Moonbeam (Ont.), Penumbra Press, c1986.
77pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-920806-43-0 No CIP
Moonbeam (Ont.), Penumbra Press, c1986. 77pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-920806-43-0 No CIP
Volume 15 Number 5
In the poems of Translating Genesis, Deborah Godin blends scientific observation of natural phenomena with contemporary wordplay. Though the approach is familiar in Canadian literature with the recent success of such writers as Christopher Dewdney and Don McKay, there is 3 distinctive quality to Godin's style. She is clearly less obscure than Dewdney, less straight-forward than McKay.
Godin encourages the reader to observe nature with sensitivity. In the opening poem, someone parks at a roadside and walks into shrubbery, exploring rock outcrops, listening to the sound of rain, thinking on "unanswered questions in the chilly air." Places are named, objects are numbered, specific dates are set down. Constantly hovering in the background of these observations is a concern for religious feeling. Godin thinks of "the way the heavens measure time." Her mountains take on "mythological raiment." Every rock becomes a scripture.
The vocabulary reflects the scientific/ mythological connection. This is seen in the titles of poems: "Hand Geography," "Almanac, November Third," "Psalm 21," "Genesis 6," and "Gemini." A more obvious though less central facet of the wordplay is the variety of deliberately scrambled language patterns. In "Speaking in Tongues," the simple statement "at dusk in Canmore Sunday" becomes "a tdus kinc anmo resu nd ay." Words are scattered across the page, altered typefaces twist through slashes and digits. The word "you" appears in nearly every poem but bounces in its application between referring to the poet; the reader; the poet's lover; or none of these; or all of these. "Climbing Babel" tells us "suddenly the wind/comes up, takes our words/the dangerous nouns/and adjectives, tosses them/up into the sky so that/whatever secrets might have been revealed/become hopelessly scattered/permanently confused."
The illustrations in this handsomely bound volume are well suited. David Pugh's drawings have a raw bluntness that is similar to Godin's style and a sprawling density that for all its obscurity is centrally grounded in nature.
Tony Cosier, Confederation H.S. Nepean, Ont.
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