Rachel Rose, Vancouver’s current poet laureate, is one of our gorgeous voices, a cadence to be celebrated. While she accomplishes the tackling of challenging issues like lesbian parenting, the difficulty of loving someone with addictions and our fraught connections to the land and other species, it is her mythic reach and her musical ear that draw me most irrevocably. Unfashionably public-oriented and with a vast narrative grasp, in the mode of Robert Bly or Robert Hass at times with tinges of Chase Twichell, Rose’s tone is solidly confident as she chants her Anglo-Saxon shaped knowledge of humanity’s frailties. Marry & Burn both hooks & sears the reader.
“Anthropology” a prose piece that mish-mashes various cultural practices into a vision of the race that is both surreal and tender, is a powerful start to the collection: “We wore uncured pelts. We urinated/in the rising dust….We ate the silver fish caught in baskets. We/washed in the sacred river.” Rose is most potent, as with the Jane Eaton Hamilton book I recently reviewed, when she writes about relationship, whether with bees or people. A delectable little lyric like “Honey” fuses those two bonds into the painful paradox of intimacy in which the surface offers the “glistening beauty of the moment/captured” and then after, there is the “sticky, private struggle/to come clean.” I adore the lines: “You were so stone/I flooded”, her investigations of polyamory in “Compersion,” of brute midwifery in “Living on Islands III,” the moving “Corona for Charlotte” about her deceased dog and the way it closes with “we can never leave this house,” while the next poem “Good Measure” begins with the reality, “We left this house.” Other wow poems are “Serious,” the re-write of Genesis in the stunning invocation “The Prayer,” “The Lifestyle,” “Light of Addiction” and “Intervention” in the sequence on a very straining-to-reflect-on disease, and the exquisite exit poems, “Ars Poetica” and “Feast” the former utilizing the aurality of anaphora and the latter incorporating the villanelle form and rhyme scheme minus its repeated lines to create an invitation at the conclusion, turning the book into an open-ended diaristic symphony.
There are moments where Rose falters in her ability to truly address her aims or forms, as any human does, but she has aimed her soprano talent high, and these poems are mostly cherishable and memorable paeans to a deeply lived life and its graceful poesis.