QUILL AND QUIRE REVIEW OF THE BORDER SURROUNDS US
In The Border Surrounds Us, her fourth book of poetry. Karen Connelly has found a subject that coheres perfectly with the thrust of her poetic imagination. Her new work testifies more clearly than ever to a fierce desire for rebirth or transformation, a reckless longing to break free, to cross over, to take every risk even if it means finding oneself "disfigured, pounded,/tempered among ashes." Such fascinations breed fear, joy and a loneliness relieved by occasional meetings with kindred spirits also "born to the tribe/of terrible longings." These are themes Connelly has made her own.
In this collection, those themes are organized around a common situation and setting. Most of the poems unfold on the Thai-Burmese border, home to the longest running civil war on earth. It's the border as a state of mind that Connelly really wants to explore, however. The frontier that "everyone crosses” but "no one leaves” can exist in a Paris subway, an Athens apartment, or on the Canadian prairie. At her best - in poems like "The Dancer," "The Blessing Scars." or "The Vacation" - Connelly creates vivid characters who have been marked by their passage across inner frontiers. However, these poems rely on sensual observation, tone, and imagery for their impact, so don't go looking for towering rhetorical structures or risky rhythmic dance-steps. More mature and focused than her last book, The Disorder of Love, The Border Surrounds Us is Connelly's best work in years.
- Harry Vandervlist