Rutting Season

Rutting Season

By Bert Almon

A review of Rutting Season by Ariel Gordon, Michael Lithgow, Linda Besner

Published on October 1, 2009

Rutting Season
Ariel Gordon, Michael Lithgow, Linda Besner

Buffalo Runs Press
$10
paper
72pp
978-0-9811434-1-5

Rutting Season is essentially three chapbooks filled out with a conversation by the poets. The shop talk must have seemed a fine idea, but it seems too mutually congratulatory. This is not one of those anthologies that justifies itself with a new approach to writing, a common programme. The poets are talented, especially Ariel Gordon, whose work is an image-driven sequence about the profound intimacy between a mother and a nursing child. Michael Lithgow’s work is more leisurely and meditative. He has the lyric poet’s eye for revealing details and a good sense of when to modulate away from grand statements, but at the same time is interested in narrative and character. His poems are reflective and don’t offer easy gratification. No fast food there. Linda Besner writes about recognizable human experiences; a trip to the eye doctor or the butcher, but she defamiliarizes the language by writing words backward, or occasionally rhyming consecutive words (“om comb”). She doesn’t go as far as Erin Mouré or Steven McCaffery in undermining discourse, but she creates momentary nodes of unexpected meaning when the mind pauses over phrases like “sag oven” or “such a long emit.” When we are told that a character wrote “YAG” on his forehead with eyeliner, we perceive the strangeness and arbitrary quality of the term “gay.” The next step might be a more radical (as in “root”) dismantling of language. On the other hand, there are advantages in stopping where she does: language retains some of its normal functions even as it is being mildly subverted. Gordon, Besner, and Lithgow are poets to watch. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.

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