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Notes on Andy Weaver's "Three Ghazals to the constellation Corvus (The Crow)"
I I've been increasingly impressed with the wisdom of Andy Weaver's poems over the last few years, how much he is able to pack into small spaces, a la John Newlove, Patrick Lane or Robert Kroetsch. The best poet I know without a book (besides meghan jackson), he's been magazine publishing quietly for nearly a decade, throughout Canada and Australia, and partly responsible for such things as the University of New Brunswick's QWERTY mag., circa 1997, and the current Olive reading and chapbook series in Edmonton (where Weaver has lived since 1998).
The woman was my gateway drug to bad poetry,
she sits in these words like a wound.
Snow petals back from the rocks,
a thousand dead nests on the ground.
Ravens sing their Spring love song,
crack the notes open to hear them bleed.
She is gone and I am healing:
always healing, never healed.
O Crow, life ain't about winning,
just losing as slowly as you can.
Birdshit hits rock, throws
open its loving arms.
Asshole, she called me, in her stetson hat. Cowgirl,
I loved you and the horse you rode in on.
History is a predator,
the past is its prey.
Bird thought, the stutter step
into flying illumination.
O Crow, these women sit sober in the bar
and refuse to find me charming.
And what the hell is this,
fict or faction?
Her touch on my chest, simplicity
the bend in the Raven's wing in flight.
Old scars bloom on my tongue.
I will not whisper her name.
Down the darkened alley, the streetlight
burns out as I walk by.
O Crow, up there silent in the sky, why
are you smiling?
evergreen: six new poets
(Black Moss Press. Toronto, 2002)
Since John Thompson's posthumous collection Stilt Jack appeared with Anansi in 1978, the ghazal, an ancient Persian form, has slowly come into prominence in Canadian poetry, through Phyllis Webb's Sunday Water: Thirteen Anti Ghazals (1982), Douglas Barbour's recent Breath Takes, and younger writers, such as Catherine Owen and Weaver, working with the form.
The ghazal, according to Thompson's Stilt Jack preface, was "the most popular of all the classical forms of Urdu poetry," and is built of five couplets that have no re-occurring connection, whether narrative or lyrical, distinguishing itself from the English classical form, the sonnet. It seems interesting that Thompson would have made a point of mentioning the five-couplet structure and then not kept to it, whereas Barbour and Webb stuck close, and called theirs "anti ghazals." In Weaver's poem "Three Ghazals to the constellation Corvus (The Crow)," every couplet is punctuated, clipped with a wry ironic sense, tongue planted firmly in cheek, as he references Crow, a trickster creation god along the lines of Coyote, or Raven.
Every line evokes more than it has space to tell, but tells enough, from youth writing, bad luck and injury to drunken hope and hopelessness, turning the poem in on itself by the very end, a mixture of wit and education, and the kinds of learning that only the bars of Edmonton's Whyte Avenue can provide.
His ghazals, despite non sequitur leaps, retain a narrative, even a loose one, of lost or attempted love, or lust. In the end, both are played out. In the end, it probably doesn't matter, as one is considered, and the other would have done, but not really. As much as I admire the last couplet of ghazal II, it's the last two couplets of ghazal I that hit the hardest, of ". . . losing as slowly as you can;" that thin line of hope despite inevitable conclusion.
Tighter than some of Thompson's, I could see Lane thriving in these lines, or Ken Babstock, the mix of light and dark. Newlove has too much hopelessness, and Kroetsch has too much hope, but still they're there, off on the side. Listening.
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