LIFE ON THE BORDER REVIEW OF THE BORDER SURROUNDS US
With the publication of The Border Surro
unds Us" Karen Connelly is rapidly solidifying herself as one of the most important and adept poetic voices in Canadian writing.
She is the author of three books of poems, The Small Words in My Body (1990), which won the 1990 Pat Lowther Award, This Brighter Prison: A Book of Journeys(1993) 8nck The Disorder of Love (1997); along with two works of non-fictionOne Room in a Castle: Letters from Spain, France & Greece (1995) and the Governor General Award winning Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal (1992).
The Border Surrounds Us consists of 31 poems, divided into four sections, each a terse and forceful meditation on the transgression of the borders that define and separate us from the world, from eachother and from ourselves.
These are intense poems that lay bare her experiences and personal politics In the violent quest to negotiate the borders between home and exile. She leads us through the stories of Greek peasants; of refugees and guerrilla soldiers on the Thai-Burmese border; of Burmese jade pit workers who are paid in heroin and driven into horror; of dead babies and child prostitutes, each ripped from themselves and their country by the roots.
All of the poems in this collection are succinct and very easy to read. They move fluidly from subject to subject with a grace that defies both spoken word and prose. The rich metaphoric world of her previous collections is still present, but her evocative use of shorter, crisp lines has opened up a completely new dimension to her work that produces a multitude of experiences in each reading, without sacrificing the central thrust of the poem.
There is a dark undertow of isolation in these poems and a yearning for living experience in a world that she describes as a "killing labyrinth" hemmed in by "so many white walls." The desperate need to overcome the numbness of contemporary living is an urgent anxiety in our shallow narcissistic world of empty, pleasure and vapid pop-culture. The border is the place of experience and is marked by scars, trauma and profound personal loss.
In "The Contract", writing is the living border where we tell our stories and experience our memories, where we stand in the presence of the dead; in defiance of the death that awaits us. These are lofty ideas and in the hands of someone with less ability and talent, such writing would be clichéd, but in the hands of Connelly they are forward thinking, vital and fully engaging.
The Border Surrounds Us is a daring and complex collection that speaks directly to the hard frontiers of memory within us. It speaks of the longing for engagement, offering us refuge and a chance to experience the border of ourselves.
"She holds the blade in her hand, hilt forward./ Yes: she is offering you a weapon."
- Life on the Border's Mark Molnar Review