Lichen Bright (2005), her first collection, opens with an epigraph from Anne Michaels’ “Memorium”:
“Memory wraps us
like the shell wraps the sea.
Nothing to carry,
some stones to fill our pockets,
to give weight to have we have.”
Michaels’ preoccupation with loss and love, remembrance and absence, are all evident in Carter’s poems too.
In “Insomnia”, we have: “the other side of the bed / is empty, nothing / but a salt stain / from the wake / of your skin.” And, in “Enabler”, “like a button / i slip you loose, / make a hole in my life”.
In Following Sea (2019), Carter acknowledges the contribution made by the staff and resources of archival repositories (mostly in Bruce and Grey counties, northern Lake Huron and Georgian Bay country) in her efforts to imagine the experiences of her settler ancestors, who called Manitoulin Island home.
These poems read like narrative and move readers through time, via “Home” in 1854, with “a mark / on the map, the ink / of vast water / spotted by stains”. And “Swamp Fire” in 1862, with “Their house, a fallen / effort, its embers soldering / her leaden skirts.”
It’s not all that different a process, from Melony trying to understand the decisions and relationships in her life in This Has Nothing to Do With You, to the poet looking backwards and trying to see the journeys that have led from past to present. How the road might turn in the future, based on how we understand what’s come before.
“I have nothing to give
you, history. Only words
on pages that might
or might not rot.”