Even though she does acknowledge borrowing lines from a dozen poems (from T.S. Eliot to Margaret Atwood, from Gertrude Stein to Michael Ondaatje), Rachel Rose trusts that readers will identify the Wallace Stevens reference in Thirteen Ways of Looking at CanLit (2015).
But it’s much easier to imagine a blackbird, so that thirteen ways of looking at it, in Wallace Stevens poetry, is something with which readers can engage.
Even if you’ve never seen a real blackbird (and I haven’t), another black bird (a starling or a grackle, in my case) can stand in, with all the related ideas that I associate with birds swirling about as well.
‘Canlit’, however, is a slippery term, and, these days, a politicized term, as polarizing for many Canadian writers as ‘feminist’ is for many women.
But the chapbook is dedicated “for the pack” and published initially in a run of 100 copies, perhaps the target audience is the pack, and the work only resonates with the writers who run with it.
There are moments in which the rhythm catches me up. Like: “I caught this poem like a cold, a virus from a computer, it brewed and festered for a decade, then burst its blister.” It feels almost playful.
But more often it feels like a polemic: “I can do it if I plug my nose and swallow. I can do it if I lie on my back and think of tenure.”
Perhaps we are simply meant to ask ourselves if there is a fourteenth way.