USEREVIEW 099 (Capsule): An Orchid Astronomy
An Orchid Astronomy (University of Calgary Press, 2022)
ISBN 978-1-77385-271-3 | 196 pp | $24.99 CAD | BUY Here
Tasnuva Hayden’s debut poetry collection is a weighty 186 pages of poetry, segmented into 5 long, semi-narrative poems (ranging from 28 to 40 pages each), variously titled, and 10 short poems (1 page each), titled after, and focusing on, individual constellations. The semi-narrative poems orbit around particular subjects, which are both as changeless and changing as the constellations’: the young Sophie, who functions as a speaker and sort of protagonist; Sophie’s Mamma who died by suicide; a nebulous lover; an orchid; a tin of biscuits; reindeer; an enigmatic, folkloric figure called Sarvvis; and the vanishing ice of Norway.
One feels a persistent melancholia in these poems, not because the poems are overly concerned with feelings — in fact, they scarcely if ever mention emotion directly — but because of Hayden’s skillful imagistic evocation, and her representation of Sophie’s earnest grasping for a sense of meaning. Sophie offers up pieces of her life in sentence fragments, or simple subject-verb-object sentences, with her more loquacious turns of phrase reserved for rote but grandiose facts about the universe. Through this stylistic choice, Hayden reflects a young person’s desperately sincere attempts to situate herself (and the frail details of her life) like a small celestial body among far larger, quasi-universal truths, as the loneliness of the landscape and the coming apocalypse bear down upon her.
It is both incredibly difficult and unbelievably easy to select an excerpt from this work, because of the recapitulatory nature of the text. Actions and symbols echo. Sections of a movement in a sonata. My choice of a segment from ‘Polaris’ (p. 110) is both arbitrary and as usefully illustrative as any other.