points: “Colleen, I can still hear the stranger at the door…” The tales that bind us.

These poems are prime territory for birdwatching– we get magnificent glimpses of magpies, crows, sparrows, herons, “songbirds are secrets/ substantiated at dawn and knowing”. The wide living world turns around this small story of death and dying– gardens tended and untended, boreal forests and prairie fields: “Admitting the season is over is one way/ of facing up to grief.” The natural references stitch the poems to the earth, but with stitches so loose that some words fly like spirit, and the rest is contained in the space in between.

The poems resonated for me in particular on second reading– first was a bit like wandering in a dimly lit room, but then the shapes became familiar and I could make out the details around me enough to know what I was seeing. To find my away through the spaces in between the poems as well, to consider the white space and line breaks and the weight of these things. To consider the quiet. Because these are delicate poems, I think, to be looked at before they touched, and then their solidity becomes unmistakable.

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