I’ve read Maureen Scott Harris’ beautiful Slow Curve Out twice so far—once in a skimming summertime kind of way on the patio where I am prone to being distracted by butterflies and motes of dust and pitchers of watermelon juice. And the second time on a Sunday morning in bed (fortunately motes of dust are so common in my house they are not distracting).
The book, a collection of poems, is divided into three sections.
Well, five, actually, if you consider the opening poem, ‘Walking in Saskatchewan with Rilke’ in which we are being prepared for what’s ahead, i.e. walking in the world with Maureen Scott Harris.
things surge into being, here, claim eyes, claim
mind, claim my very heart, beating and beating,
bird in the breast, this longing for sound—
And the closing piece, ‘Homecoming’, that ends with warning and a powerful two word punch.
In between is Part One: ‘Back Up, Begin Again’, a paean to nature. The rhythm of recurring themes… birds, trees, light, wind, earth, the colour white, flight, dreams, walking and silence, begin in such a way that you don’t even notice the tapestry that’s being woven until you’re right there in the middle of that deeply textured landscape.
If I can get it right
my arms will sprout feathers, and I’ll bring home
the taste of poplars surprised by pale sun.
I read Part Two, ‘The Ten Thousand Things’, as a meditation on sound. The birds, more visual in the earlier section, are now singing, calling, crying; voices enter, cacophonous, raucous, there is holler, hum and mutter; subtle references to songs; bleat and mourn; ghosts are a choir, slippers tap; yodelling fiddle, guitar, the thump of thunder, a siren, Rain and longing—what a racket on the roof! Even the foliage makes a sound and sound canopies the street.
One day slides into another, sunshine
dissolving clouds which reassemble
overnight, and a whole week has drifted
past in birdsong and silences. Like
the tide going out, then coming in again.
By now we’re immersed in place. We know what’s around us, but do we know our place in this place?
In Part Three — ‘Another Animal’ – the tapestry is plenty rich, but there’s an additional element: us. Or at least the focus is on us. How we change things, how we change, how we interpret our world vs the world. Some hard truths are revealed and they’re not always the prettiest, but may be the most important.
Remember when we weren’t our own
gods but lived by the grace of animals?
I love this book for its energy, the way it takes me by the hand and, like the narrator in the opening poem, points out the sound, the silence, the colours, the textures and movement of the world around us.
It asks us to consider what it is we see, versus what we want to see.
And this thing, this motion I thought to show you,
tell you, is for the moment only
a smear across the view obstructing and obstructing
like the sheep dog that turns the sheep
in a slow curve out toward the stony pasture, their little hoofed
feet lifting and descending on the rocky path, slippery
in the aftermath of deep snow, a stutter,
like this this this thing
Slow Curve Out, available online at Blue Heron Books. Support indies!
6 thoughts on “this is not a review: slow curve out, by maureen scott harris”
Carin! Thank you for this– it’s such a gift to have you engage with my work this way– so attentively and slowly. And so interesting, to see the work from someone else’s perspective. Surprising me! I hadn’t ‘heard’ the ten thousand things, and now I do. ‘Thank you’ is not adequate for what I feel. MSH
Oh, I love that I surprised you with the sounds… that I did actually surprises ‘me’! There’s so much more I didn’t say, so many aspects not covered in these few words. The way ‘Flicker’ moves across its pages made me see those birds, even though I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen one. ‘Walking Ghazals’: what a wonderful tumbling of language, image, philosophy, all to the rhythmic step, step, step, implied. (This line: “Dear feet, how I love you.”) And the poems ‘for’ your mother; and the two inspired by Hans Heysen (I went looking for that painting; couldn’t find it)…
Okay. I mustn’t go on because it’s too easy to list everything I liked about this collection and before we know it I will have written another Not a Review… The Sequel.
Thank you for this. I love this book, and it has helped me more than once, when I needed help.
Funny you should say that; it felt like that to me also. A wonderful quality…
Carin, Try this, to see the painting– http://nga.gov.au/Exhibition/HEYSEN/Default.cfm?IRN=197012&BioArtistIRN=16602&MnuID=3&GalID=6&ViewID=2
or search Heysen sewing It’s so gorgeous!
Got it! And it’s amazing. Thank you! Will now read those poems again. And again…