Sunday 1 March 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Beverly Bie Brahic, Catch and Release, reviewed by Liam Wright

In Catch and Release, place and person meld into one and the same, giving voice to both so that they may reveal how they give life to one-another.

Canadian-born Beverly Bie Brahic has already published a relatively substantial number of titles, such as The Hotel Eden and Hunting the Boar, and White Sheets, which won the 2012 Forward Prize, as well as many translations of French works from writers such as Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous.... 

The opening poem, ‘Apple Thieves’, builds on these images of rural nature. Meandering meters and enjambments lead the reader along a small, carefully assembled garden of colour and texture. Brahic builds a little world by placing textured, sounded words such as ‘tart,’ ‘crisp,’ and ‘waxy,’ into the very narration of the poem. From the start, the reader is given a sense of the cohesion of Catch and Release, the strong notion of a self inseparably placed within a living, physical setting.

The reader can trace the growth of this grounded understanding, the space that it can’t separate itself from. In ‘A Shell’, for instance, the enjambed lines twist along short, neat stanzas, a ‘too solid’ structure that ultimately gives the poem its life. Again, so much focus is placed on the texture and pace of words, like ‘exoskeleton,’ which occupies a whole line, forcing me to slow down my reading and feel the confined space that I have been placed within. The poetic device of this work is reminiscent of Marianne Moore’s ‘The Paper Nautilus’, in that they both navigate the shape of a sea animal’s shell. The layout in Brahic’s piece is more restricted, and the metaphors are more grounded in physical objects, but they share an outward movement, a sense that their cadence is working in tandem with their rigid forms to spiral into a conclusion.