Today's book of poetry: Sea Level. Cornelia Hoogland. Baseline Press. London, Ontario. 2013. (Edition of 60)
Sea Level is a conversational meditation about making a connection to the natural world - when the natural world seems to be so far away.
This contemplative shortish long poem, or series of short untitled and connected poems (it doesn't really matter) bear none of the earnest back to the land paradigms we have come to expect. There is no polemic, curiosity and a keen mind are the focus.
Hoogland muses about hoped for sightings of salmon eating wolves, a whale sighting, the footprints left behind by rubber boots and the ageless trails that animals weave through the bush.
This mediation/conversation/poem is a bit like listening to your favourite wise Aunt, the one just a little sharper than her sisters.
Here is an excerpt:
...In the late afternoon the yellow heads of the flowers
turn sunward. So do we. We sit in a row on a log,
watch the beach scrub itself clean.
Show over, we clap.
This is not landscape, it is not outside us.
We are in it. It is here and here
and here. Inhaling, exhaling.
Breath and respiration.
The trees say nothing. The wolves too
are silent; stay hidden. In the end
we talk less. There is less
Then – it's like we remember the sense of touch.
Then – it seems that one of us is always bending down
to pull a deer fern through the hand, stroke
lichen, or grab a length
of cedar to bunch at the nose.
On the edge of a hemlock and fir forest
that marches en masse up the sides of mountains – grand scale –
we're still hoping to feel something but nothing obvious
happens. Six people at sea level
sit a bit long than before. Eyes at rest
in their sockets.
Sea Level was a finalist in the 2012 CBC Literary Nonfiction Awards. Cornelia Hoogland has published six previous books of poetry (see below to hear her read from Marrying the Animals), and two other chapbooks. She is Professor Emeritus of Western University.
Baseline Press, London, Ontario's premiere publisher of chapbooks continues to astound with the beauty, quality and design of their books. Karen Schindler, the editor at Baseline, makes beautiful books.
Sea Level was bound in a cover of St. Armand Canal paper with a flyleaf of Thai Mango paper. It was printed on Royal Sundance Linen 24lb. It doesn't make any difference to the writing but it certainly gives good writing a lovely home.
Cornelia Hoogland reading from Marrying the Animals (Brick Books):