(made) by Cara Benson
(Book Thug, Toronto, 2010)
A first reading of Cara Benson’s (made) had me intrigued, interested, yet rather flummoxed. What to make/how to make something of poetry that resists the linearity of narrative upon which I’ve depended for decades of reading?
In subsequent readings I do find a snippet or two of narrative and I home in on them, partly as I might on a chance-met compatriot in an exotic foreign country but mostly because as in this, the first piece in the book, the poet with just a few words, evokes so compelling a sense of intensity that I must have more...
Bobbed sunflower head heavy from the yearning fulfilled. What effort to make love with such a star. Yellow sight, beholden to those who revel in brief, yet luminous day-night. Alchemy’s errand, the draped field. Undertow in stalks; waving pull of roots uprising…
…and then back to the more strange-to-me aspects of the book. Almost every page has one of its words set apart in larger, bolder font than the rest of the page’s text. Titles, perhaps? No… it seems not… more like word-as-punctuation, or word-as-response to the text. Again, the poetry subverts and teases my expectations, my preconceptions… brings to me an almost tangible sensation -- rather like hovering in that zone between wakefulness and sleep:
Rocks come in sheets: gypsum plaster between paper. There is a softness to the touch, surface scratchable by fingernail. Hung. Taped. Sealed. Papered. Ornamented. Pink fiber concealed. Protection. Separator of wind. View. distribution, all…
What appears like candy to keep us warm, can injure upon a brush. And White can bruise a forehead.
I am an accountant by trade, used to creating order, making some kind of ‘sense’ from the unordered. I’ve learned to expect that everything is somehow part of a pattern, just waiting to be discovered, and so I flip the pages of (made), focussing only on the large ‘not titles’ words. Perhaps therein lies the unifying thread of the work:
“mise-en-scène” -- setting the stage… ok…
“Nomothetic” -- establishing law/order… I knew it!
but then, “Over(t)” and later,
“me-tooism” -- and the text once
more refutes, rebukes my attempts to pin it to patterns. And laughs at me, too?
So, no pattern. And, I suspect, the title enclosed as it is in brackets, means to tell me that this text is complete, and not something for me to re(make) into conformance with my expectations. The very last words in the collection read in large type, “let be”
Right. I must go to this work to engage with it, not attempt to bring it, drag it into the confines of my experience. I page backwards and forwards at random -- let my eyes fall where they will -- on a colour; orange…
Earth holds its own orange. Centre roiling within a crusted home. Striation sublimation nonesuch retaliation. Battleship rotation. Cracks in the well: deep cuts: stone skin. Gray head sprout buttercup to endeavor mend, but storm…
Wonderful mouth-filling sounds and a vivid and motile picture in my head. I flip again, looking for more – ‘mush’ catches my eye and again I’ve found orange…
Rot mush pumpkins on the swept front porch. Some orange beside bricks. No faces. All swells and rind. How does a fruit see its way up the vine to blossom as it does? The pregnancy aborted by the screen door…
at the end of that piece, the large word “stigma”.
A total shift in mood… the text creates a sense of menace, brings the ambient temperature down a few notches. Now (made) is no longer making fun of me, it’s making fun with me!
The book is printed in landscape mode so the poetry runs free in long, long lines across the pages -- far longer than I’m able to reproduce here -- and it invites me to run with it too, free of my pinning/fixing/logic-based approach to poetry. Back to the start of the book, left-brain stashed firmly in a bottom drawer, and like a nude swimmer, I dip first my toes and then slide my whole body into the water/flow of the text and allow it to wash me with its images, allow it to lift and draw me into the intersecting currents of the poet’s imaginings. As the poetry on page 9 suggests…
… Do not pause onscreen. Wander, but delete, too … The eyes alone cannot see…
and page 55,
… What flails away in the black from bang a stratospheric state of perception. Some would say “illusion.” This is illusory. So it is still, after all. Is the one you? Yes. Yes you. After all else what is. If this is in your hands, it is only here because you hold it. When you “put this down” what will become. What a sticky story (it was).
… What the word will become cannot be known.
To guess is to contradict.
To wonder is to die.
To say so is another matter, all together.
Nothing more for me to say, just surrender… flow with the poetry as it goes…
…. “let be”
Moira Richards lives in South Africa and hangs out here