|Jack Hannan: Some Frames|
Armed with the knowledge that this volume is a collection of older work from 1978 to1984 and new work beginning again from around 2005, I brought to my reading a specific curiosity about the intervening 20 years when Hannan did not write poetry. I read the book in the order presented then I read it again chronologically, looking for clues.
The earlier work is at once peripheral—using elaborate phrasing and occasionally obscure syntax—and deeply specific, grounded in the real world. Together the poems offer the unfolding of the spiritual, the intensely intimate relating of world and self. The poet is alive in a teeming stew of imagery and he translates it in careful detail, offering life’s temporality.
To have one thing matteris to give everything meaning,and so clutching at straws is nofoolish endeavor, but justone way of livingpage 78
The lines flow at length from one to another using commas, line breaks and periods interchangeably, giving the impression of run-on sentences veering off from the original point, but indeed each poem has an oblique direction of its own which Hannan follows to the end, sweeping panoramically around the point and taking everything else in with it. Drawing an understanding of the poem at large is the sum of its poem-like stanzas, the total of its collective perceptions. The poems are packed so full there is little room to let air move through them, but if that is a criticism it is a weak one because it is the indulgent passion of these poems that drives their wisdom.
...Inside the packageis another package, and another:they turn to sticks, and with such loose beautywe make a box.page 56
The newer and newest poems in the book fall into two camps; in one, the poet’s elaborate, thoughtful style is in evidence and remains in fine form. In “Any letter standing still and floating” I think I find my answers to how Hannan might view what writing is after the 20 year interruption: perhaps he ponders now the necessity of being such a precise mediator of his world and is more given to reflection.
“...It has been a long time since I’ve felt such assurance as tobe able to stand back, far off, and not be taken along by the flow ofwhatever given may cross my path.”page 19
“...I’m afraid I’vefallen into a kind of mysticism, and what I’m thinking about is reallyas much a shadow at the back of my own mind.?page 22
In the other camp are poems with a new tension, a mature sardonicism and a remove in some poems where the poet himself is not the central character. At times these poems require a commitment of imagination. Strangely crafted of fragments, they give an impression of being roughly-hewn and indeed many are built of artifacts of modern language and advertising sloganism.
The Dwayne poems are a modern fable and a true departure from the poet’s earlier style. Dwayne is given to making lists that leave the reader both enlightened and exposed. These poems are energized by a foreboding, a shadowiness at the heart of Dwayne, who is getting by on sarcasm instead of sadness.
“You’d better decide who you are. And now?Now who are you? Now?...”page 36
The Dwayne poems are plain speaking and utterly in the present; they are not a translation of the world around him but a poetic transcription of it.
At its heart, the book is about love and how it redeems what could be construed as sadness, never pandering to self pity or regret. This collection is a masterful effort that asks us to see the beauty at the edges of things.
“So much kindness in the curiosity
and one must as often stand to wait when the water
will pour in over everything.”
Toronto, ON: Cormorant Books, 2011.