throw the captain overboard!

By Adrienne Ho

A review of Throw The Captain Overboard! by Mia Rose Brooks

Published on April 1, 2003

Throw The Captain Overboard!
Mia Rose Brooks

Cumulus Press
$14
paper
48pp
0-9683529-8-7

It’s astonishing and somewhat alarming what can pass for poetry under the auspices of spoken word. Just add a beat, some lofty instrumentals, and you can get away with almost anything – it has so much to do with attitude, with the sound of your voice, and nothing with what is being said. At least that’s what I’ve garnered from the few readings and open mic nights to which I’ve been (maybe not the best measure of judgement), and the mere thought of spoken word incited a tolerant roll of the eyes. So it was with some hesitancy that I encountered throw the captain overboard! a debut collection by Mia Rose Brooks.

Arguably there is poetry to be read on the page which is separate from the kind of poetry meant to be heard, but looming overhead is the determination of whether it’s even poetry at all. Brooks has, without question, a poet’s eye and sensibility of detail. The moody lyricism in throw the captain overboard!, as I soon discovered, balances print and sound with a rare and remarkable grace. I would say that the peoms are mostly about edges – the boundaries between generations meet and diverge, the present is obliterated inevitably by what is to come, and, as the title suggests, underpinning the pastoral is a sense of subverting after having been subverted. The poems are infused with a kind of nostalgia for the present that rings portentously with an awareness of the fleeting moment before the moment itself has entirely transpired.

Brooks has a particular knack for recognizing degrees of separation, and in “Woman Turning into a Tree,” where “the skyscraper’s windows reflect jaune, jaune rouge, jaune pâle…,” it’s interesting that the gradation of light is noticed not in the sky where it is happening, but framed in the windows of a building. In “Cortège,” she writes “im on the edge of somethin’ crazy somethin’ I dont know what…-I want the intimacy of touching fingers tip to tip-but for now-the hand pressed against the glass-staring into darkness.” This careening energy shows Brook’s versatility, which in its urgency still manages to retain a prevailing sense of sadness. Even the few instances of lightness and celebration are tinctured with a melancholy humour: “Mamma stands on the path between the sunrise kitchen and the woodshed, where nanna grew prize-winning gladiolas – peach and white – to match her panties hung on the line.” (“Nanna’s Gladiolas.”)

Brook’s words, both written and spoken, are laudable, and although reading the book allows each image its own weight (the pages also feature sparse sketches by the author), the recording offers an aural time space, a fluid and somewhat more vivid experience. The lines quoted above grant only a sense of the collection, and I recommend listening to Brooks’s vocals, to which the choreography of guitar, cello, and upright bass add atmospheric and emotional depth. mRb

Adrienne Ho's poetry chapbook Murmurs was published by Junction Books in 2001.

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