Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Everything Reminds You of Something Else by Elana Wolff - A Review

 
 

"Everything Reminds You of Something Else" is infused with startlingly beautiful imagery from start to finish. 

"She comes to the seaside, air salts slick her skin like kith and kindling." 

"Clouds - narrow, white as femurs - flowing over the city." 

 The intimate poems stand out. This excerpt from "Cord" struck me in particular.

          "When the diagnosis arrived,
we flew to a city of history and art,
visited galleries, stood before works

            that made life look edgeless. 

The poems where the metaphoric and symbolic transcendence of the words meet with the 
grit of reality are the most satisfying and engaging.  

On every page, within the rich collage of words appear ethereal references 
to a collective mythology, the dreaming state of the earth:

"A mountain goat
ascends at dawn, leaping through the nimbus, lights jug of milk on his pelage, snow in his coat. 
He holds to higher note (as in Sharach is Hananiah). And on his breast - a locket
taking off."

I appreciated the inclusion of a diverse glossary of references to the books and poems which 
had inspired the work.

Available to purchase here

Wolff's poem "Waterwheel" featured as Vallum poem of the week Nov 2015

Monday, June 12, 2017

The End We Start From - A Review

 

“What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”

 https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/megan-hunter/the-end-we-start-from

The story begins on the brink between the ending of one world and the beginning of another. While a woman gives birth to a child an environmental cataclysm leaves London flooded. Rumours swill around the cocoon of her hospital bed  that much of the city, including her flat with its newly decorated nursery, has been left underwater. This strange and frightening reality informs the physical and emotional landscape of this strange and beautiful tale and describes the waterlogged world the characters must navigate if they are to survive.

Throughout the story, the sense of immersion in a world made fragmented and disorientating becomes a beautifully wrought extended metaphor for the transforming and transfiguring nature of birth and motherhood. As the story continues, the city and it's inhabitants begin to emerge, through the pages, as if from some amniotic sac and the reader is left to reflect how easily collective constructs of reality can be dismantled by change.

Prophetic statements as if quoted from ancient, sacred text are interspersed throughout and they add a  mythological gravity to the story taking the reader out of the realm of ordinary time and space.

The writing style is exquisitely poetic yet sparse of superfluous detail. As is necessary in any emergency situation, only the barest essentials are required and this briefly sketched but well defined structure maintains the strong momentum of the plot. Indeed, I found the stripped down, starkness of the text created a sense of immediacy and intimacy which engaged me from beginning to end, or perhaps end to beginning in this case.

The mother's hope that she might salvage a somewhat normal childhood for her son along with the vivid descriptions of the child as he grows and changes, the wordless disappointment and rejection in her relationship and  the lifesaving comradeship between her and another new mother named O, create relatable characters. My only criticism is that these relationships could have been more fully explored as I loved the humanity they brought to the story.

The metaphor of new parenthood is beautifully echoed throughout, its internal conflicts reflecting  the disarray and confusions of the external world.
I found it interesting to note that when the dire and desperate nature of their situation becomes fully apparent the male partner begins to finds reason to distance himself from his family. When he eventually leaves it is done under the premise that he is seeking a way for them to survive.

Although the story is set around a cataclysmic event there is an intentional lack of hysteria and sentimentalism in the telling. The juxtaposition between the quietly recorded accounts of daily existence, and the overarching theme of survival and integration into a re-imagined world creates a kind of hyper-realism which makes the story scarily believable. 

The End We Start From is available to purchase here.