Home Arts A life witnessed through poetry

A life witnessed through poetry

by Chloe Ketterling September 25, 2012
A life witnessed through poetry

Photo by Valdis Silins

Messy, hurtful, necessary and sometimes just plain random; these are some of the feelings that Montreal-based poet Laura Broadbent’s newly released book of poetry, Oh There You Are I Can’t See You Is It Raining? elicits. She explores the vital facets of human desire, memory and relationships, while playing with the constraints of language.

Broadbent earned both her Undergraduate and Masters Degrees at Concordia in literature and creative writing, but if you ask her, she attended “the school of hard knocks.” Her area of study? “Destroying men.” It was the search for a medium to express her life “witnessed with crippling sensitivity […] and fragility” that led her to poetry and words, which she feels “will take a lifetime to be trained in.”

The book is separated into three different sections. Between A and B is where language takes a backseat to the expression of a more transcendent theme. Broadbent describes this part as having a more “spiritual, abstract” inspiration; seen quite effectively in the vast expanse that she creates between A and B, where the restraints of language seem to be thrown and your physical experience is questioned.

Written in a prose poetry style, there are seven line sentences and direct references to the linearity and limits of language, apparently it is “made of chains”. Broadbent herself even claims that sometimes “words get in the way.” Her texts are physically placed between the letters A and B on the page, visually implying a sense of getting from point A to point B, but the texts in between make many a reference to ‘nothingness’.

“He cannot hurt you because there is no you”, “You aren’t stuck in your first-world issues because there is no you” and telling you that “the best thing about you nobody can see anyway.”

Broadbent opens this expanse where everything that has ever happened to you, all that you should remember, all that you are, goes. You are stripped down to a nothing that nobody can see. Physical experiences can be disregarded in favor of an unseen part of yourself, begging the question of what this ‘nothing’ that you really are is, and why is it hanging Between A and B?

The next section, Culled, written in stanza form, uses the repetition of language to exemplify the importance of the past in building a new future. Each poem begins in its own way, but in the end halves Broadbent reconfigures the words and lines from the beginning into new stanzas, independent of the constraints of their original form, while maintaining relevance to the meaning of the poem. The past is needed to create the future. To get from one point to another (from A to B perhaps?), to get to something new, we need the past.

The third section, Men In Various States, explores desire and its many states. Desire, according to the poetry, is messy, random and sometimes it can just make you feel bad. When asked about desire Broadbent said it “is always centred around a lack, and the object of your desire will never be the thing to fill this lack, yet you persist in believing it is which results in pain. Communication is nearly impossible between two people. It’s a shadow puppet show,”  this confusion, or disconnect clearly evident in XI a poem that portrays a typical ‘he said/she said’  argument between a couple; which boils down to a miscommunication.

Broadbent claims “Life is everything all at once,”  which is quite appropriate considering the book of poetry is a lot to take in. It’s a journey from what seems to be your metaphysical self to your desire soaked self, it’s all of you, all at once. It’s your past, it’s what you will become and it’s what you aren’t, all hanging somewhere in between in a language that really can’t express it all, because, you know, it’s your life, all at once.

Oh There You Are I Can’t See You Is It Raining? is available from Snare Books.

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