USEREVIEW 045 (Capsule): Anthesis
Anthesis (Gaspereau Press, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-554472-10-9 | 80 pp | $19.95 CAD
It was difficult for me, while reading Sue Goyette’s Anthesis, not to compare it to her earlier poetry collection The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl (Gaspereau Press, 2015), which likewise recounts childhood trauma. The difference between the books is that the factual events that form the basis of The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl are readily discoverable in the form of countless news stories about a widely-publicized and discussed court case, rather like Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell: Poems for a Girlhood (Brick Books, 2015). Anthesis, on the other hand, is a memoir in verse, a reformulation of Goyette’s autobiographical novel Lures (Harper Perennial, 2002) and it considers the author’s own history, for which we have no corresponding news reports to situate us with respect to exact times, places, or even events. Whatever narrative facts lie at the heart of Anthesis are obscure, as the collection itself demonstrates little interest in explicating them, preferring instead to echolocate emotionally. Whatever action occurs cannot be explicitly named, cannot be detailed, can only be gestured toward, and it is the job of the reader to intuit meanings sweepingly and indirectly, via metaphors that obfuscate as much as they illumine — see, for instance: “Her mother was the teapot, still on the table. Her mother didn’t boil and the kitchen folded into a cocoon,” which is frankly one of the easier insinuations here to grasp.
‘Introduction.’ Beneath the visible, if murky, layer of the words of the poems, there is also an agave plant, existing like the oranges and the sardines of Frank O’Hara’s poem ‘Why I Am Not a Painter.’ The agave plant is cleverly hidden on the cover, beneath the book jacket; it is mentioned as background information in Goyette’s dedication and introduction; it exists, by extrapolation, in the title Anthesis, which refers to the expansion of flowers. Agave is the book’s half-buried conceit, which might be missed entirely by a reader who dismisses the introduction as paratext. Don’t be that reader.