Pearl Pirie’s lists, reviews, interviews, etc. since 2005

Unboxing Rushing Dusk

Unboxing, amazingly with no cameo by cat nor jumping up dog. Thanks to Brian for videoing.

I’ll be launching in person Aug 10th in Ottawa, as part of the above/ground press 31st anniversary reading, alongside Mahaila Smith, Gil McElroy, Chris Banks, Carlos A. Pittella and Shane Rhodes; tickets here] Details on the chapbook and ordering.

A delivery from above/ground is always exciting

Review: Love Calls Us Here

Love Calls Us Here: poems by Chris Anderson (Wildhouse Poetry, 2024)

Love Calls Us Here: Poems by Chris Anderson (Wildhouse Poetry, 2024) is an enjoyable book to read and re-read. Like many in the publisher’s lineup there’s a love for the natural world. As poet and editor Michael Cuddihy once remarked on poetry, “How moving, even beautiful, almost anything can be if we regard it with enough attention.”

Anderson is a new poet to me although he is far from new to writing or to poetry.  His essay was in Edge Effects: Notes from an Oregon Forest (1993). One of his books was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. He has authored over a dozen books and two previous poetry collections. 

His first collection, My Problem With the Truth (Northwest Poetry Series, 2005) was reviewed as “book of largess and celebration. Its poems rise out of a quality of attention—to feeling, thought, and, above all, language—that both prompts and invites similar focus, similar absorption, from readers.”

This knack continued in The Next Thing Always Belongs (Airlie Press, 2011) which the editor of Rattle Tim Green blurbs as asking and answering questions in the way only poetry can: with the ineffable incense of confession, and wild leaps of juxtaposition. These poems are parables, told in the impossible logic of dreams.”

In this, Anderson’s third book of poetry, Anderson had me hooked from the opening poem,

Driving at Night 

Driving at night on the way to Spokane 
I see a stadium in a little town
and the lights of the stadium pouring 
into the darkness. 

I am passing by. 

I know that within me there
is a great love, and everywhere. 
All around me. 

I can’t hear them but I know 
that everyone is cheering. 

Love Calls Us Here: poems by Chris Anderson

What makes this so compelling, this turning an innocuous physical place into a symbol of hope? Part is the relatableness of a lit up building you drive past, but the usual take would be isolation from warmth, loneliness, separation, but he flips the script of the object. The architectural lantern becomes himself and the others out there are happy, and within him. That subversion of poetic grief lights a fuse on the hackneyed image and explodes it, leaves in its place something better that changes the relationship of night driver to lit building. We can visualize connection and commonality rather than separation. We can choose to envisage people excited and engaged rather than caged in a burning lantern. 

Anderson has honed his attention to concrete details. Rather than being anywhereville, it is placed near Spokane. That torques something. The light is not static but pouring, animate. He takes it broad but starts in a different kind of universal, the specifics called up by being in a car while night driving. What he remarks on is not a home but a stadium with inherent ties to sports, community, connections. 

I’m at risk of calling out each poem in an attendance roll of impressive poems, such as a poem where an opera singing belts out Puccini on impulse in a mall,  but let me remark on one more, p. 8. It starts,

The little girl in a gauzy white dress
and beaded tiara. The father in a pressed white shirt 

“Baptizing Rosa”

These anchoring details allow readers to teleport to the the place, time, mood and tone. Because he is fully present, we can be as well. If I poem starts vague and ends cosmic there is nothing to grasp. But he starts in sharp context. Mid-poem, father and deacon meet eyes, and the poem is blown open into connection that is more universal  like the insight you get at the edge of sleep, “at just the moment you let go.”

There’s no distracting artifice but there is craft. In place of Poet Voice Authority there’s humility. What strikes me is that his world view is god-centric, and I am not, but with his skill, that gap can be transcended. I can hear him clearly through his ears. He doesn’t feel like he is preaching or that he is unshakeably sure. He lays his cards out and looks up at you.

He is plainspoken but not simplistic nor ponderous. His places are domestic, but his view is long. He lets in wonder and surprise and to sit with mourning with all feeling welcomed.

His world building is not exclusively people. A flock of geese is given respect, in their honking “We could almost hear the words.” That line was set there with a double reading possible, of the words geese exchange, or the geese passing as a kind of religious mass spoken.

He is earnest about what he cares about, what he calls out as mattering, which is a relief among so many walled off poems out there of cynicism and raw ache or bitter grudge.

When there’s humour it’s gentle, such as life’s uncommon so comic appearance of watching a pilot whale navigate a lock, or the tale of a Pope-blessed rosary eaten by the dog 

“In the mornings now when I let Bumble out, 
I find beads all over the yard.
Prayers are everywhere.”

“My Dog Ate My Rosary” p. 57

The profound twists I find gratifying rather than pat because they surprise and open rather than close off the poem. What strikes me most is how poems in Love Calls Us Here are anchored in openness and vulnerability. He allows in joy as well as loss.

He looks outward and inward with tender compassion with a comforting belief that everything will be okay. Including not being okay. “The Chase”, p. 68, he interjects into the weave of his poem, “A friend says I shouldn’t clench my fists when I tell/ this story, I shouldn’t be afraid—she wants me to be happy/and at peace all the time—“ and then returns to the panic of the story because true isn’t placid. Yet he allows in the dissent and the recognition that his friend means well and the correction comes from a good, if misplaced, place.

I like poetry I can learn from in content and in form. A tidbit of content Buzz Aldrin did communion service on the moon.

Oddly Anderson tells an anecdote of James Wright the biography of whom I’m reading in parallel. Perhaps can not be taken as significant since Wright seems to be ubiquitous as Forrest Gump but for American poetry. It’s a good story, well told. I’ll let you read it for yourself, p. 60 when you get the book.

Anderson runs the blog, the imperfect catholic. At it he sometimes shares poems, including this from Jan 17th, 2024

Stop theologizing.  Leave behind all your delicate structures.

Get up, and go out into the cold, and kneel.
Then everything flows.  Everything comes spitting 
and coughing and flowing

“thawing frozen pipes”  at the imperfect catholic

Chris Anderson is a Catholic deacon, poet, and retired professor of English living in Corvallis, Oregon. I’m glad the press cold-called me to offer the book. I suspect it’s one I’ll keep coming back to.

Ottawa small press fair

The Ottawa Small Press Book Fair, spring 2024 is Saturday, June 22, 2024 at Tom Brown Arena, 141 Bayview Station Road (NOTE NEW LOCATION) near Hintonburg from noon to 5pm.

My spring project has been to black out my book of 2010, to turn been shed bore into she or.

I made a pdf version if you want to buy that and we have some way of transferring a 54MG file. Otherwise, see you at the fair.

I’ll also have new haiku chapbooks from KaDo.