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Laurie D Graham Launches Rove at Type Books with Words from Michael Ondaatje and Dionne Brand

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Filed under: Events

(Michael Ondaatje introduces Laurie D Graham at Type Books. Photo by Mark Jull.)

When Laurie D Graham launched her book Rove in Toronto recently she was introduced by Michael Ondaatje. Also, Dionne Brand, though she wasn't able to attend, wrote a poem that Michael Helm read. Laurie said, “It was pretty incredible, what they said. I'm still a little high from it.”

Here are their words:

This is Laurie Graham’s first book of poetry. I am not sure. For though there is no evidence of others, it seems almost impossible that this is a first book. It is so large in its plan, and so precise in every word and phrase, so assured in its stunning rhetorical voice that pulls the reader into its carefully mapped world and won’t let him or her go until the last page. Rove is a deeply moving, funny, wild-hearted, argumentative, insistent long poem – without a single false note or soft line. It’s full of so many particulars, all within the travelling frame of her voice. You do double takes at the lines of passing landscape (that are sometimes like Avison) –

Barn swallows tethered to strings of startled grasshoppers

You could swear

your tires were aimed at the fog of city lights on the horizon

Or describing one of a series of houses –

In this one, Stevie Ray Vaughan
                                            And the woman always a mess

Even as the poem races it will pause for details of prairie quietness. Here she is in a car –

Remember, we’re parked here by debt and need and after that,

who knows. Maybe the way the sky presses concave like a sheet of glass,
the fact we got stories here, the degree to which we want

or warrant the names we hold in mind in the warmth of the too-long spotlight.
Maybe the way we drift home to rest at the end of every day.

(“the names we hold in mind in the warmth of the too-long spotlight” – difficult to forget that line!)

Or the remarkable sequence on page 63. And then the ending.
I think this is one of the best long poems I have read in a very long time.

Michael Ondaatje

Congratulations Laurie on the publishing of this wonderful sure-handed book. In admiration of which, I send you this poem.

Unfinished Imitation of Laurie D Graham

Say this tall woman, lean
and cigarette smoking,
smile big sky,
Say she tells you,
“Not sure where these are
but I’m from there, in part,”
say this provisional, polyglot harvest,
this rove, middle of the country, meadow
and highway, fatal rigs, long haul ‘ghostpastures,’
say she arrives between 1 and 4 pm
on Mondays with this heterogene cargo,
these hotels, these front yards, spruce, tar
and raspberry, crescent suburbs, griefprairie, canola fields, say.
Well, you listen.

Dionne Brand.


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